The Power of Narrative Conference has convened in several places under several names since its founding at Boston University in 1998. Our mission remains constant as storytelling journalism goes digital: helping narrative journalists to strengthen their craft skills, puzzle out the complex ethics of intimate journalism, and impart the down-to-earth humanity that is the genre’s strength. Every year, we quickly sell all our seats. The conference talks are stimulating, sophisticated, practical and relevant, aimed at mid-career nonfiction storytellers in many media, offered by terrific and varied practitioners. The vigorous Q & A sessions following each talk keep us on-target. And, between sessions and at meal breaks we program in time to meet speakers and new colleagues and share ideas, aspirations, projects, networks. In these turbulent times, our candid, informed, independent journalism is crucial.
History of the Conference
At its founding, we called it ‘Aboard the Narrative Train.’ Across the Charles River at Harvard University after its first three years, it became ‘The Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism.’ It returned to its roots at Boston University in 2010 and became ‘The Power of Narrative.’ Throughout its wandering evolution, print journalists, editors of papers and publications and documentaries, niche content journalists with websites, book and magazine writers, cartoon journalists, adventurous individual practitioners and nonfiction writers and documentarists in many media have filled our seats. They have learned from the best narrative writers, editors and publishers including — Calvin Trillin, Nora Ephron, Tom French, Norman Mailer, Sy Hersh, Gay Talese, Alma Guillermoprieto, David Halberstam, Ken Burns, Susan Orlean, Tracy Kidder, Jon Franklin, Roy Peter Clark, Anne Hull, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Jacqui Banaszynski, and Raney Aronson-Rath, among hundreds of other speakers.
Who should attend?
Our audience is a broad mix of veteran practitioners engaged in narrative journalism careers, early career professionals hoping to build narrative skills, and students of the genre. Attendees come from across the United States and from many nations; they identify as writers, visual media creators, audio journalists, or all three. They work on every imaginable platform, from newspapers to magazines, books to the web, podcasts to multimedia, sometimes pushing the boundaries with innovative start-ups. We hear from established pros and folks on the leading edge, while remaining true to the deep power and ethical values of telling public stories with a personal voice.
Helene Atwan has been director of Beacon Press since October 1995. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Virginia. She began her career in publishing at Random House in 1976, and has worked at Alfred A. Knopf, Viking Press; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; and Simon and Schuster. Her acquisitions at Beacon include Gayl Jones’s The Healing, a National Book Award Finalist, Danielle Ofri’s Singular Intimacies, Rashid Khalidi’s Resurrecting Empire and The Iron Cage, Richard Blanco’s For All of Us, One Today, Cornel West’s Black Prophetic Fire, and Anita Hill’s Reimagining Equality, as well as books by Bill Ayers and Lauren Slater, and ten volumes of poetry by Pulitzer-prize winner Mary Oliver. She served for eight years on the board of PEN-New England and is the Administrator of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. Her publishing in narrative journalism includes Mitchell Zuckoff’s Choosing Naia; Beth Whitehouse’s The Match; Ronnie Greene’s Shots on the Bridge; and Linda K. Wertheimer’s Faith Ed.
Caryn Baird is a Senior News Researcher at the Tampa Bay Times. She has research credit on five Pulitzers and several other award-winning stories. Working alongside reporters and editors for more than 17 years, she has helped to nail down facts, found experts to quote, provided historical context and located cell phone numbers.
Lolly Bowean has been a general assignment reporter and writer with the Chicago Tribune since 2004. She focuses on writing about Black life, minority communities, urban affairs, youth culture, and housing, among other topics. She is a 2017 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. As a reporter, Bowean carved out her own beat writing about Chicago’s unique African-American community. She has written about the death of Nelson Mandela, how violence is lived in troubled neighborhoods, and the 2008 election and inauguration of President Barack Obama. She also covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the last gathering of the original Tuskegee Airmen. She is a 2016 Studs Terkel Award Winner and a finalist for the National Association of Black Journalists’ Salute to Excellence Writing Award.
