Cody Delistraty | Longreads | March 2016 | 12 minutes (3,332 words)

2015 was the year of Groff.

President Obama called her novel Fates and Furies his favorite of the year. The New York Times named it a bestseller. Amazon.com bestowed its top annual pick upon it. Seth Meyers and Charlie Rose even sat down for interviews with her.

But before all that, Lauren Groff wrote in the shadows.

After graduating from Amherst, when she thought she wanted to be a poet, Lauren worked at a bar in Philadelphia. Mixing cocktails at night and writing fiction during the day struck her as romantic. But on her first day of work, there was a double homicide at the bar. Her second day was September 11th, 2001. (“Seriously?” I say. “Seriously,” she says.)

At Amherst, Lauren was a rower. “There was this beautiful backlit fog rising off the river, and the banks…

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