Mayborn conference marries science with great writing

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, screenwriter and playwright Lawrence Wright captured conference-goers with wit and writing tips at the 10th annual Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in July. (Photo by Ahna Hubnik)UNT's 10th annual Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference promised to bridge great writing with science. And it delivered. Held in July, the conference drew the best of the best in journalism with the theme "Narratives on the Cutting Edge: Writing About Science, Technology, Medicine and Innovation."

Best-selling author Lawrence Wright, who was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for his book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, inspired the audience with his keynote talk. He offered tips for how to organize, craft and find compelling characters for narratives, comparing writing to dieting.

"For most of us, dieting requires persistence, discipline, abstinence, pain, longing, some degree of masochism and an impressive ability to handle frustration. Writing is like that -- at least good writing," he said. "Bad writing is bloated, clumsy, soft and aimless. You don't want to be sitting next to it on an airplane."

Other keynote speakers were David Quammen, who is regarded among America's most respected science writers, and Sheri Fink, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, physician and author of New York Times bestseller Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital.