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Memoir & Creative Nonfiction [clear filter]
Wednesday, October 10


From the Heart of the Refugee Crisis
With self-deprecation and empathetic humor, Tom Sleigh’s essays in The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing in an Age of Refugees, explore the urgency of our global refugee crisis and our capacity as artists and citizens to confront it. He recounts his experiences during several tours in Africa and in the Middle East, asking three central questions: “What did I see? How could I write about it? Why did I write about it?” Kirkus Reviews says, “Wry and sharply observed, Sleigh’s book bears witness to injustice as it engages in a compelling humane quest for artistic truth. Provocative and eye-opening work from a dedicated artist.”

avatar for Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh is the author of the essay collection The Land Between Two Rivers and nine previous books of poetry, including Station Zed, Army Cats, and Space Walk, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award. He teaches at Hunter College and lives in New York.

Thursday, October 11


March for Freedom with Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
March: Book One, this year's selection for the Mason Reads program, is the first in the trilogy of graphic memoirs from Congressman John Lewis, written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. March follows Lewis's remarkable journey in the Civil Rights Movement, from his youth in rural Alabama, to meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to the steps of City Hall. It is a testament of the power of nonviolent protest in the battle against segregation. Lewis and Aydin will speak about the books at this year's Mason Reads event. Sponsored by the Office of Orientation and George Mason University Libraries.

avatar for Andrew Aydin

Andrew Aydin

Andrew Aydin, an Atlanta native, was raised by a single mother and grew up reading everything,particularly comic books. After college, Andrew took a job with Congressman John Lewis inWashington, D.C. A year later, while serving as Press Secretary on the Congressman's re-electioncampaign... Read More →
avatar for Congressman John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis

John Lewis is the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th district and an American icon known for his role in the civil rights movement.He first joined the movement as a seminary student in Nashville, organizing sit-ins and participating in the first Freedom Rides, which challenged... Read More →


Tilting into the Truth with Nicole Harkin
When Nicole Harkin was nine-years-old, she learned her father was comatose 120 miles away from home. And, then the hospital nurse informed Nicole’s mother that another woman was also visiting their father every day, whenever the family wasn’t there. That is when everything tilted: her parent’s marriage, her family, and her understanding of the truth. Tilting: A Memoir chronicles this chapter of Harkin’s life and the after effects using both pathos and humor. Kirkus Reviews credits Harkin with doing “a fine job of mining her childhood for sweet stories that contrast with the sour turn that her parents' marriage takes."

avatar for Nicole Harkin

Nicole Harkin

Nicole Harkin currently resides in Washington, DC with her husband and two small children. She works as a writer and family photographer. As a Fulbright Scholar during law school, Nicole lived in Berlin, Germany where she studied German environmentalism. Her work can be found in Thought... Read More →


Writing About The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson
Four writers discuss Hunter S. Thompson, author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas from different perspectives. Juan F. Thompson, the author of Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson and son of the legendary writer, details being raised by the father of gonzo journalism. In Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson’s Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism, Tim Denevi examines another side of Thompson -- the anti-Nixon political activist. William McKeen wrote of his interviews with Thompson in Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson, which the Washington Post praises, “Gets it all in: the boozing and drugging…but also the intelligence, the loyalty, the inherent decency." And memoirist Margaret Harrell’s Keep This Quiet! My Relationship with Hunter S. Thompson, Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert details her experiences as Thompson’s former assistant editor and friend.

avatar for Tim Denevi

Tim Denevi

Timothy Denevi is an assistant professor in the MFA program at George Mason University. His latest book is Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson’s Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism. His first book, Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD, was published in 2014.  His essays can be found online in The Atlantic, New York, Salon, Time, The Paris Review, and Literary Hub, where he serves as the nonfiction editor. He lives near Washington, DC, with his wife and childr... Read More →
avatar for Margaret A. Harrell

Margaret A. Harrell

Margaret A. Harrell is the author of the four-volume Keep This Quiet! memoir series (SaeculumUniversity Press 2011–2018). The first volume, My Relationship with Hunter S. Thompson,Milton Klonsky, and Jan Mensaert, covers her life in Greenwich Village New York City whileworking at... Read More →
avatar for William McKeen