Debbie Cenziper is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter in Washington, D.C. Over 20 years, Debbie’s stories have sent people to prison, changed laws, prompted federal investigations and produced more funding for affordable housing, mental health care and public schools. She has won many major awards in American print journalism, including the Robert F. Kennedy Award and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University. She received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize at The Miami Herald for stories about affordable housing developers who were stealing from the poor; a year before that, she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for stories about widespread breakdowns in the nation’s hurricane-tracking system. Most recently, Debbie was an investigative reporter at The Washington Post. Her first book, Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Brought The Landmark Case for Marriage Equality, received widespread praise by book critics and was named a best book of summer by the L.A. Times, Oprah magazine, the Huffington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and Apple iBooks. A movie based on the book is underway by Fox 2000. She is teaching journalism at The George Washington University and working on her next book.
As the Boston Globe’s editorial page editor, Ellen Clegg oversees editorials, the op-ed page, and the Sunday Ideas section. She has held a variety of editing jobs at the Globe, including deputy managing editor for Sunday, regional editor, city editor, and health and science editor. In between stints in the newsroom, she worked for three years at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a genetics research institute, writing about science for external and internal audiences. She is the author of Chemobrain, and The Alzheimer’s Solution. During her tenure on the editorial page, the Globe has won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing and the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. She started her career at the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri.
Amy Dockser Marcus
Amy Dockser Marcus is a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where she covers health and science. She writes frequently about the challenges involved in scientific collaboration between patient advocates and researchers. Her 10-part series, “Trials,” about a group of parents working with scientists to find a therapy to treat the fatal cholesterol metabolism disorder, Niemann-Pick Type C, won a 2014 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism award. Her articles about the emotional and physical struggles of cancer survivors were awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting. She is the author of two books about the Middle East that grew out of her reporting in the region for The Wall Street Journal.
Sheri Fink is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Crown, 2013) about choices made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She is a correspondent at the New York Times, where her and her colleagues’ stories on the West Africa Ebola crisis were recognized with the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, the George Polk Award for health reporting, and the Overseas Press Club Hal Boyle Award. Her story The Deadly Choices at Memorial, co-published by ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine, received a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and a National Magazine Award for reporting. A former relief worker in disaster and conflict zones, Fink received her M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. Her first book, War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival (PublicAffairs), is about medical professionals under siege during the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Five Days at Memorial was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction, the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for nonfiction, the Ridenhour Book Prize, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Book Award, the American Medical Writers Association Medical Book Award, and the NASW Science in Society Journalism Book Award.
Adam Hochschild is an author, journalist and lecturer at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. His work includes King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as was his To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. His Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN USA Literary Award. His recent Spain in Our Hearts: Americans and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 said the New Republic is “the best introduction to the conflict written in English.”
Arlie Hochschild is a sociologist and author of nine books, the latest of which is Strangers in Their Own Land, Anger and Mourning on the American Right. It is based on five years of “visiting with” Tea Party enthusiasts in Louisiana and is a finalist for the National Book Award. Other books include The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home, The Time Bind, When Home Becomes Work and Work Becomes Home and The Managed Heart: The Commercialization of Intimate Life. She has received Guggenheim, Mellon and Fulbright Awards and the Ulysses Medal from the University College Dublin. Four of her books have been named as New York Times “Notable Books of the Year,” plays have been based on two, and her work appears in sixteen languages. She lives with her husband, Adam, in Berkeley, California.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Doris Kearns Goodwin is a world-renowned presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
Goodwin is the author of six critically acclaimed and New York Times best-selling books, including her most recent, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (November, 2013). Winner of the Carnegie Medal, The Bully Pulpit is a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air. Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios has acquired the film and television rights to the book.
Spielberg and Goodwin previously worked together on Lincoln, based in part on Goodwin’s award-winning Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, an epic tome that illuminates Lincoln’s political genius, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president. Team of Rivals was awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize, the inaugural Book Prize for American History, and Goodwin in 2016 was the first historian to receive the Lincoln Leadership Prize from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.
The film Lincoln grossed $275 million at the box office and earned 12 Academy Award® nominations, including an Academy Award for actor Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln.
