University of Minnesota
Department of English

Department of English

Valerie Miner


Valerie Miner

Professor Emerita


Central Interests

  • Artistic
    • Stories, novels, narrative non-fiction
    • Cross-genre collaboration (with painters, musicians, and performers)

  • Academic
    • Post-colonial literatures
    • Working-class writing
    • Feminist writing
    • Lesbian literature
    • Literacy


  • MacDowell Colony Writing Residency, August 2002
  • Finalist, PEN: U.S.A. Creative Non-Fiction Award for The Low Road, 2002
  • Virginia Center for the Creative Ars, Fellowship, May-June, 2001
  • Fulbright Senior Scholar Award to India, 2000
  • University College Distinguished Teacher Award, 1999
  • Yaddo Writing Fellowship, November-December, 1999
  • Heinz Foundation Fellowship, Hawthornden Castle, Midlothian, Scotland, Fall 1999
  • Master Artist, Atlantic Center for the Arts, March, 1997
  • N.E.A Audience Development Grant (to give readings and lectures in Alaska), Spring, 1996
  • Jerome Foundation Travel Grant, 1996-1997
  • Rockefeller Foundation Residency at Bellagio Study Center, Italy, July-August 1994
  • Common Rhythms Fellow, Lila Wallace Readers Digest Foundation and Centrum Foundation, 1993-1994
  • Australia Council Literary Arts Grant, 1988
  • PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, 1986
  • Numerous university awards, grants, fellowships


  • Job history
    Professor, Department of English, University of Minnesota, 1995-2006
    Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Minnesota, 1992-95
    Associate Professor, Department of English, Arizona State University-Tempe, 1992
    Assistant Professor, Department of English, Arizona State University-Tempe, 1990-92
    Lecturer, Departments and Programs in English, Mass Communications, Humanities and Field Studies, University of California-Berkeley, 1977-89

  • Writing Conference Faculty
    1981-present:Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Middlebury, Vermont; Centrum, Port Townsend, Washington; Split Rock Program (Duluth); Foothill College, California; Fishtrap, Oregon; Flight of the Mind, Oregon; Haystack, Oregon; International Women's Studies Institute, Greece; The Grange, Tasmania; Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, Vermont; Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smyrna Beach, Florida; Aspen Writers' Conference, Aspen Colorado; Key West Literary Seminars, Florida

  • International Experience
    Britain, four years residence; Canada, four years residence; extensive travel in North Africa, East Africa, Latin America, Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, Australia

  • Artistic Biography
    I don't know whether I am first a writer or a traveler, but I became interested in exploring and storytelling early in my childhood. In the kitchen, I listened to my mother's memories of her native Edinburgh, window-shopping along Princes Street, errands to the corner shop to buy chipped fruit and The News of the World. Out in our back garden, I sat on the lawn while my seaman father tied up his beef steak tomatoes, drank iced tea and described the brilliant fabrics he had seen in Argentina and the tasty seaweed he had eaten in Japan. During the many months he was on the ocean, I awaited his return, eager for more stories and especially eager for the new doll he would bring dressed in a local fashion. Those dolls from Korea and Japan and Holland and Jamaica and the Dominican Republic now sit together on my bookcase. Just as I always knew each one had a distinct personality, I knew this personality was related to her place of origin.

    As an adult I lived abroad for ten years in England, Australia, India, Canada and other countries and traveled widely in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Now I faced ethical and moral and spiritual questions about the differences between visiting and trespassing, describing and appropriating. Such travelling made coming "home" that much more fascinating because I now knew other places (settings) to which I compared familiar food and voices and climate. Home became something smaller and larger and far more complicated than the place I left. And I was never able to think about home again without seeing it on a map - in context. Home wasn't the center of the world anymore, but it was finally in the world.


  • Books

    The Low Road cover

    The Low Road
    East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2001

    The Range of Light cover

    Range of Light
    Cambridge: Zoland Press, 1998

    A Walking Fire cover

    A Walking Fire
    New York: State University of New York Press, 1994

    The Low Road.
    EastLansing: Michigcan State University Press, 2001.

    Range of Light. Cambridge: Zoland Press, 1998.

    A Walking Fire. New York: State University of New York Press, 1994.

    Rumors from the Cauldron: Selected Essays, Reviews, and Reportage. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan Press, 1991.

    Trespassing and Other Stories. London: Methuen, 1989; Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1989; East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, Fall, 2003.

