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In the news: ‘After Thoughts’ speaker Meacham talks novels, Peshtigo Fire

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Rebecca Meacham

Rebecca Meacham

The Wednesday, Sept. 26, edition of the Green Bay Press-Gazette carries a lengthy piece by columnist Warren Gerds on award-winning UW-Green Bay Prof. Rebecca Meacham.

Meacham will be the featured speaker Monday (Oct. 1) at the season-opening installment of the University’s After Thoughts lecture and networking series for women.  (See the news release for full details of Monday’s event at the Weidner Center.)

Meacham’s topic will be “Fiction’s Burning Questions: Novelists, History and the Creative Spark.”

Gerds’ newspaper column previews Meacham’s talk and also offers a glimpse at her latest literary project, a history-based novel set against the backdrop of the Peshtigo Fire of Oct. 8, 1871.

Estimates range from 1,200 to 2,000 died in the fire, which occurred at the same time as the Great Chicago Fire but gained much less attention because it occurred in a remote, lightly-settled northwoods location in far northeastern Wisconsin. Meacham, an Ohio native, says she learned of the tragedy while working on her first book, the award-winning collection of short stories, Let’s Do.

“Somehow or another on the book trail,” Meacham told Gerds, “I heard, ‘Did you hear there was this big fire in 1871?’ I  thought ‘That’s it. That is a novel.’” Factual books and articles have been written about the fire, but there are large gaps that a novelist can fill in.“ You have so many different classes of people, so many different histories and backgrounds of people, all kind of converging in the same place, plus there is this big fire that occurs,” Meacham said. “The fire in and of itself helps give a narrative arc for a compass point of where I can aim the story.”

See the Green Bay Press-Gazette column.

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