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Stay tuned for details about the 2018 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference

July 21-23, 2017

Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference
The Power of Words

Through "The Power of Words," the 2017 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference will present the impact of writing in its simplest form and show how the words we use can have a lasting and transformative effect on the world around us - in politics, culture, science, economics, sports, the arts, and more. Even in a world where pictures, videos and sounds are creating buzz through social media platforms, it is the power of words, the ability to craft a narrative and tell a story that provides the context, the depth and understanding that helps inform and engage us. Speakers will demonstrate how communications and writing can dramatically shape our perceptions – and knowledge – of the past, the present and our future.

The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference is where aspiring and established storytellers, reporters, photographers, and narrative non-fiction writers from all walks of life learn, engage and network with the nation's best authors journalists, editors, educators and agents through workshops, seminars and keynotes.

FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2017

7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Registration

8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Writing workshops for selected entries

5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Receptions

6:30 - 9:30 p.m. Southwest Soiree

6:45 p.m. Program begins

7:30 - 8:15 p.m. Keynote address: Katherine Boo | Moderated by Chris Vognar
Over twenty-five years as a journalist, Katherine Boo has established herself as a fearless, honest writer dedicated to telling the stories of the poor and disadvantaged on the pages of our most esteemed publications. Boo is perhaps best know for her New York Times bestselling book Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize, and adapted for the stage by the National Theatre. A landmark work of narrative nonfiction, it tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the world’s great, unequal cities: Mumbai, India.  A staff writer at The New Yorker and a former reporter and editor for The Washington Post, she learned to report at the alternative weekly Washington City Paper, after which she worked as a writer and co-editor of Washington Monthly magazine. Over the years, her reporting from disadvantaged communities in the United States and abroad has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and a National Magazine Award for Feature Writing.


7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Registration

8:30 - 9:20 a.m. - Session 1
7 Ways About Getting Your Book Published
Ask any author about the publishing process and they either laugh or cry. This panel features several of the nation’s hardest working agents who will try to demystify the process and debunk the myths.

Moderator: Bradford Pearson
Jim Hornfischer, Hornfischer Literary Management
Dave Patterson, Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency
BJ Robbins, BJ Robbins Literary Agency
Farley Chase, Chase Literary Agency

9:25 - 10:15 a.m. - Session 2
Dodging Death: Telling Your Personal Narrative in the Midst of Cancer
While many people fighting advanced stages of brain cancer would beg for their privacy, veteran reporter Jeffrey Weiss is sharing every step of his journey in words and pictures with the help of his editor, Tom Huang. Is this a cruel version of voyeurism or an instructive and insightful narrative?

Moderator: Tom Huang
Jeff Weiss

10:15 - 10:30 a.m.

10:30 - 11:20 a.m. - Session 3
Telling the Tales of Refugees and Immigrants in an Age of Trump
Covering political stories in the best of times can be problematic. Civil war, refugees and a backdrop of political tension during an election year can complicate issues even farther, leaving writers struggling to navigate the field of journalism in an unbiased way. Author Alia Malek, whose memoir discusses issues relevant the world over, shines light on one of today’s most challenging and important subjects.

Moderator: Dianne Solis
Alia Malek

11:25 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. - Session 4
Humanizing Economic Policy: Bring Voice to People and Places
Sponsored by Bloomberg News / The Bloomberg Lecture Series
Journalist, editor and investigative reporter Peter Waldman has spent his career breaking down complicated policies, political upheavals and business transactions. Waldman joins KERA’s Stella Chávez to discuss the art of dissecting complicated issues and transforming them into well-researched, engaging stories.

Moderator: Peter Waldman
Stella Chávez

12:15 - 1:30 p.m. 

1:30 - 2:20 p.m. - Session 5
Exploring Your Demons: A Conversation with Sarah Hepola, author, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
Sarah Hepola has written many stories about drinking and eating too much. Her essays on culture have appeared in the New York Times magazine, Elle, The New Republic, Glamour, The Guardian, Slate, The Dallas Morning News, and Salon, where she was a longtime editor. Skip Hollandsworth and Hepola will discuss the delicate nature of spilling the secrets of some of the darkest periods of her life in an effort to share the story so many others like her live in silence.

