North Texas Daily

Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference brought together writers, students, educators

Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference brought together writers, students, educators

Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference brought together writers, students, educators
July 26
11:00 2018

Writers, journalists, students and educators gathered this past weekend for the 14th annual Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. The theme for this years’ conference was “Are You Not Entertained? Real People, Real Stories, Real Storytelling” and featured panels from well-respected industry professionals in the journalism and writing industry.

The three-day Friday through Sunday conference was held at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine.

For Friday’s kickoff, the conference held writing workshops in the morning and concluded the day with a soiree featuring keynote speaker Diana B. Henriques, financial journalist and New York Times bestselling author of “The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust.” Henriques opened up to the audience about her experiences after writing the book that eventually turned into a film. The author and journalist gave advice on the inclusion of business news, investigative journalism and the storytelling process.

The second day of the conference was packed with eight sessions from some of the nation’s top storytellers across all mediums. Each session included a moderator and panelists sharing experiences, stories and tips to future and current industry storytellers.

Jelani Gibson, a conference attendee, said he took away important lessons and learned more about the many organizations in attendance.

“It’s very refreshing to see organizations wanting to go digital first,” Gibson said.

The planning committee of the conference made efforts to not only diversify the types of industry professionals present, but also made efforts to ensure the panels were diverse as well. No two panels were the same, which allowed attendees to hear a wide range of advice they could apply to their craft in the future.

One of the most anticipated sessions on the second day featured Jemele Hill, the current chief correspondent and senior columnist for ESPN’s The Undefeated.

Moderated by Kevin Merida, senior vice president at ESPN and editor-in-chief of The Undefeated, Hill’s session focused on the topics of sports, the creative transition from TV sports reporting to online writing and race and culture in America. To some people, Hill is now being considered an activist, which Hill disagrees with.

“To be considered an activist is a little weird to me,” Hill said. “Interest and passion lead me. … In order to have a hot take, there has to be a fire.”

Hill said she uses her platform the way a columnist should, which is giving a voice for the voiceless and speaking up for what she believes in.

Students from the High School Media Workshop interview Jemele Hill after her session in the hotel lobby at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. Kara Dry

After initially entering her career as a journalist through writing, Hill got in front of the camera appearing in multiple ESPN shows, including “His & Hers” with co-host Michael Smith. That eventually led to her to co-anchoring SportsCenter with Smith. After one year into her role on SportsCenter, Hill decided to leave SportsCenter and devote her time to writing for The Undefeated.

“The type of writing I would like to do now deals with race and culture,” Hill said.

With sports reporting being a primarily male-dominated industry, Hill gave some advice for the young women who aspire to follow her footsteps in the world of sports.

“Come into the business like you belong,” Hill said. “Don’t have the mindset that you have to be perfect.”

Saturday evening concluded with the Literary Lights Dinner, which was moderated by WFAA’s John McCaa. Keynote speaker Lindy West, contributing writer for The New York Times and author of “Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman,” spoke about the importance of having hard conversations and tackling social issues through her columns. West showed conference attendees that she is not afraid to have uncomfortable, but necessary conversations about racism, abortion and the #MeToo movement.

“#MeToo is a storytelling moment,” West said. “You can’t fight oppression in a culture where these stories are repressed.”

Prior to West’s keynote speech, awards were handed out for writers, including high school students, professionals and college students for their original pieces.

The final day of the conference featured two sessions, and the final keynote speech was led by author and Los Angeles Times writer Christopher Goffard.

Goffard wrapped up the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference by leading a discussion on the things he learned making his podcast “Dirty John” and giving the audience words to live by:

“Your comfort zone will kill you,” Goffard said.

The conference showed the importance of having uncomfortable conversations, gave students and writers new tips and served as a reunion for many professionals who have known each other for years.

“It is important during times when journalism is under attack,” Hill said. “Journalists have a place where they can commune together.”

Featured Image: Sue Mayborn smiles as Diana B. Henriques, Friday night’s keynote speaker, takes her seat following her speech about financial journalism. Kara Dry

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Bria Graves

Bria Graves

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