Today, we're talking to Stefanie Freele a poet and short story writer who lives in the Northwest. Stefanie is a Pushcart Prize Nominee and has published short fiction in Glimmer Train, PANK, Sou'wester, Word Riot, R.KV.R.Y Quarterly Literary Journal, Vestal Review, and many more. In the last eight years, she has published 99 short stories. Isn't that remarkable?
Stefanie and I are going to be talking about the hunger for publication, how to know when your short story is finished, and the world's need, or lack thereof, for more donut stories. You can find Stefanie's work on her website, stefaniefreele.com, as well as her two books of short stories, Feeding Strays and Surrounded by Water.
Thanks so much for joining us Stefanie!
How long had you been writing before your first short story was published?
I worked on a few short stories for a couple of years before I started sending them out. After heaps of rejections, the first story accepted was “Cartwheeling” in South Dakota Review. What a celebratory day that was!!!
According to your website, you published your first short story in 2004, and afterward, you published several per year. Was there something changed to make you so focused on writing short stories and getting them published?
I went through a time period of being frankly obsessed with submitting stories. It was a particularly prolific period also, so I seemed to have much to send out. At one point, I sent out 365 submissions in a year, the equivalent of one per day over the year. And, that was primarily in-the-mail submissions, before the wonderful invention of Submishmash (now Submittable).
Yes, I was being a little crazzzzy: that first acceptance got me hooked.
As an MFA student in the Whidbey Writers Workshop (Northwest Institute of Literary Arts) I wrote several new pieces and as the Kathy Fish Fellow, Writer In Residence for SmokeLong Quarterly, I wrote a bunch more. And, then more and more. I don't think I've ever truly had a writers' block in terms of creativity, more of a writers' block in terms of life stepping in to block the time to write.
You've been published in a wide variety of literary magazines, both print and digital? How do you research magazines to find a fit for your stories?
I often use Duotrope to do the submission research and the contributor notes in the back of literary magazines or in the back of Best American Short Stories series. When I find a story I very much love, I look at where the author has been published and see if that magazine might be a good fit for my work.
Do you ever write a short story with a particular magazine in mind?
Yes, several times. A couple of examples – I wrote a piece recently that I deliberately hoped Flash Fiction Online would accept, and they did – it will be coming out soon, titled “How Did I Get Here Bruce”. Also, my story “Scantily Clad Submissive Women” was unfinished, mostly just notes, but after reading an issue of Pank, I found myself inspired to finish it, and they accepted the story: Scantily Clad Submissive Women.
How do you know a story is finished?
Darn good question. The state of being finished is more intuitive than mathematical. I have this sensation a story has told its tale, the pieces are all there. I run it by a fellow writer or two for feedback, and from there is it absolutely non-scientific: it is all about a gut feeling, the feeling of doneness.
What are three techniques or strategies you would recommend for writers just getting started out writing and submitting short stories?
Read. Read lots of literary magazines. Read the Best American Short Stories series. When you find a story you love, break it down, underline, make notes, study the story.
What's the worst story you've ever written?
There was a story about a donut-eater that I spent all day editing feverishly and I proudly presented it to my guy, Seth (who is often a first reader, terrific editor, and champion of my work). After reading it, he folded the paper over and said slowly with a somber look, “Does the world really need this donut story?” I said oh, and moved on.
Thanks so much Stefanie! For more frome Stefanie Freele, make sure to check out her website, stefaniefreele.com.
And if you would like to write and publish short stories, learn how by reading Let's Write a Short Story! With over 100 five-star reviews on Amazon, it will be the kick in the pants you need to get writing.
Today, read a short story. And since we've just been talking to Stefani Freele, author of 99 of them, let's read one of her stories.
Read one of the following or find your own on her website:
- “Feisty Rojo,” published in Quarterly West
- “Cattails, Cake, and Hugh's Big Toe,” published in The Pedastal Magazine
- “Zeal,” published in Night Train
- “Scantily Clad Submissive Women,” published in PANK