Here are brief biographies of the panelists, moderators, and speakers taking part in this year’s conference.
Marie Arana was born in Peru and came to the US aged nine. Her memoir, American Chica, was a finalist for the NBA in 2001. Bolivar: American Liberator, won the Los Angeles Times biography prize in 2014. She has published two novels and a book of essays, The Writing Life. Arana began her career in book publishing, where she held executive positions. For many years, she was editor-in-chief of the Washington Post Book World . She currently is director of the National Book Festival; Chair of the Cultures of the South at the Library of Congress; writer-at-large for the Washington Post, and Senior Advisor to the Librarian of Congress
James Atlas is the author of Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet, which was nominated for a National Book Award, and Bellow: A Biography. His memoir about his career as a biographer, The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale, was published in 2017. Atlas is also the founder of the Penguin Lives series. In his long career as a journalist and critic, he has been on the staffs of The New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Atlantic.
Patricia Bell-Scott is professor emerita of women’s studies at the University of Georgia and author of The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice, which won the Lillian Smith Book Award. This book was also named Best Adult Nonfiction by the American Library Association, a finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and longlisted for the National Book Award. Bell-Scott wrote the introduction for a new edition of Pauli Murray’s memoir, Song in a Weary Throat, that will be published by W. W. Norton in May of 2018.
Kai Bird is the Executive Director and Distinguished Lecturer of CUNY Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography. He co-authored with Martin J. Sherwin the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has also written biographies of John J. McCloy and McGeorge Bundy—and a memoir, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis. His most recent book is The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, and he is currently working on a biography of President Jimmy Carter.
Allida Black, the author of Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism, is the managing director of the Allenswood Group, LLC, which advises women leaders on the preservation and contemporary application of their archival records. She is also research professor of history and international affairs at The George Washington University and editor emeritus/advisory board chair of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. She has written and edited ten books on women, politics, and human rights policy and has led workshops around the world on human rights, conflict resolution, and women and girl’s empowerment.
Max Boot, a military historian and foreign-policy analyst, is one of the world’s leading authorities on armed conflict. The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, his latest book is The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam. His other books include The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power and Invisible Armies: The Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present. A columnist for Foreign Policy and a regular contributor to many other publications, he has advised military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan. Born in Moscow, he grew up in Los Angeles, and lives in New York City.
Kate Buford’s award-winning Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe (Knopf, 2010; University of Nebraska, 2012) was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Burt Lancaster: An American Life (Knopf/Da Capo/Aurum UK) was named one of the best books of 2000 by the New York Times. Buford has written for the New York Times and other publications, and has appeared on many radio and television shows. She was a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition and APM’s Marketplace from 1995 to 2004 and is a founding co-partner, with fellow-BIO member Abby Santamaria, of Biography by Design, LLC.
Tony Calandrillo (Doctor of Letters candidate at Drew University) focuses his research on the intersection of politics and sports. He is working on a dissertation that is concerned with baseball as “soft power” diplomacy during the beginnings of American expansion in the late 19th century, illustrating the place of Albert Spalding as an agent of foreign policy. His next project is slated to be the biography of Richard L. “Dixie” Walker, United States Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (1981-1986).
Amy Cherry is vice president and senior editor at employee-owned W. W. Norton. The majority of her books are in biography and history and the intersection between them, including works whose less famous subjects embody their era’s history. Among the biographies she has acquired and edited are Martha Hodes’s The Sea Captain’s Wife, Lawrence Jackson’s Chester B. Himes, Louise Knight’s Jane Addams, Liel Leibovitz’s A Broken Hallelujah, Donna Lucey’s Sargent’s Women, Deborah Lutz’s Bronte’s Cabinet, John Matteson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Eden’s Outcasts, William McKeen’s Outlaw Journalist, Susan Mizruchi’s Brando’s Smile, Barbara Perry’s Rose Kennedy, and Anne Boyd Rioux’s Constance Fenimore Woolson.
