Stefanie Freele

Stefanie Freele and child (2)“I just never ever considered the possibility that motherhood would be in my destiny, that I could be the guide for a small vulnerable human through this big world. I had declared myself as a writer a few years back and that was all the title I needed.” –Freele

Now it’s the end of May in New Mexico, my own kids are out of school for summer vacation, and I’m desperately trying to figure out how I’ll get any writing done! Luckily, I’ve been able to exchange emails with the way cool Stefanie Freele, who shares her stories and advice for Mother Writers–and I hope you’ll walk away with the sense of inspiration I did after reading Stefanie’s words.

Interview with Stefanie Freele

Was being a mother always a goal/desire for you, and was being a writer always a goal/desire for you? How does the reality of being a mother-writer compare with your expectations?

I don’t recall one single moment of my life, prior to the pregnancy of my son, where I felt that motherhood was a desire. Not one. I figured I didn’t have it in me. I didn’t understand when women said they felt their clock ticking.

Wanting children was as foreign to me as yearning for too-small shoes or a bad rash from poison oak. Cats were enough to take care of, and maybe a dog. So, when Wyett’s presence in my body announced itself, I could not believe it. Although I understood the science of that baby business, I couldn’t understand the meaning. It wasn’t that I didn’t want him; I just never ever considered the possibility that motherhood would be in my destiny, that I could be the guide for a small vulnerable human through this big world. I had declared myself as a writer a few years back and that was all the title I needed.

Plus, I assumed the status of good motherhood required June Cleaver-y type attributes I didn’t have: I hated house cleaning (still do), I was a terrible meal-planner (getting slightly better) and a horrific cook (there is hope here: I’ve managed to perfect spaghetti sauce to the point of admiration).

That said, our son is the coolest, funniest, bestest part of my life. Although I had no clock to tick, he showed up ta da!, and I’m loving being his Mama.

Since there were no expectations of being a Mama or a Mama/Writer, I have been winging this thing for over 8 years. Don’t tell anybody. I’ve never been the type to write precisely at the same time every day for exactly two hours like Roald Dahl, or complete X amount of words in a day. So my uneven artistic schedule fits nicely with motherhood. Son and Father know that if Mama is writing a new story, it is the time to back off. And it doesn’t happen all that often, maybe once every couple of weeks. They are great about it. Editing I can do while Wyett is in school, it doesn’t require the kind of uninterrupted fervor a new story does.

Yesterday, I was typing at the kitchen table and Wyett was outside squirting water at me via the window. I was typing so fast, I could only glance at him out of the corner of my eye, although I could hear him giggling. I felt bad, not getting involved in the nonsense, but if I don’t write when the muse commands, I lose the story. This morning, I told him, Hey, I could have sworn someone was squirting me while I was writing last night? Did you notice anyone sneaking around the house with a squirt bottle? This caused more giggles. So, I think we’re all right.

How do you find the balance between mothering and writing? Do you ever find the lines crossing in interesting ways?

Always crossing. Speaking of lines, there are so many lines my son says that I want to steal. Like most children, I suppose, he is curious and hilarious without meaning to be.

A review of your book Feeding Strays praises your work for its invention and freedom from clichés. The reviewer says, “Motherhood didn’t seem to get in Ms. Freele’s hair or her computer in the slightest, except perhaps to reinforce what was lurking in the bottom of her mind, waiting to be let loose.” Will you reflect on this for our Mother Writers? Is it true that motherhood did not affect the writing, or is the truth more complex than this?

The unforgettable poet David Wagoner wrote that review. I interpreted his comment as that the duties and distractions of motherhood did not steer me away from writing. Feeding Strays was my thesis project and I had attended the Northwest Institute for Literary Arts while pregnant. Our baby came along to the residencies and attended graduation. I kept writing. As you’ve intuited, the truth is more complex than this, as truth tends to be. There are several stories in Feeding Strays about mothery things like morning sickness, hormones, placentas but not all of them reside in that particular category. You’ll find sinkholes, underwear, canyons and cruises. Motherhood had to affect my writing. Why else would I write a story where a diaper appears in the first line?

Have you found that there are particular challenges facing mother-writers than those of other writers?

The challenges I’ve found are mostly in the social-literary department. I have yet to make it to AWP. It is not easy to get away to the zillion readings and workshops and conferences I’d love to attend. Even local writing events are difficult to pack in. A parent has to pick and choose carefully any other commitments aside from the day to day requirements of Mama-ness. Saying no thanks to fun events and opportunities is a drag, but I wouldn’t trade it – as they say.

Have you any advice to share with mother-writers who may be struggling to continue their craft or to find the path toward publication?

There is so much advice out there; I don’t want to spit back what everyone else says, so I’m trying to find something useful that I Wish I’d Known Then. Some sort of shiny wisdom mother-writers can say, ah ha! I have searched my scruffy noggin and have come up with nothing new. So, I’ll reiterate what is important: Read Good Literature, Write When Inspired, Enjoy The Adventure of Having Children, and the one that took me the longest to embrace: Sleep As Much As Possible.

*Check out Stefanie’s recent story “Out On The Lawn, They Growl” which appears in Psychopomp. It was inspired by a discussion at her son’s grade school.

*If you are a Mother Writer and would like to share your story & words of wisdom with us, please email me at jennabee_84 at yahoo dot com. Thanks! Now get out there and write like a Mother!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Mother Writer Interview with Stefanie Freele | Jennifer Givhan, Poet & Novelist

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