Smoking With Stefanie Freele
Read the Story December 15, 2008
In your stories, including this piece, one of the things I admire most is your ability to catch me off guard with unpredictable details, such as the items found in the husband’s briefcase. How do you loosen yourself up enough to come up with these details, and how do you control this unpredictability so that it doesn’t stray too far from your basic story? Are readers’ perceptions often in your mind as you write?
I don’t know that I loosen myself up at all actually. I do pay attention though in the world for stuff that stands out. I say almost daily – man, I gotta make a note and write about that. Good point about the control of the unpredictability, but, I have no idea what I’m doing there, I think that item of question is something that is worked out in my subconscious. Unfortunately I believe I think about readers’ perceptions too much. Is it insecurity? Is it concern? I don’t know. I do know that I’d like to let go more.
Jhumpa Lahiri was quoted saying, “Everything I write feels like an experiment.” Does this apply to you? Are there failed experiments in your desk drawer, and if so, what happens to them? At what point in this story did you realize how things would end?
Doesn’t exactly apply to me. Some writing feels experimental, some a study in technique, some a means to an end. There are TONS of failed experiments and drafts and pages and pages of notebooks and scraps and sketches and blabberings. Boxes. What happens to them? Sometimes I hear them scurry about in there, squabbling and fretting. For the most part, I leave the boxes closed and pile more boxes on top of them.
The end of this story came quickly. I knew it as I wrote the story and wrote as fast as I could to get there. Exhilarating really. Wish they all worked that way.
Possession is an important issue in this story. What does the protagonist possess in the beginning of the story? Does she long to possess more?
The protagonist possesses an extremely special relationship – that with a man where they know each other without the constraint of a name. At first perhaps it is mysterious, sensual, but then she might need a modicum of normalcy but doesn’t want to quite admit it. Thus, the secrecy in her search.
You’re editing the anthology Dogs: Wet & Dry and you’re a new staff editor at SmokeLong. How important is it to you to be working on the editorial side of writing along with the creative side? Are they separate things?
They are separate and they aren’t. I love both. Creating and editing feed each other, making a writer sharper. Editing, as in reading others’ work, is interesting as you figure out what mistakes are common and then naturally hone your own writing. You see what themes are overdone and adjust your own writing. The very best is when you run into an amazing story and you say, “Dang, I wish I wrote that.”
You recently found out your debut collection, “Feeding Strays,” is going to be published by Lost Horse Press. Tell us about it.
I’ve just signed the contract. Yipeee! I’ve been admiring Lost Horse Press for years, especially the work of Scott Poole and Carolyne Wright. Feeding Strays is a collection of short stories, both slipstream and modern, about children, families, relationships: broken people and the folks who love them, women who bake with sponges in their tarts, men who push caskets downriver, children who float toward their toys, that sort of thing.
About the Author:
Stefanie is the 2008 Kathy Fish Fellowship Writer-In-Residence for SmokeLong Quarterly. She has a MFA from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts: Whidbey Writers Workshop. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, American Literary Review, Talking River, Literary Mama, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Frigg, Wigleaf, Cafe Irreal, Permafrost, Hobart, Cezanne's Carrot, and Contrary. Visit her at www.stefaniefreele.com