5th Edition
October 9-10, 2015
Oct 9-10, 2015 Registration


  • This year's theme: A Sense of Place

Download full scheduleWe usually enter a story through a character that lures or invites us in, but one of the reasons we stay is because the world he/she inhabits is so vivid. Thus, stories are not just the different and new people that we meet, but also the worlds they inhabit: their apartments, their offices, their cities, their countries.

At this year’s conference our speakers will tackle the idea of place in a story, the way it is conveyed, depicted, researched, and understood. They will talk about capturing its sounds, photographing it, getting it down in a notebook, or even claiming it as their own. They will discuss entering and leaving a place – whether it belongs to the past or the present –, discovering the people there, finding ways to connect with them, and bringing back a story for the rest of us.

Note: Schedule is subject to change. Participants will be notified in advance.

Day 1Friday, Oct. 09

08:30 Registration
10:00 Keynotes
Jacqui Banaszynski

Jacqui Banaszynski


News happens out in the world but life involves the human heart. To explore the deepest truths, storytellers must journey to both. A Pulitzer Prize winner talks about traveling the continents of geography and emotion.


Carmen Bugan


A few years ago my family and I received access to files that were kept by the Securitate during ​my father’s various rounds of prison terms under Ceaușescu.​ Reading my “​biography”​ in the secret-police speak of the files ​sends ​me back to a self I both recognise, and don’t​, creating another place of writing​, which I could not have imagined before.​ ​In this talk I will be discussing the language of memory versus the language of surveillance records, as the​ secret police portrayal of​ my youth​​ “​writes over”​ my ​​own memories of my earlier identity, turning me into a palimpsest. My own writing about the​se​ two equally complex narratives of my ​life in Romania​ is a way of ​writing the self free, and an attempt to place the​ experience of ​the individual person in the large historical events that shape generations.​ I will be discussing the process of creating literary work out of personal testimony.


Leslie Jamison


Personal writing gets accused of being many things: solipsistic, narcissistic, claustrophobic, apolitical, sentimental, self-serving, or all of the above! In this talk, I’ll think about how personal writing can move beyond the parameters and particulars of an individual life in order to seek broader resonances and ask the most impossible, most important questions. How can we think of personal experience as something that gets deployed rather than paraded or exploited or exposed? How can narratives interweave personal experience with other kinds of inquiry – like criticism and reportage? How can experiments in style and structure open individual narratives outward? How can individual narratives help to shape and sustain communities?

12:15 Story time
13:00 Lunch
14:30 Keynotes

Dan Perjovschi


I was born on the side of the Berlin Wall without graffiti. I grew up in a dictatorship where public space was totally censored, therefore my freedom of expression was exercised on the walls of my private apartment. After communism collapsed, I start to draw walls all over the world. As artist and citizen I cherish every square meter I get. I act free in a free world. But…
The Berlin Wall is a souvenir now but other walls keep poping up around the world from Gaza to Texas, from Hungary to Baia Mare. Fortress Europe is back.
What side of the wall am I now?

Wendy MacNaughton

Wendy MacNaughton


We’re exposed to 5,000 marketing messages a day, and most of them are visual, and most of them we ignore. The hand-drawn image however, cuts through the clutter and makes a human connection. It says “a person made this.” A hand-drawn story goes one step further. It offers a viewer a journey with the artist. The viewer gets to see things they otherwise never would, often to places cameras can’t go, directly from the POV of the artist. Wendy has drawn on street corners, inside maximum security prisons, in bison pens and hospice homes. She will discuss her work and methodologies, and demonstrate how everyone can use illustration to tell better stories. Even people who don’t draw.


Richard Hernandez


Join this Emmy Award Winning visual storyteller as he equips you for surviving any digital armageddon, technological advancement or post-apocalyptic zombie invasion, well maybe not zombies – on your path to becoming a master visual storyteller. Whether you’re shooting video, photographs or just doodling, the advice presented in this keynote will aid you in effectively creating imagery to communicate the emotion of your story to any audience on any platform. Since our ability to see and learn will remain intact, despite the flying cars, virtual reality headsets or grimacing ghouls, Koci will share with you ways to hone your visual superpowers so your imagery rises above the noise.

16:30 Coffee break
17:00 Keynotes



Jacqui Banaszynski and Robert Krulwich on what it takes to stay curios, engaged, and do creative work.

18:00 042_Icon_Schedule_Screenings@2x_alt (1) Screening

Toto and His Sisters

An unforgettable observational documentary about Totonel (10) and his sisters, all growing up in a poor Bucharest suburb, waiting for their mother to come home from prison.

19:45 Keynotes & Panels

Alexander Nanau


A discussion with the director of “Toto and his Sisters” about how he perceives space in terms of story-sequence, as well as craft, and how one can tell stories from tough places trying to elicit empathy, not pity – which can hurt the narrative effort.

Day 2Saturday, Oct. 10

09:00 Welcome coffee
10:00 Keynotes

John Freeman


The great works of literature, with a few exceptions, have all brought to life places: Joyce’s Dublin, Woolf’s London, Mahfouz’s Cairo, Murakami’s Tokyo, Cather’s Nebraska. So why in so much fiction and writing in general today is place absent? Are we at a stage in late capital that the visible world is less interesting than its representation? Are we all internet consumers, even of place, or has the high-street-ization and museuming of European capitals turned fiction about place into ready made antiques, pre-distressed jeans?


Michael Paterniti


When we make stories, we move between worlds – from the actual physical one to a more interpretive one, the same setting shaded toward deeper meaning. So how do we get from real people in a real place, from our pedestrian notes and stuttering transcripts, to the fever-dream of a story, set in a supersaturated otherworld of thought and emotion that is also real? This talk will endeavour to find out.


Chris Jones


There’s no question that your stories will be better if you visit the people and the places you want to understand – if you hope to get to know them, truly. But getting to know people raises its own set of complications. Better doesn’t always mean easier. It’s not quite so absolute.

12:15 Story time
13:00 Lunch
14:30 Keynotes & Panels



Dan Perjovschi, Wendy MacNaughton, and Richard Koci Hernandez will engage the audience in a show-and-tell, looking at work they just produced in their respective mediums, and talking about the process, and how you can train yourself to work fast, and try things out.



Carmen Bugan and Leslie Jamison talk about art and craft of writing stories from your own life, the limits of memory, the role of imagination, finding a voice, as well as the use of documentary style and literary style in portraying “real life” in writing.

16:30 Coffee break
17:00 Keynotes & Panels



Michael Paterniti, Chris Jones and John Freeman on the trials and tribulations of the writer’s life.


Robert Krulwich


I’m in the storytelling business. I was trained to find stories. Look, find, learn and tell; that’s how we do it. We learn in private, check our facts in private, get edited in private, then we step into the spotlight (radio, TV, print) and say what we know. We only go public at the end. In this talk I will argue that there’s another way to do this: If I’m going to tell a true story, why not let the audience see me learning? Let them see me ask dumb questions (and get corrected), misunderstand (and get corrected), argue with my editors (and get corrected). In real life we stumble into knowledge. Why not stumble in front of the audience? I will play clips from our show Radiolab and from my years on TV, showing how refreshing it is to watch the “professional” reporter learn by trial and error; I believe “wrong” is how you get to “right”, and that no story is ever complete, ever over, ever without more questions. So in the end, we don’t arrive at Truth, we arrive at some new place, a new “nowhere”, which leaves the audience more curious than ever. That’s the joy of doing this, to know that you’re never done.

18:30 Goodbye Drinks

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