Maria Semple Announced as Commencement Speaker

A portrait of Maria Semple. Illustration by Jenica Cruz.

Bittersweet, hilarious, and deeply touching are some of the many superlatives used to describe the fiction of Maria Semple. This bestselling screenwriter and author will be the Lewis & Clark 2019 Commencement speaker. Semple’s novels include “This One is Mine” (2008), the bestselling “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (2012) and the recently published “Today Will Be Different” (2016). “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” has been translated into eighteen different languages, spent a year on the New York Times bestseller list, won the American Library Association Alex Award and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It will be made into a major motion picture directed by Richard Linklater and released in late March.

“Ms. Semple’s storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus,” New York Times writer Janet Maslin said. “You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first.”

Semple was born in Santa Monica, California and currently lives in Seattle, Washington. She is an active participant of the city’s literary community and a founding member of Seattle 7 Writers, a nonprofit collective of Pacific Northwest authors who support reading, writing and literacy in the community. They promote literacy efforts through programming, teaching, speaking, grants and donations. She has also taught fiction writing at Richard Hugo House, a nonprofit community writing center in Seattle.

Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs John Krussel is grateful that Semple is coming to speak at this year’s commencement ceremony.

“We received a number of compelling suggestions for commencement speakers from faculty, staff and students, though for reasons of availability and cost, not all were feasible,” Krussel said via email. “We are thrilled that Maria Semple graciously accepted our invitation to speak at commencement. Ms. Semple has a long career as a creative writer of fiction, including novels, short stories and television. Many on our campus, including those of us in the Dean’s Office, have really enjoyed her writing and we believe her talent and accomplishments will appeal to our graduates, their families and the entire Lewis & Clark community.”

Director of Student Activities and Commencement Coordinator Jason Feiner is also delighted to have Semple speak at this year’s graduation ceremony.

“I think it is incredibly exciting to have an international, bestselling author, writer for television and film and a Primetime Emmy nominee as our commencement speaker,” Feiner said via email. “Ms. Semple is a world-traveling educator and very creative writer and will share how she draws on insights into human nature and offbeat humor that leads to her happiness that comes from writing that she cannot live without. I am confident that her message will really be an inspiration for the Class of 2019.”

Associate Professor of English and Department Chair Rachel Cole also shares in the excitement of having Semple come to speak at LC.

“It will be a special treat to have a novelist speaking at commencement,” Cole said. “I look forward to hearing her perspective as someone who lives a creative life.”

The 2019 Commencement will be held on May 11 at 2 p.m. in the Oregon Convention Center. To find more inofrmation  about Maria Semple and her work, visit her website at https://www.mariasemple.com/.

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