Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wally Lamb is the 2009 Keynote Speaker

Wally Lamb, #1 bestselling author and two-time pick of Oprah’s Book Club will be the 2009 keynote speaker for the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. His first two novels—She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True—established Wally Lamb as one of our major novelists, and his brand new novel, The Hour I First Believed, reasserts his place in American letters. Since its publication in early November of 2008, The Hour I First Believed has been listed near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Lamb has also edited two volumes of essays—Couldn’t Keep It to Myself and I’ll Fly Away—written by students in his writing workshop at York Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in Connecticut, where he has been a volunteer facilitator for the past nine years. Lamb and his wife Christine live in Connecticut and are the parents of three sons.

Wally Lamb holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in teaching from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing degree from Vermont College. Lamb was in the ninth year of his twenty-five year career as a high school English teacher at his alma mater, the Norwich Free Academy, when he began to write fiction in 1981. He has also taught writing at the University of Connecticut, where he directed the English Department’s creative writing program.

Wally Lamb has said of his fiction, “Although my characters’ lives don’t much resemble my own, what we share is that we are imperfect people seeking to become better people. I write fiction so that I can move beyond the boundaries and limitations of my own experiences and better understand the lives of others. That’s also why I teach. As challenging as it sometimes is to balance the two vocations, writing and teaching are, for me, intertwined.”

Honors for Wally Lamb include the Connecticut Center for the Book’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Connecticut Bar Association’s Distinguished Public Service Award, the Barnes and Noble “Writers for Writers” Award, the Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award, The National Institute of Business/Apple Computers “Thanks To Teachers” award. Lamb has received Distinguished Alumni awards from Vermont College and the University of Connecticut. He was the 1999 recipient of the New England Book Award for fiction. I Know This Much Is True won the Friends of the Library USA Readers’ Choice Award for best novel of 1998, the result of a national poll, and the Kenneth Johnson Memorial Book Award, which honored the novel’s contribution to the anti-stigmatization of mental illness. She’s Come Undone was a 1992 “Top Ten” Book of the Year selection in People magazine and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Best First Novel of 1992.

A bold, ambitious and altogether extraordinary page-turner from a brilliant storyteller working at the top of his game, The Hour I First Believed, is a big book in every sense: its thematic scope, its multi-generational family arc, its interplay between past and present, its ripped-from-the-headlines inspiration and its diverse cast of flesh-and-blood characters all meld seamlessly into Lamb’s most stunning achievement to date. Humane, searing, heartfelt and totally unforgettable, this is a riveting spellbinder -- spanning from the 1800s to today.

Seeking a fresh start for their troubled marriage, Caelum Quirk and his wife Maureen relocate to Littleton, Colorado where they both find jobs at Columbine High School. She is at there on that terrible April day in 1999 when two deranged teenagers go on their killing spree, leaving massive collateral damage in their wake. Maureen makes it out alive but the psychological aftershocks send her in a downward spiral with catastrophic consequences. Unable to stop his wife’s decline, Caelum must face off with his own demons as a series of long-buried Quirk secrets come to light, revelations that send him reeling and yet at last, and perhaps miraculously, steer him to the redemption he thought was lost to him long ago.

Once again in The Hour I First Believed, Lamb portrays life’s largest issues and smallest moments with equal dexterity, his bracing honesty and relentless moral questioning tempered with humor and compassion as he tries to make sense of the messy, raw, thorny bonds of family, both the ones we’re raised in and the ones we create. But here he ups the stakes too, pondering the impact of violence, the mysteries of faith and the nature of identity in a sprawling tale that interweaves the stuff of mythology with hardcore reality as it tracks the quest for meaning in a chaotic world.

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