AboutHigh ResLow Res
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 serves as an independent editor with Indigo Editing & Publications. She is the author of the novel Hot Season, which won a 2017 Gold IPPY Award, and a contributor at Litreactor.com; she has been publishing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry since 2006. She enjoys mysterious books, 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) winner of the 2017 Gold IPPY Award for Best Fiction of the Mountain West, 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 for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, she 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 a collaborative editor with Indigo Editing & Publications, she specializes in developmental editing for fiction; as an educator, she presents a variety of workshops each year at conferences throughout the Pacific Northwest. She holds an MFA from Pacific University and lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and cat.
My father was born in Guyana; my mother was born in a small town near the coast of Lake Michigan. They met in the Caribbean, where they both worked on sailing ships, and moved to Hart, Michigan, where both my mother and grandmother were born, and where I was as well.
When my parents divorced, my father returned to the sea, and after that, I spent the school year with my mom, in the Midwest, and my vacations with my dad, first in the Caribbean and later in South Florida.
When you are a traveler, you are a storyteller, always telling stories about the places that you’ve been, the places that you’ve known. I am such a storyteller, as are my parents, and my Guyanese grandparents as well. They moved to the US in the late seventies and helped to raise me; their stories had a profound impact on my development as a writer.
For them, as for so many elderly immigrants, stories were the only place where their homeland still existed.
I grew up with the stories of my Norwegian grandmother as well. Hers were tales of bygone Americana, of teaching in a one-room country school house; she lived in a yellow brick farmhouse full of the antiques she collected, among them the complete Oz tales by L. Frank Baum.
The connection I had with both of my grandmothers as a child has had a lasting influence on me both as a person and a writer.
Though my mother’s people were from West Michigan, I never quite felt like I fit in—in part because my dad was from a country whose name 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 never lacked for friends, because I grew up in an alternative community (composed of my mother’s friends and their kids). The first generation consists of baby boomers who went “back to the land” in the 1970s and formed a natural foods co-op. These people 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. Both of them are very special, very weird schools, and I’m grateful to the mentors I found there (among them Jack Driscoll, K.L. Cook, Melanie Bishop, and Allyson Stack).
In 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 a strong influence 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 and ironic tattoos, a place both Gothic and campy, spooky and playful. I’ve found a lot of inspiration here, as well as a passionate community of readers and writers. I’ve also rediscovered my love for all things weird and uncanny.
This is the story behind my stories, the influences that shape my work (chiefly fiction, but incorporating nonfiction and poetry as well). My chief values as a professional are:
1) literary citizenship and community
2) fandom as the foundation of the creative life
3) curiosity and pleasure as the foundation of creative work
4) the responsibility of the artist to grapple with the significant issues of the day.
I prefer big talk to small talk, and I welcome your thoughts and questions on my life and work.