2018 // Telling True Stories in Turbulent Times

2017 Schedule

Please note: This is the schedule for the 2017 conference. We will update this page when the 2018 schedule is announced.

Friday, March 24th, 2017

4:00 - 4:30 p.m. Welcome

4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Keynote — Wesley Lowery

5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Breakout #1

Putting a Face on Science: Five lessons from the human side of the science beat.

It can be challenging to capture the humanity of science. The Wall Street Journal's Amy Dockser Marcus discusses ways to identify and tell stories at the cutting edge of the medical frontier.

Facts Fade, But Stories Stick

It’s now clear that facts aren’t enough to move people in an age of information saturation, distribution of news is an art that left the “front page” behind several years ago, and many people reject uncomfortable facts when more pleasing and affirming “content” is available at the touch of a finger — in unlimited supply. In this example rich session, Upworthy's Chief Story Officer, Amy O'Leary, will explain how stories, in particular, can be designed to break through online filter bubbles to reach people across the political spectrum.

Voice As Character: Experiments in omniscience

Narrative journalism is full of novelist's skills, but rules about attribution generally fence us off from one of the novel's most powerful tools: omniscient points of view. So much memorable writing grips us by leveraging omniscience, especially free indirect style — Austen, James, Chekov, to name just a few fiction writers who enjoyed its freedoms. Great journalism puts readers at the center of an issue, but a novelist's omniscience puts readers inside other lives. How can we report for omniscience? Should we try? And how do we show our work enough to keep readers' trust? Drawing on examples from master journalists, and some feeble tries (and fails) of her own, Jina Moore invites you to brainstorm with her about how, with care and humility, we can use reporting tools to craft a sweeping, novelistic voice in our nonfiction.

6:30 - 6:45 p.m. Light Refreshments

6:45 - 7:45 p.m. Keynote — Arlie Russell Hochschild

Optional Programming Café Sessions | PRX Podcast Garage tour

IP for Storytellers.

Attorney Lucy Lovrien answers your intellectual property questions

School Books: New Media Goes to College.

BU Today’s Art Jahnke takes a close look at compelling combinations of text, video and multi-media in narrative story telling.

What the F%*# is Narrative?

Have you been told your pitch is “not narrative” or had trouble getting subjects to speak in story? Learn some practical methods to help pitch, plan, gather, structure and write a narrative from WBUR’s Karen Given.

Open House with Type Bar at the PRX Podcast Garage

(267 Western Ave, Allston, MA). RSVP required.

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

8 — 9 a.m. Light Breakfast

9 - 10 a.m. Keynote – Kevin Merida (interviewed by Lisa Mullins)

10 - 11 a.m. Breakout #2

Pitching Aces

Lane Zachary, Helene Atwan, Wendy Strothman, Mitchell Zuckoff, Lisa Mullins

So you have an idea for a podcast...?

Julie Shapiro (executive producer, Radiotopia) gives an overview of the podcasting landscape, from the many players involved, to business aspects, to content trends, to helpful tips for those considering jumping into the mix.

Tiny stories: writing narratives into even the most "newspaper-y" articles.

You're a reporter whose primary job is to convey information. You're tight on words and don't have a lot of room for storytelling. How do you tell stories anyway? In this talk by The Marshall Project’s Beth Schwartzapfel, we'll discuss how to weave tiny narratives, just a paragraph or two long, into even your most straightforward reported pieces, to keep your readers interested and your subject grounded in real human beings.

The Art of the Interview

Three experienced interviewers—Debbie Cenziper, Erik Moskowitz, and Jina Moore—discuss the dos and don’ts of a great interview.

11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Headline Keynote – Doris Kearns Goodwin (with Robin Young)

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Lunch

1:45 - 2:45 p.m. Keynote — Bill Keller

3 - 4 p.m. Breakout #3

Six Classic Mistakes Non-Fiction Book Writers Make.

