Introducing: Laura van den Berg

Photo credit: Paul Yoon

Say hello to the authors of the 2015 Vancouver Writers Fest! Each week in August - October, we'll be introducing you to three of our Festival authors with a blog post filled with interesting facts about the author and their upcoming book. Read all about them, buy their book and then come see them at the Festival in the fall. Enjoy! 

Laura van den Berg's collections of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and The Isle of Youth were both published to great acclaim and have been included on lists for the Frank O’Connor International Award, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award and more than a dozen ‘Best Book’ awards from a variety of venues. Her first novel, Find Me, has received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal. van den Berg is a writer-in-residence at Bard College. She is on Twitter as @Lvandenberg and her website is  Photo credit: Paul Yoon

1. “Like a wolf in the tropics”: When van den Berg was a child living in Florida, her parents adopted a wolf named Natasha. van den Berg has partial memories of the wolf’s “solitary relentless pacing and digging in the backyard” and has written about the connection she felt with the wolf and it's situation. This sensation of being 'out of place' feeds into her novel, Find Me, which features a protagonist who also paces, wolf-like, trying to find a place where she belongs. Read on.
van den Berg’s original essay about Natasha

2. In good company: Find Me has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Man V. Nature by Diane Cooke, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. However, Salon says that van den Berg has “a style, humor and grit that is all her own.” Read on.

3. The Cutting Room Floor: Unlike with films and TV shows, authors don’t often show off their list of ‘deleted scenes.’ Fortunately, van den Berg has shared an (unannotated) list of 21 things she cut from her novel while writing, including a subplot about mind control, a drug-dealing televangelist and an accordion. Read on.

4. “The weird is all around us”: Like fellow author Jeff VanderMeer, van den Berg describes Florida as ‘surreal.’ Her stories often include strange and weird characters, but she doesn’t believe that artists need to necessarily go looking for strangeness for their writing. “If we’re paying attention and we’re alert to the world,” she says, “we can count on the weird to find us.” Read on.

5. On transitioning from short stories to a novel: van den Berg was well known for her short stories before the publishing of Find Me. This transition between short fiction and a novel wasn’t easy. When van den Berg set out to write Find Me, she approached it like one of her short stories, writing a first draft in one shot in a couple of months. From there it took six years in order to perfect the story. She says, “Having a 300 page disaster on your hands was very different than a 25 page disaster, turns out.” Clearly, her hard work has paid off. Read on.

Bonus Links:

  • Read the first chapter of Find Me here
  • Scout Magazine recently published the VWF’s review of Find Me as part of their ‘Read This’ series. Read it online.

Keep checking this page for info on which events Laura van den Berg will be appearing in at the 2015 Vancouver Writers Fest!