(image credit: NPR)

On Thursday, November 9, Jayne Anne Phillips gave a reading and Q and A session in Mara Auditorium. As far as present literary figures go, Jayne Anne is as prominent a name as has appeared at Southern New Hampshire University. It’s no understatement to call Jayne Anne’s appearance at SNHU historic.

The first half of the event consisted of Phillips reading sections from her 2013 novel, Quiet Dell. Professor Jaime Karnes’ Context of Writing class in attendance finished reading Quiet Dell prior to the event. Students had plenty of questions about the book itself after Phillips delivered a captivating reading of certain sections. The sections she chose to read were carefully picked so that even those who hadn’t read the book could still enjoy the masterful writing. Jayne Anne isn’t an overly animated reader, but her inflections are precise and extract additional emotion from her writing. As Jayne Anne proclaimed, her style is “sensationalistic” and best experienced when read aloud.

Creative Writing Professor Jaime Karnes was heavily involved in the event, and with good reason: Jayne Anne has been Jaime Karnes’ mentor for over a decade. Jaime fed student-generated questions at the honest and accommodating guest of honor. After prompted questions from Jaime, Jayne Anne took questions from the room. She was impressed with the attentive audience: “The students who attended the reading were obviously an audience of readers and writers; they were intently interested and asked perceptive questions.”

Students raised their hands with no hesitation. Questions ranged from general writing process to specifics. Senior Richie Oliver offered a question about flash fiction, having read Jayne Anne’s breakthrough 1979 collection, Black Tickets. Jayne Anne was quick to correct the term “flash fiction” to “one-page fiction,” before answering the question earnestly.

She made herself available to lingering students after the Q and A ended and answered questions regarding experiencing SNHU with her mentee, Jaime Karnes. “Professor Karnes is that rare combination of talented writer and born teacher. She takes the time to inspire and mentor her students.” Jayne Anne is not one to undermine the importance of a mentor figure to students studying English and Creative Writing. “That exchange can truly change lives. I’m very proud of her!”

Students had their books signed and chatted up the acclaimed author during a casual reception afterwards. Junior Sky Potter felt “star struck” prior to the event. “I was so nervous meeting such a famous author, but when I talked to her, she was so down to earth. I kind of forgot that she is a person, too.”

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