Kudos to One of Our Own

  • August 21, 2012

Diana Parsell wins the Mayborn Biography Fellowship!

This year, the Washington Independent Review of Books’ very own senior editor Diana Parsell has won the Mayborn Biography Fellowship. Congratulations from all of us to Diana.

The award was announced in July at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, held in Grapevine, Tex. The Mayborn Biography Fellowship, now in its second year, is intended to provide an emerging biographer with solitude, inspiration and a concentrated period of uninterrupted writing time along with the opportunity to be mentored by Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer James McGrath Morris. The winner receives a two- to three-week creative residency in a small house nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, north of Santa Fe, N.M.

Applicants are evaluated based on a number of criteria, including the viability of their project; proof that research has been or will be completed before the residency, as the time is to be used for writing; and evidence that the residency will play an important role in the project’s development.

Diana is working on a biography of Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (1856-1928), an American woman who initiated the idea of planting Japanese cherry trees in Washington. A prolific journalist and author, Scidmore traveled widely in the Far East, became an authority on Japan and was a writer, photographer and board member for the early National Geographic. Yet very little has been known about her life. Diana discovered the subject while living in Jakarta, when she came across a reprint of Scidmore’s 1899 book on her travels in Java.

The Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism of the University of North Texas is home to the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. The conference, which attracts journalists, writers, students, educators and the general public, offers presentations focusing on the power of factual storytelling and the craft of nonfiction writing.

Seven years ago, George Getschow, writer-in-residence at the University of North Texas, lined up some of the nation’s top nonfiction writers and with Mitch Land, founding dean of the Mayborn School of Journalism, created the Mayborn Conference, which has gained national prominence.

At this year’s conference, three Pulitzer Prize winners, Luis Alberto Urrea, Richard Rhodes and Isabel Wilkerson, were keynote speakers, sharing their life stories, reporting experiences and expertise with aspiring writers.

Besides the program of speakers, panel presentations and workshops, the Mayborn Conference sponsors a writing competition that awards $15,000 in cash prizes and publication of the best essays, reported narratives and book manuscripts submitted by those attending the event.

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