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Mountain West Center - Evans Biography Awards
Writers' Workshop for Auto/Biography

Saturday, October 26*, 2019 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Salt Lake City Public Library (Main Branch) 210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, Utah

(*The date was listed incorrectly in the Salt Lake Book Festival printed program. The correct date is Saturday, October 26th.)


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 fee: $50 (covers food and workshop supplies).


Event Schedule:  (see below for details)

  • 9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.   Check-in (Light continental breakfast available)

  • 9:30 a.m. - 9:45 a.m.   Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon   Morning Workshops  (Participants will choose one)
    • "Interweaving Research and Narrative"   
    • "Using Genealogy to Build a Biographical Latticework"

  • 12:15 noon - 1:45 p.m.   Luncheon with Keynote Speaker
    • "Belief and Brackets: Representing Religious Experience in Biography"

  • 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.   Afternoon Workshops  (Participants will choose one)
    • "Borrowing Fiction Devices to Build Scenes in Memoir"
    • "Interpreting Family Artifacts While Writing Auto/Biography"


Patrick Mason

Luncheon Keynote: Patrick Mason

"Belief and Brackets: Representing Religious Experience in Biography"

Many of our biographical subjects were shaped deeply by religious experiences, but how do we write about those experiences for a general audience? Do we inhabit our subjects’ worldview, or bracket their (and our) beliefs?

Patrick Mason is the Leonard J. Arrington Endowed Chair of Mormon History at Utah State University; he is author of Mormonism and Violence: The Battles of Zion and What Is Mormonism? A Student’s Introduction; he is currently working on a biography of Ezra Taft Benson and the 20th-century experience of Mormonism in America.


Erin Thomas

Erin A. Thomas

"Interweaving Research and Narrative"

This workshop will cover key techniques to bring historical, family stories, and factual information to life through seamless incorporation into the overarching story. Participants will examine how transitions can be made from the narrative "I" to incorporating research, moving from story to fact and the past to the present with grace. Ways authors make historical or technical information more vivid will also be evaluated. Participants can bring passages from their own writing that they are struggling with, if they desire.

Erin A. Thomas is Adjunct Professor at LDS Business College & Weber State University and author of Coal in Our Veins: A Personal Journey (2013 Evans Handcart Award). Among her numerous creative and nonfiction publications is an essay published in Dialogue that won the Eugene England Personal Essay Award.

Amy Harris

Amy Harris

"Using Genealogy to Build a Biographical Latticework"

This workshop will concentrate on genealogical tools and approaches that can enrich biographical writing, including how genealogy can fill gaps when historical subjects left little written record. In the second half of the session participants will apply methods they've learned to a case study, so participants are encouraged to bring laptops.

Amy Harris is Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young University and Accredited Genealogist. She is the author of Siblinghood and Social Relations in Georgian England: Share and Share Alike and “Early Mormonism’s Expansive Family and the Browett Women” (2018 Mormon History Association Best Article).

Jennifer Sinor

Jennifer Sinor

 “Borrowing Fiction Devices to Build Scenes in Memoir” 

This workshop will examine models of how nonfiction writers use the fiction techniques of scene, summary, and musing to create compelling scenes, meaningful summaries, and thematic reflections, which are the building blocks of quality writing. Participants will examine models and engage in a hands-on writing exercise.

Jennifer Sinor is Professor of Creative Writing at Utah State University and author of several books, including Ordinary Trauma: A Memoir and Letters Like the Day: On Reading Georgia O’Keefe. She has received multiple nominations for the Pushcart prize.

Evelyn Funda

Evelyn Funda

“Interpreting Family Artifacts While Writing Auto/Biography”

This workshop will discuss teasing out the story behind ordinary family artifacts like photos, financial records, and ephemera. Participants will examine a wide range of artifacts to discover how physical items can begin to “speak” to each other, and then they will be guided through a series of brainstorming questions related to their own projects.

Evelyn Funda is Professor of English and Associate Dean at Utah State University. She has taught courses on American autobiography as literature and is author of Weeds: A Farm Daughter’s Lament (2014 Evans Handcart Award).