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Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference begins Friday

Profile image for By Karina Ramirez / Staff Writer
By Karina Ramirez / Staff Writer

The Tribe will meet yet again at another conference.

Members of the Tribe — journalists, students and members of the public — meet each July to attend the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Now in its ninth year, the conference will take place Friday through Sunday at the Hilton DFW Lakes Conference Center, 1800 State Highway 26 East in Grapevine.

“Well over a third of conferees come back to our tribe each year,” said George Getschow, director of the conference and writer in residence at the University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism.

Getschow has been part of the conference since its inception and has helped gather more than 20 of the nation’s top nonfiction writers and editors each year to discuss their work.

It is an intimate gathering of just 350 attendees, where the conferees not only listen to the speakers, but also get an opportunity to talk to them about their work and get to know them.

“It takes some orchestration to make sure that we bring writers that are open and available to hang out with our conferees. Not every conference in America has that philosophy,” Getschow said.

Susan Orlean, author of the best-selling The Orchid Thief and a new book titled Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, will speak Friday.

Military historian Rick Atkinson, author of the recently published The Guns at Last Light: The War in Europe, 1944-1945, which concludes his Liberation trilogy, will address conferees on Saturday night.

Texas Monthly executive editor Skip Hollandsworth, who is also the screenplay writer for the true-crime movie Bernie, will be the keynote speaker Sunday morning.

This year’s conference theme will explore how writers can recreate historical events, Getschow said.

The conference has helped recognize the unpublished work of many participants through its personal essay, book manuscript and reported narrative contests. This year, the conference and The Dallas Morning News launched the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest to honor previously published work, according to a press release.

The 2013 winner was Eli Saslow’s for his piece, “Life of a salesman: Selling success, when the American dream is downsized.” His piece was published Oct. 7 in the Washington Post.

“It was one of the most important initiatives we have launched in a long time,” Getschow said. “It was intended to inspire long narrative in the newspaper dailies.”

In addition to the speakers and conference competitions, selected conferees get to participate in a one-day Friday workshop in which top writers and other workshop participants provide feedback and writing suggestions.

Denton Record-Chronicle staff writer Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe participated in a manuscript workshop during the first conference. Her book, See Sam Run, about raising an autistic child, won first prize in 2005, during the first competition.

Now a personal essay for her daughter, Paige Wolfe, has been selected for a workshop.

“She had a nonfiction writing class this spring and this was her main essay from that class,” Heinkel-Wolfe said. “She’s really excited.”

Getschow, who was unaware of Heinkel-Wolfe’s daughter’s participation, said he was thrilled to learn the news and to see the Tribe expand.

The conference will award a total of $12,000 in contest prizes, Getschow said.

Getschow, along with Mitch Land, the founding dean of the Mayborn School of Journalism, created the Mayborn Conference in 2005. This year, the conference will also welcome the new dean of the Mayborn School of Journalism, Dorothy M. Bland, who joined the staff last month.

“I am excited about the conference,” she said, complimenting the staff including Dr. Roy Busby, the director and associate dean of the Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, Jo Ann Ballantine, who serves as manager of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference and graduate students who help put it together. “I understand it is quite a legacy.”

Bland said she looks forward to attending her first conference and also offered thanks to the events’ sponsors, which include The Dallas Morning News, Voice Media Group, Ricco Family Partners Ltd., Texas Monthly and the Denton Record-Chronicle.

“It is an opportunity to inspire young writers and celebrate nonfiction writing,” Bland said. “Whether you are 15 to 106 and you love writing, this is the place to be this weekend.”

KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.