2016 BIO Conference Agenda

Friday, June 3: VIP Tours for Biographers at Three of Virginia’s Top Cultural Institutions
(Tour are optional and cost $25 each.)

Morning Tour: 10:30 to 11:30 A.M.

Hollywood Cemetery: 412 S. Cherry Street Richmond, VA 23220
This historic cemetery is the resting place of two U.S. Presidents: John Tyler and James Monroe, as well as ex-Confederate President Jefferson Davis. E.L. Butterworth will be our tour guide.

Afternoon Tours: 1:30 to 4:00 P.M.

Virginia Historical Society: 428 N. Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23220
1:30-2:30 P.M. Built in 1913, the VHS houses an extensive research library and a large collection of Virginia artifacts from Native American times until the beginning of the 21st century. Our group will be divided in two, with half touring the new “Story of Virginia” exhibit and half visiting the Research Library. Then the groups will change places.

Library of Virginia: 800 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219
3:00-4:00 P.M. The Library of Virginia was founded in 1823 to preserve and provide access to the state’s print and manuscript collections. The LVA manages a vast collection of items regarding Virginia government, history, and culture. Again, the group will be divided, with half visiting the Special Collections Room and half visiting the research library. At halftime, the groups will change places.

Tour Limit: 30


Friday Afternoon Readings from New Biographies: 4:15 to
5:45 P.M., Library of Virginia (800 E. Broad Street Richmond, VA 23219)

This year, for the first time, the BIO Program Committee will host a round of three-minute readings by authors who have published a new biographical work (not self-published) between June 1, 2015, and May 31, 2016. These free readings will take place at the Library of Virginia. Participation will be limited to 18 people. To qualify, all who wish to participate must register both for the conference and for this event. Readers will be selected on a first-registered first-served basis.

Opening Reception: 6:00 to 7:30 P.M., Library of Virginia (800 E. Broad Street Richmond, VA. 23219)

Enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks with your fellow biographers at the handsome Library of Virginia. This is a fund-raising event for Biographers International Organization and there is an an additional $50 per-person charge. The admission fee includes one free beer or glass of wine and unlimited water and lemonade.


Saturday, June 4, Conference Program
All events at the Richmond Marriott Downtown, 500 E. Broad Street, Richmond 23219

7:00 to 8:00 a.m.

Buffet breakfast serving begins at 7:30 a.m.
Welcome by BIO president Brian Jay Jones at 8 a.m.

8:15 to 9:15

Breakfast Plenary Session
Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Annette Gordon-Reed and T. J. Stiles in conversation about balancing historical research and literary craft.

9:30 to 10:30 A.M.

Core/Trial by Fire: Lessons from Publishing a First Biography
Biography is a solitary business—especially a first biography. First-time biographers describe the mistakes they made, the challenges they overcame, the elements of planning, writing, and publishing they got entirely right, and the lessons they learned for next time.
Moderator: Anne Boyd Rioux. Panelists: Cathy Curtis, Paul Sorrentino, Marlene Trestman, and Sonja Williams.

Craft/Bringing Characters to Life
What makes a character live and breathe on the page? How much detail adds richness to a portrait, and when does too much detail muddy the waters? What can you do about a character with an opaque inner life or contradictory traits? About black holes encountered along the documentary trail? How to deftly portray minor characters? Masters of the craft examine these and other questions affecting one of the biographer’s most important tasks.
Moderator: Linda Leavell. Panelists: George Getschow, Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs, and  Hampton Sides.

Issues in Biography/The Future of Research
Biographers depend on books, letters, diaries, manuscripts, microfilm, maps, and photographs, as well as the experts who know how to find them; and libraries continue to provide these resources. But the nation’s great libraries are also working to make vast digital archives available to scholars, including (at the Library of Congress) collecting and storing every single utterance on Twitter. Top librarians and archivists examine new trends and the tools we may soon be using.

Moderator: Marc Leepson. Panelists: Kathy Jordan, and Anne C. Osterman.

Workshop/Advanced Social Media
Learn how, and when, to deploy social media strategies on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, and more. Discover how social media can help at the research and pre-publication stages as well as when marketing your book. Strictly for members with a strong working knowledge of the basics of social-media platforms. (Newcomers: See “Launching Your Book: Marketing and Promotion.”)
Leader: Lisa Napoli

10:45 to 11:45 A.M.

Core/Choosing a Subject
How do experienced biographers select their next subject? Discover sources of inspiration, lessons learned from false starts, and strategies for home runs.
Moderator: James Atlas. Panelists: Blake Bailey, D.T. Max, and Stacy Schiff.

Craft/Narrative Strategies
Along with character development, narrative structure is at the heart of the biographical enterprise. An in-depth discussion of chronology (“abandon it at your peril”), context-building, the narrative arc, and the construction of a compelling narrative work.
Moderator: Debby Applegate. Panelists: Kirk Ellis, Beth Macy, and T. J. Stiles.

Issues in Biography/Reviewing Biography
What do editors and reviewers at prominent newspapers and magazines look for when choosing a biography to review? What can you do to increase the odds that your book will be reviewed? Do introductions matter? Finally, why do reviewers so often ignore the biographer’s work and merely summarize the life? Is there anything we can do to draw attention to our craft?
Moderator: Kate Buford. Panelists: Carl Rollyson, David O. Stewart, and Steve Weinberg.

