Like’ This Post: Using Social Media to Market and Promote You and Your Work
How do you make social media work for you, and for your work – and what’s the difference? What are the expectations of an online presence, and how can you make the most of Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and even LinkedIn in promoting your book? What are the dangers lurking in the corners of social media – and how do you prevent (or recover from) social media mishaps? A social media-savvy panel offers tips and tricks for creating an effective online presence that can help promote both you and your work—and how to avoid the pitfalls that don’t.
Panelists: Lesley Coffin moderator, Janet Reid, Sarah Weinman, Jennifer Richards-Ballott
Getting (Too) Close To Your Subject
What are the practical and philosophical challenges you face in approaching your subject? How close can you get without losing objectivity? And how do you negotiate the delicate dance with your subject’s family and friends?
Panelists: Beverly Gray moderator, J. Michael Lennon, Joyce Johnson, Marion Meade
Biography on Film
We will discuss the nuts and bolts of making a biographical film with several accomplished filmmakers. Some of the topics we will address include: finding a good subject, how to decide on a structure for your film, maintaining objectivity, financing, what role should you play in the film making process, how to avoid the pitfalls of boring your audience with talking heads and techniques for making your biographical film come alive. We will screen a short film produced and directed by Melvin McCray, Father Michael Lapsley and the Founding of the Institute for Healing of Memory.
Panelists: Melvin McCray moderator, June Cross, Sam Pollard
Organizing Your Research and Writing
As every biographer soon finds out, organizing research findings and making them accessible as you write can be almost as big a challenge as interpreting them. In this panel, three seasoned biographer-researchers will talk about setting up your individual filing system to make storing, retrieving, and using research easier.
Dona Munker, who takes the low-tech approach, will describe the basic online/hard copy filing system she developed in Microsoft Word to serve her individual needs. Victoria Olsen, who uses software designed expressly for filing and retrieving data (example: Zotero), will describe the features of some of the better-known electronic programs and discuss the pros and cons of each, including the ease or difficulty of learning how to use them. Barbara McManus will discuss how the writing software program Scrivener enables biographers to construct their narratives and incorporate research in an organized fashion and to make it more accessible while writing.
Panelists: Dona Munker, Victoria Olsen, Barbara F. McManus
Choosing Your Subject: Balancing Viability with Passion
Do you write for love or money? Or both? A pair of established writers and an experienced literary agent will discuss the process of finding the topic for a successful biography. The group will discuss key characteristics that make a subject potentially marketable, as well as the types of subjects that make for satisfying research and writing experiences for an author.
Panelists: Ted Geltner moderator, Jane Leavy, Janet Reid, Justin Martin
It’s Not Child’s Play: Writing Biographies for Young Adults in the Age of Instagram and Twitter
Authors discuss the unique challenges and rewards of writing for a young audience, from choosing subjects to handling sensitive issues.
Panelists: Marfe Ferguson Delano moderator, Deborah Heiligman, Susan Kuklin, Tanya Lee Stone
Diary of a Biographer: How Authors Lived Their Lives While Writing Someone Else’s
Biographers talk about establishing and sticking to a working schedule, how many years their books took to research and to write, what the impediments were (family and/or job demands, health problems, etc.) and how the panelists dealt with them. Do certain types of biographies take longer? What about contract issues in an increasingly time-sensitive publishing climate?
Panelists: Cathy Curtis moderator, Will Swift, Brian Jay Jones, Amanda Foreman
The Politics of Book Reviewing and Blurb Writing
Book review editors and writers evaluate the many review sites—print media, Amazon, blogs, etc. and discuss the pressures they face in choosing books to review, assigning space, and matching reviewer to book. Authors and agents discuss how they secure blurbs for their books. Reviewers, authors, and agents consider how important reviews and blurbs are to the success of a book.
Moderator: Dan Cryer, Panelists: Jan Harayda, James Marcus, Carlin Romano
The Challenge and the Call: Writing African American Biography
This panel examines the promise and pitfalls of writing biographies of both significant and obscure African American historical, literary, political, and cultural figures. Despite the success of prize winning biographies of W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Ella Baker, and Malcolm X, the genre of African American biographies continues to lag behind its mainstream counterparts. This panel will discuss the evolution of black biographical writing, its recent triumphs, and continuing challenges in the 21st century.
Moderator: Peniel Joseph; Panelists: Jamal Watson, A’Lelia Bundle, Herb Boyd
The Art of the Partial Biography
Is a ‘partial biography’ or ‘a slice of life biography’ still a biography? One specific crucial event or life episode could function as a critical starting point eventually leading to the investigation of the other parts of a life. In historiography, the approach of microhistory has yielded substantial results based on research investigating specific occasions, themes, episodes, clues and persons. ‘Partial lives’ also depart from this specific and particular perspective. Initially few biographers and historians considered biography as a manifestation of this trend, but currently biography is increasingly acknowledged as a potential form of microhistory.
