Laura van den Berg

There’s the public self that we present to the outer world. There’s the private self, which maybe takes more time to access. But ultimately, what I’m most interested in as a writer is a few notches below the private self. It’s the secret self, the part of us that we really don’t understand, that compels us to do things that we’re bewildered or startled by.

bard fiction prize

Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard University




I love Laura van den Berg for her eeriness and her elegance, the way the fabric of her stories is woven on a slightly warped loom so that you read her work always a bit perturbed. The Third Hotel is artfully fractured, slim and singular; it’s a book that sings, but always with a strange pressure more felt than heard beneath the song.
— Lauren Groff
The most transforming kind of fiction is capable of causing a dislocation of reality: a bit of the bizarre, a lot kept beneath the surface and worlds can open within worlds. There’s Borges and Bolaño, Kafka and Cortázar, Modiano and Murakami, and now Laura van den Berg. The acclaimed author of two story collections and a novel, van den Berg has always been good, but with “The Third Hotel” she’s become fantastic — in every sense of the word…nothing unoriginal slips by in this flawless novel.
The Washington Post

Laura van den Berg’s most recent book is the novel, The Third Hotel (FSG, 2018), named a Best Book of 2018 by The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, Electric Literature and Lit Hub. She is the author of two collections of stories, The Isle of Youth (FSG, 2013), What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books, 2009), and the novel Find Me (FSG, 2015). Her forthcoming collection of stories, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, will be published in early 2020.

Laura’s honors include the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Bard Fiction Prize, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, and the Jeannette Haien Ballard Writer’s Prize, a $25,000 annual prize given to “a young writer of proven excellence in poetry or prose.” Her debut collection was selected for the Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” program, and she has twice been shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The Isle of Youth was named a “Best Book of 2013” by over a dozen outlets, including NPR, The Boston Globe, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Find Me was selected as a “Best Book of 2015” by NPR, Time Out New York, and BuzzFeed, and longlisted for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize.

Her stories have appeared in Conjunctions, Freeman’s, The Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and One Story, and have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her criticism and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, O, The Oprah Magazine, BOMB Magazine, and

In a conversation with Tin House, Laura discussed her writing process for The Third Hotel: ”In practical terms, when I’m working on a novel I try and keep up as consistent a practice as possible—working every day ideally, though I take “working” to also mean thinking and making notes and reading connected material (or watching horror films!). I think it is critical to stay in close contact with the project, so I am putting new words down, progressing in that way, and also so that the subconscious stays activated, as the most important material, I find, rises from that more mysterious and submerged realm.”

Laura has recently taught creative writing in the M.F.A. Program at Columbia University, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard University and also teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She is currently at work on her next collection of stories, tentatively titled Aftermath.

Born and raised in Florida, she now lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband, the writer Paul Yoon, and their dog, Oscar.



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