Goodwin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, and is the author of the best sellers Wait Till Next Year, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream and The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, which was adapted into an award-winning five-part TV miniseries.
Well known for her appearances and commentary on television, Goodwin is seen frequently on television networks NBC, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, CNN, as well as The Charlie Rose Show and Meet the Press. Other appearances have included The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and many more. Goodwin has served as a consultant and has been interviewed extensively for PBS and the History Channel’s documentaries on Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, the Kennedy family, and Ken Burns’ The History of Baseball and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. She most recently served as a consultant on HBO Films’ All the Way starring Bryan Cranston as President Johnson. Goodwin is currently working on her next project on leadership – a look at how Lincoln, FDR, LBJ and Teddy Roosevelt became leaders and how they led, coming out in the spring of 2017.
It was Goodwin’s experience as a 24-year-old White House Fellow, working directly for President Johnson as an assistant in his last year in the White House, and later assisting him in the preparation of his memoirs, that fueled her interest in becoming a presidential historian and author.
Goodwin graduated magna cum laude from Colby College, and was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Government from Harvard University, where she taught Government, including a course on the American Presidency.
Among her many honors and awards, Goodwin was awarded the Charles Frankel Prize, given by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal, the New England Book Award, and recently the Carl Sandburg Literary Award and the Ohioana Book Award.
Goodwin lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with her husband, the writer, presidential advisor, speechwriter and playwright Richard N. Goodwin. She was the first woman to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room, and is a devoted fan of the World Series-winning team.
Bill Keller is editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project. Keller worked for The New York Times from 1984 to 2014 as a correspondent, editor, and op-ed columnist. As a correspondent, he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union, winning a Pulitzer Prize, and the end of white rule in South Africa. From July 2003 until September 2011, he was the executive editor of The Times.
Tracy Kidder has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes. His books include
Mark Kramer is Professor of Clinical Practice in Narrative Journalism and writer-in-residence in Boston University’s journalism department, and founder and director of the Power of Narrative Conference, now in its 17th year. He is is the co-author of two leading textbooks/readers on narrative nonfiction: Telling True Stories and Literary Journalism, and is currently at work on a book about revising narrative nonfiction. He’s written four additional books: Mother Walter and the Pig Tragedy, Three Farms, Invasive Procedures, and Travels with a Hungry Bear. Mark has also written for the New Times Sunday Magazine, National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly and other periodicals. He was previously writer-in-residence in American Studies at Smith College and writer-in-residence and founding director of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University. Mark leads a “kitchen workshop” for professional writers with book projects. His website is www.tellingtruestories.com.
Christopher Kremmer has written and published short stories, a novel, comedy sketches, journalism and four books of narrative non-fiction. His first book,
Stalking the Elephant Kings: in search of Laos (1997) republished in 2003 as Bamboo Palace, won the Qantas Prize for Asia-Pacific Travel writing. The follow-up, The Carpet Wars: a journey across the Islamic heartlands (2002), was based on a decade of living and traveling across Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and otherarduous tourist destinations. It was published in ten countries, including Spanish and Japanese translations. He has taught multimedia reporting at the Centre for Advancing Journalism in Melbourne, and currently teaches writing for media and Literary & Narrative Journalism at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
Dick Lehr is a professor of journalism at Boston University. He worked at The Boston Globe for two decades, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and won numerous investigative and public service awards. He was a legal affairs reporter, a feature writer, a magazine writer and a member of the Globe’s Spotlight Team. He is coauthor of Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI and a Devil’s Deal, a New York Times bestseller and Edgar Award Winner in the Best Fact Crime category. Black Mass has been adapted into a film starring Johnny Depp. His most recent book, The Birth of a Movement: How Birth of a Nation Ignited The Battle for Civil Rights, is the basis for an upcoming PBS documentary. His other books include two finalists for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime: The Fence: A Police Cover-up Along Boston’s Racial Divide, and Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind The Dartmouth Murders, coauthored with Mitchell Zuckoff. Lehr has degrees from Harvard College and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He has been a Visiting Journalist at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University.
