MWC - Evans Writers' Workshop

Sponsored by The Mountain West Center and Evans Biography Awards

Workshop Information

Saturday, October 21, 2023 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Utah State University - Salt Lake Center*
920 W Levoy Drive, Taylorsville, Utah

Celebrating the genres of biography, autobiography, and memoir from aspiration to accomplishment

This workshop is a one-day event, open to novice biographers, seasoned family historians, as well as more experienced writers who might hope to someday win a prize like the Evans Biography Awards. There will be four workshop sessions (two concurrent sessions in the morning and two in the afternoon). Space is limited, so register early.

Registration deadline: Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Registration fee: $60 (covers food and workshop supplies).

Writers' workshop for Auto/Biography

Event Schedule

Time Event
9:00 am - 9:30 am Check-in (Light continental breakfast available)
9:30 am - 9:45 am Welcome and Opening Remarks
10:00 am - 12:00 noon

Morning Workshops  (Participants will choose one)

  • We are the Stories We Tell - Rodney Frey   
  • Developing the Stories within Objects - Molly Cannon
12:15 noon - 1:45 pm Luncheon with Keynote Speaker: Charting a Life with Charity - Terryl Givens
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Afternoon Workshops  (Participants will choose one)

  • History, Healing, and Re-story-ation - Darren Parry
  • Publishing: Sharing Ideas from Concept to Completion - Glenda Cotter


Luncheon Keynote: Terryl Givens

Charting a Life with Charity

To write is to bear witness to a life to which we never have full access, and which the subject is (usually) unable to rebut: that imposes a moral responsibility. At the same time, biography must chart a path between history and poetry, the particular and the universal. That imposes a writerly challenge. I will share one personal account of navigating those twin concerns in writing the life of Eugene England.

Terryl Givens is a senior research fellow at the Neal A Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. He has authored or edited 21 books and is a highly sought after speaker. Until 2019, he was a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, where he held the James A. Bostwick Chair in English. Givens authored the winner of the 2022 Evans Biography Award, Stretching the Heavens: The Life of Eugene England and the Crisis of Modern Mormonism. With access to Eugene England’s extensive personal materials as well as over 200 boxes of archived documents, Givens was tasked with writing about the life of a man with depth of thought and character, an original thinker who left an indelible legacy with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community, and theological thought generally.

Terryl Givens Headshot

Rodney Frey

Rodney Frey

"We are the Stories We Tell"

Beginning with the premise, “we are the stories we tell,” this workshop will explore how to effectively gather and appropriately convey both the narratives of our individual lives, as in memoir or biography, and the narratives of our collective selves, as in community ethnography.  Anchored with Indigenous teachings, there will be consideration of such topics as ethics, collaboration, empathy, metaphor/vignettes, orality/literacy, applications for us all.

Rodney Frey is Distinguished Humanities Professor and Professor Emeritus in Ethnography at the University of Idaho, and Lay Chaplain at Gritman Medical Center. He was the winner of the 2018 Evans Handcart Award for his book, Carry Forth the Stories: An Ethnographers' Journey into Native Oral Tradition. He holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Colorado. Since the mid-1970s he has collaborated with tribal communities throughout the region to record their stories. 

Molly Cannon

Molly Cannon

"Developing the Stories within Objects"

Objects hold meaning, can situate us in a particular place and time. They embody memory. Drawing on our connection to everyday personal objects, family, and community objects, this workshop provides participants with writing tools that assist in extracting longer narratives, enriching biography, memoir, and family history alike.

Molly Cannon serves as the Director for the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies at Utah State University.
Her research examines the role of  material culture for understanding past communities and the meaning of objects for understanding our own personal histories. 

Darren Parry

Darren Parry

 “History, Healing, & Re-story-ation” 

This workshop will examine ways to write about hard history that can be authentic, healing, and restorative.

Darren Parry is the former chairman and councilman for the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. He is the author of The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History and teaches Native American History at Utah State University. He is on numerous boards, including PBS Utah and Utah Humanities. During his time as Chairman, the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation was able to purchase land at the site of the Bear River Massacre--one of the deadliest massacres of Native people in US history. Darren continues to raise money to build a cultural center on the land so the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation can tell their story.

Glenda Cotter

Glenda Cotter

“Publishing: Sharing Ideas from Concept to Completion”

This workshop will explore ways to organize your writing project for possible publication, including ways to help you think about and navigate the process from concept to completion.

Glenda Cotter is Director of The University of Utah Press. Founded in 1949, the University of Utah Press publishes between 25 and 30 titles per year in subject areas that include archaeology and anthropology, history, biography, memoir, and Mormon studies. Among these titles have been several winners of the Evans Biography Award and Evans Handcart Award.

Utah Humanities Logo

This event is made possible in partnership with Utah Humanities as part of the annual Utah Humanities Book Festival.