Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature Valerie Vogrin teaches students about writing, literature and English inside of the classroom. However, outside of the classroom, Vogrin has created many fiction works to inspire and educate students beyond the typical curriculum.
Vogrin has been a writer for years and continues on her passion. On her site, you can find her stories such as “Conversations with my Landlord: Jorie,” which was published in Bluestem magazine in March of 2014.
The story talks on conversations with Jorie, ranging from small talk about cats and culminates in a deeper message about death, happiness and the intricacies of human interaction.
Other stories of hers include “this is the story” published in Segue in 2010, and “The Last Thing She Remembered,” published in Storyglossia in 2009.
Vogrin has been working on her writing for a long time, and she was recently awarded the Spokane Prize for her short fiction work, “Things We’ll Need for the Coming Difficulties,” which will be published in the late fall.
The Spokane Prize is given annually and includes a $2,000 award along with a publication by Willow Springs Books.
Willow Springs Books, has published works from other renowned authors such as Ray Amorosi, Molly Giles and more.
Vogrin, who has been writing almost her entire life, was very excited when she won the prize.
“It was great [when I won the prize],” Vogrin said. “I had been working on these two novels for eight years combined, and they don’t get a lot of regular feedback. It came at a really good time. It’s always nice to have more readers, but it also felt like a nice validation.”
Vogrin said she has been reading since she was a little girl and that’s what inspired her to write. Once she started writing, she got positive feedback from her teachers and family and has been writing ever since.
“I knew that [writing] was something that I wasn’t going to get rich off of, but it still seemed like something worthwhile to do,” Vogrin said.
According to Vogrin, she is finishing her second novel and has a third in the works as well.
Recently, she has spent most of her time on her newest collection of stories, some of which are up to 10 years old.
Senior English major Nicole Kessler, of Edwardsville, has taken a few classes with Vogrin and said she has enjoyed what Vogrin brings to the classroom.
“She’s very fun and down-to-earth, and you can tell that she’s very passionate about what she teaches, which makes such a difference compared to other professors,” Kessler said.
Although Vogrin does not talk about her fiction much in the classroom, Kessler said Vogrin’s achievements with her stories make her want to get to know her more.
A fiction-writing colleague of Vogrin, Professor of English Geoffrey Schmidt, adds to the list of people that admire Vogrin’s work.
“Professor Vogrin is a terrific colleague — smart and conscientious and very student-centered. She’s taken on a lot of difficult roles in the department, like the director of undergraduate studies, and always fulfilled those roles with joy and exuberance and a deep sense of the importance of those responsibilities,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt praises how Vogrin is as a colleague and her skills both pedagogically and through her curricular skills in the classroom.
“As a fiction-writing colleague, she’s always been great at talking through curricular and pedagogical issues [and is] generous with her time and attention,” Schmidt said.
In November 2017, Vogrin participated in an event known as National Novel Writing Month which challenges writers to write 50,000 words in one month. Vogrin continued the challenge for another month and was able to write around 100,000 words, which turned into a first draft of a novel, in just two short months.
Vogrin said that although National Novel Writing Month was challenging, it has helped change her writing process.
“It was life-changing because I always sort of thought that I could write with ease and be more fluent,” Vogrin said. “Then, when I started this experiment I had an idea of a project in mind and I went for it, and it just changed the way I look at things. Now if I think ‘I can’t write,’ it’s because I’m just not working on the right thing — not that I can’t write.”
Vogrin has written many other literary works, including her first novel, “Shebang,” which was published in 2004 by the University Press of Mississippi. Vogrin has also been awarded other prizes such as the Pushcart Prize and Queen’s Ferry Best Small Fiction of 2015.
Vogrin has been teaching for 16 years at SIUE. She feels that although Edwardsville seems like a small town for a creative writer, she has many opportunities and that the St. Louis area is great for creative writers.
“Being back in the Midwest wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it has given me a life [in Edwardsville] that I can do what I want to do. There’s not a lot of jobs in my field, so I feel very fortunate,” Vogrin said.
Vogrin’s novels and short stories don’t just boost her credibility; they can inspire students to write not just for fun and for expression, but also to learn to write with an audience in mind.
Vogrin said she encourages her students to understand the importance of writing creatively in order to voice their feelings and opinions while considering how to make the story appealing for an audience.
“I think the thing that students have to adjust to is, yes, you have to be true to your own vision, but you have to do it in such a way that will engage the reader and make sense to them,” Vogrin said.
Vogrin has recently been working on a literary mystery that she started during the National Novel Writing Month. Some of her other works can be found on SIUE’s webpage, the University of Mississippi Press page and Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine.
On Vogrin’s SIUE website, she has some of her online published works available to read for free http://www.siue.edu/~vvogrin/fiction_online.html.
The publisher of her upcoming collection, Willow Springs Books, can be found at http://willowspringsbooks.org/.