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How long have you been writing?
I have been writing seriously for about six years now. I wrote a lot when I was younger—as in, I wrote and illustrated little books in elementary school – but stopped writing in high school and college. I did sign up for one creative writing class in college, but I dropped it after the first day because it terrified me. I think I was afraid to fail at something I knew I really wanted to do. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was working full-time after college. I took a night class in creative writing and wrote my first short story at 24, and I’ve been writing ever since.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I grew up in St. Louis and lived there until I was 24, and as a result feel deeply connected to the Midwest. After leaving St. Louis, I lived in Illinois for a year and then in Ohio for four, where it seems to be debatable whether St. Louis is actually part of the Midwest (though to me, Ohio feels like the Eastern Plains!). I’ve since left the region, for now, but the Midwest – and St. Louis in particular – is a magnet for me. There’s a deep pull of home, and my writing has begun to gravitate around the Midwest.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
Having grown up and lived in the Midwest for so long, I feel like my writing and my home are inseparable in so many ways. I’ve tried to write from a variety of locations, but there’s something about the Midwest, and particularly St. Louis, that has permeated my writing. The weather – how it feels inextricable from place, and how you miss the exact way that seasons change in a certain location—seems especially vital to me in capturing place in writing. There’s nothing like the St. Louis humidity in summer, the slow roll of autumn leaves and the bright blue October, the quiet onset of winter snow, the first crocuses in spring. These things happen in other places, but everywhere I’ve lived, it hasn’t happened quite like it does in St. Louis.
Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
I feel like a regionalist push for Midwestern writing has started to emerge, but for so long, I think the understanding of the Midwest has been that it’s a boring, bland place, and that there’s not much purpose in stopping over on your way to more exciting places. But there’s so much history, so many interesting towns and cities, and so much to explore – both in travel and in writing.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I use social media to some extent—I have a website, which I maintain though I’m embarrassed to say that I’m not the one who built it. My husband did, who is far more technically savvy than me, and who created it for me knowing that I would never do it myself. I think a website serves a good purpose, as a centralized location of a writer’s work – whenever I discover the work of a writer I’ve never read before, I always want to read more and am excited when I can find links to other publications. I don’t use Twitter, however, and I feel a bit overwhelmed by how public Facebook can be, though I do use it for social purposes. For me, sometimes the internet feels like a very loud place, and I need to temper it at times with the quiet of unplugging.
Ooh, that’s tough. There are tons. My favorite book this year is Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Birds of a Lesser Paradise. I loved it. My favorite books of all-time, ones that I could read over and over, are probably Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America. I also love Brothers Karamazov. And Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. And anything by Raymond Carver or Joyce Carol Oates or Patrick Somerville. But you only asked for one, I know.
That’s tough too. Can I say tea? Does that count as a food? If not, I’ll go with the sweet potato casserole my family makes every year for the winter holidays. Yum.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would have green tea with Lorrie Moore.
Where can we find more information about you?
My website is probably the best place: www.annevalente.com. Despite my ambivalence at times toward social media, I do my very best to keep it updated.