Valerie Laken is the author of the story collection, Separate Kingdoms and the novel, Dream House, which won the Ann Powers award and was among Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2009. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize, two Hopwood Awards, a Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, and an honorable mention in the Best American Short Stories. She currently teaches in the graduate program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and is at work on an illustrated novel.
Valerie Laken on Nicholas Delbanco’s role as a mentor, and giving young writers the permission to dream: “He’s made a career of bringing together, supporting, and celebrating writers, and in doing that he made them all believe—not just in themselves, but in the value of literature itself.”
“For those of you who have yet to publish your first book, I can predict with about 96% certainty how it will go: It won’t happen when you want it to, or in the way you expect. Of course it’ll take longer than you want — you know that. It’ll take so long you could grow a tree, learn forestry and paper-making, then print and bind it yourself and carry it by hand to every last remaining independent bookstore in the country. That is, if you don’t succumb first to addiction, poverty, despair, humiliation, or suicide. In short, it will take longer than you think you can stand, and yet, in the end, as you struggle to make your last-chance, oh-my-God-this-is-going-out-in-the-world? revisions, you’ll inevitably feel rushed and wonder where all that time went.”
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