Panelists: Nigel Hamilton moderator, Hans Renders, Matti Peltonen, Binne de Haan
Dealing With Black Holes in Your Narrative
When facts are sparse about an aspect or a period of your subject’s life, or when you are unable to gain access to the research material you need, what to do? Veteran biographers offer tactics and techniques to keep your biographical subject in focus and the narrative moving along with detail and color.
Panelists: Anne Heller moderator, Deirdre Bair, Carol Sklenicka, Neil Baldwin
Prospects, Pitfalls and Prestige of University Presses
For many authors, University Presses are mysterious entities. The panel of writers, who have published with UPs and trade publishers, and UP acquisition editors, will compare the merits of UPs versus trade publishers in today’s market as well as answer your questions. How is a university press different from a trade publisher? How does one approach a UP? Do the query/proposal/publishing/marketing processes differ? Does one need an agent? What are the realistic expectations? What about the money? What projects are appropriate/better suited for a university press?
Panelists: Deborah Martinson moderator, Barbara Burkhardt, Marlie Wasserman, Justin Spring, Tim Bent
The Doctor Is In: Figuring Out What Makes Your Subject Tick
This panel will explore how a biographer uses the materials at his or her disposal to figure out what makes a subject tick. At one point, the school of “psychological biography” was much in vogue. That is not what the panel is about, although some brief historical references will be given. Rather, panelists will discuss how the tools of biography – diaries, scrapbooks, correspondence, interviews – can be used to understand a subject’s motivations, behavior and accomplishments. Questions that will be explored include how much psychologizing is enough, how much is too much? How do you handle the inner life of a subject who appears to have very little inner life? What about a subject who has suffered from mental illness? What is the role of expert advice from psychologists or psychiatrists? When is “perhaps” acceptable? Panelists will provide some brief textual examples of what works.
Panelists: Gayle Feldman moderator, Deirdre Bair, D.T. Max, Brenda Wineapple
The Short-Form Biography
From 50 words to 50,000, here’s how to tell—and how to sell—brief tales of fascinating people, past or present. Panelists will reveal the secrets of writing biographical pieces for today’s magazines, web sites, reference works, e-books, and more, as well as how to get editors as excited about your subject as you are.
Moderator: Greg Daugherty; Panelists: James Atlas, Roy S. Johnson, Amy Aronson
Crafting the Biography
Three experienced biographers discuss challenges and techniques in crafting a compelling life story. Focusing on the writing process, they will address questions including how to: artfully weave research and evidence to create a persuasive narrative; select incidents and evidence to support your own take on your subject; effectively link the subject’s inner life with his or her public actions; fit together pieces of research in a cohesive way that best serves the story you wish to tell.
Moderator: Amy Schapiro; Panelists: Kate Buford, David Stewart, Marc Leepson
Brilliant Beginnings and Engrossing Endings
Two biographers and a top editor discuss the issues and challenges in creating provocative prologues and opening chapters. They will also consider how to end a life story with an intriguing final chapter and whether or nor to include an epilogue. Among our questions: How to: captivate readers and maintain their interest, integrate the prologue with the main narrative, provide salient background information while avoiding boring “begats” of lineage, maintain narrative flow despite the litany of honors and maladies at the end of a long life, and cover lives where early success is followed by a long stretch of fallow years.
Panelists: Will Swift moderator, Debby Applegate, John Farrell, Jonathan Segal
Almost Famous: Biographies of Wives, Sisters, Fathers, Lovers of the Famous
Writers discuss how they stimulate interest in their often neglected or misunderstood subject while satisfying curiosity about his or (more likely) her famous relative.
Panelists: Barbara Fisher moderator, Jean Strouse, Natalie Dykstra, Betty Caroli
Biography as History: What Historians Can Learn From Biography and What Biographers Can Learn From History
A major social historian once wrote, “meaning does not emerge until averages are calculated,” individual practice varies, and “probably the best justification for the inclusion of illustrative examples is that many readers of history expect them.” To be sure, biography is probably the most popular form of history – outside the profession. Biographers often ask how much history should be included in their treatment of their subjects. Conversely historians rarely ask what biographies have to say about historical questions except when the particular individual is a concern. The focus of this session will be to explore what historians can learn from biographical studies as well as what biographers can learn from the study of history.
Panelists: Martin Quitt moderator, Joe Woodward, Nigel Hamilton, Catherine Clinton, Carol DeBoer-Langworthy
Future Tense: Market Outlook
Future Tense: Mapping Trends in Biography and Publishing: Is there a bright future for biography? What is currently selling and what are agents, editors and readers looking for in the future? Should biographers try to anticipate the mood of the market? What are the current market trends, and how is biography faring both in print and in other formats, such as e-books? Are e-books the wave of the future? Is print truly dead . . . or is that just a rumor?
Moderator: Brian Jay Jones; Panelists: Jonathan Lyons, Andrew Lownie, Ryan Doherty, Bob Pigeon