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Valeri, Laura

VALERI, Laura

PERSONAL: Born in Piombino, Italy; immigrated to the United States; daughter of Valerio (a consultant) and Anna (a professor; maiden name, Cateni) Valeri. Education: New York University, B.A.; Florida International University, M.F.A. (creative writing), 2000; Iowa Writers' Workshop, M.F.A. (fiction writing), 2002. Politics: Moderate liberal Hobbies and other interests: Yoga, travel, languages, comparative religions, history and anthropology (primarily medieval and pre-Roman), music (classical pianist, pop/rock singer), divination and occult (tarot card reader).

ADDRESSES: Home—2316 Osprey Pt. Circle, Pooler, GA 31322. Office—Writings and Linguistics, Newton Bldg., #222D, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA 30460. E-mail[email protected]; [email protected]

CAREER: Educator. Instructor at Nova Southeastern University and University of Iowa, 1999-2002; adjunct professor at Broward Community College and Florida International University, 2002-03; Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, temporary associate professor, 2003—.

AWARDS, HONORS: Josephine Friedman fiction award, 1999; John Simmons fiction award, 2002; John Gardner fiction award, 2003.

WRITINGS:

The Kind of Things Saints Do (stories), University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA), 2002.

Contributor to periodicals, including USA Today, Gulf-stream, Big Bridge, Infinite Race, and Coastlines.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Tomorrow Singers, a novel; Arcana, a book of poems; travel/humor memoir.

SIDELIGHTS: Laura Valeri was born and spent her childhood in Italy before coming to the United States. An educator, as well as a writer, she has contributed short fiction to numerous periodicals and has published her award-winning debut collection The Kinds of Things Saints Do.

The seven stories include one about a teenage girl who hides her emotions in self-mutilation. "Whatever He Did, He Did Enough," a story dubbed "striking" by a Kirkus Reviews contributor, is the tale of a man who attempts to rescue a Cuban dancer. The reviewer wrote that "as a treatise on jealousy and the death of romance, it is profound."

A divorced woman becomes involved in an internet relationship with a younger man in "She's Anonymous," and in "A Rafter in Miami," a Cuban hair-dresser dates a successful Miami writer. The final and longest story, "Turn These Stones into Bread" finds a father and son sorting through their differences while on a hiking trip.

A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Valeri "rarely relies on expository prose to push her plots along, instead using dialogue and inner monologue to generate forward movement." Joanne Wilkinson, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "rips through these pages with a fearless display of raw emotion."

Valeri told CA: "An idea for any work usually starts with a conflict, one that manifests itself through my waking in the middle of the night with an uncomfortable feeling, or an invisible weight that presses on the back of my throat and over my shoulders. There is a subconscious conflict that needs to be resolved, in some ways expelled through the writing where it is processed most thoroughly. There is something in the creative act that is about serving as a gateway between the conscious and the subconscious; or in more esoteric terms, between the spiritual and the physical. Most of my best writing happens when I am least aware of the act of writing, happens when I forget that I am Laura Valeri, sitting at a desk, imagining something.

"I have a natural preference for contemporary writers, but that is because their experience reflects mine, and speaks to me in ways that other authors' work can't. Nonetheless, the influences in my work range wide. The first writer that made me think about writing was Susan Minot with her collection of short stories titled Lust. The title story, about a girl who traces her pattern of emotionally abusive relationships from adolescence to young adulthood, was the first story I had ever read that boldly addressed, in a way that I could understand and embrace, the issue of sexual identity in my gender. I realized Minot's story had just touched the tip of the iceberg, and that there was much more to be said on the subject.

"Consequent successful collections, like Pam Houston's Cowboys Are My Weakness, for example, encouraged me to read and write more on the girl slant. As my writing matured, writers that most inspired me with regard to content were Julia Alvarez, Mary Gaitskill, Ellen Gilchrist, Alice Munroe, Alice Walker, Louise Erdrich, Sandra Cisneros, Jane Smiley, and Tony Morrison. These writers helped me clarify my interests in what is sometimes disparagingly referred to as domestic literature, proving to me with their impeccable work that writing about the ordinary is profound. Also, most of these women dwell not only on issues of gender and sexuality, but also on race, culture, and ethnicity in women, raising and answering questions about identity that were both fresh and real to me."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

periodicals

Booklist, September 1, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Kind of Things Saints Do, p. 55.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of The Kind of Things Saints Do, p. 1073.

Publishers Weekly, September 30, 2002, review of The Kind of Things Saints Do, p. 46.

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