Susan Tepper:  Beate, “A Scattering of Rivals opens with two strongly contrasting themes: War and Nature.  You write: “Peace isn’t easy.  Especially in fall when red leaves float down.”  I read this first part that is so beautiful, while footage of every war I’ve been alive during flashed through my brain.

Beate Sigriddaughter: Well, I love writing because you get to shape destiny a little in ways you can’t otherwise. I could have mentioned a plainer, or even uglier truth here, such as “this narrator has envy issues and doesn’t want to die.” But then nobody would have loved her, and clearly she wants to have love, too, so she sends out these cautious tendrils of attention and admiration into the world, hoping no doubt that something positive will boomerang back.

I, as author, do believe that all war stems from some type of envy. So, I want most of all peace, love, joy. And the way things are set up in the world (for now), peace and the rest just aren’t easy to come by. Wise folk say when you really look, all is peace after all, especially in nature (if you ignore the Darwinian competition stuff, that is). But I’m not there yet. And neither are my characters. We still see the bigger dumplings in someone else’s soup. (I guess once you’re brainwashed you can’t quite wash Darwin out of your brain).

Susan: I agree with you one hundred percent that all war “stems from some type of envy.”

I also find it extremely interesting that you’ve chosen to make your character “loveable” or that the character has chosen to be one who would be loved.  I’m open minded about who gets to choose what in literature.  And love is the crux here, and of course everywhere.  Love informs the biological imperative which is the sex drive, that keeps all species going.  Even flowers.  The stamen and the pistil.

Beate: Yes, I do think for a human being love is at the center of what we want. I don’t know about foxes, they can probably get by with food and plain old sexual attraction. But with us human beings, even brave men publicly and literarily declare that they want love (Paulo Coelho comes to mind as a recent courageous declarant). That’s why rejection is so hard. Especially in autumn when one gets colorful reminders of the finality of one’s current experience.

Susan: Each vignette is a story unto itself, yet connected to the one before so we get this narrative flow and we get poetry here, too.  The narrator seems to be knitting, almost, if that makes sense.  I see this like an expanding scarf knitted in the autumn colors.  Autumn signifying the end of all that is lush and growing.  A season that often makes people sad.

You write: “I couldn’t wait to grow up. I planned to go to the ends of the earth to avoid rejection.”

That is startling: going to the ends of the earth.  What does that mean to the narrator?  Is it a death call from within?

Beate:  Oh, that’s a fascinating way of looking at it. Death as the ultimate liberator, but at an exorbitant cost. I just recently earmarked a quote from Montgomery Clift: “If you look really close at things, you’ll forget you’re going to die.”

What I originally intended for my narrator was just an attempt to run away from her troubles, which is something she can’t do, as she discovers when she realizes that earth has no end. But maybe, just maybe, if she’ll look close at things, she’ll forget and simply end up fascinated.

Susan:  You tell us: “A husband left for a long-legged creature on the brink of first bloom.”

Every woman’s worst nightmare!  I don’t understand why women are considered decrepit as they age, but men are thought to ripen.  I’ve seen some pretty past-ripe guys running around in shorts this summer.  Not all that delectable…  Sorry to go off topic, or is it on topic?  Because your narrator has suffered here at the hands of men.

You write:  “An old lover’s new love already swept his front porch as I walked by.”

This is strong stuff.   I felt it was she that was being swept away, as I suspect she also felt.  As if she were a dried out leaf left over from summer.  Something to just sweep off the porch and out of his life.  Out of all life.

Beate: I think you’re spot on about the “swept out of life,” or at the very least out of significance. Insignificance, especially as experienced by women, is a huge theme in my life, and hence in many of my characters’ lives. This narrator has her handful of rejections bracketed in between those in favor of her father and then her son. Still, my favorite image in this piece is the walk on the mountain bridge (I guess nature to the rescue again) where insignificance and rejection are more or less irrelevant. And then the hope that someone is happy behind those gold lit windows:

My favorite T-shirt is yellow and tattered: a wanderer, a woman, walks on a mountain bridge

Read  “A Scattering of Rivals by Beate Sigriddaughter

Monday Chat is a bi-weekly series in which Susan Tepper has a conversation with a Fictionaut writer about one of his or her stories. Susan is Assistant Editor of Istanbul Literary Review, fiction editor of Wilderness House Literary Review, co-author of new novel What May Have Been, and hosts FIZZ, a reading series at KGB Bar.

