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UNT Insider | May 2011 issue | Diverse collection of storytellers to speak at 2011 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference

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Diverse collection of storytellers to speak at 2011 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference

From a UNT News Service press release

To register, visit the Mayborn Conference website. For more information, call 940-565-4564.For more information, contact Jo Ann Ballantine, conference manager, at 940-565-4778 or joann.ballantine@unt.edu.

The 7th annual Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference will feature some of the nation's most prominent journalists engaged in participatory journalism and undercover reporting.

The conference, which is hosted by the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at UNT, will be held July 22-24 at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas.

Topping the list of prominent journalists is the Mayborn's Saturday night keynote speaker, Ted Conover, who has ridden the rails with hoboes, snuck across the border with Mexicans, traveled with truck drivers on East Africa's "AIDS highway," worked as a prison officer and much more to live inside his subjects' stories.

Besides Conover, this year's keynote speakers are Diane Ackerman, author of One Hundred Names for Love, a memoir that Joyce Carol Oates describes as "intimate, richly documented, and beautiful," and The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story, a World War II saga of a courageous zookeeper's wife who sheltered 300 Jews and Polish resisters in her villa and in animal cages and sheds.

Sunday's keynote speaker is the only two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, the Washington Post's syndicated columnist Gene Weingarten. One of his Pulitzer Prize winners began as a stunt. He put a world-class musician in the basement of a Washington, D.C., subway station to see if anyone would pay to hear him play. As it turns out, the answer was no.

Other speakers include Susan Casey, the editor-in-chief of O, The Oprah Magazine, who had put herself in harm's way to write about gigantic rogue waves that sink massive freighters and great white sharks, giving new meaning to the term "immersion reporting."

And at age 24, Joshua Foer, a science writer for Slate magazine, spent a year training for the U.S. Memory Championship by extracting secrets from the world's memory savants. Not only did he become a memory champion, he also was offered a $1.2 million contract to write a book about his adventures.

In total, the conference will feature 25 of the nation's pre-eminent journalists and authors, including Frank Deford, whom the American Journalism Review calls " the nation's finest sportswriter;" Alex Heard, the editorial director at Outside magazine and the author of two books, Apocalypse Pretty Soon and The Eyes of Willie McGee; James L. Swanson, author of the New York Times bestsellers, MANHUNT, which Newsweek calls one of "the two best nonfiction crime books ever,"and The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse; Mandalit del Barco, an National Public Radio correspondent whose radio narratives are regularly broadcast on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition Saturday and Day to Day; Tracy Ross, a contributing editor at Backpacker Magazine, who won the National Magazine Award in 2009 for her essay, "The Source of All Things," which has since become a best-selling book; and Jake Silverstein, the editor of Texas Monthly.

In addition to the opportunity to learn from the nation's top narrative nonfiction storytellers, conference participants may also enter the Mayborn's national writing competition and earn a coveted spot in a Mayborn Writing Workshop. There is $15,000 in cash prizes and a book contract will be awarded through the conference's manuscript and narrative/essay writing competition. Competition rules are available online.

For the first time this year, the Mayborn also is seeking to create a new generation of journalists and storytellers with the support of The Mayborn Young Spurs Excellence and Opportunity Initiative. This initiative, funded by Lee Hancock, a reporter at the Dallas Morning News, and Jim Moroney, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, is supporting a national biography contest and writing seminar for high school and community college students. The competition will provide conference scholarships to 10 winners and a teacher of each winner's choice. The winning students will be recognized at Saturday's night Literary Lights Dinner, and their biographies will be published in the Dallas Morning News. Details about the biography competition are available online.

What: The 7th annual Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference presented by the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at UNT. For a full list of conference speakers and sessions, visit the Mayborn Conference website.

When: July 22--24

  • Friday will feature author and poet Diane Ackerman. (Ackerman will speak at the Southwest Soiree, which is held at Austin Ranch. Austin Ranch is located at 2009 Anderson Gibson Road in Grapevine, TX, 76051).
  • Saturday will feature journalist Ted Conover at the Literary Lights Gala.
  • Sunday will feature syndicated columnist Gene Weingarten.

Where: Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 1800 Highway 26 East in Grapevine, TX, 76051.

Cost: Conference seating is limited. Conference registration includes all speaker sessions as well as several meals. Full conference registration fees are:

  • $295 for general public
  • $225 for students
  • $270 for educators

Individual tickets are available to guests of conference attendees and the general public for the Friday and Saturday night events:

  • Friday night's Southwest Soiree is $60 (includes dinner)
  • Saturday's night Literary Lights Dinner is $100 (includes a banquet-style dinner)

Alyssa Yancey with UNT News Service can be reached at Alyssa.Yancey@unt.edu.

Read other stories in this issue:

May 2011

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