Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Josanne La Valley

Instead of writing about threes or March this month, I want to tell you about my friend Josanne La Valley.

I met Josanne in my first writing for children class in 1998 and she suggested we form a writer’s group with a third classmate. Nineteen years later, Josanne and I were still meeting. Many writers came and went, leaving writing or leaving New York City, but Josanne and I were steadfast in our commitment to writing and to Thursday night group.

Josanne didn’t start writing until she was a couple of years into retirement from a career in arts management. It took her longer to get published than some of the others in the group, but she was always the first to celebrate when one of us had a success—usually with a chilled bottle of champagne.  She was also never discouraged enough to give up. In her 70’s she went to Vermont to get her MFA in Writing for Children.

She was also a traveler (she made crossing and ocean at least once a year a condition of her marriage) and found the stories for her two published novels among the Uyghur people of northwest China. THE VINE BASKET, the new YA novel, FACTORY GIRL both provide a window into a people and a culture that are quickly disappearing (although not quickly enough for the Chinese government). She worked with the Uyghur-American Association to make sure her novels were accurate, and they are, but they’re also true in a way that novels from the heart are always true.  Her characters are artists trying to survive in a harsh world, and Josanne was nothing if not a survivor.

Josanne lived long enough to see her second novel published and to read its very good reviews.  I hope you’ll pick up FACTORY GIRL and/or THE VINE BASKET to get to know her a little bit and to celebrate her very fine career.


  1. What a lovely tribute Laurie. Many of us who came to authorship later in life - myself included - can take her spirit and dedication to heart. So sorry for your loss. xo

  2. Thanks, Darlene. Josanne is a big loss, to me personally and to the writing community in general.

  3. What a beautiful post. Off to pick up her books now...

  4. A tremendous loss to the literary world. Thanks, Laurie, for giving us a peek into who she was.