Kristen Lombardi is an award-winning journalist who works for the nonprofit investigative organization, Center for Public Integrity, covering environmental and social justice issues. She has been a journalist for 20 years. Her investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency’s lackluster civil-rights record for the Center won the top investigative prize from the Society for Professional Journalist and a special citation by Columbia University’s Paul Tobenkin Award, among other recognitions. Before the Center, Lombardi was an investigative reporter for the Village Voice, where she provided groundbreaking coverage of the 9/11 health crisis. Her investigative reports as a staff writer for the Boston Phoenix were widely credited with helping to expose the clergy sex-abuse scandal in that city. Her work for the Center has received multiple national and regional awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Award, the Dart Award and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service. Lombardi was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, in 2011-12. She graduated with high honors from the University of California at Berkeley and has a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Currently, she serves as an adjunct faculty advisor in the investigative-reporting program at Columbia University.
Wesley Lowery is a national reporter for the Washington Post who covers law enforcement and justice. He was the paper’s lead reporter in Ferguson, Missouri and covering the Black Lives Matter protest movement, and was a member of the team awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for the paper’s coverage of police shootings. His reporting has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2014, he was named the National Association of Black Journalists’ Emerging Journalist of the Year. His book, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement was released in November 2016.
Syreeta McFadden is a writer, photographer and professor of English at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Syreeta’s work deals largely with gender, politics, race and culture. Her work has been featured in a range of publications which include the New York Times Magazine, BuzzFeed News, NPR, The Nation, and The Guardian US, where she has been a regular contributor. A former planning and housing development specialist, she holds degrees from Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently working on a collection of essays.
Jina Moore is the Global Women’s Rights Reporter for BuzzFeed News. She has spent nearly 10 years reporting in Africa, for BuzzFeed News and, before that, the Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera America, NPR and more. She’s covered the refugee crisis in Europe, Kenya’s worst terrorist attack, Nigeria’s historic presidential election, and gender violence in Cambodia. Jina was one of the first foreign reporters to cover Ebola in Liberia, and her human rights reporting has won many awards.
Lisa Mullins is the voice of WBUR’s All Things Considered. Her interviews and reports are heard each weekday on WBUR. She also guest anchors NPR’s Here and Now and WBUR’s Radio Boston. Mullins was chief anchor of the BBC/PRI/WGBH international news program The World from 1998 through 2012. Her foreign reporting has taken her to Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Cuba, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Hong Kong, South and North Korea and elsewhere. She received the Clarion Award from Women in Communications for her story about her 24-hour stay at a North Korean resort and the Gracie Award for outstanding achievement as anchor of a news magazine.
Mullins has produced podcasts for Harvard Business School and instructional audio for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. In 2009-10, she was a Nieman journalism fellow at Harvard University and a Templeton fellow at Cambridge University in England.
Sonia Nazario is an award‐winning journalist whose stories have tackled some of this country’s most intractable problems — hunger, drug addiction, immigration - and have won some of the most prestigious journalism and book awards. She is best known for
Enrique’s Journey, her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S. Published as a series in the Los Angeles Times, Enrique’s Journey won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2003. It was turned into a book by Random House and became a national bestseller. Nazario has written extensively from Latin America and about Latinos in the United States. She has been named among the most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business Magazine and a “trendsetter” by Hispanic Magazine. In 2012 Columbia Journalism Review named Nazario among “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40.” She began her career at the Wall Street Journal, and later joined the Los Angeles Times. She is now at work on her second book.
Poet and writing partner Verandah Porche developed a process, “told poetry,” helping those who need a scribe to create personal literature. A “poet in the schools” since 1970, Verandah branched out into collaborative writing projects in literacy and crisis centers, hospitals, factories, nursing homes, senior centers, a 200 year-old Vermont tavern, and an urban working class neighborhood. Verandah’s own books are Sudden Eden, The Body’s Symmetry and Glancing Off. Marlboro College awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters. The Vermont Arts Council has honored her service to the cultural life of the state. Her current project is a traveling exhibition, Shedding Light on the Working Forest, with painter Kathleen Kolb and people who earn their livelihoods in the woods.
