October 15 – 16

We’ll explore how journalism and storytelling have impacted (and been impacted by) the many events unfolding over the past year – healthcare, trust and news, mental health, social justice, and how the times have affected us all. 
As always, we’ll have the nation’s leading journalists, writers and authors to give the inside stories. We plan to go beyond the headlines, allowing some of the nation’s best journalists and authors to share the story behind the stories. 
We know it’s been a year of outstanding investigative journalism, powerful breaking news narratives and heart wrenching personal narratives that capture a world under siege by the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken its toll on so many aspects of life. 
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.

All times are CDT

Friday, October 15, 2021

[LIVE Streamed Opening Reception & Kick Off Conversation – Potentially in person]

6:30 p.m.
Welcome to Mayborn

  • Brief remarks from Andrea Miller, dean
  • Neil Foote, director, Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference


6:45 – 7:45 p.m.
Stories from the Bubble: Reflections on a Year to Remember
A roundtable of some of the nation’s best journalists and authors discuss the untold stories behind the headlines from the past year.

  • MODERATOR: Sanderia Faye Smith, author of "Mourner's Bench"
  • Sarah Hepola, best-selling author & writer-at-large, Texas Monthly
  • Kurt Eichenwald, journalist & best-selling author
  • Tara Haelle, Health/Science Journalist and Author


7:45 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Mayborn Happy Hour / Virtual [and Live]
Pull up to your computer, laptop or cell phone with your favorite beverage and toast to the 2021 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

SATURDAY Morning Kick Off
Segment One: Healing the Nation

9:00 a.m. – 9:40 a.m.
Sponsored by PEN/America

Chronicling Public Health in America
Dr. Seema Yasmin, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, medical doctor, and author, discusses storytelling in the age of COVID-19 and what lessons we’ve learned about facts and “misinfodemics.”  She’ll be interviewed by Kristi Nelson, the award-winning reporter/anchor, for KXAS/NBC 5 News. 

10:00 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.
Sponsored by Bloomberg News

Covering Health & Science in the Age of Disinformation
Medical, health and science reporters have been working nonstop to tell the story of the COVID-19 pandemic: from testing to vaccines. Our panel of seasoned writers discuss the challenges of reporting and writing the technical nuances of this story, balancing, facts, science, reality, and debunking myths.

  • MODERATOR - Elena Rivera, health reporter, KERA
  • Kristen Brown, health team reporter, Bloomberg News
  • Carey Goldberg, Boston bureau chief & veteran health/science reporter, Bloomberg News


10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
America’s History: Revealing Untold Truths

Chronicling Public Health in America
DeNeen Brown, veteran reporter for the Washington Post and for the National Geographic Channel documentary, “Rise Again – Tulsa and the Red Summer” and several other journalists who have been writing about the soul of America.

  • MODERATOR: Patricia Gaston, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and Lacy C. Haynes Professor of Journalism



Segment Two: Healing the News

12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Midday Keynote Conversation
Reporting at a 24/7/365 Pace: Getting It Right Against All Odds

Major Garrett, CBS White House Correspondent and author
Garrett, a three-time author and veteran D.C. reporter, dives into the tumult of the past year, sharing his strategies and approaches to storytelling.

1:25 p.m. – 2:25 p.m.
Say Their Names: How Black Lives Came to Matter in America

Authors Curtis Bunn, Nick Charles, Michael H. Cottman, Patrice Gaines, , Keith Harriston offer us an incisive, gripping exploration of the forces that pushed our unjust system to its breaking point after the death of George Floyd and a definitive guide to America's present-day racial reckoning.

  • MODERATOR – Neil Foote, veteran journalist, professor, and Mayborn Conference director



Segment Three: Healing the Mind

2:25 p.m. – 3:25 p.m.
Voices of the Pandemic with Eli Saslow

Pulitzer-Prize winning Washington Post Journalist Eli Saslow discusses his new book, “Voices from the Pandemic: Americans Tell Their Stories of Crisis, Courage and Resilience,” and how he captured these heart-wrenching, personal stories. He’s joined by three Mayborn School of Journalism students – Megan Martinez, Rebecca Najera, and Kate Pezzuli, whose, “Coronavirus Chronicles,” captures many stories and voices as well. 

  • MODERATOR – Neil Foote, veteran journalist, professor, and Mayborn Conference director


3:30 p.m. – 4:25 p.m.
Mindful Stories: Exploring Mental Health

The rising cases of mental health has been among the many derivatives of the COVID-19 pandemic. How journalists and reporters are enduring a year of exhaustion.

  • MODERATOR: Alana Rocha, director of news partnerships, Tribune
  • Elvia Limón, engagement producer, Texas Tribune
  • Olivia Messer, freelance journalist and former lead national reporter covering COVID-19
  • Alex Samuels, politics and race reporter, FiveThirtyEight


4:30 p.m. – 5:25 p.m.
Writing Memoirs: Crafting a Story that Reveals & Heals

Where do you begin to tell your story in a way that is authentic, sincere, and compelling? These writers share these delicate stories with grace, candor, and truth. Panelists:

  • Moderator: Tom Huang, assistant managing editor, journalism initiative, Dallas Morning News
  • Mimi Swartz, author, with Sherron Watkins, of Power Failure, The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron, is an executive editor of Texas Monthly.
  • Wanda Lloyd, author of the memoir, “Coming Full Circle: From Jim Crow to Journalism”
  • Fernanda Santos, author, journalism professor and contributing columnist for The Washington Post who is writing a memoir


5:25 p.m. – 6:25 p.m.
Keynote Conversation - Civil Discourse: Does It Exist Anymore?

KERA’s Krys Boyd engages former Sen. Connie Mack, whose memoir, “CITIZEN MACK: Politics, an Honorable Calling,” in a timely and gripping conversation about his journey in writing the story about his life and how we can best use journalism and restore cross-the-aisle politics to help us heal.

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Virtual Happy Hour


7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. [pre-recorded]

Emcee: Sam Baker

Awards Presentation

8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Conference Wrap-Up & Virtual Happy Hour | Baby Shoes Competition Winners Announced

Keep the conference conversations – and beverages – flowing! Share stories and laugh-out-out!


Marty Baron, retired executive editor, The Washington Post

Marty Baron shares captivating insights from his award-winning journalism career, covering Elian Gonzalez, Spotlight, WikiLeaks, President Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offers some thoughts about the future of journalism and what happens next.