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Fiction vs. nonfiction

David QuammenDuring the 1970s, David Quammen, right, now a contributing writer for National Geographic, published one novel and a book, and had started a spy novel. He would publish three more works of fiction before starting to write nonfiction — which led to his receiving numerous national awards. His fiction, meanwhile, was largely forgotten.

Quammen’s latest book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” discusses the science, history and human impacts of Ebola, SARS and other emerging viral diseases. He will speak at the annual Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference July 18 as one of the conference’s keynote speakers.

His presentation, “Why I’m Not Still a Novelist: Nonfiction as Literary Art,” is open to those not registered for the conference. The cost is $60. Reservations must be made in advance at the conference website.

The event will begin with a buffet dinner at 5:45 p.m. at Austin Ranch behind the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 2009 Anderson Gibson Road in Grapevine. A cash bar also will be available. Quammen will speak at 7:30 p.m. and will answer questions from the audience after his speech. The evening will end with a performance by Who Do, an Austin-based blues band fronted by Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker and another keynote speaker for this year’s Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference.

The conference is hosted annually by the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, which is part of the University of North Texas’ Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism. This year’s theme is “Narratives on the Cutting Edge: Writing about Science, Technology, Medicine and Innovation.”

Quammen started his nonfiction writing career in 1981, when he became a columnist for Outside Magazine, a job he would have for the next 15 years. He published four books of short nonfiction that included selections from his columns and some longer pieces he wrote for Outside Magazine.

Quammen first wrote for National Geographic in 1999 when he accompanied American ecologist and conservationist J. Michael Fay on part of a 2,000-mile survey hike through the forests of Central Africa. He walked for eight weeks with Fay across portions of the Congo and Ogooué river basins.

He has written several cover stories for National Geographic, and received a National Magazine Award in 2005 for his cover story, “Was Darwin Wrong?” Quammen also received National Magazine Awards in 1987 and 1994.

In addition to his work with National Geographic, he has contributed to The Atlantic, Esquire, Harper’s and Rolling Stone. He has published a total of 15 books. His next book will focus on molecular phylogenetics.

“Spillover,” published in 2012, was a Booklist Top 10 Science Book, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Daily Beast Top 11 Book of 2012.

--Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions

Posted on: Tue 01 July 2014

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