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"Narratives on the Cutting Edge: Writing About Science, Technology, Medicine and Innovation"

Top science writers headed to the Mayborn

By MICHAEL MERSCHEL
Staff Writer
The Dallas Morning News

Science is the subject for this year’s Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, which will bring in some of the best writers around on medicine, technology and innovation.

Among them: Sheri Fink, a doctor, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author of Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, who was just announced as a keynote speaker.

Keynote speakers David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, and Pulitzer winner Lawrence Wright, author of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, were announced earlier.

Conference director George Getschow says he sought to attract “top guns” in the field to the annual gathering of authors, journalists and those who aspire to be one or the other. It takes place July 18-20 in Grapevine.

Among them are the likes of Joel Achenbach, who covers science and politics for The Washington Post; Amy Dockser Marcus, a Pulitzer-winning writer for The Wall Street Journal; Dennis Overbye, deputy science editor of The New York Times and author of Einstein in Love; and Fred Guterl, executive editor of Scientific American.

Getschow says the writers coming to the University of North Texas’ conference are experts at “helping us to see what we otherwise wouldn’t see.” That includes investigative science writers such as Fink, a doctor who spent years reconstructing what happened at a New Orleans hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; Annie Jacobsen, author of the best-selling Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base; and Stephen Fried, whose Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs investigated the pharmaceutical industry.

Several writers fall under the categories of psychology or sociology. Getschow notes that Wright’s 1994 book Remembering Satan dealt with recovered memories, and 2006’s The Looming Tower looked at the forces that produce fanaticism. Speaker Ricardo Ainslie is a psychologist and author of The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War.

Carl Hart, author of High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, is a Columbia University professor who grew up in poverty. The New York Times described his book as “a fascinating combination of memoir and social science.”

Under innovation, there’s Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

And then there’s what Getschow laughingly dubbed the “garbage queens,” Rose George, author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, and Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash.

Others appearing include:

Sam Kean, author of the best-seller The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code.

Seth Mnookin, associate director of MIT’s graduate program in science writing and author of The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy.

Bill Streever, biologist and author of Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places and Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places.

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