Lisa Cohen‘s All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle, PEN/Bograd Weld, Lambda Literary, and BIO Plutarch awards, as well as a New York Times Notable Book and Editor’s Choice. Her writing has also appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Women in Clothes, Queer 13, BOMB, newyorker.com, the Paris Review, Vogue, the New York Times, the Vassar Review, Ploughshares, and Bookforum. She teaches at Wesleyan University.
Winifred Conkling is the award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers. Her recent works include Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot (Algonquin, 2018), Hidden Figures (the picture book written with Margot Lee Shetterly, Harper Collins, 2018), Radioactive! (Algonquin, 2016); Passenger on the Pearl (Algonquin, 2015), winner of the Carter Woodson Award; and Sylvia and Aki (Random House, 2011), winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Literature Award and the Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award. Conkling studied journalism at Northwestern University and received an M.F.A. from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Blanche Wiesen Cook is distinguished professor of history and women’s studies at John Jay College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Author of the three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt (Vol. I, 1992, awarded the Los Angeles Times Biography Prize and the Lambda Literary Prize, Vol. II, 1999, & Vol. III 2016), she is long-time print and media journalist (Radio Pacifica and CUNY-TV). Her previous books include The Declassified Eisenhower: A Divided Legacy of Peace and Political Warfare and Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution. An activist for peace and democracy, Cook is a former vice-president for research, American Historical Association; founder and chair, The Fund for Open Information and Accountability (FOIA, Inc.); and co-chair, Freedom of Information and Access Committee, Organization of American Historians. Her work has been featured on C-Span and Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, The Roosevelts.
Alan Pell Crawford is the author of How Not to Get Rich: The Financial Misadventures of Mark Twain and Twilight at Monticello: The Last Years of Thomas Jefferson, among other books. His essays and reviews have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Nation, National Review, the Weekly Standard and many others. He has written regularly for the Wall Street Journal for 20 years. He has been a congressional press secretary and U. S. Senate speechwriter. He lives in Richmond, Va.
Cathy Curtis is the author of A Generous Vision: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning (Oxford University Press, 2017) and Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter (OUP, 2015). Forthcoming in her OUP trilogy of biographies of women artists is Alive Still: The Singular Journey of Nell Blaine—about a painter stricken by a severe type of polio at the height of her career who made an extraordinary comeback. Curtis, a board member and former vice president of BIO, has a master’s degree in the history of art from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer and art critic.
Anthony DeCurtis, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, is the author of Lou Reed: A Life (Little, Brown, 2017) and Rocking My Life Away: Writing About Music and Other Matters (Duke University Press, 1998). He collaborated with Clive Davis on his memoir, The Soundtrack of My Life (Simon & Schuster, 2013). A three-time winner of ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Awards for excellence in writing about music, he has served on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee for more than two decades. DeCurtis holds a Ph.D. in American literature from Indiana University and is a Distinguished Lecturer in the creative writing program at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tim Duggan is the publisher of Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of Crown at Penguin Random House. His books include winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and multiple finalists for the National Book Award. He is a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is on the advisory board of the London Book Fair and Biographers International Organization.
Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Ph.D., is the Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University. Her first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City was published by Yale University in 2008. Her recent book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (37Ink/Atria/Simon & Schuster) was recently named as a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. Dunbar’s op-eds and commentaries in outlets such as the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Los Angeles Times and CNN, and her appearances in several PBS documentaries, place her expertise in high demand.
Griffin Dunne is an actor and filmmaker. He has appeared in An American Werewolf in London, After Hours, Quiz Show, Game 6, and other films. More recently he played opposite Matthew McConaughey, as Dr. Vass, in the Oscar-nominated Dallas Buyers Club and the Jill Soloway series I Love Dick with Kevin Bacon and Katherine Haun. In 1995, Dunne was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for Duke of Groove, which he directed and co-wrote. Since then he had directed films such as Addicted to Love, Practical Magic, Fierce People and numerous episodes of the TV show The Good Wife. In 2017, he produced and directed Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, a documentary about the life of his aunt, Joan Didion.
Joseph A. Esposito is a writer, historian and educator. He served in three presidential administrations, including being appointed a deputy under secretary for international affairs at the U.S. Department of Education. He also worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is currently an adjunct faculty member at Northern Virginia Community College. Esposito holds academic degrees from Pennsylvania State University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania and University of Virginia. His meeting John F. Kennedy when he was ten years old sparked a lifetime interest in politics, history and, in the end, writing Dinner in Camelot.
