From adapting the story of a true crime in a small Texas town into a Hollywood screenplay to bringing World War II battles in Europe to life and tracing the rise of an orphaned puppy to movie stardom, the writers featured in this year's Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference have vast experience to help participants explore the art and craft of unearthing the past through researching and writing historical nonfiction.
The conference will feature more than 20 narrative nonfiction authors and literary journalists who have distinguished themselves in writing historical narratives, biographies, memoirs and nonfiction playwriting. The conference is hosted annually by UNT's Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism.
This year's keynote speakers are:
- Susan Orlean, author of the best-selling book The Orchid Thief, will be the keynote speaker on Friday, July 19. She recently published Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, her first original book since The Orchid Thief. Rin Tin Tin tells the story of the male German shepherd puppy who was rescued from a World War I battlefield in 1918 by an American soldier. The dog gained worldwide fame as the star of 27 Hollywood films in the 1920s and even received votes for the first Academy Award for Best Actor in 1929. Rin Tin Tin's descendants were featured in films and radio and television programs through the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Orlean has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992 and was previously a contributing editor at both Rolling Stone and Vogue. Her work has been featured in Esquire, Smithsonian, The New York Times Magazine and many other publications.
- Rick Atkinson will be the keynote speaker on Saturday, July 20. He is the author of The Liberation Trilogy that provides a narrative history of the U.S. military's role in the liberation of Europe during World War II. Atlkinson received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in history for the first volume, An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-43. The second volume, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, followed in 2007, and the final volume, The Guns at Last Light: The War in Europe, 1944-1945, will be published in May 2013. In addition to his Pulitzer Prize for history, Atkinson received Pulitzer Prizes for national reporting and for public services when he was a reporter, foreign correspondent and senior editor at the Washington Post.
- Skip Hollandsworth is the keynote speaker for Sunday, July 21. Hollandsworth worked with director Richard Linklater to adapt Hollandsworth's January 1998 Texas Monthly article on the murder of Carthage, Texas, resident Marjorie Nugent into the movie "Bernie." The movie, released in theaters in April 2012, received critical acclaim, including a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination for Jack Black in the title role. Hollandsworth has received several awards for his long-form narratives, including a National Magazine Award; the magazine industry's equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize; an O. Henry award from the Texas Institute of Letters; a National Headliners Award, a national John Hancock Award for Excellence in Business and Financial Journalism; and a City and Regional Magazine gold award.
Other nationally known conference speakers are:
- Caroline Alexander, a contributor for The New Yorker and National Geographic who has written books about the HMS Bounty and Ernest Shackleton's 1909 Antarctic expedition.
- Jeff Guinn, former Fort Worth Star-Telegram editor and writer who is author of books on the O.K. Corral shootout and Bonnie and Clyde.
- Helen Benedict, author of both a nonfiction book and a novel about women in the military.
- John Valiant, author of The Tiger and other award-winning narratives that explore human ambition and nature colliding.
- Kevin Merida, managing editor of the Washington Post and author of a biography on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
The conference also will offer a bus tour of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to tie into the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The tour, which is open to guests of the conference participants and the general public for a fee, will leave Friday, July 19 at 1 p.m. and return by 5 p.m.
Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service can be reached at Nancy.Kolsti@unt.edu.