Sherman Alexie: Feb 23, 2007, an A&S "Life the Mind" Event

Sherman Alexie, February 23, 2007

"The Business of Fancydancing: Poems, Stories, Punch Lines and Highly Biased Anecdotes"

5:00 p.m. Speed Museum Auditorium


Author, poet, and screenwriter Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie will deliver the Creative Keynote address at the 35th annual "Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900."

Sherman Alexie is the author of 15 books of fiction and poetry and of three screenplays, including Smoke Signals, which won many awards including the Filmmaker's Trophy and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

This A&S Centennial “Life of the Mind” Event is co-sponsored by the Speed Art Museum, Department of Classical and Modern Languages, and the
Department of English

Information below is provided by Royce Carlton, Inc.

On Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie “...teaches, entertains and inspires — interculturally, intergenerationally and with a flair for taking you to a creative playground that is both familiar and unfamiliar to all of us. He is simply one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard.”

These words, offered by the University of Puget Sound, begin to convey the impact Sherman Alexie has on an audience.

A prolific novelist, poet and screenplay writer, Alexie has been hailed as one of the best young writers of his generation. The New Yorker named him one of the top 20 writers for the 21st Century. His talent and voice shine brightly, far beyond the pages of his work. Men’s Journal called him “the world’s first fast-talking, wisecracking, mediagenic American Indian superstar.”

A gifted orator, Alexie won the World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bout four years in a row, from 1998 to 2001. In his lectures, he tells tales of contemporary American Indian life laced with razor-sharp humor, unsettling candor and biting wit. He reshapes our myths and stereotypes by speaking his mind on a wide range of issues — from race relations, religion and politics to homophobia, war and morality.

A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington. As a college student, he landed in a poetry-writing class and his professor quickly recognized his “intensity of language, passion and energy.” Upon the publication of The Business of Fancydancing, his first collection of poetry, The New York Times Book Review described him as “one of the major lyric voices of our time.”

Since then, Alexie has authored eleven books of poetry, several collections of short stories, two novels and numerous works for magazines. He wrote the screenplay for and produced the feature film Smoke Signals, based on his book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The film premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, winning both the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy.

His first novel, Reservation Blues, won Booklist’s Editors Choice Award for Fiction. Indian Killer was a New York Times Notable Book and The Toughest Indian in the World won the 2001 PEN/Malamud award, honoring excellence in the art of storytelling.

In his latest book, Ten Little Indians, a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly Book of the Year, Alexie’s stories are driven by a haunting lyricism and naked candor that cut to the heart of the human experience.

In 2002 Alexie released his directorial film debut, The Business of Fancydancing, which he also wrote. The film won many awards, including the Outstanding Screenwriting Award at Outfest. He is currently working on a screenplay adaptation of The Toughest Indian in the World, which he will direct and co-produce.

In 2003 Alexie received Washington State University’s Highest Alumnus Award, recognizing the importance of his Native American voice to a broad audience. His next book (fall 2007) is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a "coming-of-age, interracial comedy" for young adults based on his first year at an all-white high school.

With his humorous, revealing and exuberant works of art, Alexie compels audiences to see the world for all of pitfalls and its possibilities.

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Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian from Wellpinit, Washington — a town on the Spokane Indian reservation. Shortly after the publication of his first book, The Business of Fancydancing — a collection of poetry and stories — Alexie was described as "one of the major lyric voices of our time" in the New York Times Book Review, which selected the book as a "1992 Notable Book of the Year." That same year Alexie received a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship. In each year from 1998 to 2001, Alexie won the World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bout at the Taos Poetry Circus, becoming the first poet in the history of the Bout to hold the title four consecutive years. He also won the regional 1999 New York Heavyweight Poetry Bout. Alexie's several books of poetry include Old Shirts & New Skins,The Summer of Black Widows, and One Stick Song.

Alexie's first collection of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, published in 1994, was a citation winner for the PEN/Hemmingway Award for Best First Fiction. In the same year he also earned a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Writers' Award.

Alexie's first novel, Reservation Blues, published in 1995, was selected as a Booklist Editors Choice Award for Fiction and was awarded an American Book Award from The Before Columbus Foundation in 1996. His most recent novel, Indian Killer, published in 1998, was a New York Times Notable Book and was selected as one of ten "Best of Pages" titles by People magazine. For his skilled fiction writing, Alexie was named one of Granta magazine's "Twenty Best American novelists Under the Age of Forty."

In June 1999 The New Yorker called Alexie as one of the top writers for the 21st Century. He was one of twenty writers featured in the magazine's Summer Fiction Edition, "20 Writers for the 21st Century."

Atlantic Monthly Press published Alexie’s second short story collection, and most recent literary work, The Toughest Indian in the World, in May 2000. He was presented the 2001 PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction for his collection.

Alexie's first screenplay, Smoke Signals, based on his book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, became the first feature film produced, written, and directed by American Indians. It premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy. Smoke Signals also received a Christopher Award in 1999. Alexie was nominated for the Independent Feature Project/West 1999 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.

Alexie made his directorial debut with The Business of Fancydancing, which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. The film, which he wrote based on his first collection of poems and stories of the same title, is currently in theatrical release. It has won a number of awards, including the Los Angeles Outfest Outstanding screenwriting Award; and the Victoria Film Festival, the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival audience awards.

Alexie made his stand-up debut at the Foolproof Northwest Comedy Festival in Seattle, WA, in April 1999, and was the featured performer at the Vancouver International Comedy Festival’s opening night gala in July 1999.

Alexie was guest editor for the Winter 2000/2001 edition of Ploughshares, a prestigious literary journal. He was a 1999 O. Henry Award Prize juror, was one of the judges for the 2000 inaugural PEN/ Short Story Award, and a juror for both the Poetry Society of America’s 2001 Shelley Memorial Award and Poets and Writers “Writers Exchange 2001” Contest.

He was a member of the 2000 and 200 Independent Spirit Awards Nominating Committees – that awards for independent film, and has served as a Creative Advisor to the Sundance Institute Writers Fellowship program and as a mentor for the Independent Feature Films West Screenwriters Lab.

Alexie has been featured on a number of television programs, such as The News Hour with Jim Lehrer program “A Dialogue on Race with President Clinton,” Politically Incorrect, 60 Minutes II, and most recently NOW with Bill Moyers for which he wrote a special segment on insomnia and his writing process.

Alexie has published 14 books to date. He is currently working on a new short story collection, as well as poems, and screenplays. His latest collection of short stories, Ten Little Indians, garnered much critical acclaim. The New York Times described them as “warm, revealing , invitingly roundabout stories,” in which “the central figures come in all shapes and sizes, sharing only their wry perspective on Indian life off the reservation.” Shortly thereafter, he was awarded the 2003 Washington State University’s Highest Alumnus Award for his contribution to the university, society and for the importance of his Native American voice.

He is also working on the screenplay adaptation of his novel Reservation Blues, which he will also direct and co-produce for SearchParty Films.

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Alexie In Print

Ten Little Indians


Ten Little Indians offers eleven poignant and emotionally resonant new stories about Native Americans who, like all Americans, find themselves at personal and cultural crossroads, faced with heartrending, tragic, sometimes wondrous moments of being that test their loyalties, their capacities, and their notions of who they are and who they love. Sherman Alexie's stories are driven by a haunting lyricism and naked candor that cut to the heart of the human experience, shedding brilliant light on what happens when we grow into and out of each other.

(from: Grove Press, 2003)



Smoke Signals: A Screenplay


This is the story of two American Indian boys on a journey. Victor is a stoic, handsome son of an alcoholic father. Thomas is a gregarious young man who lost his parents at a very young age. When Victor's estranged father dies, the two embark on an adventure to Phoenix to collect the ashes. Along the way, Smoke Signals illustrates the ties that bind these two very different young men and embraces the lessons they learn from each other.



The Toughest Indian in the World


In this collection of stories, we meet the kinds of American Indians we rarely see in literature - the upper and middle class, the professionals and white-collar workers, the bureaucrats and poets, falling in and out of love and wondering if they will make their way home.



Reservation Blues


In the 111-year life of the Spokane Indian reservation, not one person has arrived by accident—until the day the black stranger appears with nothing more than the suit he wears and his guitar. The man is legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, in flight from the devil and presumed long dead. And when he passes his enchanted instrument to young Thomas-Builds-the-Fire - storyteller, misfit and musician - a magical odyssey begins.



The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven


In this darkly comic short story collection, Sherman Alexie brilliantly weaves memory, fantasy and stark realism to paint a complex, grimly ironic portrait of life in and around the Spokane Indian Reservation. These 22 interlinked tales are narrated by characters raised on humiliation and government-issue cheese, and yet are filled with passion and affection, myth and dream.


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