In 1978, Italy was thrown into chaos following the kidnapping and brutal murder of Prime Minister Aldo Moro by Red Brigade terrorists. Riots, violence and school closures have led Valerio Valeri, a consultant for the pharmaceutical industry in Milan, to seek a new life for his family.
Landing a job as an international consultant for Pfizer in New York, he hoped to bring good luck to his family by immigrating to the United States on September 24.—the twelfth birthday of his daughter Laura.
Laura Valeri was born in a small town in Tuscany, Italy, home to the Italian Renaissance, beautiful fields of greenery, and the “crusty baguette-like bread” that Valeri would miss.
However, on her twelfth birthday, Laura Valeri’s whole life changed. She woke up in Italy and went to bed as a resident of New York, marking a night she will never forget.
Valeri celebrated with her family that night at an Italian restaurant named Pronto. During Valeri’s Zoom interview, her eyes lit up behind her wide-rimmed glasses as she joked, “the spaghetti tasted like it was made with ketchup.” However, the food wasn’t the most difficult change.
When she first moved to New York, Laura Valeri did not speak English. When I asked her how she had adjusted, she replied, “It’s been a very long struggle for me.”
Valeri explained how her brother and sister learned the language much faster and she felt alone, unable to communicate with others.
So how did Laura Valeri go from an Italian immigrant who spoke no English to an award-winning author, writing teacher, and master communicator?
Speaking to Laura Valeri, her fluency in English became clear beyond proper pronunciation and grammar. She tells as if she were reading directly from one of her collections of stories.
Also, her words resonate naturally, which is why I was surprised to find out that she considers herself shy. Although her careful choice of wording is evident, Valeri’s outward confidence outweighs her inner shyness.
However, Laura Valeri revealed how, despite her clear understanding, she still encountered many situations where her work was judged because of her accent. A publishing agent may like the writing sample online, but “the minute I start talking…they find a bunch of flaws,” she sighed.
Unlike Italy, where she explained that foreigners are often helped, Americans were not very welcoming towards Valeri. “When you don’t speak a language, people in the United States look at you with great suspicion,” she revealed, detailing her early struggles.
“I wouldn’t even be able to prank someone to like me…because I couldn’t think of the first translation fast enough,” Valeri told me in our interview about her first move.
Although she and her siblings enrolled in an Italian school in New York, Valeri recalled that most of her peers were students raised in the United States who spoke English as their first language.
“Not being able to speak the language really made me realize how important the language is…I felt so helpless in every situation.” Valeri’s recognition of the importance of communication became the triggering incident leading to his passion for language.
To prove herself, Valeri felt she had to “speak English well enough to be able to teach [the language] to others one day. This pressure led to his lifestyle and career.
From teaching to writing, Valeri’s whole life demands of her high levels of respect and understanding of language and communication. “What is there apart from writing? Valeri exclaimed with a laugh during our Zoom meeting.
By day, she is a creative writing teacher. At night, she writes a range of creative fiction and non-fiction works.
However, Valeri is not tied to any genre or niche. She is the author of two collections of short stories, a cycle of short stories and a book of essays. His first book was a collection of fictional short stories, The kind of things saints do, which went on to win the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Then, she wrote her two following works of fiction: Safe in your head and The dead still there.
Valeri’s latest post, After life as a human, contains seven documentary essays about the destruction of Florida’s forgotten natural beauty, Dog Island. The translation, Isola del Silenziois his first Italian album.
“I also write a lot about writing pedagogy, literature, reviews and…I’m interested in screenwriting and other things like poetry,” Valeri said. Some of his works appear in Collegial composition and communications, Pedagogy of creative writing and Writing & Pedagogy.
Other online and print journals, such as South85 Journal, Conjunction and glitter train– house additional essays, short stories and translations of his.
Laura Valeri is trilingual and fluent in Italian, English and Spanish. His translations include articles, short stories, poems and other works.
Georgia Southern University recruited Laura Valeri as a professor in the Writing and Linguistics Department in 2003, where she still works today. She teaches a variety of introductory and advanced writing courses, including fiction, screenwriting, creative writing, and creativity for writers. His academic interests also include non-fiction and memoir writing, comparative religion and mythology.
I first met Laura Valeri in class when she was a student in her fiction writing class. Despite being a writing major, my confidence in my writing abilities was at rock bottom.
I was not the kid I once was who spent countless hours creating story after story – plus an embarrassing fanfiction or two – but someone who only wrote for the classroom.
Laura Valeri made me believe that I too could publish my creations. Through the feedback I received in his class, I realized that I had the potential to make others feel emotions using only my words.
“As a reader, I really feel the passion in every line, and your passion makes me passionate. This is really strong writing,” she commented.
Suddenly the importance of language and communication was clear in a new way. When I asked during our interview how she distinguishes good writing, Valeri identified a few key qualities she recognizes.
First, Valeri notes that good writers must be honest, not just with others but with themselves. “We all tell ourselves lies because we want to make our lives easier, and I think the hardest part of writing well is being able to weed out all the layers of self-deception,” she observed.
From that honesty comes wisdom and compassion “to be able to understand multiple ways of living — multiple ways of dealing with a situation,” Valeri noted. Writers have both awareness and empathy for others.
To quote Laura Valeri’s first mentor, John Dufresne, “[in order] to be a better writer, [you must] be a better person. Valeri passed on this quote to explain a writer’s duty, no matter what or to whom, to write with honesty and compassion.
However, referring to students in her class, Valeri clarified, “When I read a piece of writing and that person can make me believe that I am in this world and that I really understand the people in it…then I know that the writer has talent.
Valeri’s advice for budding writers is “to have the right expectations when it comes to writing.” She says that before pursuing a career in writing, individuals must first define what career they specifically want and why.
Working in writing is hard work. “There are always people who read your work and don’t understand it or connect with it the way you expected,” she revealed. Reviews can be harsh and discouraging.
However, if the writing calls out to you, Valeri says you have a moral obligation to respond. “If you have a passion for it, you should do it,” Valeri asserted.
She explained how: “Each of us has a different way of dealing with reality, a different way of looking at things, and writing is a way of sharing that. Don’t let anyone take that away from you. »
Currently, Laura Valeri is embarking on several projects herself. While Valeri has two novels and two screenplays, she is actively writing an essay and several short stories.
Valeri was also recently contacted by a library owner in Italy regarding the works of one of her great-great-uncles, Diego Valeri, a well-known poet in Italy. She works on translations and biographical pieces, linking her work to her uncle’s poetry.
Currently, four poems translated by Valeri to be found in the January issue of an online art and literature magazine, the Bangalore Review.
Laura Valeri’s goal is simple: “I would like to feel that I have helped someone or people to express themselves, but more than that, to have done something that makes this place a better place where live,” she said.
She hopes her readers and students will “get a bit of this experience of putting themselves in someone else’s shoes and gaining empathy and compassion for others.”
After getting to know Valeri as an educator and mentor, myself and my classmates can confirm that she has had a positive impact on the lives of many people. Laura Valeri’s life is proof, for herself and for everyone, of the importance of language and communication, and of her ability to master them.
To contact Laura Valeri, visit her website: LauraValeri.com.