Open Book

I hopped in the car, turned the key, and the radio blared with the sound of Bruce Springsteen. “Born in the U.S.A.” I quickly looked over to the passenger seat at Dennis McCloskey, my now biographer, in complete astonishment. Our jaws dropped because of a story he had just shared at lunch about the revelation he had during his flight from Canada that involved Springsteen’s iconic song. On this beautiful May 2007 day in Pennsylvania, we realized everything was aligning itself. There was no coincidence in the two of us meeting. Everything happens for a reason and Dennis McCloskey and I first met via email in December 2005 so he could be the one to share my story with the world.

When I think of someone’s biography, I think of an elderly person or someone that has passed away. Not a 25-year-old woman with her whole life ahead of her. However, my story needed to be told and Dennis was the one to tell it. I love how beautifully everything unfolds in life and this is one of those stories.

In December 2005, I received an e-mail from the contract editor of Kingsway Financial Services, Dennis McCloskey. Kingsway was the Canadian parent company for Lincoln General Insurance, where I was employed in York, Pennsylvania. The Vice-President of Human Resources contacted Dennis and suggested that he write an article about a “remarkable young woman.” It was the 5th of December in 2005 when I received a surprising email from Dennis introducing himself and asking if he could do a phone interview with me for an article in the company’s spring newsletter. I was pretty excited.

In January 2006, Dennis and I talked for an hour. I shared with him what I had been through but most importantly my hopes and dreams. The title of Dennis’s article in the Kingsway News was “Enduring and Endearing Spirit.” He did a fantastic job in capturing my story and my spirit. Part of the article read:

“Once or twice in a lifetime you might meet a person with such an indomitable spirit, supreme strength, and unimaginable courage that you wonder how you got so lucky as to cross paths with her.”

A year and a half passed until Dennis and I were able to meet face-to-face, however we formed an instant friendship that remains to this day. In the meantime, he had gathered more information about me that he was able to write an inspirational-type article for a Catholic magazine, Canadian Messenger. It appeared in the October 2007 edition and was titled “Where There Is Youth There Is Hope.”

In May 2007, Dennis flew from Canada to Lincoln General Insurance Company to interview a co-worker and dear friend of mine who was battling pancreatic cancer. It was on this plane ride that Dennis had the revelation to write my biography as he was listening to “Born in the USA” by Springsteen. While listening to “The Boss” on his iPod, Dennis thought that of the 300 million Americans alive today, that he personally knows a small number – maybe a hundred, thanks to his writing career. Of that small number he thought how I rank up there as one of his favorites. He thought to himself, my favorite American and how that would be a great title for a book. Well, the rest is history. On July 4, 2008 my biography “My Favorite American” – The true story of a young woman who cheated death many times only to emerge as a ray of light to all who know her – by Canadian author Dennis McCloskey was published.

On the five-year anniversary of my biography, I want to celebrate it by acknowledging and thanking Dennis for his hard work, continued support, believing in my story and me. It was an eye-opening experience to work on this project with Dennis. He flew to Pennsylvania and interviewed my family, kidney donor, loved ones, doctors at Johns Hopkins and everyone who played a vital role in restoring me into the healthy woman I am today. I was so sick at times that I didn’t know how grim my prognosis was. I learned so much about myself while listening to Dennis interview people who made up my support system and team of doctors. It was like therapy to be an open book and talk about those terrible memories and difficult days. Dennis was able to get those thoughts off my mind and onto paper. He did a fantastic job in sharing 25 years of my life. So many amazing events and wonderful things have come from my biography being published that I could write a book about it. It is heart-warming to know that long after I am gone, my story will still live on and hopefully be inspiring others. That is powerful. Thank you for that gift, Dennis. My journey continues, new chapters of my life unfold and I do not plan to have this open book close anytime soon.

In celebration of its five-year anniversary, I encourage you to read my biography, now available as an e-book! For more information, please visit:

In what ways have you been an open book and how has it helped you along your journey? Or, what book do you have open right now that is helping to inspire you?


  1. Jim Jenal

    Hi Valen – thanks for the reminder about your book. I had been meaning to download it and now I have. Looking forward to learning more about you – although I think I already have a pretty good take on what an amazing person you are!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Jim,
      You are so sweet and I am excited to hear that you will be reading my bio. Enjoy! Can’t wait to hear what you think!

  2. Victoria

    Hi Valen,

    I am bummed I haven’t seen you for so long. You’ve been through some trials, my friend. The whole open book concept is an interesting one. A discussion over a glass of wine someday! Let’s make plans for a summer August meeting in Auburn soon. You are in my thoughts and prayers for all that you need to keep you where you want to be emotionally, physically and spiritually. Big hugs.


    • Valen Keefer

      Dearest Vicki,
      Thank you for this heartfelt message. I sure do miss your infectious and spunky personality. I would love to get together with you in August. Just email me a few days that you are available and we will make it happen. Thank you for your prayers and beautiful well wishes. I look forward to seeing you soon. I hope you are feeling well and life is treating you wonderfully! 🙂 xo


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