Valerie Duff

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About Valerie

Valerie is a teacher, an editor, a critic, and a widely acclaimed poet. Her collection To the New World (2010) was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Poetry Centre Prize in 2011, and her second collection, Aquamarine, is forthcoming from Lily Poetry Review Books in September 2023. Other writing honors include fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Writers’ Room of Boston and grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and St. Botolph Foundation. A graduate of St. John’s College, she holds master’s degrees in Creative Writing from Boston University and Trinity College, Dublin. She has taught writing at GrubStreet and Boston College, and she spent several summers as a coach in the Writers in Residence program for high school students at The Wang Center for the Performing Arts.

For many years the leader of a practicum on editing at Harvard Extension School, she is presently a freelance writer and editor, and she works with writers as a publicity consultant at Arrowsmith Press. “Favorite moments in my Hillside coaching,” she says, “are when students ask, ‘Can I really write about that?’ Often that starts them toward rich and true reflections about what matters most.” Valerie loves the work of listening carefully to her students to help identify the emotional center of their experiences, and then guiding them in shaping their stories on the page. Read more about Valerie at

“I love when students get surprised by their own authority through discovering the opportunities their stories hold.”

Desert Island Books

Ghost in the Throat
by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Flora & Ulysses
by Kate DiCamillo

Lives of the Poets
by Michael Schmidt


Favorite Words No One Uses





Things You Might Find in My Pocket

Keys to nothing

Last year’s Halloween candy

One glove

What Clients Are Writing About Valerie

Thank you so much for being such an excellent mentor to our daughter and enabling her to enjoy the process and take deep pride in her work. I know she's gleaned insights that she'll take with her to college and beyond.
Parent, Cambridge, MA
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Parent, Wellesley, MA

Blog Posts by Valerie

Finding the Fish in the Dots

A student of mine once wrote about an art assignment that involved a blank canvas, paint, and a salt shaker. These were his tools. His purpose: to let process dictate a subject — what would he see by experimenting with these materials?

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Raiding the Closet

I often imagine college essays as first-impression outfits. Sure, it’s nice to be stylish, but college admissions officers don’t need to see you in your wildest clothes. If you look in your closet, though, and see no wild outfits at all, that doesn’t mean you have nothing to wear.

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Give Yourself Away

As a young writer, I often felt I needed to write about something beyond myself — something accessible only to writers older, more intelligent, more talented than I was. This pressure often resulted in stagnant, dreadful writing, full of clichés.

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