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The Rise of the Memoir

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What is a memoir? How do we define its boundaries? In this event two local authors will read from their recent publications, Jenn Ashworth’s memoir-in-essays Notes Made While Falling and John Schad’s experimental biography Paris Bride. Both books cross the boundaries of traditional genre classifications reaching for something new and brimming with possibility. Jenn and John will follow their reading with an insightful discussion chaired by friend of the festival Polly Atkin.

Jenn Ashworth’s first novel, A Kind of Intimacy, was published in 2009 and won a Betty Trask Award. On the publication of her second, Cold Light (Sceptre, 2011) she was featured on the BBC’s The Culture Show as one of the UK’s twelve best new writers. Her latest book is a memoir-in-essays, Notes Made While Falling. She lives in Lancashire and teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

John Schad is Professor of Modern Literature at University of Lancaster. His books include Victorians in Theory (1999), Queer Fish: Christian Unreason from Darwin to Derrida (2004), a memoir, Someone Called Derrida (2007), a novel The Late Walter Benjamin (2012), and an experimental biography called Paris Bride (2019). He has also had two retrospectives published – Hostage of the Word, 1993-2013 (2013) and John Schad in Conversation (2015). He has read his work on BBC Radio 3’s ‘The Verb’ and at various literary festivals, and has adapted his work for the stage.

Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her first pamphlet bone song (Aussteiger, 2008) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Pamphlet Award, 2009, and second, Shadow Dispatches (Seren, 2013), won the Mslexia Pamphlet Prize, 2012. Her first full poetry collection Basic Nest Architecture was released by Seren in 2017. This was followed by a third pamphlet, With Invisible Rain (New Walk Press, 2018). She has taught English and Creative Writing at several universities. She is a Penguin Random House WriteNow mentee, for a non-fiction book reflecting on place, belonging and chronic illness. In 2019 she co-founded the Open Mountain initiative with Kendal Mountain Festival, which seeks to centre voices that are currently at the margins of outdoor, mountain and nature writing.
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