BIO is once again offering half-hour coaching sessions with accomplished biographers.

Our coaches include authors of biographies on the “best books” lists of Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, The New York Times, and other leading publications. As a group, the coaches have written approximately thirty books.

How to Qualify for the Program
1. In an email application sent via the link below, please describe where you are in your biography career and your specific goal for the half-hour coaching session.For example, you might be contemplating writing your first book, trying to figure out how to frame or sell a proposal, or grappling with a research, interview, writing, or public relations problem. You may list the coach or coaches with whom you would most like to work.

2. A $30 fee covers the basic half-hour session, with the coach reading a maximum of one page in advance. Additional reading and reviewing is available for $60 per hour, with the time to be arranged in advance between the coach and writer.

These fees are payable on the Additional Items page of the conference registration form, and your application email must accompany your conference registration. (If we are unable to accommodate you, your fee will be returned.)The coaching committee will match your needs with the coaches’ areas of expertise. Every effort will be made to accommodate your preferences, but we cannot guarantee that you will be matched with a specific coach.

Please note: If you schedule a coaching session during the day on Saturday, you will have to miss part of one or more of the panel sessions, depending on the time of your coaching appointment. You can also arrange for a coaching session on Friday or Sunday, if that works with your schedule. Please note that Friday and Sunday sessions cannot take place at the Levy Center; you and your coach must find a different place to meet.

Email Your Application
(If you have trouble using this link, please email your application to Cathy Curtis at

The Coaches
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.

Cathy Curtis is the author of two biographies of women artists, Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter (Oxford University Press, 2015) and A Generous Vision: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning (OUP, 2017). Alive Still: The Singular Journey of Nell Blaine, forthcoming from OUP in 2019, is about a leading New York painter who became a paraplegic after contracting a severe form of polio at age thirty-seven but battled the odds to become one of America’s great watercolorists. Curtis, who has led and served on many BIO committees as a member of the Board of Directors, especially enjoys her work as a long-distance biography mentor to BIO members. A former BIO vice president, she is a 2018 candidate for BIO president.

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.

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.

Will Swift is a biographer, a historian, and a practicing clinical psychologist. His book Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage (2014) was shortlisted for the 2015 Plutarch Award and was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. He is also the author of The Roosevelts and the Royals (2004) and The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm (2008). Swift particularly enjoys discovering facts that help repair historical reputations. A founding member of the BIO Board of Directors, he has served as president, as chair of the Award Committee, and as a member of the 2016 Plutarch Committee. He is co-founder of the BIO mentorship program.