Laura van den Berg  was raised in Florida and earned her MFA at Emerson College. Formerly an assistant editor at Ploughshares, Laura is currently a fiction editor at West Branch and the assistant editor of Memorious, an online journal of new verse and fiction. She has taught writing at Emerson College, Grub Street, and in PEN/New England's Freedom to Write Program.Her fiction has or will soon appear in One Story, Boston Review, Epoch, The Literary Review, American Short Fiction, StoryQuarterly, Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008, Best New American Voices 2010, and The Pushcart Prize XXIV: Best of the Small Presses, among other publications.

Short Story Collections

What The World Will Look Like When All The Water Leaves Us
(Dzanc, 2009)

reviewed by Elaine Chiew

Interview with Laura van den Berg

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Laura van den Berg: From starting the first story to handing over the final manuscript to my publisher, Dzanc Books, the collection took about 4 years.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

LVDB: Not at first, but after I had about half the stories written, I began to see common themes and preoccupations and started considering the possibility that a book could be taking shape.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

LVDB: With the help of my agent, we decided the first and last stories initially, selecting Where We Must Be to open the collection because it has a zany-ness to it that we hoped would be eye-catching and the title story to conclude the book because it was the longest and seemed like it might be a good "anchor." As for everything in between, I tried to avoid putting stories side-by-side that had stylistic or thematic overlap and staggered the collection’s two third-person stories.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

LVDB: A whole world contained in a small amount of space

TSR: Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?

LVDB   No. In fact, it’s very important for me to imagine writing into the abyss, so to speak.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?

LVDB:  I’m always interested to know what people’s favorite and least favorite stories in the collection are, since it usually varies from reader to reader.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

LVDB: Very surreal and gratitude-inspiring.

TSR: What are you working on now?

LVDB:   I’m at work on new stories and a novel, Find Me.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

LVDB I did an independent study on the American short story with one of my students at Gettysburg College this semester, so I’ve had the pleasure of re-reading some amazing books. The last 3 I read were Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link, The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D’Ambrosio, and Birds of America by Lorrie Moore.
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