William McKeen

William McKeen is the author of nine books and the editor of four more. His books include Everybody Had an Ocean (2017), Too Old to Die Young (2015), Homegrown in Florida (2012), Mile Marker Zero (2011), Outlaw Journalist (2008), Highway 61 (2003), and Rock and Roll is Here to Stay... Read More →
avatar for Juan F. Thompson

Juan F. Thompson

Juan F. Thompson is the author of Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson. He was born in 1964 outside of San Francisco, California, and grew up in Woody Creek, Colorado. He graduated from Tufts University and lives in Louisville. He is currently working on his next... Read More →


Words, Words, Words
Join Better Said Than Done storytellers as they share true, personal stories about language, words, and interpretation. Stories are intended for an adult audience. Featuring Sufian Zhemukhov, author of Putin’s Olympics, and Jessica Robinson, the founder of Better Said Than Done, and editor of Roar: True Tales of Women Warriors, and Nick Baskerville. 

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Nick Baskerville

Nick Baskerville has had the honor of serving in the United States Air Force for a total of 14 years. He has 18 years of fire service time, with 15 years of that being in a career department in Northern Virginia. Nick is a stated certified instructor for the fire service Virginia... Read More →
avatar for Jessica Robinson

Jessica Robinson

Jessica Robinson is the founder of Better Said Than Done, Northern Virginia’s premiere storytelling troupe.  Jessica has performed stories for Story District, Tales in the Village, The Grapevine, Stories in the Round, Perfect Liars Club, and at such venues as Jammin’ Java, Epicure... Read More →
avatar for Sufian Zhemukhov

Sufian Zhemukhov

Sufian Zhemukhov teaches at George Washington University and University of Maryland. He's performed stories for Story District, Better Said Than Done and at the Town DanceBoutique, The Auld Shebeen and other venues in and around DC. His stories reflect his personal experience as a... Read More →

Thursday October 11, 2018 7:00pm - 8:15pm
The Auld Shebeen The Auld Shebeen, 3971 Chain Bridge Rd, Fairfax, VA
Friday, October 12


Erasing Syria: The Home That Was Our Country
The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria by Alia Malek, award-winning journalist and civil rights lawyer, is set in Syria’s capital city of Damascus, in one specific apartment building - the apartment building of Malek’s own family. Malek shares the many stories that passed each other in the hallway and how the fate of Malek’s neighbors mirrors the fate of the nation. This memoir is a blend of personal and researched narrative, highlighting Syrian history, politics, and society and “delivering an unforgettable portrait of the Syria that is being erased.” The New York Times Book Review says, "The Home That Was Our Country, is one of the finest examples of this new testimonial writing... Malek's memoir will remain essential reading in the emerging body of literary reportage from Syria in English... Such stories couldn't be more urgent." Sponsored by the Middle East and Islamic Studies Program, and the Ali Vural Ak Center for Islamic Studies. 

avatar for Alia Malek

Alia Malek

Alia Malek is a journalist and former civil rights lawyer. She is the author of The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria (Nation Books 2017)and  A Country Called Amreeka: US History Re-Told Through Arab American Lives (Simon & Schuster 2009). She is the editor of Patriot... Read More →

Friday October 12, 2018 12:00pm - 1:15pm
Research Hall, Room 163 10401 York River Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030


Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano
At just twelve years old, talented classical pianist Andrea Avery was diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. In her breathtaking memoir Sonata, Avery explores the struggle of growing up with RA, and the inspiration and salvation of the one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein, as well as Franz Schubert’s haunting last sonata. Booklist calls it a “moving memoir of living with pain, and with music.” Sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

avatar for Andrea Avery

Andrea Avery

Andrea Avery holds an MFA from Arizona State University and teaches English in Phoenix. Hershort pieces have been published in Real Simple, Ploughshares, and The Oxford American,among others, and she was a finalist in Glamour magazine’s annual essay contest. This is herfirst bo... Read More →


