Award-Winning Storyteller Sherman Alexie Works his Magic at Southern New Hampshire University

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Sherman Alexie—novelist, short story writer, poet, filmmaker, and part-time comedian—electrified groups of Southern New Hampshire University students and faculty during a visit to the school on September 5.

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We’re all flailing. Make something beautiful out of the flailing. Be a cultural target, and be happy being it.

Sherman Alexie—novelist, short story writer, poet, filmmaker, and part-time comedian—electrified groups of Southern New Hampshire University students and faculty during a visit to the school on September 5.

Alexie has spun his experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State into a series of award-winning works in different genres. “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian,” Alexie’s YA novel that won the 2007 National Book Award, is the Common Book selection for this year’s undergraduate students at SNHU. In the morning Alexie spoke at the school’s Freshman Convocation, and then spent the afternoon meeting informally with faculty and students in SNHU’s Master of Fine Arts in Fiction & Nonfiction program.

“Our MFA students got to hear one of our most charismatic American writers put on his show and assume his brilliant poses—master storyteller, angry pilgrim, Springsteen of the Rez,” said Ben Nugent, himself a novelist, and also Director of SNHU’s undergraduate writing program and MFA faculty member. “Alexie can toss out poetry on the fly, and it’s important for our students to see an artist of the grand old school in action.”

When asked about his writing process, Alexie said, “My writing process is about first being a decent human being and then fitting the writing in.” He recognized the difficulties of writing and the everyday struggles of living. “We’re all flailing. Make something beautiful out of the flailing,” he told students. He also encouraged students to “be a cultural target, and be happy being it.”

“Sherman is a natural,” added MFA program Director Diane Les Becquets. “In a raw and poignant way his voice resonates with both honesty and humor. He brought qualities that I hope all our students can learn from.”

Alexie confessed to having enjoyed himself as well. “That was one of the very best Q-and-A sessions I’ve been in,” he said after the afternoon event. “Such a cool mix of faculty and students. It was exciting.”

In addition to the acclaim Alexi has received from “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian,” his novel “Reservation Blues” won the 1996 American Book Award. His story-and-poetry collection “War Diaries” won the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. And his film “Smoke Signals,” an all-Native American production, took top honors at the Sundance Film Festival.

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