The Mayborn

If you want to get better …

George Getschow, writer in residence of the nationally renowned Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, is inviting journalists and other nonfiction writers interested in the narrative craft to the 5th annual conference, July 24-26 at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, TX., five minutes from the DFW Airport. This year’s conference features a diverse group of storytellers from genres unexplored in previous years, including travel writing, broadcast, nature writing and documentary film.

Keynotes include one of America’s literary lions, Paul Theroux, author of acclaimed travel literature, short-story collections, novels, criticism and children’s books; Ira Glass, National Public Radio’s host and producer of “This American Life: and editor of a breathtaking anthology called “The New Kings of Nonfiction”; Alma Guillermoprieto, Latin American correspondent for “The New Yorker” and “The New York Review of Books.” The nation’s foremost humor writer, Roy Blount Jr., will also be speaking at the conference, along with Stephanie Elizondo Griest, the “accidental memoirist” of Mexican-American society; “Vogue’s” renowned narrative essay writer, Julia Reed; the nation’s leading authority on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Michael Kauffman; Gordon Grice, “the Stephen King of nature writers”; “Wall Street Journal” foreign correspondent and hunger expert, Roger Thurow; internationally acclaimed documentary filmmakers Allen Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell; and a number of other storytellers.

Bob Shacochis, a National Book Award Winner (“Swimming in the Volcano”) who spoke at last year’s conference, says the Mayborn is “the most compelling, remarkable writers’ conference I’ve attended in more than 20 years of writers’ conferences around the nation. Thanks to the Mayborn tribe of storytellers, I think of Dallas as a preferred destination, a center of literary gravity, perhaps the very heart of the universe these days for nonfiction writers in America.”

The conference includes a book manuscript and essay writing contest. The manuscript winner will receive a $3,000 cash prize and an option to enter into a provisional publishing contract with UNT Press. The article and essay writing contest offers $12,000 in cash prizes. The 10 best articles or essays, including the six cash award winners, will be published in a literary journal jointly published by Hearst Newspapers and the Mayborn Graduate School of Journalism. Conference fees are $295 for the general public. Educator fees are $270. Student fees are $225. The fees include fine dining. Conference seating is limited. To register, visit the conference site. For more information, call George Getschow at 972-746-1633.

Family, Divided

David Gonzales (thanks, Raja): For the father, the choice was obvious: An engineer with several jobs yet little money, he saw no future for his daughter and son in their struggling country, Ecuador. Eight years ago, he paid coyotes to smuggle him into Texas, then headed to New York, where his wife and children flew in as tourists, and stayed.

But the consequences of that clear-cut decision — the immigrant’s perennial impulse to uproot for the sake of the next generation — have been anything but simple.

Hunting Justice

Justin George: In his black SUV, he rolled through the darkness before dawn. He drove past shuttered buildings and fried fish shacks, toward the housing projects of West Tampa and Robles Park, to a row of subsidized rental duplexes shaded by oak trees and overpasses. He had done this scores of times, scanning the corners for drug dealers and dropouts, for anyone who might know something about the men who murdered his son. On this morning, he looked out his window and saw only empty streets. Just a few old people, stirring early. He felt like a circling shark who had driven everyone inside. He killed the stereo, parked his Suburban in plain sight, rolled down his tinted window, lit a cigar. Then he just sat there. It was a dare. Come out and show yourself. Two years had gone by since CJ died. But time wasn’t healing Vidal Mills.

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C.J. Chivers Is A ^%#$& Baddass

Here: ALIABAD, Afghanistan — The two Army lieutenants crouched against boulders beside the Korangal River. Taliban gunfire poured down from villages and cliffs above, hitting tree branches and rocks and snapping as the bullets passed over the officers’ helmets.

An American platoon was pinned in the riverbed, which had blossomed into a kill zone. One squad and the radio operator were trapped in a wheat field on the far side. An improvised bomb had just exploded in their midst. The blast wave had blown the soldiers down, and, though the platoon did not yet know it, killed a soldier on the trail.

The platoon leader, company executive officer and another squad crouched exposed at a stream junction, trying to arrange help as the bomb’s smoke drifted through the misty rain. A third squad was on the slope behind them, returning fire.

And here: KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — Only the lead insurgents were disciplined as they walked along the ridge. They moved carefully, with weapons ready and at least five yards between each man, the soldiers who surprised them said.

Behind them, a knot of Taliban fighters walked in a denser group, some with rifles slung on their shoulders — “pretty much exactly the way we tell soldiers not to do it,” said Specialist Robert Soto, the radio operator for the American patrol.

If these insurgents came close enough, the soldiers knew, the patrol could kill them in a batch.

Hungry Girl

Hank Stuever: WOODLAND HILLS, Calif. — The country’s best-selling cookbook right now is for people who don’t really cook, written by a hyperkinetic 43-year-old former TV producer named Lisa Lillien, who once upon a time hated the fact that she couldn’t fit into her skinny jeans. “I was that person who would sit at the computer and eat an entire bag of fat-free pretzels and think I was doing a good thing,” Lillien says. “I wasn’t.”

She lost 25 pounds eight years ago, and in 2003 she started sending her friends low-fat recipes and tips for finding healthful food in mainstream supermarkets. She then very smartly turned herself into a cartoon character on the Internet called Hungry Girl. Now Lillien has almost 700,000 subscribers to her daily Hungry Girl e-mails, and she employs a staff of nine.

Painting His Recovery

Konrad Marshall: Brian Duff sat in the corner of the homeless shelter courtyard, scribbling in a spiral notebook.

He drew faces in black pen but averted his eyes from those around him, focusing instead on circling insects, warbling birds and dandelions on the lawn.

Duff, 28, has bipolar disorder. He lives in a two-story red brick building in Fountain Square called the First Home Program. The facility is run by Wishard Health Services for people who have persistent mental illness and nowhere to live.

His paintings often begin in tranquil settings like this garden, where ivy insinuates itself between the bricks of the enclosing wall. But later, as Duff paints, writes poems, plans film scripts and plays his violin or guitar deep into the night, his creativity can take hold in a bad way.

Beyond The Walls

Meghan Murphy: In the hallway of his apartment building, Solomon Davis is trying on postures like new clothes. He stares into the mirror. He squints through black-framed glasses. First, he holds out his hands for emphasis. Then he brings his fingertips to his chin.

Davis has put away his street stance. He’s no longer slouched under a hooded sweatshirt. He is rehearsing for his future as a mentor to Newburgh’s struggling teens, an ambassador to its adults who don’t understand.

“Coming up, you know, you got to be so defensive,” he says.

At 18, he’s feeling out who he can be and how to get there from these streets.

Not To Brag

Breaking: St. Pete Times wins two Pulitzers. Lane DeGregory, and PoltiFact. More to come.

… And John Barry, finalist, for Winter’s Tale!

Check it here.