Women of Color in Islam
In Being Muslim: A Cultural History of Women of Color in American Islam, Sylvia Chan-Malik explores twentieth and twenty-first century U.S. Muslim womanhood through the lens of active resistance. Using archival material, pop culture, interviews and more, Chan-Malik “explores how U.S. Muslim women’s identities are expressions of Islam as both Black protest religion and universal faith tradition.” Sponsored by the Ali Vural Ak Center for Islamic Studies.

avatar for Sylvia Chan-Malik

Sylvia Chan-Malik

Sylvia Chan-Malik is Associate Professor in the Departments of American and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where she directs the Social Justice Program and teaches courses on race and ethnicity in the United States, Islam in/and America, social... Read More →

Friday October 12, 2018 3:00pm - 4:15pm
Research Hall, Room 163 10401 York River Rd, Fairfax, VA 22030


Can’t Go Home Again: Writing About Our Distance from Our Origin
How do you write about a damaged past? James Han Mattson’s novel The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves follows a family grappling with their son killing a classmate and then himself. T. Geronimo Johnson says the intertwined narratives “form a blistering tapestry of love, loss, and tragedy, reminding us that sexual identity remains a ferocious struggle for many small-town youths [as well as] illustrate grief and longing in the age of digital communication.” Nick Kowalczyk’s journalism has taken him around the country, including to Iowa, where an axe murderer and eight victims revived the flagging small town, and to the re-enacted fields of the French and Indian War. In John Lingan’s Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk, a journey to discover the roots of Patsy Cline in Winchester, Virginia turns into an exploration of a Shenandoah town’s vanishing way of life as it collides with the twenty-first century. 

avatar for Nick Kowalczyk

Nick Kowalczyk

Nick Kowalczyk has published essays in Ninth Letter, American Literary Review, Salon, and Phoebe, among other places. A graduate of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, he is an associate professor of writing at Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY, where he lives with his family.
avatar for John Lingan

John Lingan

John Lingan is the author of Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk, published in summer 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Oxford American, Pacific Standard, and many other... Read More →
avatar for James Han Mattson

James Han Mattson

James Han Mattson was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in North Dakota. A Michener-Copernicus Fellowship recipient and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Cape Town, the University of Maryland, the George Washington University... Read More →

Friday October 12, 2018 4:30pm - 5:45pm
Sandy Spring Bank Tent, Johnson Center North Plaza 4477 Aquia Creek Ln, Fairfax, VA 22030


Writing Through Identity
Four award-winning essayists read from and discuss their explorations of identity on both personal and cultural levels.  In A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story About Schizophrenia, Sandy Allen translated and molded their Uncle Bob’s autobiography focused on his battle with being “labeled a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic.” If You Need Me I'll Be Over There by Dave Madden is a collection of short stories starring queer characters and their identities as outsiders in the American Midwest. Mine by Sarah Viren is a debut essay collection which questions different forms of ownership: corporeal, familial, and intellectual. And, Beyond Measure: Essays by Rachel Z. Arndt explores the ritualistic nature of society, specifically looking at weigh-ins, wait times, work-outs, dating apps, and daily commutes. 

avatar for Sandy Allen

Sandy Allen

Sandy Allen is a writer, speaker, editor and teacher. Sandy wrote the critically acclaimed work of reported literary nonfiction A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia (Scribner, 2018). Their essays and features stories have been published by BuzzFeed New... Read More →
avatar for Rachel Z. Arndt

Rachel Z. Arndt

Rachel Z. Arndt’s writing has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Quartz,The Believer, and elsewhere. She received MFAs in nonfiction and poetry from the University of Iowa, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and nonfiction editor of The Iowa Review. After stints in Rhode Island and New... Read More →
avatar for Dave Madden

Dave Madden

Dave Madden is the author of If You Need Me I’ll Be Over There and The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy. His shorter work has appeared in Harper’s, The Normal School, LitHub, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere, and he’s received fellowships from... Read More →
avatar for Sarah Viren

