Award-Winning Author Visits Campus

Arimah reads an excerpt from her collection of short stories. (Photo Credit: Andrea Gerrard)

Author Leslie Arimah visits Cambridge campus as part of the Minnesota Writers Series 

By Ashley Johnson
Staff Writer

On October 18, author Leslie Arimah visited Cambridge campus as part of the Minnesota Writers Series for an interview with her old college friend, Dr. Kelly Meyer. Arimah’s book of short stories, What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize. She has also received grants and awards from Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Elizabeth George Foundation, as well as other awards.   

Bill Breen introduces Arimah in front of a packed auditorium. (Photo Credit: Andrea Gerrard)

When discussing her creative process, Arimah explained that her inspiration strikes at a moment’s notice, and that it doesn’t care what else she is doing. “They [ideas] come and go at inconvenient times. I jot down what I can in a small notebook I always keep on me or in my notes in my phone so I can remember.” 

She also explained that publishing has not changed her creative process and how she does her writing. “It did not, it’s still a pain in the ass (sic) to get things done. It’s still just me and my laptop or me and my notebook.” 

When she went to publish her first book, she knew she wanted to stick with what she learned in college. “Short stories were part of my experience as an undergrad in my creative writing class.” 

Arimah explained how hard it is to categorize her own writing as an author. “I just write, and I leave those external judgements to other people. It’s very hard as a writer to judge yourself.” 

Arimah reads an excerpt from her collection of short stories. (Photo Credit: Andrea Gerrard)

She loves communicating with fans who reach out, and marvels at how different social media is starting to become for her. “Every once in awhile someone will tweet something at me, and I always try to retweet, like or reply to it. It’s really interesting to get that feedback from fans. It’s crazy to think that I started Twitter so long ago just for myself and now it can be used as a platform to reach out to my fans.” 

Even though Arimah is an award-winning author, her everyday life is still the same. “My day-to-day life hasn’t changed much; I still take out the trash and go to the store, and I still sit down to write.” 

She is not a woman bound by rules when it comes to her own writing. “I don’t [have rules] and the reason I don’t is so I don’t get caught up in how things need to be done. If I get focused on having my specific notebook and my favorite pen, I’d never get anything done. I do whatever gets the work done.” 

One final word of wisdom from Arimah concluded that, “A while ago someone wrote a review on my story and it made me realize you can’t control the way people view your stories once they’re out there.” 

English instructors Kelly Meyer (right) and Bill Breen (left) pose with Arimah after the event. (Photo Credit: Andrea Gerrard)

Additional thoughts from around campus…

Students in Bill Breen’s College Writing and Critical Reading course wrote their reactions to the event. 

Arimah was asked questions about her writing process, being an author and a few of her short stories. When asked about how her writing and about being in the public eye, she responded with a story about her Twitter account. When she first started the account, she told herself, “I’m just going to be myself, uncensored.” These inspiring words spoke to many people in the audience, including Alexis Fortune, a student at ARCC. Fortune said, “I thought it was cool that she just wanted to be herself.” – Victoria Dietz

Looking at her work in new ways is one of the things Arimah does best. She acknowledged the difficulty of explaining how she writes, but viewed it as a way to explore her own work. She specializes in short stories, which grow out of ideas she has conceived and then let sit for a while. “I will have an idea about a short story and then let it brew in my head for a very long time,” Arimah explained. But recently, she has begun a novel, and found that writing a novel is very different from writing a short story. “I’ve had to learn a new type of discipline.” – Eli Gibbs

She brought an energetic and fascinating charisma to the campus, leaving everyone with a smile on their face. Being an emerging new writer, she had heaps of advice for anyone interested in writing and becoming a writer. She said reading is one of the most important things that helps upcoming writers. “The more you read, the more tools you have in your writer’s toolkit,” Arimah said. – Sam Oberg

Regarding her work and how people reacted, she simply claimed, “You have no control over how people interpret your work.” This had some students sitting up in their seats, interested in how that reflects back on themselves. This then moved into more of the technical side of writing and her rules, or lack thereof. Arimah said she does not follow any special rules or rituals, rather sticks to “whatever gets the work done.” – Leah Pixler

Based on statements from audience members, it became clear that the goal of Anoka-Ramsey’s Minnesota Writers Series and the goal of Arimah’s visit aligned very nicely. That goal was to provide insight and foster inspiration for future writers here at Anoka-Ramsey. – Jeremy Salo

When Meyer questioned her about her struggles, Arimah said that the hardest part of writing for her is the “element of discipline.” The author described how she lets ideas “brew” in her head for a long time, and then they come out quickly in a “burst.” – Catherine Neary

Thanks to a visit from an artist who people say is “blowing up,” many local artists at our cozy college campus have more guidance than they had ever been expecting to receive. The credibility of Lesley Nneka Arimah speaks for itself when it comes to artistry, and she says that Minnesota is a great place to be an artist. – Freedom Martin (see below for Martin’s full article.)

Minnesota Writer Explains How the State Nurtures Artists

By Freedom Martin
Contributing Writer 

On October 18, rising star Lesley Nneka Arimah visited Cambridge campus and seeing a local writer reach success was an inspiring event for artists in the crowd. Perhaps even more inspiring was when Arimah outlined some ways that Minnesota nurtures art, bringing hope to burgeoning creative minds, to people who otherwise may not have known where to look for assistance in reaching their dreams and goals. One such resource mentioned by Arimah was the “Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund… they put their money where their mouth is.”

Throughout the interview, Arimah also revealed information about being a successful writer, like what it’s like watching your work take on a personality of its own after being released to the public eye. She helped bridge the mental gap many of us experience between common citizens and those people whom have attained a certain level of fame by relaying some information about her daily life, expressing that it still resembles the life of an average person, not including her more flexible work schedule.

The enthralled crowd was given more insight into her writing style as she spoke about how short stories happen, first with a sudden burst of creative force, and then going through several drafts until the story is satisfying to her.

One other topic Arimah touched on is politics in writing. Namely, she warned against it. Between her giving tips, insight and directions to resources, her interview was beneficial to any artists listening in. After attending the interview, Isaac Volker stated, “It’s nice to know that Minnesota is a big art state.”

Thanks to a visit from an artist who people say is “blowing up,” many local artists at our cozy college campus have more guidance than they had ever been expecting to receive. The credibility of Lesley Nneka Arimah speaks for itself when it comes to artistry, and she says that Minnesota is a great place to be an artist.


About the Author

The Campus Eye Staff
The Campus Eye is published by students of the Cambridge and Coon Rapids campuses of Anoka-Ramsey Community College. Campus Eye articles in print and online represent the opinions of the writers and not the college or the student body.