Laura Freudig lives with her husband and six children on the same Maine island where she grew up. She is a reformed multitasker, strong-coffee drinker, and the author of a children’s book, Halfway Wild.
She recently won the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers for her debut story, “Mother and Child” [April 2018].
We invited her to participate in a brief interview to celebrate.
While “Mother and Child” is your first published short story, you’ve also written a children’s book. The two couldn’t be more different in content and feel. What was it like to go into darker territory with this story?
We all have a lot of different people inside of us, and the great joy of being a writer is to give them all voices. Writing good stories for small children is incredibly difficult; darker territory is more my native country — though I have been slowly emigrating to sunnier lands for many years.
What might those of us who don’t have kids not realize about becoming a parent?
I honestly thought it would be sort of like getting a puppy. It’s not at all like getting a puppy. It’s more like being handed your own beating heart in a bassinet.
Both you and Hannah live on an island off the coast of Maine. Is isolation good for writing? For raising kids?
Well, there are islands and then there are islands. Mine has a bridge and hosts a million visitors every summer. So it’s not all that isolated! I think whether isolation is good for children or for writing depends on the family and writer involved. We live at the end of a long dirt road with no other houses within a quarter mile, which is good for me because I am very distractible. If there were people and cars going by my window all the time, I would probably have a hard time getting any writing done. Instead, I see sky and waving branches, a stone wall and lilacs, an occasional child or chicken. I am also very thankful that when my kids get bored, they tend to go off into the woods and play in the stream or build a fort or explore the saltmarsh by our house, instead of the type of things they might find to do if we lived closer to other people. In general, I think isolation has fostered contentment in us. (They would all say they wished we lived in town, though!)
“Mother and Child” was selected for a PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers, and will be printed in an anthology next year. What’s it been like to see the story gain this wider recognition?
I am thrilled but a little nervous. I spend most of my days up to my elbows in children and farm animals. I don’t own a single pair of high-heeled shoes or any black dresses. What if I have to go to New York City? To some fancy function!
What new projects are you working on now?
I always have lots of projects in various stages of completion. Right now, I am polishing a few short stories and completing the last chapters of a YA novel. I can only squeeze in about an hour of work most days, so there’s never any danger of getting bored with writing.