Megan Mayhew Bergman grew up in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and attended Wake Forest University. She has graduate degrees from Duke University and Bennington College. Her stories have appeared in the 2010 New Stories from the South anthology, Ploughshares, Oxford American, One Story, Narrative, PEN American, The Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, Gulf Coast, Greensboro Review and elsewhere. She lives in on a small farm in Shaftsbury, VT with her veterinarian husband, two daughters, four dogs, four cats, a horse, goats, and chickens.
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A Conversation with Megan Mayhew Bergman about her debut collection of short stories, Birds of a Lesser Paradise
You live with a variety of animals on a small farm in Vermont, and your husband is a veterinarian. How have your interactions with animals informed your writing of these stories?
Interacting with animals draws me into a physical world, which is where I want to be. I've always been an animal person, and my husband is basically an enabler - now I can get access to all the one-eyed cats and neurotic beagles I want. In fact, we kind of maintain a secular, downtrodden version of Noah's ark in our farmhouse. But instead of beautiful beasts, we have decrepit, incontinent dogs, rescue goats, and vicious cats marauding around.
My husband can break my heart any day with shop talk. I spend time in the clinic with him after hours, and when I leave, each patient weighs on me. How did the cat with liver failure end up? What choice did the owner make about the old lab with the lung tumor? There is constant tension in his work, an ethical dilemma around every corner. That, in addition to our emotional investment in companion animals, is the stuff narrative is made of. Love, choice, grief, change.
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