N. Scott Momaday, one of our best-known Native American writers — up there with Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich — is headlining the fourth annual Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference, presented by the University of North Texas Graduate School of Journalism July 18-20 in Grapevine. A Kiowa born in Lawton, OK, Momaday won the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, House Made of Dawn, in 1969, and he’s published several volumes of poetry (he’s the poet laureate of Oklahoma), even plays and a children’s book.
So what’s he doing talking to nonfiction writers?
Because, in addition to everything else, Momaday has written essays, a memoir, even introductions to art histories. Although he’s considered primarily a poet and storyteller, Momaday is also a folklorist, continuing an oral tradition that offers a different stream of nonfiction from the usual journalism-meets-novel-writing that the Mayborn typically presents and promotes. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Momaday’s keynote address will be on language and imagination.
In case you’ve forgotten: Last year, the Mayborn caused a national stir, getting mentions in Time and Texas Monthly and all over the web —
— when guest speaker Nan Talese, the famous editor, revisited the entire Oprah Winfrey/James Frey fracas. She declared she had not changed her ideas concerning memoirs, even though Oprah had publicly berated her for A Million LIttle Pieces. Unrepentant, she accused Oprah of “fiercely bad manners” for purportedly misleading her to get her on the program. [Full disclosure: I interviewed Talese onstage at the Mayborn and asked the initial questions that ignited the squawk. If you care about a fuller account, you can read it here.]
So the Mayborn isn’t just writers grousing about editors and would-be writers wondering how to get a foot in the door. True, there do not seem to be any potential land mines in this year’s schedule of speakers, but there are some notable names once again, including Bob Schacochis, author of Domesticity, and Theodore Roosevelt biographer Candice Millard, as well as NPR’s Austin correspondent, John Burnett (Uncivilized Beasts and Shameless Hellions). The Mayborn has started a new magazine, called MAYBORN — with Shacochis on the cover –and this year, the conference is offering a $3000 cash prize for the best personal essay, another three grand for the best researched article and yet another three grand for best book submission, which also comes with a provisional book contract with UNT Press.
Get scribbling: Deadline for submissions is this Friday, June 13.