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Susan DeFreitas has never been able to choose between fantasy and reality, so she lives and writes in both. Born and raised in rural west Michigan, she spent fourteen years in the high country of Arizona before moving to Portland, Oregon, where she has lived since 2009. An author, editor, and educator, her work has been featured in over 30 magazines, journals, and anthologies. She enjoys mysterious books, big trees, strange weather, thinking machines, and sketchy characters.
An author, editor, and educator, Susan DeFreitas’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has appeared in the Utne Reader, The Nervous Breakdown, Story Magazine, Southwestern American Literature, and Weber—The Contemporary West, along with more than twenty other journals and anthologies. She is the author of the novel Hot Season (Harvard Square Editions, 2016) and the chapbook Pyrophitic (ELJ Publications, 2014). In 2014, her work was nominated for a Best of the Net award.
A graduate of Prescott College, DeFreitas has a background in marketing and publicity for green businesses, and from 2009 to 2012, she covered green technology for Earthtechling. Her creative work reflects on and incorporates themes related to the environment, sustainability, and the natural world.
As an editor with Indigo Editing & Publications, DeFreitas has worked with over 100 authors and publishers; as an educator, she has presented nearly 50 workshops and classes for adults and kids through the the Attic Institute, Willamette Writers Conference, and the Walters Community Arts Center, among other organizations. She holds an MFA from Pacific University and lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband.
My father was born in Guyana, which is a country on the north coast of South America; my mother was born in a small town near the coast of Lake Michigan. They met on the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, where they both worked on sailing ships. I was born in Hart, Michigan, the town where my mother grew up, where my parents moved to after they married. When they divorced, my father returned to the sea, and after that, I spent the school year at home with my mom and many of my vacations in the Caribbean with my dad.
When you are a traveler, you become a storyteller, always telling stories about the places that you’ve been, the other places that you’ve known. And elderly immigrants like my paternal grandparents, who moved to the US in the early eighties, are the ultimate storytellers, as far as I’m concerned–because as time moves on, stories are the only places where their homeland still exists.
I too was a traveler, growing up, surrounded by their stories, as well as the stories of my maternal grandmother, who owned an old farmhouse outside of Hart full of the antiques she collected. The connection I had with my grandmothers as a child has had a profound influence on me both as a person and a writer.
Though I was the third generation on my mom’s side in West Michigan, I never quite felt like I fit in—in part because my dad was from a country no one could pronounce, let alone find on a map. But the older I get, the more I see that growing up the way I did, with the same hundred people from kindergarten to graduation, in a little town that always feels like it’s thirty years behind the rest of the world, is a very special thing, and my love for the Upper Midwest and its people is reflected in many of my short stories.
While I didn’t always fit in at school, I grew up in an alternative community that always made me feel at home. The first generation in our community consists of baby boomers who went back to the land in the 1970s and formed a natural foods co-op—according to some, because my mother placed an ad in Mother Earth News. These folks are like aunts and uncles to me, and the kids I grew up with are like my cousins. They’re the reason you’ll find all sorts of alternative communities in my stories, full of dreamers and makers and builders and wild children making forts in the woods.
Later in life, I found other tribes—first at the Interlochen Arts Academy, where I studied creative writing, and later at Prescott College in Arizona, where I moved for undergrad. Both of them are very special, very weird schools, and I’m immensely grateful to the mentors and classmates I found there (among them Jack Driscoll, K.L. Cook, and Melanie Bishop).
When I moved to the Southwest for college, I fell in love with the Arizona high country—the moods of the land, the seasons, the mountains, the history, the people—and to this day, this part of the world remains one of the strongest influences on my fiction. This was also the place where, in the late nineties, I met and joined a group of circus performers, with whom I traveled the country on a gypsy school bus and saw many unlikely things.
Naturally, the only thing I could do with any of this was to write stories.
Currently, I make my home in Portland, Oregon–a land of dark, misty forests, ironic tattoos, and facial hair, a place both Gothic and campy, spooky and playful, full of phenomenal writers. I’ve found a great inspiration here and, in the last few years, rediscovered my love for all things weird and uncanny.
All of these things influence my creative work, which continues to evolve–chiefly focusing on fiction, but incorporating nonfiction and poetry as well. My chief values as a professional include literary citizenship and community; fandom as the foundation of the creative life; curiosity and pleasure as the foundation of creative work; and the responsibility of the artist to grapple with the significant moral and ethical issues of the day.
I prefer big talk to small talk, and I welcome your thoughts and questions on my life and work.