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What Made Me: Valerie Plame Wilson

The author and former spy on facing adversity, meeting her husband, and the benefits of a nice glass of wine.

Valerie Plame Wilson. Photograph by Douglas Sonders.

The piece of advice: My father, whom I lost a few years ago, reminded me often that life is not fair. Once you acknowledge that basic fact of life, you pick yourself up and move forward using whatever grace, humor, and perseverance you can muster.

The book: I read A Man Called Intrepid by William Stevenson as a teenager. I was enthralled by the tales of British and American intelligence during World War II. It was probably the first time it entered my head that doing something so exciting while serving your country was a viable career path.

The early job: I worked on a dude ranch in Wyoming after my first year in college. I learned the value of humility and hard work. Nothing like shoveling horse manure to keep your perspective.

The setback: Learning that my covert CIA identity had been betrayed. Much to my surprise, I found I had more strength and resilience than I ever realized. Having friends who cared and children who only wanted our love and attention got me through the dark days. A glass or two of wine at night also helped.

The turning point: Meeting my husband. Our eyes locked across a crowded cocktail party at the Turkish ambassador’s residence, and as corny or improbable as it sounds, it was love at first sight.

This article appears in the August 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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