Interview with Louise Erdrich

"A Writer's Beginnings" by Louise Erdrich originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Smithsonian magazine. Here, Erdrich speaks about notable weather, Wal-Mart and writing.

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Did you write as a kid?

I kept diaries and both my father and mother encouraged me to write. I would write anything. With poetry, I tried things that rhymed mostly.

You mentioned that at one time you left Wahpeton? Why?

Well, my mother found me a place to go. She saw something about Dartmouth College and sent away for literature and found out that they were starting a Native American program and that they were also admitting women. So I entered Dartmouth the year they admitted women. I applied from out in Wahpeton, North Dakota. But I had never really left the Midwest before for an extended period. I had been to Tennessee once—that was my major trip. So I got on a plane and went out to New Hampshire and it was just extraordinary.

Is there anything you savor now about being near home?

Practically everything. I appreciated it as a kid but as a young adult I found I wanted to be in the big world as most people do. I wanted to travel and see what life was like elsewhere. I live in Minneapolis so I certainly haven’t gone back to live in Wahpeton, but I like being close and I love being near the Plains. I really need sky, horizon, and the Great Plains.


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