Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference to hold first newspaper narrative contest

Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 15:23

DENTON (UNT), Texas — In an effort to encourage narrative nonfiction storytelling at newspapers across America, the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference and The Dallas Morning News are launching a new writing contest this year. The Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest will award prizes to three long-form narrative nonfiction pieces previously published in daily U.S. newspapers or on the newspapers’ websites.

Newspaper reporters and editors may submit one to three narratives published between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012, including narratives that are part of a series.

The first-place winner will receive $5,000 and free registration to attend the 2013 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, which will be held July 19-21 (Friday-Sunday) at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas. The contest’s second-place winner will receive $2,000 and the third-place winner $1,000. The three winning narratives and three runners up will be published in print and e-book form in an anthology, “The Best American Newspaper Narratives.”

The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference has been hosted annually since 2005 by the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, which is housed in the University of North Texas’ Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism. Each year, the conference attracts more than 300 journalists, authors, editors, creative writing instructors, literary agents and students who are devoted to the art of nonfiction storytelling. With a theme of unearthing the past, the 2013 conference will feature keynote speakers Susan Orlean, author of the best-selling The Orchid Thief and a new book about Hollywood canine star Rin Tin Tin; Rick Atkinson, a military historian and winner of three Pulitzer Prizes; and Texas Monthly executive editor Skip Hollandsworth, screenplay writer for the true-crime movie “Bernie.” The conference will also offer a bus tour of The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas to tie into the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Participants of the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest do not have to attend the conference, although they will be able to pay for conference registration at the same time they pay the contest entry fee.

The Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest joins the Personal Essay, Book Manuscript and Reported Narrative contests as competitions offered by the conference that recognize extraordinary literary journalism and narrative nonfiction storytelling. The conference also has a Mayborn National History Writing Contest this year for high school and community college students.

Jim Moroney, publisher and chief executive officer of The Dallas Morning News, said the idea for the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest came from attending the writing awards ceremony at last year’s Mayborn conference. He realized that, despite the Morning News’ long-standing support and involvement in the conference, outstanding narrative nonfiction journalism published in newspapers wasn’t being recognized at the conference.

“I asked if we could create a category for this purpose. I hope it will motivate more narrative nonfiction writing in newspapers across the country and create a way for the good work already being done to be recognized. I’m delighted the Mayborn conference embraced the idea and is providing an opportunity to recognize exemplary narrative journalism published by the nation’s newspapers each year,” Moroney said.

Bob Mong, editor of The Dallas Morning News, said exceptional narrative nonfiction writing “can only grow out of a reporter’s passion for the topic.”

“It cannot occur otherwise,” he said.

All submissions to the Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest must be postmarked and sent electronically in word and pdf format no later than June 1 (Saturday). The winners will be notified by e-mail on June 15 (Saturday). Editors and writers may submit a short cover letter with each entry, explaining the challenges of producing the story and readers’ reactions to it after it was published.

For more information about the contest, contact contest coordinator Tasha Tsiaperas at or 469-387-6985. For more information on the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, contact Jo Ann Ballantine at 940-565-4778 or


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