Last weekend I spent Friday evening, all day Saturday, and the better part of Sunday at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. The conference was held at the DFW Hilton Lakes in Grapevine, Texas, convenient to DFW International Airport for all of the luminaries coming from the far reaches of the U.S. and beyond. Some of these literary stars included Susan Orlean, Rick Atkinson, and Dallas’ own Skip Hollandsworth.
I don’t know how to describe it, but when the conference was over, I was on some sort of event high that lasted a few days. This could be because I’ve just been in the presence of Pulitzer Prize-nominated and -winning writers and journalists, because I attended every panel/plenary session and keynote speaker event offered, or it could be because I am mega-inspired to write some sort of narrative. This inspiration comes from hearing stories, advice, and testimony from so many truly talented writers.
Some of the highlights for me at this Mayborn:
listening to Helen Benedict speak about interviewing female veterans and the abuse they encounter trying to serve in the army, navy, air force, and marines. She’s written several books on the subject and now has gotten published a book of fiction entitled Sand Queen (so she could include even more stories and info).
getting to hear author Paul Hendrickson and photographer Larry Snider each talking about their collaboration on Pie Town–10 Years after Russell Lee. I found it very interesting that Mr. Hendrickson’s book Sons of Mississippi came about from his seeing a photograph in 1995 when he was at a bookstore in Berkeley.
Dallas writer Ben Fountain, Dallas Morning News reporter Dave Tarrant, and veteran reporter and journalist Hugh Aynesworth speaking about their personal experiences on November 22, 1963. Mr. Fountain and Mr. Tarrant were young boys, but they both had clear memories of what that day was like for them. Mr. Fountain remembers his mothers sadness and Mr. Tarrant remembers watching the nuns at his Catholic school react to the news. Mr. Aynesworth’s account of the day was mesmerizing. He was on Elm, then at the School Book Depository, then at the Tippit murder scene, and finally at the Texas Theatre when Oswald was arrested. And he said he was not assigned to anything that day when he went to watch the motorcade.
enjoying seeing Sonia Nazario talk with both her agent and editor on a panel about her book Enrique’s Journey. (See my short blog post on this book from 2009.) Ms. Nazario also led a discussion later with Dallas Morning News Mexico bureau chief Alfredo Corchado and Reyna Grande, both authors and immigrants from Mexico and their unique experiences living in two worlds.
learning a few things about Charles Manson that most do not know from author Jeff Guinn. Guinn has a new book about Manson that is being published and released on August 6th. Mr. Guinn talked to relatives that have never granted interviews and associates from the Manson “family.” I don’t want to spoil any aspect of this book, but I cannot wait to read it.
lastly, sitting in awe as Skip Hollandsworth talked about the experience of finding the story and making the movie Bernie. Mr. Hollandsworth is one of the best extemporaneous speakers I have heard. He was so funny as he told of interacting with the locals in Carthage, a small east Texas town, after reading about the murder of the town’s grande dame by the beloved local undertaker. Being from Dallas, I was well acquainted with Mr. Hollandsworth’s work and was ecstatic to get to see and hear him pontificate to the room. What a way to end the weekend.
The above items comprised a majority of the sessions, but there were a few other powerful presentations that I witnessed and will never forget. I am so proud to be an alumnus of the University of North Texas. Their Frank W. Mayborn School of Journalism deserves many kudos for this yearly conference. If I was a young journalism student, I would certainly want to attend classes led by George Getschow, the director of the conference. I also am appreciative of the hard work and smooth flow of the conference due to all of the sponsors, to Jo Ann Ballantine, to the Barnes and Noble bookstore workers, and to all of the technical support team. I could go on and on.
–Mayborn Conference Director George Getschow
Another important aspect of the Mayborn is the accessibility of all the presenters and time for book signings and socializing. Also, both times I have attended this conference, I have met and made new friends with attendees, one of the best outcomes of the weekend. See my previous post about the 2010 Mayborn HERE.
If you get a chance, attend a future Mayborn and become part of the Mayborn tribe.