Megan Mayhew Bergman answers the Newtonville Books Questionnaire

Megan Mayhew Bergman is the author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise.

–Name a childhood hero.

Sally Ride, Turtle Wexler, Nancy Drew, and an amateur animal hoarder who shall remain nameless. She lived in our neighborhood and rescued greyhounds, squirrels, raccoons – and racked up a large number of notices from the homeowner’s association. She had heart and pluck.

–Name a work you wish you’d written.

The Bear, by William Faulkner.

–Name some of the original working titles of your work before it was published.

My collection title alternated between “Housewifely Arts” and “Birds of a Lesser Paradise” (the title that stuck.)

–Name a writer in history of whom you would like to have been a contemporary of and why.

Edna St. Vincent Millay. I heard she had some pretty amazing parties by the pool she made out of an old barn foundation. Also, I think cooking dinner with Carson McCullers, Marilyn Monroe, and Arthur Miller might have been fun, the table conversation rich in perspective. And cleavage.

–Name a work of yours whose reception you’ve been surprised about and why.

I’m still ecstatic that people want to read my work! I doubt this will ever cease to be a novel concept for me.

–Correct a misperception about you–as a writer or a citizen–in fifty words or fewer.

I am not twee. I am a short-tempered non-theist trapped in the body of Skipper, a wanna-be eco terrorist with mascara on. Fearsome, really.

–Name a trait you deplore in other writers.

I’m petrified of those who lack a sense of humor about their image and work.

–Name your five desert island films.

Some sort of Wes Anderson box set would do fine.

–Name a book not your own that you wish everyone would read.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. Edisto by Padgett Powell. Green Mountain Farm by Elliott Merrick.

–Name a book you suspect most people claim to have read, but haven’t.

Ulysses? The Bible? How to Win Friends and Influence People? This would make a good Family Feud question.

–If you could choose one of your works to rewrite, which would it be and why.

All of them, always and forever. I’m often confident about individual lines, but rarely sure I’ve gotten something right in its entirety.

–Share the greatest literary secret/gossip you know.

No one tells me anything. I live in rural Vermont!

–Name a book you read over and over for inspiration.

Anything Flannery.

–Name the writing habit you rely on to get you through a first draft.

Looking up at the motivational memos I’ve written on Post-it notes in my office, complete with swear words.

–Name a regret, literary or otherwise.

Looking at the search terms that lead people to my blog or website.

–Name your greatest struggle as a writer.

I get profession fatigue. I feel that everyone is writing, everyone has something to say, and I worry about what drives me to write. Is it narcissism? A need for attention? Some deeply buried notion that I have something worth saying, and that I’m capable of saying it in a valuable way? There is so much content in our world. I worry that I’m adding to the noise level.

–Name a question you get about writing to which there really is no good answer.

“What’s your book about?” *freezes*

–Name a question you wish you had been asked.

“What’s your favorite song in the Wham! discography?” Careless Whisper.


“What’s the next animal for the farm?” Polish hens, and a donkey, which I’d like to name Simon LeBon.