    All Good Women. London: Methuen, 1987; Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1987.

    Winter's Edge. London: Methuen, 1984; Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1985; New York: Feminist Press, 1997; in German translation, An der Schwelle zum Winter. Munich: Droemersche Verlagsantalt, 1988.

    Murder in the English Department. London: Women's Press, 1982; New York: St. Martin's, 1983; Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1985; London: Methuen, 1988.

    Movement, A Novel in Stories. New York: Crossing Press, 1982; London: Methuen, 1985.

    Blood Sisters. London: Women's Press, 1981; New York: St. Martin's, 1982. London, Methuen, 1988; in Danish translation, Blodsostre. Copenhagen: Hekla, 1984; East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, Spring 2003.

  • Co-Authored Books

    Co-author (with Mary Rockcastle) of "Imagine a World Without Winter," a multi-media performance piece. Production work is now in progress with Diane Katsiaficas and Maria Cheng.

    Co-editor, Competition: A Feminist Taboo? with H. Longino. New York: Feminist Press, 1987.

    Co-author, Tales I Tell My Mother: A Collection of Feminist Short Stories, with Z. Fairbairns, S. Maitland, M. Roberts, and M. Wandor. London: Journeyman Press, 1978; Boston: South End Press, 1980; in Swedish translation, Sagor fõr Lilla Mamma. Stockholm: Arbetarkultur, 1980; in Dutch translation, Verhalen van Vijf Dochters. Amsterdam: Van Gennep, 1980.

    Co-author, More Tales I Tell My Mother: Feminist Short Stories, with Z. Fairbairns, S. Maitland, M. Roberts, and M. Wandor. London: Journeyman Press, 1978.

    Co-author, Her Own Woman: Profiles of Ten Canadian Women, with M. Kostash, M. McCracken, E. Paris, and H. Robertson. Toronto: Macmillan, 1975; Halifax: Formac, 1984

  • Stories, Essays and Articles

    Published in Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Salmagundi, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, Michigan Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly, American Voice, New York Times, Times Literary Supplement, Village Voice, The Nation, Conditions, The Economist, New Statesman, and other journals. Work collected in over fifty anthologies. Stories braodcast on the BBC as well as in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

  • Recent Journal Publications

    "Il Cortigiano of Thomas Avenue," (story) forthcoming, The Georgia Review, Summer, 2003.
    "Percussion," (short story) forthcoming, Prairie Schooner, Spring, 2003.
    "Flat World," (short story) forthcoming in Gargoyle, Spring, 2003.
    "Veranda," (short story) Southwest Review, Winter, 2002-03.
    "Always Avoid Accidents," (short story) Ascent, Winter, 2003.
    "Until Spring," (short story) Witness, Fall, 2002.
    "Greyhound, 1970" (short story) Puerto del Sol, Winter, 2002
    "Tomorrow," (cross-genre narrative), Witness, Spring, 2002
    "Vital Signs," (short story), New Letters, Winter, 2001.
    "In Summer Light," (short story), Quarterly West, Winter, 2001.
    "Imptermanence," (short story), Broadcast on BBC National Radio, 23 April, 2000.
    "The Light Should Last Forever," (cross-genre narrative), Green Mountains Review, Winter, 2000.
    "All the Way," (short story) forthcoming in Salmagundi, Spring, 2000.
    "Metamorphoses," (cross-genre narrative), forthcoming in The Colorado Review, Spring, 1999.
    "The Palace of Physical Culture," (short story), BROADCAST on the BBC, 20 September, 1998.
    "View from the Escalator, Ritual Meals, Legacy, Neath the Pale, Yellow Moon," (cross-genre narrative), Prairie Schooner, Fall, 1998.
    "On the Way," and "Manifest," (cross-genre narrative), Thirteenth Moon, Fall, 2000.
    "A Scottish Opera," (cross-genre narrative), The Gettysburg Review, Fall, 1998.
    "White Lunch," (cross-genre narrative), The Alaska Quarterly Review, Fall, 1997.
    "My Life with the Windsors," (cross-genre narrative), The Michigan Quarterly Review, Spring, 1996.
    "Holding on to the Day," (cross-genre narrative), The American Voice, Summer, 1995.
    "A Spare Umbrella," (cross-genre narrative). Ploughshares, Fall 1994.
    "On Earth." Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 1994.

