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Mayborn Aborning


by Jerome Weeks 3 Jul 2008

UNT’s Mayborn Graduate School of Journalism — which presents the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference (opening this year on July 18) — now has a glossy annual journal, called Mayborn: Where Real Stories Come Alive. The first issue, Summer 2008, has just been released and put up online. (FYI: The school is “the Mayborn,” but […]

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UNT’s Mayborn Graduate School of Journalism — which presents the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference (opening this year on July 18) — now has a glossy annual journal, called Mayborn: Where Real Stories Come Alive. The first issue, Summer 2008, has just been released and put up online. (FYI: The school is “the Mayborn,” but the magazine is, simply, Mayborn. This is for any journalists or copy editors out there.)

The inaugural issue is akin to a print version of the Literary Conference, or perhaps an advertisement for it: There’s a Q&A with author N. Scott Momaday, the keynote speaker for this year’s conference, a feature by Bob Shacochis (and a profile of him), author of Domesticity, who is also coming this year, plus a profile of Bill Marvel, the former features writer for The Dallas Morning News, who has been a regular at the Mayborn (and a former co-worker of mine) — and so on.

Actually, it’s more accurate to say the magazine generally resembles the conference in the ways the articles follow the many different tributaries of long-form narrative journalism that conference honcho George Getschow often features in panels and speakers: adventure journalism, for instance (Nick Heil’s story about writing Dark Summit, his book on Everest climbers), biography (Andrew Rogers on Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan), memoir (journalist Ken Wells on his colorful, yarn-spinning, bayou background) or professional advice (Susannah Charleson on how her experiences as a pilot and a search-and-rescue responder inform her writing, Dallas literary agent James Donovan on why most manuscripts never get published, and deservedly so).

Editor-in-chief Cathy Booth Thomas (a self-described Time magazine refugee) seems to be pitching Mayborn to both would-be narrative journalists (students, beginning writers) and to the wider market of literary-savvy readers who’d recognize a name like Momaday. And in fact, the annual is a half-professional, half-student production. My only suggestion for improvement: The general layout and design tend to look a little dowdy — partly that’s in comparison to the writing, which is often rich, authoritative, polished. Well worth picking up to take a look.

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  • Jerome is right:

    With writers like Bob Shacochis (American Book Award winner), N. Scott Momaday (Pulitzer winner), Ken Wells (Pulitzer nominee), Nick Heil (author of the real Everest story “Dark Summit”) and Kevin Fedarko (Outside mag writer extraordinaire), the writing in MAYBORN is “often rich, authoritative, polished.”

    And it’s LOCAL! There is nothing like this for writers in the Southwest. Editing the mag convinced me that there is a real need for a community of writers centered around Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Everything seems to be oriented to the East or West coast. This is for those of us who prefer the desert and the bayou to the big cities. In our future magazines, MAYBORN will feature writing from freelancers in this area and we solicit your ideas. (see contact info below)

    We do have a problem with layout, which is why the Graduate School of Journalism at UNT (which publishes MAYBORN) is offering a fall workshop that will stress magazine layout and magazine writing. It is a real world class, with students putting out Denton Live, the magazine of the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau. Get a credit for a degree and something for your resume too!

    We also need layout professionals at D Magazine, American Airlines magazines, and other area publications to help us! It would take only 10 hours a semester to come share your expertise. Plus, you get to experiment with new ideas that maybe your boss isn’t so fond of! (having worked at TIME magazine for 22 years, I know about this from experience!)

    If you’re interested, contact me at [email protected]. You can check out the magazine online at http://www.themayborn.com and there is a link to buy the print copy of MAYBORN there (cheap at $3.95). You will laugh at some of the writers’ stories; identify with others, I promise you…

    We talk about the writing process in a way that no one else does.
    Cathy Booth Thomas, editor-in-chief
    MAYBORN: “Where real stories come alive”
    [email protected]