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Northwest will host an award-winning author and playwright on campus.

Heather Harpham will speak as part of the Visiting Writers Series. The engagement is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 19 in the living room of the J.W. Jones Student Union. The public is invited.

In addition to her written works, Harpham has also taught at several colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world. She has also had numerous reviews published in Slate and Parents magazines, among others.

Harpham said she believes the art of storytelling is both an innate and a learned behavior.

“I think storytelling is more than an innate skill,” Harpham said in a phone interview. “I think it’s an innate need. I truly believe that human beings are neurologically wired to thrive when they can understand and contextualize lived experience.”

As for advice she has for aspiring authors, Harpham made it clear with just one word.

“Read. All the time. Read widely. Read ferociously. Read hungrily. Read as much as you can,” Harpham said.

Harpham said she is looking forward to presenting to a college-oriented audience. She hopes that reading from her memoir can help college students relate to the time of her life she chronicled. She appropriately subtitled the book “The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After.”

“I love talking to audiences of young people precisely because many of life’s most major decisions and turning points are in front of them,” Harpham said. “I think it’s a very fertile time, a time where you are going to set in motion things that will carry you forward in ways you can’t yet totally anticipate, and there’s a lot of hope and possibility embedded in that time.”

The Visiting Writers Series is in its 15th year and is continuing due to current director and Northwest language department instructor Daniel Biegelson. He assumed his present role in 2012. Biegelson said the event’s setup can vary depending on genre and number of authors.

“We try to mix as best we can the aesthetics and commitments of each individual author to create as diverse a series as possible,” Biegelson said.

Each year, Biegelson enlists the help of GreenTower Press and Northwest’s creative writing faculty to reach out to individuals, keeping in mind both diversity and proximity. Cost is handled by a budget donated by Kawasaki to the University.

Biegelson said he hopes students realize what their place is in the world and how others’ experiences can help to shape it.

“When you go to a reading, you’re experiencing someone else trying to make sense of the world around them and to navigate that world,” Biegelson said. “It’s about self-expression, and I think that is a value that the Visiting Writers Series promotes.”

Melanie Wilson, a junior communications and creative writing major and leader of the Scribblers creative writing club, is anticipating this event as a learning experience for her writing.

“I am really excited to listen to Heather Harpham share her work because I am interested in creative nonfiction and her book, ‘Happiness,’ is nonfiction. I look forward to hearing from her and asking for her advice when writing nonfiction pieces.”

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