Moderator: Skip Hollandsworth
Sarah Hepola

2:25 - 3:15 p.m. - Session 6
Power of the Paycheck: A roundtable on freelancing
Trying to get published as freelance writer can be, to say the least, one of the most humbling and demoralizing experiences writers face – but also the most rewarding. Our panel of freelancers will discuss how they have channeled their humility into successful careers as published authors in some of the nation’s most prestigious periodicals.

Moderator: Jia Tolentino
Jason Fagone
Brooke Jarvis
Rachel Monroe

3:15 - 3:30 p.m.

3:30 - 4:20 p.m. - Session 7
The Ambulance Drivers - Hemingway & Dos Passos
As one of the most prolific biographers of our time, Jamie McGrath Morris shares the story of two friends and hugely accomplished authors. In its review, Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Two of the most significant writers of their generation, John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway, are described by Morris in this evocative, lively volume about how differently they emerged from the crucible of WWI. … Morris’s narrative demonstrates how, despite jealousies and differences, the two men found common ground.”

A presentation by Jamie McGrath Morris

4:25 - 5:15 p.m. - Session 8
A conversation with Wright Thompson, ESPN
Over the past decade, Wright Thompson has written about many of the world’s most famous and infamous sports figures. Join us for a lively conversation with the Clarkdale, Mississippi-born journalist who grew up on a farm never expecting to travel the world writing about these celebrated, often overrated personalities.

Moderator: Paul Kix, Senior Editor, ESPN
Wright Thompson

6 p.m.

Bar opens

6:30 p.m.
Doors open to International Ballroom/guests seated

7 p.m.
Literary Lights Dinner commences

7:45 p.m.
Award presentations

8 p.m.
Literary Lights Dinner featuring Sebastian Junger with John McCaa
Sebastian Junger is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Storm, Fire, A Death in Belmont, War and Tribe. As an award-winning journalist, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a special correspondent at ABC News, he has covered major international news stories around the world, and has received both a National Magazine Award and a Peabody Award. Junger is also a documentary filmmaker whose debut film "Restrepo", feature-length documentary (co-directed with Tim Hetherington), was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

9 - 10 p.m
Book signings

SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2017

9 - 9:50 a.m. - Session 1
The Art of Multimedia Storytelling: The Aryan Princess

Trying to write about hate-mongering group is one thing. Trying to tell that story through horrific, violent videos, profanity-laced audio and expansive interactive graphics is another. Jeff Whittington leads this conversation with the reporters, editors and designers who worked on a story that tested the bounds of transparency, ethics and decency.

Moderator: Jeff Whittington, KERA
Scott Farwell
Mike Wilson

9:55 - 10:45 a.m. - Session 2
Personal Perspective or Navel Gazing?
There’s a debate among writers about how ‘personal’ a personal narrative should be. Author Sarah Hepola moderates a discussion about the balancing act of sharing your most intimate moments and knowing when you’ve gone too far – or when you are being just plain boring.

Moderator: Sarah Hepola
Mike Graff
Jia Tolentino


11 - 11:55 a.m.
Closing keynote address: Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson, Ph.D., is author of 22 books, is a novelist, philosopher, essayist, literary scholar, short-story writer, cartoonist and illustrator, an author of children’s literature, and a screen-and-teleplay writer. A MacArthur fellow, Johnson received a 2002 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, a 1990 National Book Award for his novel, Middle Passage, a 1985 Writers Guild award for his PBS teleplay “Booker,” the 2016 W.E.B. Du Bois Award at the National Black Writers Conference and many other awards. The Charles Johnson Society at the American Literature Association was founded in 2003. In November 2016, Pegasus Theater Chicago debuted its play adaptation of Middle Passage, titled “Rutherford’s Travels.” Johnson recently published Taming the Ox: Buddhist Stories and Reflections on Politics, Race, Culture, and Spiritual Practice. His most recent book, published in December, is The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling

Wrap up/Closing remarks

Save the date for July 20 – 22, 2018

SCHEDULE SUBJECT TO CHANGE (updated June 26, 2017)