John A. Farrell is the author of Richard Nixon: The Life, a finalist for the 2017 PEN/Bograd Weld and Plutarch awards for biography, and a long list nominee for the Carnegie prize in biography. His biography of Speaker Tip O’Neill won the Hardeman prize for the best book on Congress, and Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, was awarded the Los Angeles Times prize for the best biography of 2012. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and a former White House correspondent for the Boston Globe, where he also worked on the Spotlight team. He is at work on a biography of Sen. Edward Kennedy.
Gayle Feldman is under contract to Random House for a biography of its co-founder Bennett Cerf, for which she received an NEH Public Scholar Fellowship, and is also New York Correspondent for The Bookseller. She has published a cancer memoir and a monograph on prize-winning and bestselling books; was a senior editor at Publishers Weekly; publishing stringer for the business section of the New York Times; has written for many magazines and newspapers; and started as a book editor in London. She was a founding board member of BIO, and architect of the Hazel Rowley Prize.
Michael Flamini is an executive editor of non-fiction at St. Martin’s Press. His list of published biographies includes Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear, The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar, Maggie Smith: A Biography by Michael Coveny and Joan of Arc: Her Story by Regine Pernoud. Upcoming titles include biographies of Garrison Keillor, Gary Trudeau, and a group biography of the wives of Vietnam POWs by Heath Lee. He is a faculty member at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Ruth Franklin, a former editor at the New Republic, is author of two books, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (2011), and Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. Her biography of Jackson won the 2016 NBCC, Edgar, Plutarch, and other awards. Franklin has received Guggenheim, Cullman Center, and Leon Levy Biography Fellowships in support of her work. She has won the Roger Shattuck Prize for criticism. Her reviews and writing have appeared in The New Yorker, NYRB, NYTBR, etc.
Justin Gifford, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he teaches African American Literature. His first book, Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing, is the first book on black street literature and was a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. His second book, Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim, was one of Amazon.com’s “Top 100 Books of the Year” in 2015. He is a fellow at the Leon Levy Center, where he is writing a book on Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver.
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is a philosopher and novelist and the recipient of numerous prizes for her fiction and scholarship, including a MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as “the genius prize.” In 2015 she received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House. She is the author of ten books, the most recent of which is Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away and is currently a Visiting Professor of Philosophy and English at the New College of the Humanities, London, England. In 2005, she was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Beverly Gray, who once developed 170 low-budget features for B-movie maven Roger Corman, is the author of Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers. Gray has also published Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon . . . and Beyond. She teaches online screenwriting workshops for UCLA Extension’s world-famous Writers’ Program, and her popular blog, “Beverly in Movieland,” covers movies, moviemaking, and growing up Hollywood-adjacent. In November 2017, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the film’s release, Algonquin Books published her Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How The Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation.
Joe Hagan has written for New York, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications and published long-form profiles and investigative exposes of some of the most significant figures and subjects of our time, including Hillary Clinton, Karl Rove, the Bush family, Henry Kissinger, Dan Rather, Goldman Sachs, the New York Times, and Twitter. Sticky Fingers, his biography of Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, won acclaim in the Times and elsewhere as one of the top biographies of 2017.
Anne C. Heller’s Ayn Rand and the World She Made (Nan Talese/Doubleday/Anchor 2009/2010) was a New York Times Notable Book and was chosen a best book of the year by Time magazine, The Daily Beast, USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, Library Journal, and Bloomberg. Her most recent book is Hannah Arendt: A Life in Dark Times, published by Harcourt Houghton Mifflin in 2015. She has been an award-winning editor at magazines including The Antioch Review, Esquire, and Lear’s, is the former executive editor of magazine development at Condé Nast Publications, and is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and a board member of the New York University Biography Seminar.
