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Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow awards fellowship to Valerie Laken

The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow is pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 “Dancing in the Rain” fellowship. Valerie Laken will receive a fully-funded two-week residency at Dairy Hollow where she will be working on a YA (young adult) graphic novel entitled “Situation C,” which takes the form of a high school girl’s sketchbook. The novel spans three tumultuous days when Lola and her peers are forced to shelter in place in the basement of their posh private school by teachers who insist they are protecting the students, but will not or cannot explain the source of the alleged danger. Though shaped by the voice of a teenager, “Situation C” explores complex and troubling issues that affect us all: the warping effects of terror and school violence; the ways communities in distress can fracture into factions or twist into radical kinships; the costs of protective vigilance; and the risk of authoritarianism emerging out of catastrophe.

Valerie was chosen from 30 entries for the Dancing in the Rain fellowship, awarded to a writer working on a children’s or YA picture book or chapter book that provides inspiration and hope for those struggling with the hardships and challenges that life often metes out.

Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, Valerie Laken majored in English and Russian at the University of Iowa, then worked and studied in Moscow, Prague, Krakow, and Madison, before moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan. She received an MA in Slavic Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, where she taught for several years. She currently teaches in the Creative Writing program at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.

Her work has appeared in such places as Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Writer, and The Chicago Tribune. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize, an Anne Powers Prize, two Hopwood Awards, a Missouri Review Editors' Prize, and an honorable mention in the Best American Short Stories. She is the author of the novel, Dream House, and the story collection, Separate Kingdoms.

Valerie’s residency is tentatively planned for fall 2021. While she is at The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, the public will have the opportunity to meet Valerie at one of two events. She will be featured at a public reading and will also conduct a community outreach event.

The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow would like to thank board president Peggy Kjelgaard for generously funding this fellowship. For more information about funding a fellowship, please visit

Since opening its doors to writers in 2000, the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow has made a lasting impact on the arts and literary communities providing uninterrupted residency time for writers of all genres, including culinary, composers, and artists, without discrimination. The WCDH has hosted over 1,500 writers from 48 states and 13 countries. For more information, please visit or call Michelle Hannon or Chad Gurley at (479)253-7444.

To learn more about Valerie Laken, please visit

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