Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference recognizes nation’s top writers through annual contests

Monday, November 15, 2021 - 08:43

DENTON (UNT), Texas — The 2021 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference has announced the winners of its annual writing contests, which highlight some of the nation’s most outstanding journalists.

Hosted by the University of North Texas Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism and Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism, the conference is one of the nation’s premier events for aspiring and experienced writers. This year’s conference focused on topics such as social justice and mental health through its theme, “To Your Health: Healing the Nation, Healing the News, Healing Yourself.”

Featured speakers included veteran reporter of The Washington Post DeNeen Brown, Bloomberg News health team reporter Kristen Brown, CBS Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eli Saslow and Emmy Award-winning journalist Dr. Seema Yasmin.

Each year, the Mayborn offers opportunities for writers to publish their work or win recognition and cash awards for their outstanding stories.

This year’s winners, chosen by a panel of veteran journalists, include:

The Manuscript competition, which looks for the most original, creative and compelling work, offers the first-place winner a provisional publishing contract with UNT Press and $1,500 in prize money. The winners are:

  • First place: Allies to Indian Country by Kenneth Roemer
  • Second place: He Called Me Sister by Suzanne Robertson
  • Third place: Finding Home: A Tale of Adoption and Transformation by Lynn Alsup


The Ten Spurs Awards are broken into two categories: Reported Narrative and Personal Essays. Winners are published in the Mayborn’s Ten Spurs Journal. Winners are:

  • Personal essay winners
    • First place: A Second Chance by Fernanda Santos
    • Honorable mention: What Doesn’t Kill Us by Cindy Corpier
  • Reported narrative winners
    • First place: The Guardian Angel of Laughlin Drive by Kim Horner
    • Honorable mention: This Deep Admirable Silence by Wheeler Sparks
  • 2021 Ten Spur honorees
    • Dream House Vignettes by Risa Brown
    • Safe at Home by Geoff Campbell
    • Graves into Gardens by Britney Johnson


In the Best American Newspaper Narratives category, created to recognize the very best narrative stories published in American daily newspapers, winners are:

  • First place: A Pandemic, a Motel without Power and a Terrifying Glimpse of Orlando’s Future by Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post
  • Second place: The Worst-Case Scenario by Hannah Dreier of The Washington Post
  • Third place: Death at Freedom Square by Leonora LaPeter Anton, Kavitha Surana and Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times
  • Runners-up
    • Maricella's Last Breath by Rory Linnane of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
    • Tatiana's Luck by Hannah Dreier of The Washington Post
    • This 81-year-old was L.A.’s Most Devoted Museum-Goer until COVID-19 by Deborah Vankin of the Los Angeles Times
  • Notable narratives
    • Night Shift by Lauren Caruba of the San Antonio Express-News
    • Saving Rayna's Brain by Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
    • They Depended on Their Parents ... by John Woodrow Cox of The Washington Post

The first-place winners in each category received a cash prize of $1,500.

UNT News Service
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