  • Recent Criticism

    "Indian Writing Crosses The Atlantic," in Span, New Delhi, February, 2002.
    "The Writer's World," translated by Anna Nadotti in Legendarria, September, October, 2000.
    "A Novella, A Window Seat and a Cornish Pasty," (Judge's Essay, Novella contest), Quarterly West, Fall, 1999.
    "To Look Again: An Essay on Revision." AWP Chronicle, February, 1998.
    "Writing My Way West." AWP Chronicle, October, 1996.
    "Reticence and Resistance, A Conversation." (with Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Judith Barrington) Women's Review of Books, July, 1996.
    "Reviewing Literary Citizenship." AWP Chronicle, September, 1995.
    "The Politics of Reviewing." Work and Days, 21, vol. 11. no. 1, 1993.
    "Finding Cordelia's Voice as Working Class Hero." Hayden's Ferry Review, Fall-Winter 1992.
    "The Brilliant Career of Thea Astley." Los Angeles Times, 7 August 1988.
    "Letter from Australia." Washington Post, 7 August 1988.
    "Labor Pains." Village Voice 5 January 1988.

  • Recent Reviews

    Jane Smiley, Good Faith, in The Women's Review of Books, April, 2003.
    Mary Ward Brown, It Wasn't All Dancing, and Annie Dawid, Lily in the Desert: Stories, in The Women's review of Books, December 2002.
    Carol Anshaw, Lucky in the Corner, The Women's Review of Books, December, 2002.
    Edna O'Brien, In the Forest, in The Chicago Tribune, 14 April, 2002.
    S.L. Wisenberg, The Sweetheart Is In, in The Chicago Tribune, 29 July, 2001
    Anita Rau Badami, The Hero's Walk, and Radhika Jha, Smeill, in The Women's Review of Books, July, 2001.
    Amy Tan, The Bonesetter's Daughter,in The Los Angeles Time, Sunday, 18 February, 2001
    Amit Chaudhuri, A New World, Manil Suri, The Death of Vishnu, Mira Kamdar, Motiba's Tatoos, in The Chicago Tribune, Sunday, 8 January, 2001.
    Alice Adams, After the War, Boston Globe, 26 November, 2000.
    Alice Hoffman, Local Girls and Jean Thompson Who Do You Love, Women's Review of Books, November, 1999.
    Annie Proulx, Close Range, Chicago Tribune, 6 June, 1999.
    Alyce Miller, Stopping for Green Lights, Chicago Tribune, 28 February, 1999.
    Ehud Havazalet, Like Never Before, New York Newsday,15 November, 1998.
    Nurrudin Farah, Secrets, Newsday 3 May, 1998.
    Brian Moore, The Magician's Wife, The Boston Globe, 25 January, 1998.
    Tess Gallagher, The Owl Woman Saloon, The Nation, 24 November, 1997.
    Bernard MacLaverty, Grace Notes, The Chicago Tribune, 23 November, 1997.
    Carlos Fuentes, The Crystal Frontier, Los Angeles Times, 26 October, 1997.
    Diane Glancy, Pushing the Bear, The Women's Review of Books, January, 1997.
    Joyce Carol Oates, We Were the Mulvaneys, The Nation, 22 October, 1996.
    Gish Jen, Mona in the Promised Land, The Nation, 17 June, 1996.
    Alice Adams, Southern Exposure, Los Angeles Times, 12 May, 1996.
    Iris Murdoch, Jackson's Dilemma, The Nation, 8/15 January, 1996.
    Craig Lesley, The Sky Fisherman, Boston Globe, 13 August, 1995.
    Jane Smiley, Moo, The Nation, 9 May, 1995.
    Randall Kenan, Let the Dead Bury their Dead, The Nation, 6 July, 1992.
    Janet Zandy, Calling Home: Working Class Women's Writings. Women's Review of Books, September 1990.
    Edna O'Brien, Lantern Slides. Philadelphia Inquirer, 3 June 1990.
    Thea Astley, Reaching Tin River; and Jessica Anderson, Taking Shelter. Washington Post Book World, 29 April 1990.

