Valerie Laken, Short Fiction

Valerie Laken's first novel, Dream House, received the Anne Powers Award and was one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2009. Her story collection, Separate Kingdoms, was long-listed for the Story Prize and the Frank O'Connor Award in 2011. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and has received a Pushcart Prize and an honorable mention in the Best American Short Stories. She holds an MA in Slavic Literatures and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and is currently an associate professor and coordinator of the graduate program in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She is at work on a graphic novel.
Photo Credit: Jaci Sumner

Workshop: Modulating Tension

A common assumption about fiction is that every story needs a conflict, but a more flexible approach is to say that every story needs tension. If the word conflict conjures an image of two fighters facing off, tension looks more like a river slowly rising to the top of a dam. Where conflicts are focused and often quite rational, tensions are infectious and mysterious, and can emerge from a wider variety of sources—anticipation, pain, romance, comedy, contrast, wonder, fear. In this workshop we'll study many types of tension and learn techniques for modulating it on the page, from scene to scene, line to line, and word to word.

Valerie Laken on the Web