Pulitzer Prize-winning Author Madeleine Blais to Give Distinguished Faculty Lecture at UMass Amherst Nov. 27

AMHERST, Mass. - Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Madeleine Helena Blais, of the University of Massachusetts journalism department, will give a Distinguished Faculty Lecture, on "Personal Narrative in an Impersonal World: Finding the Story in Your Experience," at 4 p.m., Tues. Nov. 27, in Memorial Hall. Her talk is the second in this academic year’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture series. The talk is free and the public is welcome. A reception will follow. All faculty members in the series receive a Chancellor’s Medal following their lectures. The Chancellor’s Medal is the highest honor bestowed on individuals for exemplary and extraordinary service to the University.

Blais’smost recent book, "Uphill Walkers: A Memoir of a Family," is a memoir of her childhood in Granby, where her mother raised six children after the unexpected death of Blais’s father. Blais is also the author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle (1995), which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in nonfiction; and The Heart Is an Instrument: Portraits in Journalism (1992). She has been a UMass faculty member since 1987. Blais teaches courses in the literature of journalism, memoir, and advanced nonfiction writing. Her attraction to journalism, she explains, is rooted in its "power to capture ... what was real, the music of what happens, and to impound all those details that defy embellishment."

The talk will essentially offer a guide for people who have wanted to write about their lives, but don’t know how to go about doing so, said Blais. Much of her discussion will be based on the memoir-writing class Blais has taught each fall semester since arriving at the University. "Students are required to do some serious thinking about their own lives; not just finding the story, and the plot, and the arc, but also considering the material from a longer viewpoint," she said. "Much of the time, they come out of the course with writing that is genuinely worthy."

Before joining the UMass faculty, Blais held staff positions at publications including the Boston Globe, the Trenton Times, and the Miami Herald’s Tropic Magazine. She received her Pulitzer Prize for feature writing that was published in Tropic, and was a columnist for Newsday. Blais has also written on a freelance basis for publications including the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She received a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 1986.

Upcoming Distinguished Faculty Lectures include presentations by Don F. Towsley of computer science, on Wed. March 27, 2002; and N. Jay Demerath, sociology, on Wed. April 17, 2002. Those lectures will be held in the Massachusetts Room at the Mullins Center.