Laura van den Berg, MFA '08
Writer, teacher, editor
Q. What are you currently working on?
I’m at work on a novel, Find Me, and new short stories. I’m also the 2011–2012 creative writing fellow at the Gilman School, so I’m teaching fiction writing as well.
Q. Could you describe one person, experience, or series of events at Emerson that shifted the course of your career and that illustrates one of Emerson’s core attributes of creativity, collaboration, risk taking, and excellence?
A number of experiences at Emerson helped shape my writing: the teachers I worked with, the connections I formed with my peers, the support and camaraderie, the wealth of opportunities available in Boston and its rich literary culture. In addition, my time as editorial assistant and then assistant editor at Ploughshares helped me learn about the publishing side of the writing world.
Q. Is there an example of how a faculty member aided you with your career?
I was fortunate enough to work with so many terrific members of the Emerson writing faculty, including Margot Livesey, Pamela Painter, Jessica Treadway, and Frederick Reiken, to name a few. Their instruction was invaluable. I owe an especially large debt to Margot Livesey, as I workshopped early drafts of nearly all the stories in my debut collection, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, in her classes. Her mentorship was instrumental in helping me help the stories find their way.
Q. Are you professionally connected to other Emersonians?
Yes! I have remained in close touch with my MFA classmates. Having a core group of insightful, honest readers is crucial for any writer and, luckily for me, my colleagues from Emerson have continued to be wonderfully helpful readers of my work-in-progress.
Q. What’s the single most important piece of advice you’d like to give to Emerson students?
Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Take risks. Don’t let fear hold you back. You never know where something will lead.