Catherynne M. Valente From Crowdfunded Creation to Modern Mythmaking

Becca Anderson, author of The Book of Awesome Women Writers, has written a new blog post on the incredible life of Catherynne M. Valente.

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Cat Valente is not your average bestselling author of poetry and speculative fiction, if there is such a type of person. For starters, she graduated from high school at the age of only fifteen, then continued on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, where she received her BA in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics. Born in 1979, in 2004, she published a short story, a first poetic volume, and her first two novels, The Labyrinth and The Ice Puzzle; she has said that she “came to fiction from poetry.” Since then, she has produced several novels, numerous novellas, and dozens of short stories, both in her own half-dozen short story collections and in various anthologies, and has published a number of volumes of poetry.

In the midst of this proliferation of literary creation, in 2010, she did something unprecedented. That year, she used crowdfunding to self-publish the first of her series of Fairyland novels, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making; it won the Andre Norton Award for young adult literature before eventually seeing print under the auspices of a publisher, making it the first self-published book ever to win a major literary award. It went on to a more conventional printing the next year and became a national bestseller, and a prequel as well as a number of sequels followed. The Fairyland books have garnered many more awards, including the Prix Imaginales and the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire for French translations of works in the series. Valente has won the Tiptree, Sturgeon, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Locus, and Hugo Awards for her writings in fantasy and science fiction; and this is by no means a thorough account of her accolades.

Her full-length novels include Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams (2005), The Grass-Cutting Sword (2006), The Orphan’s Tales (a duology consisting of 2006’s In the Night Garden and 2007’s Cities of Coin and Spice), Palimpsest (2009), The Habitation of the Blessed (2010), Deathless (2011), the previously mentioned Fairyland series (comprised of five books), and in 2015, Radiance. In the Night Garden won the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award for expanding gender and sexuality in science fiction and fantasy; won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT fiction. More recently, she published an illustrated children’s book, The Glass Town Game (2017); it uses fiction to delve into
the inner life of the famed Brontë siblings, in which they stumble upon a fantastical world that reflects their own creations. That same year, her short story “The Future is Blue” took home the Theodore Sturgeon best short science fiction award.

Valente grew up first in Seattle and later in various cities in California. She has since lived in a number of other parts of America and spent a couple years in Japan, but has settled on a small island off the coast of Maine, where she lives with her partner and an array of various animals.

I write about women because I am a woman and I have a voice, just like men have written for millennia about men because they are men themselves, because they believe their experience in the world worth recording. So do I…. I take pleasure and interest in the voices which have not been heard, and more often than not, those voices are female.

Catherynne M. Valente


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