UNT's Mayborn conference announces newspaper narrative writing contest winners

Eli Saslow
Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow won the second Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest sponsored by the University of North Texas’ Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, after also taking the top prize for the first contest in 2013.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 11:07

DENTON (UNT), Texas — For the second year in a row, an article in The Washington Post by reporter Eli Saslow received the first place award in the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest sponsored by the University of North Texas’ Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference.

Saslow's "Into the Lonely Quiet," published in June 2013, followed the family of a 7-year-old victim of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, six months after the shooting.  In 2013, Saslow won the inaugural Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest for "Life of a salesman: Selling success, when the American dream is downsized," an account of a Manassas, Virginia, swimming pool salesman experiencing a summer of disappointment.

Co-sponsored by The Dallas Morning News, the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest was first offered by the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in 2013. The conference has been hosted each July since 2005 by UNT’s Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism.

From its first years, the conference has held its Personal Essay, Book Manuscript and Reported Narrative contests to recognize extraordinary literary journalism and narrative nonfiction from writers who had not published their work. The conference and The Dallas Morning News launched the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest to honor previously published work and to encourage narrative nonfiction storytelling at newspapers across the U.S. Long-form narratives published during 2013 were eligible for the 2014 competition.  

In addition to selecting first-, second- and third-place winners, the contest judges also select runners-up entries and any entries they believe are "notable narratives." The three top entries, the runners-up and the notable narratives are published in a print and e-book anthology, "The Best American Newspaper Narratives." The first anthology, which includes the 10 honored articles from the 2013 competition, was published in May.

As the first-place winner, Saslow, who recently joined the Portland, Oregon, bureau of the Post, receives $5,000 and free registration to attend the 2014 Mayborn conference, which will be held July 18-20 (Friday-Sunday) at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas.

 Eric Moskowitz, a reporter at the Boston Globe, received the contest's second-place award of $2,000 for "Marathon Carjacking." The article followed "Danny," who was carjacked by the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombing three days after the bombing. "Danny," a Chinese national, agreed to speak to no other media representatives about being held hostage except for Moskowitz, who identified him only by his American nickname. "Marathon Carjacking" was published April 25, 2013.

Mark Johnson, a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, claimed the third place prize of $1,000 for "The Course of Their Lives," an account of first-year students at the Medical College of Wisconsin as they take a human dissection course. "The Course of Their Lives" was published in October 2013. It was also a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. Johnson was honored in last year's Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest for "I Boy: A family's challenge to understand gender," which was named a notable narrative.

The contest judges were Maria Carrillo, managing editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk; Roy Peter Clark, a writer instructor and former dean at the Poynter Institute; Roger Thurow, a former foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal; Michele Weldon, assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School; and Kelley Benham French, former reporter at The Tampa Bay Times. Now a faculty member at Indiana University, French received the 2013 contest’s second-place award for "Never Let Go," her personal account of the months following the birth of her daughter, who was born more than 12 weeks premature.

The runners-up are:

  • Christopher Goffard of The Los Angeles Times for "Manhunt," published in December 2013.
  • Stephanie McCrummen of The Washington Post for "A Cloudy Feeling," published in May 2013.
  • Michael M. Phillips of The Wall Street Journal for "The Lobotomy Files," published in December 2013.

The notable narrative winners are:

  • Aaron Applegate of The Virginian-Pilot for "Taken Under," published in October 2013.
  • Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for "Rob Sweeney," published in July 2013.
  • Michael Kruse of The Tampa Bay Times, for "The Last Voyage of the Bounty," published in October and November 2013.
  • Shaun McKinnon of the Arizona Republic, for "Alone on the Hill," published in December 2013.
  • Mike Newall of the Philadelphia Inquirer for "Almost Justice," published in June 2013.
  • Sarah Schweitzer of the Boston Globe for "Together, Despite All," published in October 2013.   


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