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John Vaillant, AU's 2016-17 Writer-in-Residence - First Talk 

Title: Reckoning the Present: Mediating the tension between the muse and the news

Abstract: : Throughout my career, the act and profession of writing have been energized by the momentum of my interests on the one hand, and by the intrusion of current events on the other. The resulting tension presents an ongoing quandary: what matters more - the muse or the news? As a writer, an artist, a citizen, are you morally obligated to serve one over the other? Is it more ‘pure’ to simply tune out the present and write what’s in your heart and on your mind? Or should we take our cues from the zeitgeist, and participate - if only intellectually - in the events of the day? How do you decide? Is the answer clearer with nonfiction as opposed to fiction, poetry, or drama? In my inaugural talk as Athabasca University’s writer-in-residence, I will be exploring these questions as they pertain both to my writing, and to the dramatic and pivotal historical moment in which we find ourselves.

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John Vaillant, AU's 2016-17 Writer-in-Residence - Second Talk

Title: What am I doing here? The role of the first person voice in non-fiction narrative

Abstract: One of the ways non-fiction differentiates itself from memoir is by being about somebody else. But does that mean the author has no place in the narrative? This is a question that has occupied me for my entire career.  In this second talk, I want to explore the pros, cons and rationale for leaving the narrative free from first-person intervention (as I did in The Golden Spruce and The Tiger), and/or including it - something I'm experimenting with in my current project, a non-fiction exploration of the Fort McMurray Fire and the synergistic interdependence between fire and human ambition.

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Updated November 21 2017 by Student & Academic Services

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