Avoid these pitfalls and you'll be the next Joan Didion or John McPhee (Adam Hochschild)

This is the Remix: Collaging as tool for compelling storytelling

(Syreeta McFadden)

Lost in Translation, or Not? From Book to Documentary

Dick Lehr’s latest book, The Birth of a Movement, is a nonfiction account of Boston newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter’s battle against D. W. Griffith, the pioneering American filmmaker whose racist classic Birth of a Nation became Hollywood’s first blockbuster. Trotter fought unsuccessfully in 1915 to stop the movie, which featured the Ku Klux Klan as the heroes of Reconstruction. Last month, PBS/Independent Lens broadcast its documentary based on the book. The filmmakers faced the challenge of finding the visual and narrative elements to bring to life a fact-based story from a century ago. Lehr and Daniel Mooney, the film’s editor, will discuss the nature of adaptation, focusing on key moments in the civil rights protests against D. W. Griffith and discussing how those moments were transformed from the printed page to the screen. (Dick Lehr and Daniel Mooney)

Tell Me About Your Dog: How to craft compelling narratives about ordinary people.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post investigative reporter Debbie Cenziper discusses the storytelling and reporting techniques behind "Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality," now the subject of a major feature film by 20th Century Fox. She'll describe how to write narrative nonfiction under tight deadline -- she had five months to research, report and write 80,000 words -- and how to get compelling anecdotes and details from ordinary people never before in the public spotlight. She'll also describe how she got access to two sitting federal judges, who broke protocol to talk about their decisions in the landmark case, and to an assistant attorney general in Ohio who was forced to argue against same-sex marriage even though she personally believed that gay couples should have the right to wed.

Blind Spots

Journalists, like pretty much all humans, are shaped by their life experiences. The assumptions we carry can unconsciously affect our work, even when we're consciously working to avoid that. Ellen Clegg, Syreeta McFadden, Jina Moore, Sonia Nazario, Beth Schwartzapfel, and Sandy Tolan will talk about how to check the bias and privilege that can seep into our research, our interviewing and our writing — especially when we are writing about communities with which we don't identify.

4:15 - 5:15 p.m. Keynote – Sonia Nazario

5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Boston Globe Reception (Hotel Commonwealth)

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

9 — 10 a.m. Breakout #4

Narrative Touches On Deadline: How to use narrative storytelling techniques to elevate breaking news stories.

This session, led by Chicago Tribune reporter and Nieman Fellow Lolly Bowean, will focus on using details and writing techniques to help readers connect to "routine" news stories. It will highlight how writers can use their voices and storytelling touches to take readers on a unique journey.

Thinking about voice in a way that opens up and helps guide your longform narrative drafting.

Regarding voice as the character hosting reader, viewer or listener, start to finish, may help you make decisions about story, digressive material, pace, structure, and meaning. This session, led by Power of Narrative conference co-director Mark Kramer, spells out an approach to the storyteller that many writers share instinctively, but may not have articulated to themselves.

Face the Data: How to humanize the dense, data-driven investigation.

Center for Public Integrity senior reporter Kristen Lombardi discusses how she's learned to craft dense, data-driven investigations as compelling, long-form narratives. In this session, she'll walk you through reporting and story-telling techniques she's used to put a human face on investigative pieces rooted in data--from finding characters who best illustrate the analysis to constructing narratives out of reams of information--in order to tell powerful stories that will not just grab readers' attention, but carry them through complicated issues.

Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times

Two couples, all four writers of narrative nonfiction, compare notes on seeking advice, seeking privacy, sharing highs and lows, keeping at it, finding inspiration, or a trustworthy edit at hand. The conversation with Arlie Russell Hochschild, Adam Hochschild, Tom French, and Kelley Benham French amounts to an amplification of what we all go through as writers, and as partners, and celebrates the advantages of a writing buddy. Moderated by Verandah Porche.

10:15 — 11:15 a.m. Breakout #5

Bells and Whistles: The quest for meaningful multi-media production.

Integrating text with images, audio and video is a dream for publishers who want to make their online content ultra-engaging - but when do they just get in the way of the story? (Giles Wilson)

Proving the Truth: Public Records & Vetting Resources.

Need to verify the path of a 1980 hurricane? Questioning the validity of a Purple Heart? Do you think Granny might be a felon? Do you wish what happened in Las Vegas didn’t stay there? Join Caryn Baird as she walks you through 100 public records resources. You will leave the presentation with a working set of your own bookmarks.

Turn Grim News into Daring Poetry: A workshop on the alchemy of transforming​ fact into imagery.

Bring a dour news story you've written or read in this era of come-what-mayhem. Together, we'll transform a few of them into moving poems with feeling, perspective, irony, meaning, audacity and beauty. As the doctor-poet William Carlos Williams famously wrote, "It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there."​ (Verandah Porche)

Writing about Race without Making an Argument.

In the age of social media comment wars, this talk by Aisha Sabatini Sloan will explore how long-form, experimental prose that engages with uncertainty and ambiguity may open up a vital space for empathy across cultures.

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Keynote — Tracy Kidder

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. Keynote — Sheri Fink

March23 - 25 // 2018

Presenting Sponsor

The Boston Globe

Host Sponsor

WBUR