  • Literary Readings (Recent and Selected)

    2003 Loyola College, Baltimore, "Modern Masters Series"
    2002 San Francisco Public Library, Main Library
    2002 University of Nebraska
    2001 Michigan State University
    2001 California State University, Sacramento
    2001 Virginia Center for the Creative Arts
    2001 University of British Columbia, Vancouver
    2001 Civic Center Synagogue, New York
    2000 Miranda House College, New Delhi
    2000 University of Rajasthan, Jaipur
    2000 North-Eastern Hills University, Shillong
    2000 Himachel Pradesh university, Shimla
    1999 Prescott College, Arizona
    1998 Fales Library, New York University
    1998 Hellenic American Union, Athens, Greece
    1998 Hull University, Hull, England
    1998 University of Idaho
    1997 University of Central Florida, Orlando
    1996 University of Haifa, Israel
    1996 Bankhead Reader, University of Alabama
    1996 University of Alaska, Anchorage
    1996 University of New Hampshire, Durham
    1994 Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, Indiana
    1993 Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York
    1992 University of California-Berkeley
    1992 University of Houston
    1992 University of Miami, Florida
    1991 Writer's Voice, Scottsdale, Arizona
    1991 Hollins College, Roanoke, Virginia
    1990 Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
    1989 Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts
    1989 Harbourfront Reading Series, Toronto, Canada

  • Guest Lectures (Recent and Selected)

    2002 University of South Carolina, Columbia
    2000 American Center, Calcutta
    2000 American Center, New Delhi
    1999 Yavapai College, Arizona
    1998 Sa Nostra, (Universitat de les Illes Balears), Palma, Spain
    1998 University College, Dublin
    1997 Atlantic Center for the Arts, Florida
    1996 University of Tel Aviv, Israel
    1996 University of Alaska, Fairbanks
    1995 Mendocino Writers' Conference, Fort Bragg, California
    1994 Fishtrap Writers Conference, Joseph, Oregon
    1993 University of Adelaide, Australia
    1993 Deakin University, Geelong, Australia
    1992 Rice University, Houston, Texas
    1991 KEYNOTE ADDRESS, National Women's Studies Association Conference, Washington State University, Pullman
    1988 India International Centre, New Delhi, India

  • Papers Presented (Recent and Selected)

    "Pedagogical Ethics in a Corporate Academy," Associageed Writers Programs Annual Convention, Balitimore, 28 February, 2003.
    "The Emergence of Literary Non-Fiction," Old Dominion University Literary Festival, 2 October, 2002.
    "Re-setting The Margins," CLA Critical Dialogues Panel, U of Minnesota, 18 April, 2002, (also chaired panel).
    "Learning from Teaching," AWP Twon Meeting in New Orleans, March, 2002.
    "Reading as Writers," paper delivered at MLA Convention in New Orleans (also chaired panel), 29 December, 2001.
    "Writerly Education," paper delivered at George Mason University's "Fall for the Book Festival," Fairfax, VA., 22 September, 2001.
    "Fellowship in Solitude/Fellowship in Concert," paper delivered at George Mason University's "Fall for the Book Festival, " Fairfax, VA. 23 September, 2000.
    "Collaborating Across the Arts," Second Biennial Feminisms(s) and Rhetoric(s) Conference, Minneapolis, 9 October, 1999.
    "Spoken and Unspoken Contracts," Associated Writing Programs Conference, Albany, 16 april, 1999.
    "Sometimes You Make Music: Approaches to Fictional Invention," Modern Language Association, 29 December, 1998.
    "Practice as a Way of Writing, Teaching, Learning," Associated Writing Programs Conference, 3 April, 1997.
    "Mending the Story," Modern Language Association, Washington, DC, 29 December, 1996.
    "Burning the Metaphor: The Practice of Revision," Writers at Work Conference, Park City Utah, 9 July, 1996.
    "Writing My Way West," Modern Language Association Convention, Chicago, December, 1995, MMLA, Minneapolis, November, 1996.
    "Reviewing the Literary Conversation." Modern Language Association Convention, San Diego, California; December 1994.
    Wakako Yamauchi and the Relocation of Identity." Modern Language Association Convention, Toronto, Canada; December 1993.
    "A Life in Letters." Reviewing Women/Women Reviewing Conference, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts; 6 November 1993.
    "Writing the Writer Out." Modern Language Association Convention, New York, December 1992.
    "The Writer in the World." Associated Writing Programs Convention, Minneapolis, April 1992 (also chaired panel).
    "The Artist/Scholar Split." University of California-Berkeley, English Department Conference on Feminist Writing Inside and Outside the Academy, April 1992.

