UNT’s Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference names winners of biography fellowship, reported narrative and personal essay contests

Saturday, July 20, 2019 - 21:04
Ten journalists and writers were awarded top prizes at the UNT 2019 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. [Hatch Visuals]
Ten journalists and writers were awarded top prizes at the UNT 2019 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. [Hatch Visuals]

DENTON (UNT), Texas — Ten journalists and writers were awarded top prizes at the University of North Texas 2019 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. The event, now in its 15th year, brings together storytellers who are dedicated to the art of narrative nonfiction.

Among the awards, the conference honors great literary journalism and creative nonfiction with its Book Manuscript, Reported Narrative and Personal Essay writing contests.

All six winning Personal Essay and Reported Narrative entries and four runners up will be published in the 2020 iteration of “Ten Spurs,” a literary nonfiction journal published by the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism.

The final award is the Mayborn Fellowship in Biography, given in conjunction with James McGrath Morris and Biographers International.

Book Manuscript:

  • First place: George Newtown for “Perverse: A Psychosexual Memoir,” in which Newton shares his understanding of the forces that brought him from childhood sexual panic to eventually gaining an authentic understanding of adult sexuality.
  • Second place: Jackie Littleton for “The Lady and the Letters,” in which Littleton interweaves the story of Dr. Esther Caukin Brunauer with the stories of the women academics whose lives she sought to save during the rise of the Third Reich.
  • Third place: Kevin Ryan for “Person Pitch,” which examines the intersection of Victorian-era religious poetry, Catalan Moderne architecture and the musical genius of Kanye West.

Reported Narrative 

  • First place: Matt Crossman for “The Green Beret and the Porsche That Heals Him.” Crossman writes about a soldier who nearly died from injuries suffered in Afghanistan and who now tests his skills on the race track.
  • Second place: John Huntington for “Hail Mary.” Huntington writes about anti-Catholicism sentiments that surfaced during the John F. Kennedy campaign for the White House.
  • Third place: Liam O'Neill for “57 Seconds,” in which he shares the story of how a college athlete used his last place finish in the 1,500 meters at nationals as motivation toward redemption.

Personal Essay 

  • First place: Chris Phelan for “A Sea of Trouble,” in which Phelan tells of the brutal assault he endured as a young recruit at the hands of his fellow sailors in his first time at sea.
  • Second place: Kathy Floyd for “Role Reversal,” in which she describes the process of swapping caretaker responsibilities with her parents as they have grown older and need more assistance.
  • Third place: Aaron Hedge for “Living with Vermin,” which weaves together facts and personal experiences with roaches and mice, while exploring philosophical questions of our co-existence.

Personal Essay Runners Up

  • Vic Holmes: In “The Accident,” Holmes tells of the horrific scene he witnessed: a young boy who was struck by multiple vehicles and killed while crossing a busy road.
  • Virginia Riddle: In “Fast Flips Forward,” Riddle shares how she and her attorney father fought for her rights when her husband filed for divorce at a time when the scales of justice tipped heavily toward men.
  • Glenn Stout: In “The Lookout Tree,” Stout chronicles the changes he’s witnessed in a tree over the span of decades and speaks to the life lessons that are learned with the passage of time. 
  • Debbie Williams: In “Between the Lines,” Williams shares the emotional experience of being at her son’s bedside as he recovered from the car accident that nearly claimed his life.  

Biography Fellowship winner 

This year’s winner is Morgan Voeltz Swanson, who is writing “To the Edge of Endurance: American Soldier Henry W. Lawton, Apache Leader Geronimo, and a Manhunt Through the Desert.”

Winners of this prize earn attendance at next year’s Biographers International Conference, free registration at this year’s Mayborn Conference, a $500 travel stipend and a two- to three-week in-residence fellowship to work one-on-one with James McGrath Morris at his casita in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

UNT News Service
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