Richard Holmes is the author of The Age of Wonder, which won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. His other books explore the lives of Shelley, Coleridge, and the young Dr. Samuel Johnson; Falling Upwards, about the early aeronauts; and the classic biographical trilogy, Footsteps, Sidetracks, and This Long Pursuit. Holmes was professor of biography at the University of East Anglia and is an honorary fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He writes for the New York Review of Books, and lives in London with the novelist Rose Tremain.
Carla Kaplan, Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University and chair of the Signs editorial board, writes on African-American and women’s literature and culture. Her trade books include the award-winning Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters and Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance (both, New York Times Notable Books) and, forthcoming, Something to Offend Everyone: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford. Kaplan has also edited and authored numerous scholarly books and editions, and received fellowships from the NEH Public Scholar Program, Cullman Center, DuBois Institute, Ransom and Beinecke libraries, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Kitty Kelley is an internationally acclaimed writer, having published seven New York Times best-selling biographies, five of which debuted at number one. Kelley’s awards include: 2014 Founders Award for Career Achievement from the American Society of Journalists and Authors; 2011 International Book Award for Oprah: A Biography; 2005 PEN Oakland Censorship Award for The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty. After His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra, Kelley received ASJA’s Outstanding Author Award for “courageous writing on popular culture” and the Philip M. Stern award for “outstanding service to writers and the writing profession.” She lives in Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth Kendall is a dance and culture critic and associate professor of literary studies at The New School. Her book Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. She has also written Where She Danced: The Birth of American Art-Dance; The Runaway Bride: Hollywood Romantic Comedy of the 1930’s; and two memoirs, American Daughter and Autobiography of a Wardrobe. Kendall has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Guggenheim and Fulbright foundations, the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, the Likhachev Foundation, and the Leon Levy Center for Biography. She is at work on Balanchine; a Cultural Geography.
Diane Kiesel is a judge on the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Prior to her legal career, Diane was a journalist in Washington, D.C., where she was the congressional and Supreme Court correspondent for the San Diego (CA.) Union and Evening Tribune. She is the author of two textbooks on domestic violence, the latest being Domestic Violence: Law, Policy and Practice, 2nd Ed., and the biography, She Can Bring Us Home: Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee: Civil Rights Pioneer. Kiesel is the winner of the Worth Bingham Award, the Richard Slatten Prize for Virginia Biography, and the Colonial Dames of America National Book Award.
Vanda Krefft is the author of The Man Who Made the Movies: The Meteoric Rise and Tragic Fall of William Fox (Harper, 2017), the first in-depth biography of 20th Century Fox founder William Fox. The Washington Post called the book “a tale that will engage amateur movie enthusiasts and film historians” and praised its “expert scholarship” and “tight prose.” Publishers Weekly described the book as “captivating,” with “gripping storytelling,” and Amazon.com chose it as a “Best Book of December 2017,” one of only ten across all categories. A former entertainment industry journalist, she has a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Linda Leavell’s Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Plutarch Award, the Modernist Studies Association book award, and the PEN/Bograd Weld award for biography. She is also the author of Marianne Moore and the Visual Arts: Prismatic Color (LSU Press, 1995), an award-winning book of literary criticism. For twenty-four years she was a professor of American literature at Oklahoma State University. Her current project, under contract with FSG, is a group biography of the Stieglitz circle. She lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Heath Hardage Lee holds a B.A. with honors in history from Davidson College and an M.A. in French language and literature from the University of Virginia. As the 2017 Robert J. Dole Curatorial Fellow, Lee created a traveling exhibition, The League of Wives: Vietnam POW MIA Advocates & Allies for the Dole Institute of Politics. Her first biography, Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause won the 2015 Colonial Dames of America Book Award and a gold medal at the 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Lee is currently working on The League of Wives: A True Story of Survival and Rescue from the Vietnam Homefront (St. Martin’s Press, 2019).
Historian and journalist Marc Leepson is the author of nine books, including three biographies: Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler; What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life; and Lafayette: Idealist General. He is the long-time Senior Writer, Arts Editor, and columnist for The VVA Veteran, the magazine published by Vietnam Veterans of America. A member of BIO’s Board of Directors, and the organization’s treasurer, he was drafted into the Army and served a 1967-68 tour of duty in the Vietnam War. He was a staff writer at Congressional Quarterly in Washington from 1974 to 1986.
