Coaching Program

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.

All coaching will conducted in two sessions: 12:30 to 1:00 and 1:00 to 1:30 p.m., at the conference venue. Lunch starts at 12 noon, and we are allowing a half-hour for coaches and coachees to stand on the lunch queue and select their sandwiches and beverage. Each 30-minute session costs $30; no double sessions permitted.

The six coaches will offer a total of twelve coaching slots. First come, first served. Your coach will be assigned to you based on the subject of your book, your question, and the availability of the coaches.

After you complete and pay for your conference registration, email cathy [at] with the following information:

– Your name

– The subject of your biography

– The specific problem about which you are seeking advice (please choose an issue that can be fruitfully discussed in just a half-hour)

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 three biographies of artists: Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter (Oxford University Press, 2015); A Generous Vision: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning (OUP, 2017); and Alive Still: The Singular Journey of Nell Blaine (OUP, July 2019), 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 is turning to the literary world for her next book, the first biography of novelist and critic Elizabeth Hardwick, who was married to the poet Robert Lowell.

Carla Kaplan, Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University, has published seven books on women’s writing, including Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, an epistolary biography of Zora Neale Hurston, and Miss Anne in Harlem, a group biography of the white women of the Harlem Renaissance, both New York Times Notable Books.  She has received numerous fellowships and awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship, a Cullman Center fellowship at the New York Public Library, an NEH “Public Scholar” fellowship, and a DuBois Center fellowship at Harvard. Her biography of Jessica Mitford is forthcoming from HarperCollins.

Justin Martin is the author of five books 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). His latest 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.

Carl Rollyson’s biographies include American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia PlathA Real American Character: The Life of Walter BrennanHollywood Enigma: Dana AndrewsMarilyn 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. His reviews of biographies have appeared in the Wall Street JournalSan Francisco ChronicleMinneapolis Star TribuneThe New Criterion, and other publications. Rollyson’s two-volume biography, The Life of William Faulkner, will be published in the spring and fall of 2020.

Carol Sklenicka’s Raymond Carver: A Writer’s Life was named one of the “Best 10 Books of 2009” by The New York Tims Book Review, and a notable book of that year by the San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Post. Sklenicka earned a Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis and taught literature and writing at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and Marquette University. She is currently completing a biography of short story writer and novelist Alice Adams that Scribner will publish in November 2019. She lives in Sonoma County, California.