Beth Schwartzapfel is a staff writer at the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that covers the US criminal justice system. Before she joined the Marshall Project, her long-form reporting on the criminal justice system appeared in Mother Jones, The American Prospect, and the Boston Review. She won the June 2014 Sidney Award, the 2016 James Aronson Award, and the 2016 John Jay College/H.F. Guggenheim Prize for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting, for which she was also runner up in 2014 and 2015.
Julie Shapiro is the executive producer of Radiotopia from PRX – a curated network of extraordinary, cutting-edge podcasts. From 2014-15, Shapiro was the executive producer of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Creative Audio Unit. In 2000 she co-founded the Third Coast International Audio Festival, where, as artistic director, she shaped the Festival’s creative trajectory and championed innovative audio and a cross-pollinating international listening culture. Julie has taught radio to university students, presented at conferences all over the globe, and produced stories for the airwaves in the US and beyond. (@jatomic)
Aisha’s writing about race and current events is often coupled with analysis of art, film and pop culture. Dinty W. Moore deemed her first essay collection, The Fluency of Light, “One of the most original, startling memoirs I have seen in the past ten years.” Her second book, Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit, was chosen by Maggie Nelson as the winner of the1913 Open Prose Book Contest. A contributing editor for Guernica and a staff writer for Autostraddle, she has taught writing at OSU Cascades’ Low-Residency Program, Carleton College and the University of Michigan’s New England Literature Program.
Wendy Strothman founded her literary agency in 2003 after serving as publisher of the Trade & Reference Division of Houghton Mifflin where she helped edit five books with Philip Roth as well as works by Arthur Schlesinger and John Kenneth Galbraith. Her agency,
The Strothman Agency, is based in NYC and Nashville, and represents a wide range of serious journalists, scholars, and YA authors. She represents Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt (author of two NYT bestsellers), former Nieman Fellow James Scott, Thanassis Cambanis, Kathryn Miles, Michael Kodas and others. She also represents scholars such as David Kertzer (Pulitzer winner), David Blight, and Martha Hodes.
Robin Young brings more than 25 years of broadcast experience to her role as host of Here & Now. She is a Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker who has also reported for NBC, CBS and ABC television and for several years was substitute host and correspondent for “The Today Show.” Robin has received several Emmy Awards for her television work, as well as cable’s Ace award, the Religious Public Relations Council’s Wilbur Award and the National Conference of Christians and Jews Gold Award. She has also received radio’s regional Edward R. Murrow award. As an independent documentary filmmaker, she produced and directed the opening film for Marion Wright Edelman’s White House Conference on Children and followed the rise of then unknown filmmaker John Singleton in the film “Straight From the Hood.” Her documentary “The Los Altos Story,” made in association with the Rotary Club of Los Altos, California, won the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award and is now the backbone of a worldwide HIV/AIDS awareness initiative.
Lane Zachary is a founding partner of The Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency. One of the top agents in the country for the representation of writers of serious literary fiction and nonfiction, Zachary is known for her devotion to her authors, providing them with extensive editorial guidance. Zachary represents New York Times bestselling author, Ha Jin, who won the National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award for his novel, Waiting (Pantheon), as well as the PEN Hemingway Award for Ocean of Words (Zoland), and a second PEN/Faulkner Award for War Trash (Pantheon). As an agent of nonfiction, Zachary is particularly interested in memoir, current events, history and biography. Zachary also represents Norah O’Donnell, co-anchor “CBS This Morning News” and is currently in the midst of selling August Wilson: The Kiln in which he was Fired by veteran theater critic, Patti Hartigan.
Mitchell Zuckoff is the Sumner M. Redstone Professor of Narrative at Boston University. His most recent book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. His two previous books, Frozen in Time and Lost in Shangri-La, also were New York Times bestsellers. Lost In Shangri-La received the Winship/PEN Award for Nonfiction. As a reporter and writing coach for The Boston Globe, Zuckoff was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He received the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award, the Livingston Award for International Reporting, and the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Award for Public Service, among other national honors.