Conference Schedule

The schedule is subject to change. All participants will be notified in advance.

Friday, October 5, 2012

15:30-16:30: Registration

16:30: Welcome and opening keynote speeches

16:45-17:15: Jacqui Banaszynski: Writing On the Rocks, Writing On the Stars

Stories are as old as mankind – and as essential as food or fire. They are our history and our memory, our logic and our poetry. As journalists, we have the privilege and the responsibility to bear witness to the world and to tell true stories – stories that help us make sense of that world, mark our existence, explore our differences and illuminate our shared humanity.

17:30-18:00: Chris Jones: Why We Write

Writing narrative non-fiction isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s rarely anything like easy. But there are good reasons to make a career out of telling true stories. Some of those reasons are personal and even selfish—the life that writing can give you—and some of those reasons are bigger than never waking up to an alarm clock. (Although that’s really nice.) Stories like ours can have a real, lasting impact on the lives of others, both our subjects and our readers. That’s the real reason we write them.

18:15-18:45: Mike Sager: Suspending disbelief

Perhaps your subject is a crass capitalist pig who lights his cigars with $100 bills. Or a pimp running a string of women on the streets of the Washington, DC. Maybe he’s wearing a brown shirt embroidered with Nazi regalia and talking about kikes and niggers. Or he stands at a pulpit every Sunday offering fire and brimstone to the unconverted. Or he’s an 18 year old high school student who’s murdered in cold blood nine Buddhist monks. The best reporter is the kind who can put his or her feelings on hold... for a while at least. How to be more than objective. How to be open. How overcoming your own thoughts and prejudices as a person makes you a better journalist and, over time, a wiser soul.

18:45: Cofee break

19:00: Keynote speeches and movies screening

19:00-19:30: Starlee Kine: Tackling Themes in Different Story Forms

People spend a lot of time thinking about their ideas. It’s impossible not to. Because ideas live in the same place they are born: inside our heads. In fact, the inside of the creative mind can feel like a sort of orphanage. And all the unrealized ideas are like little orphans who just want to find a good home. The ideas who have been in there the longest show the newer ideas the ropes: proper food fight etiquette, how the chore wheel on the fridge works. Sometimes the ideas sing and dance but mostly they sit on windowsills gazing longingly outside. Really, the creative mind is exactly like the eighties version of the movie Annie. Starlee Kine will discuss the different forms her ideas have taken - radio, animation, print, industrial design - and how she got into the idea making business in the first place, by getting a job with This American Life.

19:30-21:00: Travis Fox: Movie screening – Law and Disorder – and discussion.

FRONTLINE's Law and Disorder chronicles a pattern of police abuse after Hurricane Katrina stuck New Orleans. The multi-year joint investigation between FRONTLINE and ProPublica received the George Polk Award and was nominated for an Emmy. Co-Producer Travis Fox will outline the reporting that formed the basis for the film as well as the unique collaboration between the two journalism powerhouses.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

08:30-09:30: Registration

09:30-12:00: Welcome and opening keynote speeches

09:40-10:10: Alex Tizon: Telling Your Own Story

Sometimes the most compelling story you can tell is your own. It's not a decision to be taken lightly. The rewards of writing a personal history, or a memoir, can be great, but the risks can also be considerable. We’ll discuss the complexities of self-portraiture, and explore how you might go about unearthing and creating your own compelling narrative.

10:10-10:40: Evan Ratliff: Writer to Digital Entrepreneur

How does a freelance journalist of more than a decade transform into a publishing and technology entrepreneur? Evan Ratliff found himself, somewhat accidentally, in just that situation. A writer for Wired, The New Yorker, and other magazines, three years ago he began side project called to publish longform journalism Atavist—now a digital publishing company with 10 employees and an international audience. He'll talk about what's involved in starting a business, the transition from hustling assignments to wrangling writers, and the challenges of reinventing oneself for the digital era.

10:40-11:10: Pat Walters: The End

There's a lot of pressure to write a good lead -- if you don't, odds are the reader will go read something else. But the ending is no less important. It's the last thing you get to say, and like the final note in a song, you want it to reverberate in your reader's mind. But how do you figure out what to put at the end? In this session, we'll explore some different types of endings, take a look at some of my favorite examples and study the processes by which the writers of those endings arrived ... at their ends. This session will draw from print, radio and film.