Teaching (Selected)

  • Undergraduate courses
    • Engl1905: Freshmen Seminar
    • EngW3110: Honors Writing
    • EngW3962: Contemporary British Literature
    • EngW3960: Fiction Workshop for Majors. Syllabus.

  • Combined graduate and undergraduate courses
  • Graduate courses
    • EngW8101: Reading and Writing Across Genres
    • EngW8110: Writing the Novel
    • EngW8110: Writing the Short Story
    • EngL8130: (WoSt8670): Women and the Creative Imagination
    • EngW8130: Advanced Belles Lettres
    • EngL8670: Prose Fiction Seminar
    • EngW8810: Fiction Writing
    • EngW 8140: Manuscript Preparation, Fiction and Nonfiction

  • Teaching Philosophy

Other Activities (Selected)

  • Recent Professional Service: Committees and Offices
    • 1998-2003 Board of Directors, Associated Writing Programs
    • 2001-2002 Vice President of Associated Writing Programs
    • 1994-1998 Executive Committee of Division of Prose Fiction, Modern Language Association
    • 1991-1997 Board of Directors, National Book Critics' Circle (nationally elected board)
    • 1992-1993 Vice President and Secretary, National Book Critics' Circle
    • 1992-1994 Associate Editor, Signs
    • 1992-1994 MLA Creative Writing Delegate to Delegate Assembly
    • 1987-1991 Member, Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession of the Modern Languages (twelve-member body appointed by MLA Executive Council)
    • 1988-present Member, Publications and Policies Board, Feminist Press at the City University of New York

  • Literary Contests Judged
    • 2001-Present Anonymous reviewer for Admissions Committee for an International Arts Colony
    • 2001 AWP/Prague Summer Seminars Non-Fiction Fellowship
    • 1999, National Novella Contest, for Quarterly West
    • 1992-1997 National Book Critics' Circle Awards
    • 1997 Clackamas Literary Review Fiction Award
    • 1997 Evergreen Chronicles National Novella Contest
    • 1996 Writers at Work, National Fiction Contest
    • 1996 University of Alabama MFA Fiction Prize
    • 1991 Loft-McKnight Fellowships, The Loft, Minneapolis
    • 1990-1991 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Fiction (Chair, Fiction Committee, 1991)
    • 1990 Sweet Briar College Fiction Contest

  • P.E.N.

  • Various peace groups and unions

What Writers Say about Valerie Miner:

  • "Miner is a writer of reach, audacity, range, uniquely important to understanding our time...A poet of the city, the everday urban life, she gives us its beat, its struggling human beings, its worlkife, its politics, its interrelationships...A USA seldom" --Tillie Olsen
  • "RANGE OF LIGHT is Valerie Miner's most skillful novel yet. Her exploration of the dynamics between two friends is subtle, profoundly moving, and true. Miner's stunning descriptions of these mountains map a myserious upland world." --Lisa Alther
  • "Here's a good big story of Cora's journey home across a continent and twenty years. Valerie Miner's gift is to make us see that the issues we often think of as polititcal are really deeply personal. This is the mission of our best fiction. A WALKING FIRE is a worthy pilgrimage and a welcome book." --Ron Carlson
  • "Ms. Miner is a brilliantly and authentically important novelist, one of a handful of American novelists with guts." --Ishmael Reed
  • "THE LOW ROAD is a richly imagined family history; beautifully written, deeply felt." --Vivian Gornick

What Students Say about Valerie Miner:

  • "I have really enjoyed this class. It's been helpful and meaningful on so many levels - improving my craft, exploring my identity as a writer, sharing thoughts in a safe place. I think she did a marvelous job of facilitating this class and allowing everyone's voices to be heard. I greatly appreciate her organizational skills and the time and care she obviously put into the class. A great experience."
  • "Her support, encouragement, and also careful consideration of practical and realistic goals have tempered my tendency to make unrealistic demands on my own work while pushing me to produce the best writing I'm capable of."
  • "Valerie is tremendously supportive of student work and student professional development - a rare and valuable combination ."
  • "She keeps discussions structured and to the point, is highly knowledgeable about her material and best of all, manages to instill some of her own real enthusiasm to students. She's wonderful."
  • "The work I produced in Valerie's seminar was amongst my best, because she inspired me to stretch my capacity as a writer and a critical thinker."