James Marcus is the editor of Harper’s Magazine and the author of Amazonia: Five Years at the Epicenter of the Dot-Com Juggernaut as well as seven translations from the Italian, the most recent being Giacomo Casanova’s The Duel. His work has appeared in Harper’s, the Nation, the Atlantic, Story Quarterly, the Paris Review, Raritan, and Best American Essays. His next book, Glad to the Brink of Fear: A Portrait of Emerson in Thirteen Installments, will be published in 2019. He is also compiling a personal selection from Emerson’s journals, which will be published simultaneously by Penguin Classics.
Megan Marshall is the author of the new biography Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast. She is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in biography for Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and the author of The Peabody Sisters, which won the Francis Parkman Prize and the Mark Lynton History Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She is the Charles Wesley Emerson College Professor in the Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College, where she teaches narrative nonfiction and the art of archival research in the M.F.A. creative writing program.
Justin Martin is the author of four biographies featuring subjects ranging from a Federal Reserve chairman (Greenspan: The Man Behind the Money, 1990) to a pioneering landscape architect (Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, 2011). Next up is A Fierce Glory (September 2018), a group biography treatment of Antietam, the pivotal Civil War battle. Martin prides himself on being a thorough researcher and reporter. Armed with the facts, he aims to render his subjects in novelistic fashion and considers it the highest compliment when someone says, “Your book reads like fiction.” Martin, a former member of BIO Board of Directors, lives in New York City.
John Matteson is Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College, CUNY. His first book, Eden’s Outcasts: The Story Louisa May Alcott and Her Father, received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. His second book, The Lives of Margaret Fuller, was awarded the Ann M. Sperber Prize for Best Biography of a Journalist. He is the editor of The Annotated Little Women, published in 2015. He is currently writing a book on the Battle of Fredericksburg and its influence on American thought and culture.
Daniel Mendelsohn is an internationally bestselling author, critic, essayist and translator who writes frequently for the New Yorker and New York Review of Books and has been a columnist for New York, Harpers, and the New York Times Book Review. His most recent book, An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize and named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Library Journal, Kirkus, and Newsday. His other books include two memoirs, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (2006) and The Elusive Embrace (1999), two collections of essays, and a translation, with commentary, of the complete poems of Constantine Cavafy. He teaches literature at Bard College.
Robin Miles, dubbed “a voice that never disappoints,” is an Audiofile Magazine Golden Voice, an Audible Hall of Famer, the 2014 Booklist Voice of Choice, a 2009 Grammy finalist director, and winner of over 40 Best-of-the-Year and Earphones awards. Her chameleon-like vocal and acting ability has won accolades for their nuance and variety. Her credits include: Hugo winners The Fifth Season trilogy (N.K. Jemisin) and Binti (Nnedi Okorafor); Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterley); Cleopatra (Stacy Schiff); The Warmth of Other Suns (Isabel Wilkerson); The Violet Hour (Broadway), several regional productions and museum installations, and Law & Order. Robin holds degrees from Yale (B.A.) and The Yale School of Drama (M.F.A.), and owns Voxpertise, Inc., a studio for voiceover training and production.
Edmund Morris is the biographer of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, and composer Ludwig von Beethoven. He is working on a biography of Thomas Edison. His wife Sylvia Jukes Morris has written biographies of Clare Boothe Luce and Edith Kermit Roosevelt. They will share their views about the craft of biography as it pertains to writing about the living and the dead. They have titled their plenary talk: Dead Is Easier.
James McGrath Morris is author of The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War, as well as several biographies, including the New York Times best-selling Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First Lady of the Black Press and Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print and Power. He is currently at work on a biography of the late mystery writer Tony Hillerman that requires conducting many interviews.
Pamela Newkirk, Ph.D., is a multifaceted scholar, author and award- winning journalist. Her latest book, Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga (HarperCollins)—a NAACP Image Award and Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation Legacy Award winner and a top pick by NPR and other media outlets—illuminates how racial mythology distorted the historical accounts about a young African exhibited in the Bronx Zoo monkey house in 1906. Newkirk’s first book, Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media (NYU Press), examines how race influences news coverage. Her insightful articles on race, media, and African American culture have appeared in major newspapers nationwide.