11:10-11:40: Walt Harrington: Keeping the “Non” in Nonfiction

Only one quality defines “journalism” across its wide range of forms and styles—and that quality is accuracy. Without it, literary journalism disappears in a haze of unreliability, fabrication, laziness, manipulation and public distrust. Modern literary journalism must be both beautiful and true—the quotations, the direction of the wind, the shade of blue, the meaning of gestures. Literal truth is not a commitment of the small-minded and uncreative but the heart and soul of our work, the key to having the public stature and influence that literary journalism deserves.

12:00-13:00: Lunch Break

13:00-14:45: Workshop round #1

Over the course of the afternoon, each speaker will host an in-depth workshop. You will be able choose three – one in round #1, one in round #2, and one in round #3 – spots will be filled on a first come first served basis.

Pat Walters

On The Origin Of Stories: Ask any writer of longform nonfiction narratives and they'll tell you their story ideas are their bread and butter. But what makes a good one? How do you find a narrative in a topic? When you have a narrative, how do you know it can sustain a longform treatment? In this workshop, we'll talk through tips for finding stories and framing them. We'll walk through case studies that trace several great stories back to their humble beginnings. And we'll workshop students’ ideas -- and not-quite-yet ideas -- as well.

Mike Sager

Fifty Three Ways to Improve Your Reporting: Simple, heartfelt, and practical tips that will make you a better reporter, offered by a practicing literary anthropologist with more than 36 years in the field. Pull up a log at the campfire and learn how to be still and rapt… among other things.

Starlee Kine

How to Make a Personal Story Universal: In the age of tumblr and Twitter, everyone's a personal essayist but how do you elevate your stories beyond just a blog entry? How do you psyche yourself into believing your life is worth writing about without tipping over into self-indulgence? This workshop will teach you how to make people who aren't your friends and family members care about the stuff you love (or hate.) We'll listen to a bunch of cool radio stories too and parse why we feel so drawn to them.

15:00-16:45: Workshop round #2

Jaqui Banaszynski

Story Structure: Where to start? Where to end? What to put where? These questions plague all writers. But stories are constructed as much as they are created — and the key to effective storytelling lies in a sound structure. We'll look at ways to demystify story structure, and identify a range of organizational approaches that take the pain out of writing, provide a platform for creativity and keep readers engaged.

Travis Fox

One-man-band Video Journalism: How to produce short-form documentary using untraditional means. Working alone – or with one other person – Fox has produced dozens of short films around the work doing the last decade for the Washington Post and FRONTLINE. Instead of relying on traditional TV crews, Fox prefers a more intimate approach with the subjects of his films, working in a similar method as print reporters.

Chris Jones

Reconstructing Reality: Some of the best narrative stories – Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, The Mark of a Masterpiece by David Grann – happened far out of sight of the reporters who wrote them. To make these stories compelling and most important true, journalists have to learn how to reconstruct events that they didn’t see firsthand. This takes a particular type of reporting, one that relies on lengthy interviews, archival research, and an eye and ear for those telling details that will transport the reader to a different time and a distant place. Using real examples from Chris’s own work, we’ll talk about how to find those details and turn them into non-fiction that brings the past to life.

17:00-18:45: Workshop round #3

Evan Ratliff

How is producing a digital longform story different than producing one for print? How do we use the power of digital devices without distracting from the fundamental narrative or reducing the role of the writer? At Atavist, those are the questions that we consider every day. Editor Evan Ratliff will walk you through the production process at Atavist from assignment to publication. He will discuss the role of multimedia in digital storytelling; the ways that digital tools can help tell your tale, and the dangers of having too much technology at your fingertips.

Alex Tizon

Profiles on The Run: How do you write a compelling profile under deadline? What are some of the secrets of master storytellers? We’ll discuss what goes into writing insightfully about others, and then talk about how you can do the best job possible when time and space are limited.

Walt Harrington

Creating Intimate Journalism: How do you make your readers feel the experiences of others, take them inside other people’s worlds and make them imagine they are actually there themselves? Walt Harrington’s book, Intimate Journalism, delves into how we must think, report and write to achieve poignant intimacy. Come with your own story ideas and experiences for him and the audience to explore.

19:00: Goodbye drinks


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