MWC - Evans Writers' Workshop

Sponsored by The Mountain West Center and Evans Biography Awards

Workshop Information

Saturday, October 23, 2021 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 and autobiography, 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: Thursday, October 21, 2021
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)

  • Using Photographs to Develop Biographical and Historical Narrative - James Swensen   
  • Working in Small Spaces: How Flash Nonfiction Can Begin and Refine Your Writing - Jennifer Sinor
12:15 noon - 1:45 pm Luncheon with Keynote Speaker: Exploring Tips, Guidelines, and Options in Publishing - Lisa Mangum
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Afternoon Workshops  (Participants will choose one)

  • Blending Historical Research and Fiction - Phyllis Barber
  • Incorporating Humor into Narrative - Michael Branch


Luncheon Keynote: Lisa Mangum

Exploring Tips, Guidelines, and Options in Publishing

Publishing your work has unlimited options. This luncheon keynote will explore the best ways to organize your project to be ready for publishing, as well as the many options available to navigate the process from concept to completion.

Lisa Mangum has worked with books ever since elementary school, when she volunteered at the school library during recess. She is best known for her young adult romance trilogy, The Hourglass Door. She attended the University of Utah, graduating with honors with a degree in English. She cites the example of her mother, who was also a writer and editor, as a significant influence in her decision to become an editor. Since 1997, she has worked in the publishing industry, being named the Editorial Manager for Shadow Mountain in 2014. Shadow Mountain publishes several works of biography and memoir each year, with frequent submissions to the Evans Biography Awards.

Lisa Mangum

James Swensen

James Swensen

"Using Photographs to Develop Biographical and Historical Narrative"

This workshop will discuss key techniques for using photographs as a tool to enrich biographical writing, including how photographs can aid in discovery in biographical and historical narrative. Participants will examine photos and the information that can be garnered to help fill in the gaps and expand the details for a given person or place when there is little written word available. 

James Swensen is Associate Professor of Art History at Brigham Young University and author of In a Rugged Land: Ansel Adams, Dorthea Lange, and the Three Mormon Towns Collaboration, 1953-1954 (2020 Evans Biography Award winner). His research areas include nineteenth and twentieth-century American photography; documentary photography; landscape photography; imagery of the American West; Mormon and Utah Art; and imagery of the European Grand Tour.

Jennifer Sinor

Jennifer Sinor

"Working in Small Spaces: How Flash Nonfiction Can Begin and Refine Your Writing"

This workshop focuses on the form of flash nonfiction as a way to step into a larger project. The flash form relies on compression and requires writers to work in tight spaces. Each essay is like a tiny fire, with the reader beginning mid-blaze. To write small means to know, on a deep level, what you are writing about. In that way, the flash form can help you begin a project or refine a larger work. This workshop will be very hands on and include the generation of a flash essay. Participants are encouraged to bring laptops.

Jennifer Sinor is Professor of Creative Writing at Utah State University where she teaches creative nonfiction to both undergraduate and graduate students. The author of four books, including her most recent collection, Sky Songs: Meditations on Loving a Broken World, Jennifer is also the recipient of the Stipend in American Modernism. Her memoir, Ordinary Trauma, is a memoir told in linked flash nonfiction. She has written about the flash form for The Writer’s Chronicle, and her flash nonfiction has been anthologized in The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction.

Phyllis Barber

Phyllis Barber

 “Blending Historical Research and Fiction” 

This workshop will examine blending of historical research and fiction or how to use fiction when there is a riveting story to be told but not enough facts or research to create an entire work. Participants will engage writing exercises.

Phyllis Barber taught for 19 years in the writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has received numerous awards for both her fiction and nonfiction and published numerous essays and short stories. Her books include How I Got Cultured: A Nevada Memoir and her recently published The Desert Between Us. In 2005, she was inducted into the Nevada Writers' Hall of Fame.

Michael Branch

Michael Branch

“Incorporating Humor into Narrative”

This workshop will focus on humor as a technique for conveying your own experience and also engaging the reader. We'll discuss how humor can not only provide relief from your more serious material, but also help you to express it. Participants will have an opportunity to practice with how humor might contribute to their own projects.

Michael Branch is Professor of Literature and Environment and University Foundation Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is the author of nine books and over 300 essays, articles, and reviews. His works include How to Cuss in Western, Rants from the Hill, and Raising Wild: Dispatches from a Home in the Wilderness, (2016 Evans Handcart Award Finalist).