Nell Irvin Painter is the award-winning author of the biography of Sojourner Truth, as well as Southern History Across the Color Line, Creating Black Americans, The History of White People, and Standing at Armageddon. She is currently the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University.
Claudia Roth Pierpont is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she has written about the arts for more than twenty years. She is the author of three books: Passionate Minds (2000), a collection of essays about women writers ranging from Hannah Arendt to Mae West; Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books (2013), an exploration of the life and work of Philip Roth; and American Rhapsody (2016), a collection of essays on American subjects including George Gershwin, Nina Simone, and the Chrysler Building. She has a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance art history and lives in New York City.
George Prochnik’s most recent book, Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem, was a New York Times “Editor’s Choice” and has been shortlisted for the Wingate Prize in the U.K. His previous book, The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, received the National Jewish Book Award for Biography/Memoir in 2014. Prochnik is also the author of In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise (2010) and Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam and the Purpose of American Psychology (2006). He has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the L.A. Review of Books, and is editor-at-large for Cabinet magazine.
Kristine Puopolo acquires and edits serious nonfiction, biography and memoir for Doubleday. Her list of authors includes journalists Anne Applebaum, Peter Baker, Joby Warrick, David Hoffman, Dana Goldstein, Eugene Robinson, Kim Barker and Megan K. Stack, scientists Lera Boroditsky and Richard Prum, historians David Oshinsky, Tom Segev and H. W. Brands and others. Their books have won honors including the Pulitzer Prize (Joby Warrick’s Black Flags: The Rise of Isis, Anne Applebaum’s Gulag, and David Hoffman’s The Dead Hand) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in biography (John Farrell’s Clarence Darrow), and have been finalists for the National Book Award (Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain and Megan K. Stack’s Every Man in this Village is a Liar), the PEN America prize for biography (John Farrell’s Richard Nixon: The Life), and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award in biography (Tom Segev’s Simon Wiesenthal).
Susan Rabiner was an editor for more than thirty years and currently runs Susan Rabiner Literary. She is the co-author (with Alfred Fortunato) of Thinking like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction—and Get It Published. Two of the biographers she represents have won Pulitzer Prizes for their work.
Eric Rayman, a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia Law School, is a partner at Miller Korzenik Sommer Rayman LP, where his practice focuses on media and publishing, employment and copyright. He joined the firm in 2008 after serving as an in-house attorney, counsel, or executive for several major media companies, including The New Yorker, Simon & Schuster and Home Box Office. He taught media and entertainment law as an adjunct professor at the Cardozo School of Law for more than 20 years.
Catherine Reef has written more than forty books, most recently Victoria: Portrait of a Queen (Clarion). Her books include the highly acclaimed Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse; The Brontë Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne; and Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life. Her work has earned her the Sydney Taylor Award, the Joan G. Sugarman Award, and Jefferson Cup, Golden Kite, and National Jewish Book Award honors. In addition, her titles have consistently appeared on lists of “best” and “notable” books. Catherine lives in College Park, Maryland, with her husband, photographer John Reef.
Anne Boyd Rioux is Professor of English at the University of New Orleans and the author of Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist (Norton), chosen as one of the ten best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune and reviewed on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. Her most recent book is Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters (Norton), forthcoming this summer. She is a member of BIO’s Board of Directors.
Carl Rollyson’s biographies include American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath; A Real American Character: The Life of Walter Brennan; Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews; Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress; and Amy Lowell Anew: A Biography. His books about biography include Biography: A User’s Guide and Confessions of a Serial Biographer. Rollyson’s reviews of biographies have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and The New Criterion. He is at work on This Alarming Paradox: The Life of William Faulkner.
Mark Rotella has been a senior editor at Publishers Weekly for many years, supervising biography and memoir reviews among other areas. He is the author of two books, Stolen Figs and Other Adventures in Calabria (2004), a memoir and travelogue on the Italian region from which his grandparents emigrated; and Amore: The Story of Italian-American Song (2010), a cultural history of forty songs during the 1940s and ’50s and the singers—from Sinatra and Bennett to Bobby Darin—who performed them. He is on the board of the National Book Critics Circle.
Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize. A #1 bestseller, her Cleopatra: A Life, was published to great acclaim in 2010. David McCullough hailed her most recent book, The Witches: Salem, 1692, also a #1 bestseller, as “brilliant from start to finish.” Schiff has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and was a Director’s Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
Kirk T. Schroder operates an extensive entertainment and arts law practice, involving all aspects of entertainment and the arts, including film, television, literary publishing, music, radio, theater, visual arts, advertising and marketing, internet, and new media. He is the immediate past chair of the American Bar Association Entertainment and Sports Law section and a past program chair of the Harvard Law School/ABA Symposium on Entertainment Law. He has taught at the law schools of the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond and in the Graduate School of Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition to being selected to The Best Lawyers in America, he is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell, its highest rating for lawyers.
Laurie Gwen Shapiro is a native of New York City’s Lower East Side. She has most recently written articles for The New Yorker, New York Magazine, the Daily Beast, Slate, Aeon, Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Forward. Shapiro is also a documentary filmmaker who won an Independent Spirit Award for directing IFC’s Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale and an Emmy nomination for producing (and “story by” credit) HBO’s Finishing Heaven. Shapiro’s first non-fiction book, The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica, was published by Simon & Schuster in January 2018 and was an Indie Next Pick.
Ray Anthony Shepard is a grandson of a slave and retired editor-in-chief of Houghton Mifflin’s School Division. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska Teachers College and Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he received a Martin Luther King Jr. Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. His young adult biography, Now or Never: 54th Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery was published in 2017. The story chronicles the army lives of George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding, free black men from the North who risked enslavement and their lives to follow Frederick Douglass’s urging to “get at the throat of treason and slavery.”
Charles Slack is the award-winning author of several books. His latest, Liberty’s First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech, was published in March 2015 by Grove Atlantic. Hetty, based on the life of Wall Street pioneer Hetty Green, won the 2005 Connecticut State Book Award for Biography and the Elle Magazine Reader Prize for Biography. Noble Obsession was based on the life of inventor Charles Goodyear. The New York Public Library named Noble Obsession one of the 25 best “Books to Remember” for 2002. Blue Fairways, an American journey based on a trip down the East Coast from Maine to Florida, one public golf course at a time, was a finalist for the United States Golf Association’s International Book Award. A graduate of Harvard, Slack was a newspaper reporter in Tennessee and Virginia before turning to writing and editing full-time.
William Souder is the author of Under a Wild Sky (2004), a biography of John James Audubon that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (2012), a New York Times Notable Book of the year, and named one of the Top 25 Nonfiction Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews. Souder’s current project, Mad at the World: John Steinbeck and the American Century, will be published by Norton in 2019. Souder lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Justin Spring is the author of three full-length biographies, as well as various monographs and museum publications. He has received many honors for his work as a biographer, art historian, and curator. Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist and Sexual Renegade (FSG) was a 2010 National Book Award Finalist, a Stonewall Honor Book of the American Library Association, the recipient of the Randy Shilts Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, the Geoff Mains Prize and was runner-up for the 2011 PEN prize for biography. His latest book, The Gourmands’ Way (FSG) has been named a “Best Book of 2017” by Publishers Weekly. He has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and Leon Levy Biography Center.
David O. Stewart is the bestselling author of four award-winning works of history, including The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution, and Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships that Built America. He also has published three historical mysteries; The Lincoln Deception was named the best historical novel of 2013 by Bloomberg View. A lawyer for 25 years, David was law clerk to Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court and then focused on constitutional disputes and white-collar criminal defense. David, a veteran BIO member, is also the president of the Washington Independent Review of Books, an online literary journal in Washington, D.C., and so knows the literary world in and out. He is currently working on a political biography of George Washington.
Will Swift, PhD, writes on American leaders and British royalty. He is the author of The Roosevelts and the Royals, The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm, and Pat and Dick: The Nixons, A Portrait of a Marriage. Swift has been a featured speaker at the Richard Nixon, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy libraries, and he has appeared on the television programs Morning Joe, Fox News and The Cycle. He is a co-founder of Biographers International Organization, its current president, the co-founder of the BIO mentorship program, and the founder of the Editorial Excellence Award.