  1. Sam Rasnake

    Great way to start the week, Susan and Beate. “A Scattering of Rivals” is a wonderful piece. An amazing and clear start to this work in terms of tone and image: “Peace isn’t easy. Especially in fall when red leaves float down.” Yes.

  2. Kathy Fish

    Thanks for this, Susan and Beate. The questions here are as intelligent and insightful and the answers. “A Scattering of Rivals” is a very strong, important work from a beautiful writer and thinker.

  3. Gloria Mindock

    Wonderful Chat on wonderful work. Congrats to you both!

  4. Meg Tuite

    Susan and Beate,
    Loved this!!! And “A Scattering of Rivals,” is outstanding!!! Thank you for the insightful questions and answers!!! Beautiful!!

  5. estelle bruno

    A husband left for a long legged creature! pox on him.
    A wonderful chat and your questions and ansers were perfect to the story.

  6. LindaSw

    So enjoyed this peek into your heart and head, Beate. A Scattering quite blows me away, even on subsequent reads. Susan, you asked just the right questions, a fabulous interview with a writer who runs deep into stuff that matters. Peace…

  7. Jane Hammons

    Wonderful way to begin the week. Thoughtful and reflective discussion of a very moving story.

  8. Kari Nguyen

    Love these chats, Susan. So happy to revisit this story today. Beate is an important voice.

  9. James Lloyd Davis

    Insignificance as a theme is highly underdone. Beate’s perspectives are always unique, original … and of course, primarily feminine to the classifying eye. They are actually more universal, I think, when you take a little closer look into those fine details that make us forget about death.

    Thank you, Beate and Susan. Two of my favorite people.

  10. Kim Sisto Robinson

    “Especially in fall when red leaves float down.”

    Beate, you continually move me with your metaphor & poetry.

    “….But maybe, just maybe, if she’ll look close at things, she’ll forget and simply end up fascinated.”

    Beautiful. You are Beautiful.

    “….In writing, we get to shape destiny”

    Ahhh, Yes we Do!

    Thank you, Beate & Susan. Fabulous Interview. Great Insight. I loved it!

  11. susan tepper

    Thanks to everyone who read the chat and / or Beate’s wonderful story, your comments here are very much appreciated. It was a joy to chat with Beate, one of my very early friends at Fictionaut.

  12. J. Mykell Collinz

    An informative and entertaining exchange between two great writers discussing a wonderful work of literary art. Thanks Susan and Beate, I enjoyed: and I will write to shape human destiny with peace, love, and joy, avoiding envy, if I can. Love is at the center of what I want, the hope that everyone is happy.

  13. Robert Vaughan

    Beate, this glimpse into a deeper scope of your heart and soul, provided by another great artist, Susan Tepper, is revelatory! I have been an ardent admirer and friend for some time already, but this gave me a fresh perspective of why I will continue to read and marvel at your gifts. And what a remarkable story “A Scattering of Rivals” is. Thanks for yet another inspirational Monday chat.

  14. JP Reese

    Even the discussion is poetic. It’s interesting what we discover about our own work through conversations about it with others. The fact that women in this culture become somehow less than (generally) as they age is a waste and a tragedy, but perhaps it’s also an impetus for women to look within to create something of more lasting beauty as compensation and sometimes, in our best work, as a sort of triumph over this culturally driven objectification.

  15. susan tepper

    It’s wonderful that Beate’s chat and story continue to be read. Thanks for all your interesting and insightful comments.

  16. Marcus Speh

    missed this last week when i was traveling – wonderful views and interview, you two. beate is a wise woman. she’s got harold bloom on her side, who says «The overwhelming presence of love is vital to understanding how great literature works.» her story made my heart ache when i first read it. proud to be a countryman of sigrid’s dottir, who rides the unicorn, fearlessly.

  17. susan tepper

    Marcus, that’s a beautiful comment for Beate who does ride the unicorn fearlessly, and is very gentle at the same time.

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