GRAPEVINE — For the eighth year, writers, editors and journalism enthusiasts came together to celebrate and discuss literary nonfiction.

The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference began in 2005 with the help of Killeen Daily Herald and Temple Daily Telegram editor and publisher Sue Mayborn. It brings nonfiction writers together to share knowledge, skills and ideas to continue to expand and enhance the craft.

Susan Orlean kicked off this year’s conference Friday night at Austin Ranch in Grapevine. This year’s theme was “unearthing history,” and Orlean spoke about researching and writing her most recent book, “Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend,” which chronicles the life of the famous German shepherd, Rin Tin Tin.

She said she typically writes about things she can experience or interview people about. With this book, she said that was a challenge, because “everyone important to the story was dead, and all the rest of them were dogs.”

Instead, Orlean spent five years digging through archives left behind by Lee Duncan, Rin Tin Tin’s handler, now stored at a museum in Riverside, Calif. She saw herself as a student, learning about her subject.

She began writing confidently, she said, “the moment I began to feel I become a teacher and in turn teach readers what I learned.”

“You have to feel that confidence and connection to the material so you can tell that story bravely,” Orlean said. “That’s so critical when writing about historical nonfiction.”

Other keynote speakers for the conference include Rick Atkinson, author of several military books, and Skip Hollandsworth, a “Texas Monthly” staff writer.

The conference is hosted each year by the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas. Aside from keynote speeches and discussion panels with nearly 40 writers from across the country, the conference also boasts opportunities for young or new writers to get published and attend writing workshops.

“What’s great about the Mayborn Conference is it celebrates the craft of writing and revision and revision and revision,” said Dorothy Bland, dean of the Mayborn journalism school. “It’s delightful to see so many people passionate about writing and the next generation of storytellers.”

Darrin Larson, of McKinney, was a finalist in the conference’s personal essay competition. He said speakers, such as Orlean, are what keep him coming to the Mayborn conference year after year.

“They have really great speakers, and I also enjoy just being with other writers to learn about writing,” he said.

The three-day conference wraps up today with Hollandsworth’s keynote speech.

Look for more coverage in Monday’s Daily Herald.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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