William Taubman is the Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Amherst College and the author of Gorbachev: His Life and Times. His biography, Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Anthony Tommasini is the chief classical music critic of the New York Times and the author of three books. He holds degrees from Yale University (B.A.), Yale School of Music (M.M.), and Boston University (D.M.A.) His interest in the work of the composer and critic Virgil Thomson culminated with his book Virgil Thomson: Composer on the Aisle, published in 1997 by W. W. Norton & Company. As a pianist, he made two recordings for Northeastern Records of Thomson’s music, Portraits and Self-Portraits and Mostly About Love: Songs and Vocal Works. Before joining the Times, he covered classical music and theater for the Boston Globe.
Billy Tooma, DLitt (soon-to-be tenured Assistant Professor of English at Essex County College) is the award-nominated filmmaker of the documentaries Clarence Chamberlin: Fly First & Fight Afterward (2011), Poetry of Witness (2015), and The Black Eagle of Harlem (2017). He holds various degrees in literature and writing from William Paterson University and Drew University. As a deputy director of the Community College Humanities Association and trustee on the Board of the New Jersey College English Association, he makes it a point to advocate the value of the liberal arts in higher education.
Marlene Trestman, author of Fair Labor Lawyer: The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin (LSU Press), is currently at work on a collective biography, Most Fortunate Unfortunates: History of New Orleans’s Jewish Orphans’ Home, 1855-1946. Both books draw on experience. Lawyer-turned-author Trestman, who has won funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, American Jewish Archives, Supreme Court Historical Society, and Texas Jewish Historical Society, had a personal relationship with Margolin prompted by common childhood experiences; Margolin grew up in the orphanage and Trestman was a ward of the successor agency.
Amanda Vaill is the author of the bestselling biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy, Everybody Was So Young; Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins; Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War; the forthcoming The World Opened Up: Selected Writings of Jerome Robbins; and the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning documentary, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. A finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, a 1999 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2017 Fellow of the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University, she is at work on a biography of the Schuyler sisters, wife and sister-in-law of Alexander Hamilton.
Lindsay M. Warren, DLitt (Adjunct Lecturer of History at The College of New Jersey) holds various degrees in history, most recently graduating from Drew University with her Doctor of Letters degree. She focused her dissertation on the life of Sami Feder and his enduring legacy that was the Kazet Theatre, a Yiddish theatre group that helped Holocaust survivors in the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp to reestablish social bonds and move from trauma to recovery to hope for the future.
John Taylor “Ike” Williams has a legal practice that emphasizes media and entertainment law, including the creation, production, and licensing of intellectual property, particularly in the areas of publishing, film, television, and music. He is the co-author of Perle, Williams & Fischer on Publishing Law. Williams is also a founding partner of The Kneerim & Williams Agency, LLC, a literary and dramatic rights agency. As a lawyer or agent he represents book to movie and production companies in the placement or acquisition of dramatic rights. He has lectured widely on intellectual property and entertainment law and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America.
Rebecca L. Williams (Assistant Professor of English at Essex County College) teaches African-American Literature, Women’s Literature, and College Composition II. She currently serves as the President of the Community College Humanities Association’s Eastern Division as well as regularly chairs her college’s annual spring humanities conference. Her favorite authors include Toni Morrison, Octavia E. Butler, Flannery O’Connor, and Edward P. Jones.
Sonja D. Williams is a 2016 Phyllis Wheatley Book Award finalist for her biography, Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio, and Freedom (University of Illinois Press), about pioneering National Radio Hall of Fame broadcast dramatist, journalist, and Chicago-based activist Richard Durham. Williams has served as a journalist and media trainer in Africa, the Caribbean, and throughout America. Her radio documentaries have won numerous awards, including three consecutive George Foster Peabody Awards for Significant and Meritorious Achievement and a DuPont-Columbia University Journalism Award. Williams is a professor in the Howard University Department of Media, Journalism and Film in Washington, DC.