The 2014 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference opens Friday at the University of North Texas. The Saturday and Sunday workshops are full but you can still register for the keynote events. This year’s speakers are authors David Quammen, Lawrence Wright, and Sheri Fink, and other featured speakers include Amy Dockser Marcus, Mimi Swartz, Rose George, and Annie Jacobsen. Recommended reading from our past coverage:
>Collected wisdom from Alfredo Corchado, Susan Orlean, Kevin Merida, Rick Atkinson, Paul Hendrickson and more (2013):
It was meant to be a personal story. The key was to make it a universal truth. — Corchado
>Texas Monthly‘s Skip Hollandsworth on storytelling, listening, Hollywood, respect, and the importance of getting out into the world (2013):
I’m not a writerly writer. There are a lot of writers in this room who can put together a beautiful sentence and you go, “Wow!” I can’t do that. I’m not being deliberately humble. My bread and butter lives on getting a good quote or getting a good fact. If I don’t have that fact, then I’m screwed. I can’t write around it. I don’t have quite the stylistic ability. So, I’ve always known that, and being at Texas Monthly I’ve been around a lot of great writers and I have tried my best to keep up with them and the way I do it is by getting good acts, getting good quotes. And I knew this was my kind of story. You just don’t get in the way of it.
>“You Will Always Have Work and It Will Be the Best Kind of Work,” by Richard Rhodes (2012):
The real poverty of the textbook school of writing is its apparent ignorance of the power of language to re-animate the world – the world of history, of technology, of science, of people, the natural world, whatever the subject might be. Stripping a text of its resonances, its rhetoric, of its performance of itself doesn’t make it clearer; it just makes it deader.
“… At the beginning of the first day, when I get the assignment, I start two files on my desktop. Let’s say the story is slugged Mayborn. I start Mayborn.reporting and Mayborn.writing. Everything I gather, obviously, goes in Mayborn.reporting, but unlike a lot of people I don’t wait to the end to start filling up Mayborn.writing. I start immediately. I write up every single thing I get in Mayborn.writing because I’ve found that I block, badly, badly, badly. And so, what I do is, let’s say I get a nice interview with George. I’ve got eight grafs, I write it up. It makes me feel good to be able to look and see that I’ve already got stuff written. Everybody knows that the worst part of any narrative project is the early stuff, when you don’t really have the confidence that you’re going to get enough to do it, and you panic, “I’ll never be able to do it.” We all have this. And I feel so [much] better about myself, when I can say, “Look. I have eight paragraphs.”