I first met Laura in the early 2000’s. I was the Irving Bacheller Chair in Creative Writing at Rollins College and she was an undergrad. I was one paragraph into the first story she turned in for our workshop and knew I was dealing with a very special talent. Her first two short story collections, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us and Isle of Youth, were finalists for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Find Me, her much anticipated debut novel, comes out February 17. But why wait when you can pre-order it today? The LA Times says of Find Me, “From this memorable novel’s eerie first paragraph to its enigmatic ending, Laura van den Berg has invented something beautiful indeed.” Laura and I have had a few adventures together, many drinks, and even more laughter. She’s on the faculty of my writers conference in St. Augustine, which takes place this October. She also is the winner of the 2015 Bard Fiction Prize. They gave her this really sweet desk:CMF: Now that you’ve spent considerable time and effort with Find Me’s protagonist, Joy, what bit of advice do you have for her?
LVDB: Don’t listen to anyone but yourself.
CMF: What’s it like to live with Paul Yoon?
LVDB: It’s the best. Especially when he makes me coffee.
CMF: Virginia Woolf is not dead. Indeed, she’s coming over to your house tonight for dinner. What are you going to serve her?
LVDB: I can’t cook a lick, and I’m not being modest either: truly my cooking is a horror. But I don’t think I could serve Virginia take out and I can chop vegetables like a mofo, so I would make a kale salad with Parmesan and grapes and slivered almonds, in a champagne vinaigrette, with some good bread and cheese and radishes with butter. Or just pray that Paul was home.
CMF: What scares you?
LVDB: Death, yo. Also snake, lizards, plane crashes.
CMF: If you become the leader of the free world, what will be your first decree?
LVDB: A justice system that delivers actual justice, based on actual facts—as opposed to based on race, religion, economic background, and gender—would be a start.