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January 20 2011

16:53

Robert Caro, Stacy Schiff, Diane Ackerman and more: narrative conferences and workshops in 2011

Was one of your resolutions in 2011 to become a better storyteller? If so, here are a few conferences and workshops slated for the coming months that can probably teach you a thing or two. These sessions range from one-day conferences to week-long writing intensives, and none of them are free (they range from less than $100 to $1,100). But if you can pony up the pennies (or the big bills), you can hone your mad scribbling skillz with some of the best nonfiction writers working today.

Boston University Narrative Conference – April 29-30 at the Photonics Center in Boston. Speakers TBA. Last year’s group included New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, Gay Talese and Adam Hochschild, among other notables.

The Muse and the Marketplace – April 30-May 1 at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. Grub Street, Inc., offers up New York Times contributor Pauline Chen, nonfiction writer Alexandra Johnson and “Hiroshima in the Morning” author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, among many others. (Actor and short story writer James Franco will be there, too, so we’re half expecting him to announce the start of his new career as a narrative journalist.)

Biographers International Organization Conference – May 21 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. For writers limning the lives of the famous and infamous, Robert Caro (“The Power Broker”) and Stacy Schiff  (“Cleopatra”) headline the speakers at BIO’s one-day affair.

Great Storytelling Every Day – July 17-22 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom French leads this Poynter Institute week-long workshop on conceiving and framing deadline narratives for print and online. Some scholarships available.

Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference – July 22-24 in Grapevine, Texas (outside Dallas). The Mayborn 2011 roster includes poet and essayist Diane Ackerman, two-time Pulitzer winner Gene Weingarten, “The Good Soldiers” author David Finkel, and NPR commentator Frank Deford, among many others.

We’ll post information on other upcoming conferences and workshops as we get details on them. If there’s an event you think Storyboard readers should know about, please don’t hesitate to e-mail us at contact_us@niemanstoryboard.org.

December 13 2010

20:09

Stories inside and outside traditional beats: narrative nods in the winter issue of Nieman Reports

One of our sister sites, Nieman Reports, has just posted its latest issue, “The Beat Goes On.” You can take a gander at the issue in its entirety, but we thought we’d include some highlights for those of you with a particular interest in narrative.

In “Modern-Day Slavery: A Necessary Beat – with Different Challenges,” E. Benjamin Skinner offers a well-written account of reporting on the sex trafficking beat, weighing storytelling with ethics, action, and the needs of his subjects. Melanie Hamman’s “Visual Stories of Human Trafficking’s Victims,” a partner piece to Skinner’s, discusses visual documentary of criminal, exploitative activity, and wounded subjects. “Merely by retelling her story,” Hamman writes, “a victim can be retraumatized, severely complicating her recovery.”

Storyboard contributor (and longtime narrative journalist) Beth Macy offers a sample of the kinds of stories she balances on the family beat at The Roanoke Times and how that beat has changed in her many years there. Looking to the future, Macy says that when it comes to stories, “If we tell them well, it won’t matter what medium we use. They can be our saving grace.”

Very different opinions emerge about new media’s effect on the sports beat, including storytelling in sports. Former Wall Street Journal tech columnist Jason Fry discusses sportswriting as a blogger and ponders what’s most important in reporting. Lindsay Jones, who covers the Broncos for The Denver Post, explains how Twitter works for her. But in excerpts from the 2010 Red Smith Lecture on Journalism at the University of Notre Dame, sportswriter Frank Deford (a senior contributing writer with Sports Illustrated and commentator for NPR) worries about what the digital revolution has done to sportswriting:

“The Internet – or to be kind, the influence of the Internet – is reducing the amount of storytelling in sports journalism … the story – which was always the best of sportswriting, what sports gave so sweetly to us writers – the sports story is the victim. Sportswriting remains so popular – one word. Sports stories – two words, are disappearing.”

Gay Talese might well agree. In an excerpt from an October talk in Boston celebrating the release of “The Silent Season of a Hero: the Sports Writing of Gay Talese,” he answered a question from the audience by saying that reporters are behind their laptops too much. Arguing for being present with subjects and occasionally unplugging, Talese said, “Sometimes I think reporters should waste some time. Good journalism is wasting time.”

The winter issue includes many other stories, from reviews of books about the status of women journalists and the work of legendary writers to a look at whether news organizations have some obligation to tell stories whose audience size may not sustain the resources required to report them. See the full roster here.

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