Heather Frese


Heather Frese is the author of the novel The Baddest Girl on the Planet, winner of the Lee Smith Novel Prize. She has published numerous short stories, essays, and the occasional poem. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, the Los Angeles ReviewFront Porch, the Barely South ReviewSwitchback, and elsewhere, earning notable mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Essays.

Heather received her M.F.A. from West Virginia University and has a master’s degree from Ohio University. Coastal North Carolina is her longtime love and source of inspiration, her writing deeply influenced by the wild magic and history of the Outer Banks. A native Ohioan, she currently writes, edits, and wrangles three small children in Raleigh, North Carolina.


Hi, I’m Heather. One winter evening when I was six years old, I sat in the back of my family’s wood-paneled station wagon as we stopped for a train crossing. The lights blinked red, on and off, on the crossing sign as the train barreled, all clicka clacka clicka clacka wheels and low, mournful whistle, across the dark Ohio landscape. I thought to myself, this would be a good place to start a story. From that moment on, I internally narrated my life. A request from my mom to clean up my room turned into:

“Heather, could you please clean up your room?” her mom asked.

“Okay,” Heather said. She placed her favorite Barbies, Kristin and Sarah, back in their box, closed the blue plastic lid, and slid it under her bed.

Around that same time frame, I wrote my first poem. It went something like this:

I wish I was a butterfly,

Flying in the high, high sky.

Then I wouldn’t have to walk so much,

Or sit on my behind.

I’ve been narrating in my head and writing ever since; stories and essays and journal entries and columns and advertorials and novels. (Though, arguably, my poetry hasn’t much improved since that initial attempt.)

When I was ten, everyone in our family caught a flu, only I didn’t recover. For the next twenty-some years I was chronically ill, cycling through post-viral relapses and remissions. I was often too sick to go to school, and writing was the thing that saved me from total isolation. My pen pals were other sick kids across the country and the world. Corresponding with them, our lives mingling through the mail, further affirmed the power of language in my life.

I’m so thankful for those friends I made on paper, the writing opportunities they led me to, and all the writing teachers who encouraged me along the way. As my health eventually improved and I became able to lead a more typical life, the connection through language, words, stories, never left me.

Now, I’m so excited to just be here, raising my children, writing, editing, teaching, and connecting through stories and words (she said).