The Mayborn Conference

George Getschow, writer in residence of the nationally renowned Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, is inviting Argyle educators, nonfiction writers, readers and anyone interested in the narrative craft to the 5th annual conference, July 24-26 at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center in Grapevine, Texas, five minutes from the DFW Airport. This year's conference features a diverse group of storytellers from genres unexplored in previous years, including travel writing, broadcast, nature writing and documentary film.

Keynotes include one of America's literary lions, Paul Theroux, author of acclaimed travel literature, short-story collections, novels, criticism and children’s books; Ira Glass, National Public Radio's host and producer of “This American Life” and editor of a breathtaking anthology, "The New Kings of Nonfiction"; Alma Guillermoprieto, Latin American correspondent for “The New Yorker” and “The New York Review of Books." Sonia Nazario will moderate a panel on covering the the border with Dallas Morning News reporters Dianne Solis and Alfredo Corchado.

The nation's foremost humor writer, Roy Blount Jr., will also be speaking at the conference, along with Stephanie Elizondo Griest, the "accidental memoirist" of Mexican-American society; “Vogue's” renowned narrative essay writer, Julia Reed; the nation's leading authority on Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Michael Kauffman; Gordon Grice, “the Stephen King of nature writers”; Texas Monthly's "the patron saint of lost causes," Michael Hall; “Wall Street Journal” foreign correspondent and hunger expert, Roger Thurow; internationally acclaimed documentary filmmakers Allen Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell; Little Brown senior editor John Parsley; Village Voice Media's Michael Mooney, whose narratives were recently selected for Best American Crime Reporting and Best American Sports Writing, and a number of other storytellers.

Bob Shacochis, a National Book Award Winner ("Swimming in the Volcano") who spoke at last year's conference, says the Mayborn is "the most compelling, remarkable writers' conference I've attended in more than 20 years of writers' conferences around the nation. Thanks to the Mayborn tribe of storytellers, I think of Dallas as a preferred destination, a center of literary gravity, perhaps the very heart of the universe these days for nonfiction writers in America."

The conference includes a book manuscript and essay writing contest. Deadline for submission is June 15. The manuscript winner will receive a $3,000 cash prize. And Mayborn book award winners continue to win major book publishing contracts. Donna Johnson's memoir about growing up evangelical, Holy Ghost Girl: Scenes from the Apocalypse, will be published by Gotham Books. And Susannah Charleson's Scent of the Missing is slated for hardcover release by Houghton Mifflin in the spring or summer of 2010.

The article and essay writing contest offers $12,000 in cash prizes. The 10 best articles or essays, including the six cash award winners, will be published in a literary journal jointly published by Hearst Newspapers and the Mayborn Graduate School of Journalism. Go to to see some of the essays published in the last issue ofTen Spurs. Conference fees are $295 for the general public. Educator fees are $270. Student fees are $225. The fees include fine dining. Conference seating is limited. To register, visit the conference site .

For more information, contact George Getschow at or by phone: 972-746-1633, or Project Coordinator Jo Ann Ballentine,, 940-565-4778, cell 940-368-1988.

Feeding the Bears

A man has been feeding bears and the state of Alaska has a problem with it. Americans have a long history of feeding bears for cheap thrills and cuddles. Timothy Treadwell and his lady friend were famously killed and eaten by a brown bear. Treadwell had been putting hands on wild bears for years. In this current case, though, money seems to be the motive. 

Apes on Drugs

The necropsy results for Travis the chimp came in this week. They verified that he had been sedated with Alprazolam, better known as Xanax. The drug is used to reduce anxiety in humans. Travis’s owner, Sandra Herold, told reporters she’d served him tea laced with Xanax in her efforts to calm him down the day of the attack, but she later seemed to retract that statement.

Alprazolam has been linked with unpredictable aggression, hostility, and loss of inhibitions in human patients. Most notoriously, it was found in the body of professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who murdered his wife and child before committing suicide in 2007. (The drug, however, was only one of several dangerous factors that could have played a role in that case.) Its reported side-effects in humans include suicidal thinking, hallucinations, rage, mania, agitation, and hyperactivity. What it might do to a chimp is unclear, though it seems obvious that no drug with potential effects like these ought to be given to a powerful animal.

But there’s a problem with blaming a drug for the Stamford attack: it was normal chimpanzee behavior. Or, at least, normal behavior for a chimp in captivity. Experts have known for a long time that chimps and other primates aren’t suitable housemates for humans, but the general public has only begun to understand this in the last few years, since the mauling of St. James Davis in California in 2005. The Associated Press reports that many chimp owners are trying to find room for their pets in sanctuaries since the Stamford attack, but the sanctuaries are too crowded.

Hazards of Shopping at Wal-Mart

I don't think I've ever heard a story quite like this one. A woman was shopping at Wal-Mart when she ran afoul of a critter like this one--a large rodent called a nutria. Here's the whole story, which, predictably, ends in a lawsuit.
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