Tag Archives: the isle of youth

Nice News for ISLE

THE ISLE OF YOUTH’s book b-day is about a month away and some nice news has rolled in this past week:

~ I am a massive Karen Russell fan, so extra extra grateful for her lovely recommendation of ISLE in the Miami Herald.

~ The amazing Kyle Minor recommended ISLE over at HTML GIANT, along with a slew of other books I already love (SPEEDBOAT! RUNNING AWAY!) and/or am looking forward to reading. And speaking of looking forward, I could not possibly be more excited about Kyle’s new collection, PRAYING DRUNK, which will be out from Sarabande in February.

~ A kind and thoughtful review of ISLE by Erin McKnight in Heavy Feather Review. 

Notes from the Road: Lincoln, Nebraska

On Monday, I gave a reading at Nebraska Wesleyan University. This was my first time to Nebraska. The reading was held in a gallery on campus that had some very cool looking art on the walls. I was particularly partial to this NOT sculpture-type thing (below). I read a story from The Isle of Youth about acrobats. Afterwards there was a nice conversation with the audience about voice, the cure for writer’s block (in the immortal words of Richard Bausch, “lower your standards and keep going”), and why crisis is good for fiction.

This morning I got up at four to fly back to Boston, because I needed to be back in time to teach my Tuesday afternoon class. My flight out of Lincoln was delayed and so I arrived in Chicago with mere minutes to make my connection. This led to a breakneck run from one terminal to another, down the hallway with the nice tall windows, up and down several escalators, through the tunnel-like hallway with the neon light installation in the ceiling, another escalator, a seemingly endless white hall. As I ran, I kept thinking this would be a great commercial for Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs, for if it were not for Jillian, there was NO WAY I could have run for so long with luggage in tow. I made it right before the doors closed and a few hours later, we were descending into Boston. From the window, I could see the clouds moving over the water and the scattering of tiny islands and the cargo ships and it was all very beautiful.


Victor LaValle on ISLE

So thrilled to be able to share these generous words about ISLE from one of my all-time favorite writers, Victor LaValle. If you have not read Big Machine and The Devil in Silver, you are seriously missing out.

“People keep disappearing in Laura Van Den Berg’s haunting collection of stories. Some run away, some change identities, and one even gets blown up. This collection is rich, surprising, and a lot of fun. The Isle of Youth plays with crime stories of a kind, noir tales of deceit and betrayal, but really each investigates the spaces, the distances, that keep human beings from ever truly knowing one another. Van Den Berg is a ridiculously talented writer and this wonderful book provides the proof.” – Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver

Some Things I Thought About While Revising My Story Collection

When I make a list of all the first lines, what do I see? What kind of landscape is being built? Ditto for last lines.


Is each story taking the reader someplace new?


Where do I feel myself getting bored?


Where does the reader get taken one too many times?


Is there a story that doesn’t feel in conversation with the others?


Are there technical tricks—whoo boy do I love a good flash forward—that I’m overusing? 


What would change if I made the first story last and the last story first?


What would change if I dropped story number three? Or five, etc.


When I reach the end, what am I left with?