Published June 29, 2017

Welcome back to a new blog series from the Virginia Center for the Book, in which we highlight the work of one Virginia writer each week. This week’s spotlight is on Tara Laskowski, the author of the short story collection Bystanders, which won the Balcones Fiction Prize, and Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons.

Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Best Small Fictions, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. She was awarded the Kathy Fish Fellowship from SmokeLong Quarterly in 2009, and won the grand prize for the 2010 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards Series. Since 2010, she has been the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. 

How did you get your start as a writer?

I always wrote stories, far back as elementary school. But I guess I would say I really started to believe I could actually do something with this when I won a fellowship at the online journal SmokeLong Quarterly (which I now edit). That, for me, was a turning point–and the work I did there eventually led to the creation of and eventual publishing of my first book, Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons. I met a lot of other writers and editors that year and SmokeLong opened (and continues to open) a lot of doors for me. I’m continually amazed at how generous and helpful other writers and editors can be to each other, and try to pay that back when I can.

Describe your work in three sentences or less.

My stories are often dark literary tales, verging on the violent, the supernatural, the grim, without dwelling on it. I write about the disconnects between people who think they know each other so well, and the fall-out when we realize we do not. I like small moments and tiny epiphanies over grand plot devices.

How does living in Virginia influence your writing?

I am in Northern Virginia, and I’ve found that the DC/Maryland/Virginia writing community here is quite generous and thriving. I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many writers here and benefiting from (and hopefully contributing to) the support network. You can’t help but be inspired to write better when you’re surrounded by so many talented people.

What’s your favorite part of your most recent book?

My collection Bystanders came out last year, and my favorite story in that collection is “The Monitor.” It is also the one that I’ve gotten the most feedback about. It’s a story about a woman suffering from postpartum depression who starts to see creepy things in her baby’s video monitor.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently writing a domestic suspense novel about a woman who house-sits in an upscale beach town during the off-season and becomes obsessed with a missing person’s case from 30 years prior. It’s been a fun challenge to work on, because it weaves two stories together and first-person narrative, which I love to write in. Fingers crossed!

To learn more about Tara Laskowski, visit her website at

Through this series, we hope to showcase the depth and breadth of our state-wide literary community while also encouraging readers in the Commonwealth and elsewhere to challenge themselves to read more books by Virginia writers. If you have an author you’d like to suggest for this series, please email with details. Our focus is on writers with books that have been published in the past two years (self-published is welcome as long as the writer’s most recent book is held in at least one public library in the state).

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