Workshop/Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Proposal
You have a great idea –now you have to sell it. How do you craft a persuasive proposal? When should you write it? What should you include? Advice from a veteran biographer and editor.
Leader: Amanda Vaill

12 noon to 1:30 P.M.

Lunch and Keynote Address by Claire Tomalin, the winner of the 2016 BIO Award and the author of highly acclaimed biographies of Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft, Samuel Pepys, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and others.

1:45-2:45 P.M.

Core/Independent Presses for Biography
Indie presses are proliferating. They are filling niches in the marketplace for biographical works that trade and academic publishers have abandoned or overlooked. We tell you how, when—and what—to publish with an independent press.
Moderator: Penelope Rowlands. Panelists: Michael Coffey and Lisa Reardon.

Craft/Family Biographies—American and British Royalty (and Everyone Else):
Three eminent biographers discuss the special requirements and hazards of writing about royal families on both sides of the Atlantic–and how what they’ve learned applies to any family. We all have a royal family to write about.
Moderator: Dean King. Panelists: Nigel Hamilton,  Kitty Kelley, and Andrew Lownie

Issues in Biography/Biographical Fiction and Biography
Distinguished practitioners in related but highly distinct forms—biography and fiction centered on biographical facts—discuss the limits and freedoms of their respective crafts and share their secrets for creating riveting stories.
Moderator: Anne C. Heller. Panelists: Douglas Brinkley and Thomas Mallon.

Workshop/Launching Your Book: Marketing and Promotion
What can biographers learn about book promotion from an author who writes management books? Here’s what: How to devise a systematic approach to book marketing and promotion.  First, determine exactly what it is you are trying to sell–the book? yourself? something else? Second, define and find your audience. Third, make a content plan to communicate something of real value to that audience. Fourth, create a multi-channel campaign plan for systematically communicating with your audience, including unpaid media (print/electronic), paid media, direct contact, and social media.
Leader: Bruce Tulgan.

3 to 4 P.M.

Core/The Agents’ Panel
You asked for it (again): This panel provides all you ever wanted to know about agents but were afraid to ask. Three top agents in a frank discussion of who they are and what they do, particularly in our increasingly complex publishing environment. Find out how to get an agent, how to keep one, and what you can (and can’t) expect from her or him.
Moderator: Barbara Burkhardt. Panelists: Andrew LownieGail Ross, and Ike Williams.

Craft/Dual Biographies
A biography of a single individual fits snugly into a narrative structure that goes from cradle to grave. But how about a biography of a couple, or a mother and daughter, or two contemporaries? Three biographers explore diverse strategies for covering two lives in one book.
Moderator: Joshua Kendall. Panelists: Patricia Bell-Scott, Charlotte Gordon, and Julia Markus.

Issues in Biography/Three Ways of Looking at a Subject: Richard Nixon
Some biographical subjects are so beguiling, so polarizing, and so public as to be irresistible to biographers—and difficult to penetrate beneath the crust. Three celebrated biographers talk about their journey to the inner Richard.
Moderator: John Aloysius Farrell. Panelists: Jeffrey Frank, Irwin Gellman, and Evan Thomas.

Workshop/Ask a Lawyer: Fair Use, Copyright, Privacy, and Other Legal Issues
BIO’s first pro-bono legal workshop, conducted by a highly ranked publishing and entertainment attorney, who will be ready and willing to answer your publishing-related legal questions, large and small.
Leader: Kirk T. Schroder

4:15 to 5:15 P.M.

Round-Table Discussions
Round tables offer a chance to network with biographers working in your field, share resources, and solve common problems. Conference participants are invited to register for one of the following topical round tables, with a leader present at each table to facilitate discussion.

  • First-time Biographers
  • Biographies of Family Members
  • Group Biography
  • Black Biographies Matter
  • Women’s Lives
  • Sexuality in Biography
  • Lesser Known Subjects
  • U.S. History before 1945
  • U.S. History and Politics after 1945
  • Literary Biography
  • Celebrities and Popular Culture
  • Visual and Performing Arts

5:30 to 7:00 P.M. 

Closing Reception and the announcement of the 2016 Plutarch Award winner.

BIO Coaching Sessions

Scheduled half-hour sessions  with members of BIO’s excellent coaching program will take place at pre-arranged times on Friday, June 3 and Saturday, June 4. The cost is $50 for a half-hour session. Coaches include Kate Buford, Cathy Curtis, Irwin Gellman, Carla Kaplan, Linda Leavell, Justin Martin, Carl Rollyson, Carol Skenlicka, and Will Swift. Interested conference-goers can sign up for a coaching session on the registration site [link].

Sunday, June 5

The BIO Book Bash at the Hardywood Craft Brewery (2408 Ownby Ln, Richmond 23220)

12:00 to 3:00 P.M.

New this year: The BIO Book Bash, the official after party and book-selling event for the 2016 BIO Conference. Based on the conference bookseller Chop Suey Books’ annual Brew-Ho-Ho, a pre-holiday celebration held at Hardywood for local authors that draws hundreds of customers, the BIO Book Bash will provide a great opportunity for conference attendees and the public to meet and mingle with BIO authors. Come enjoy cold craft beer and book banter with the conference panelists and BIO board members and organizers, who will be selling and signing their books. The event is free and open to the public.