Rebecca Winterer is the author of the Identity Theory short story "Toy Collector," which we nominated for Best Small Fictions 2024. Her novel The Singing Ship was awarded the Del Sol Press 2016 First Novel Prize and selected as a finalist for the Black Lawrence Press 2016 Big Moose Prize. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College. Raised in Australia, she now lives in San Francisco. You can find Rebecca online at RebeccaWinterer.com.
Talk about the piece you wrote for Identity Theory ("Toy Collector"): How did you get the idea for it? How many drafts did you write? What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing it?
The idea for “Toy Collector” came from walking at Fort Funston beach with my dog, Myrna. I wrote seven drafts. One challenge was creating a character that was compellingly part of that expansive landscape.
How do you decide when a story is ready for submission?
The story feels complete to me and, ideally, has been vetted by a trusted reader. Sometimes though, the story feels done, yet it’s premature. Rejections may be the indicator, but not always.
How do you celebrate when receiving an acceptance?
An acceptance is like a cool breeze on a hot, still day. I’m grateful that someone out there enjoyed my work and, for a time, feel truly rejuvenated as a writer.
What is your strategy for dealing with rejection?
I try and be circumspect about rejections. Yes, it’s disappointing, but maybe the story isn’t working yet or maybe the work hasn’t found the right reader. It’s best to not overly dwell on them. Keep reading and writing. Keep submitting when your work is ready.
Which authors do you believe are most influential to your writing?
That’s a hard question because there are so many writers that I admire and learn from. To name a few: Kevin McIlvoy, Olga Tokarczuk, Willa Cather, David Malouf, Colson Whitehead, Fernanda Melchor, John Berger.
How do you go about improving as a writer?
I improve with practice and careful reading of others’ works as well as studying the craft of fiction. Consistency is important. And if you’re like me, that means resetting after life events scuttle your consistency. For me, what’s key is not be afraid to get back to work. Amazingly, the energy and fun of a writing practise returns and you can’t help but improve. Goals and a writing community are also crucial.
What writing or publishing advice would you give your younger self?
Perfection is impossible. Self-doubt is self-defeating so chipper up and get to work! Submit your work.
Is social media good for you?
I have Luddite tendencies. That said, social media has given me access to a community of writers that’s been wonderful.
What are some of your favorite online lit mag stories by other writers?
“In the Museums of Heaven and Hell” by Goldie Goldbloom in Lascaux Review, “Prose Poem By God, Parts I and II” in Unbroken and “Let Us Draw Near” in Scoundrel Time by Kevin McIlvoy, “A Girl Goes Into the Forest” by Peg Alford Pursell in Waxwing, “Chilly Observation” and “Teeth of Noon” by Mary Ruefle in The Glacier.
Aside from your Identity Theory piece, what’s the one story you’ve published that you’d most like people to read?
I’d love people to read my novel, The Singing Ship, which, though longer than a story, I promise is still darkly entertaining.
Bonus: Do you have any pet photos you’d like to share?