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Best American Newspaper Narrative Contest – Sponsored by The Dallas Morning News

See details about entering the competition here.


An article in The Washington Post about a Manassas, Va., swimming pool salesman experiencing the unraveling of his decades-long success story during a summer of disappointments received the first place award in the first Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest sponsored by the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference.


Eli Saslow’s “Life of a salesman: Selling success, when the American dream is downsized” was published Oct. 7, 2012, in the Post.


The Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest, which is co-sponsored by The Dallas Morning News, is among the writing contests offered by the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, which has been hosted each July since 2005 by the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at the University of North Texas.


From its first years, the conference has held its Personal Essay, Book Manuscript and Reported Narrative contests to recognize extraordinary literary journalism and narrative nonfiction from writers who had not published their work. The conference and The Dallas Morning News launched the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest to honor previously published work and to encourage narrative nonfiction storytelling at newspapers across the U.S. Long-form narratives published during 2012 were eligible for the inaugural competition, which saw the winning works honored at the 2013 conference, with the anthology published in 2014. 


“With the focus on narrative journalism that these awards represent, we hope they will encourage more compelling, important and interesting narrative stories that attract and retain subscribers,” said Jim Moroney, publisher and chief executive officer of the Morning News.


As the first-place winner, Saslow, a national enterprise writer for The Washington Post, received $5,000 and free registration for the 2013 Mayborn conference, which was held July 19-21 (Friday-Sunday) at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas.


“It’s an honor to be recognized along with some of the writers I admire. It’s also heartening to see evidence of so many newspapers supporting narrative journalism,” Saslow said.


Kevin Merida, the managing editor of The Washington Post, said, “We’re honored to win two of the top three prizes in the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest. These awards reflect not only the extraordinary gifts of Eli Saslow and Anne Hull but also The Washington Post’s unwavering commitment to ambitious narrative journalism.”


Kelley Benham, a reporter at The Tampa Bay Times, received the contest’s second-place award of $2,000 for “Never Let Go,” her personal account of the months following the birth of her daughter, who weighed 1 pound and 4 ounces when she was born more than 12 weeks premature. It was published in December. 


Anne Hull, another writer at The Washington Post, was named the contest’s third-place winner and received $1,000. Her article, “Breaking Free,” traces a teenage girl’s climb out of poverty and her working-class neighborhood in New Castle, Penn., as she prepared for college. It was also published in December.


All three winning narratives were published before the 2014 Mayborn conference in a print and e-book anthology, “The Best American Newspaper Narratives of 2012,” that was funded by the Vick Family Foundation. 


The contest judges were Maria Carrillo, managing editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk; Roy Peter Clark, a writer instructor and former dean at the Poynter Institute; Roger Thurow, a former foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal; Michele Weldon, assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School; and Mike Wilson, managing editor of The Tampa Bay Times.


The judges also selected three runners up and four notable narratives that were included in “The Best American Newspaper Narratives.”


The runners-up:

  • John Branch of The New York Times for “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” published in December 2012.
  • Dan Barry of The New York Times for “Donna’s Diner,” published in October 2012.
  • Rosalind Bentley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for “The Nation’s Poet,” published in October 2012.

The notable narrative winners:

  • Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for “I Boy: A family’s challenge to understand gender,” published in December 2012.
  • Monica Rhor, formerly of the Houston Chronicle, for “Young Houstonians go from Homeless to College,” published in July 2012.
  • Louis Hansen of The Virginian-Pilot for “Girl Who Took Down a Gang,” published in December 2012.
  • Martin Kuz, formerly of Stars and Stripes, for “Soldiers Recount Attack,” published in May 2012.     
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