Sarah Viren

Sarah Viren a writer and translator. Her essay collection, Mine, won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize, and her translation of the novella Cordoba Skies by the Argentine author Federico Falco was published Ploughshares Solos in 2016. With L. M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas... Read More →

Saturday, October 13


Everyone Has a Story
Four writers across genres share how they translated their professional experiences into published books. After a career in politics and international development, Daniel Martin Elliott wrote The Kingmaker, which follows a political consultant as he influences the Colombian presidency. The Shot That Never Came by John Coburn is a memoir about Coburn’s career in law enforcement for the U.S. Forest Service, and his experience dealing with tragedy. When You Think No One Is Watching: Wild But True Hotel Stories by Emmanuel Gratzimi is a collection of nonfiction hilarities and the tragedies collected over a fifteen-plus year career in the hotel and customer service industries. Mandkhai Erdembat is a Mongolian contortionist who has captured her life experiences in Honor, a self-help book detailing the supreme benefits of a contortionist’s life.

avatar for John Coburn

John Coburn

John Coburn is the author of the creative non-fiction The Shot That Never Came. Coburn is a former law enforcement officer for the U.S Forest Service. He was assigned to the Coronado National Forest in southern Arizona and served as a patrol officer for over ten years. The defining... Read More →
avatar for Daniel Martin Elliott

Daniel Martin Elliott

Daniel Martin Elliott has spent his entire career in politics and international development. He worked on political campaigns of presidents and prime ministers around the world, as well as congressional campaigns in the United States. After several years in politics, Elliott moved... Read More →
avatar for Mandkhai Erdembat

Mandkhai Erdembat

The author of Honor,  Mandkhai Erdembat was born in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. From a young age she started training contortion and became a professional contortionist. Mongolian contortionists are considered to be the best in the world. Mandkhai traveled and performed in over fifty-two... Read More →
avatar for Emmanual Gratzimi

Emmanual Gratzimi

Emmanuel Gratzimi has worked in hotel and customer service industries for well over 15 years.In his books, he offers insight into the relationships that play out when others don’t feel that theyare being observed. Mr. Gratzimi shares captivating tales of danger and fun that have... Read More →

Saturday October 13, 2018 10:30am - 11:45am
Merten Tent 4441 George Mason Blvd, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA


In Short: Micro Blasts
Two powerful books are crafted in micro, using short chapters or essays to propel their stories forward. The Glass Eye is Jeannie Vanasco’s struggle to honor her father, her larger-than-life hero who named her after his other daughter who died. Spending the next decade in escalating mania, in and out of hospitals, Jeannie’s obsession with the other Jeanne turns to investigation into the mysterious circumstances of her death. Entertainment Weekly  says, “As the pages fly by, we’re right by Vanasco, breathlessly experiencing her grief, mania, revelations, and-- ultimately-- her relief.” In Permanent Exhibit, Matthew Vollmer fuses the insight of extended meditation with the immediacy of social media. These collage-style essays experiment with stream-of-conscious musings as Vollmer opens a browser window into his own mind showing a fast-forward montage of flying snakes, mass shootings, emojis, pop stars, stargazing, ghosts, circuses, and a hundred other things. David Shields calls the collection “A thrilling, hilarious book about the difference between privacy and publicity, between exhibition and excavation, between ephemera and art.”

avatar for Jeannie Vanasco

Jeannie Vanasco

Jeannie Vanasco is the author of The Glass Eye: A Memoir. Featured by Poets & Writers as one of the five best literary nonfiction debuts of 2017, The Glass Eye was also selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, an Indies Introduce Pick, and an Indie Next... Read More →
avatar for Matthew Vollmer

Matthew Vollmer

Matthew Vollmer is the author of two collections of short fiction—Gateway to Paradise (Persea, 2015) and Future Missionaries of America (MacAdam/Cage, 2009; Salt Publishing, 2010)—as well as a collection of essays—inscriptions for headstones (Outpost19, 2012). His work has appeared... Read More →

Saturday October 13, 2018 3:30pm - 4:30pm
Merten Hall, Room 1204 4441 George Mason Blvd, Fairfax, VA 22030