Hazel Rowley Prize

$2,000 Prize for Best Proposal from a First-time Biographer

In an increasingly complex publishing world, the prize aims to help a first-time biographer of real promise in four ways: through funding (the $2,000 prize); by securing a careful reading from at least one established agent; a year’s membership in BIO; and publicity through the BIO website, The Biographer’s Craft newsletter, etc. The prize is a way for BIO, a grassroots organization of working biographers, to advance its mission and extend its reach to talented new practitioners.


The prize is named in memory of Hazel Rowley (1951-2011), born in London, educated in England and Australia, and a long-time resident of the United States. Hazel was a BIO enthusiast from its inception, understanding the need for biographers to help each other. Before her untimely death, she had authored four distinguished books: Christina Stead: A Biography, a New York Times “Notable Book”; Richard Wright: The Life and Times, a Washington Post “Best Book”; Tȇte-à-Tȇte: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, translated into twelve languages; and Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage, a Fresh Air/NPR pick. Hazel was a passionate advocate for the art and craft of biography and a writer of exacting standards, who was also a help to fellow biographers.

The prize will be given for the fourth time at the next BIO conference, in late spring 2018. Judges for the 2018 prize are distinguished biographers Stacy Schiff and James Atlas.

The Hazel Rowley Prize was given for the first time in 2014 to Holly Van Leuven for her proposal for a biography of actor Ray Bolger. She subsequently sold the book to Oxford University Press. You may read an essay she wrote about winning the prize here. In 2016, Robert Marshall won for his proposal for a biography of New Age author Carlos Castaneda. You can read an article about Marshall and his project here. The most recent winner, in 2017, was Diana Parsell for her proposal for a biography of Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, who had the idea to plant Japanese cherry trees in Washington, D.C., and made it happen.


The prize is open to citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. and Canada, writing in English, working on a biography that has not been commissioned, contracted, or self-published, and who have never published a biography, history, or work of narrative nonfiction. Biography as defined for this prize is a narrative of an individual’s life, although group biographies and innovative ways of treating lives will be considered. (If you have previously been published and are unsure of eligibility, please email James McGrath Morris.)

Applicants should

  1. Complete the on-line entry form. (One tip: Because of the way the form is, it can be a bit confusing when filling out one’s address. For example, “city” or “state” goes in the box above the word not below.)
  2. Upload a proposal, writing sample, and resume in one document totaling together no more than 20 pages, 12-point type with standard margins. The proposal should include a synopsis; tentative table of contents, notes on the market and competing literature. The documents may be a .doc, pdf, or txt file.
  3. Sign the online entry form by checking the box affirming your understanding of the rules and procedures.
  4. Submit $50 for the application fee using a major credit card..
  5. You will receive an acknowledgment of your entry within several days. If you do not, contact Lori Izykowski.


Terms and Conditions:

  • The deadline for entries is March 1, 2019. Receipt of all applications will be acknowledged by email. Thereafter, only applicants on the final shortlist for the prize will be contacted.
  • You affirm that the proposal you are submitting is your own work, and that it is not lodged with any publisher until after the winner has been announced at the BIO annual conference on May 17.
  • In submitting this prize entry form, you agree to all the terms and conditions of the BIO Rowley Prize as outlined above. Only one entry per applicant. In submitting this entry form, you affirm that you are the sole author (or if co-authored, authors) of the proposal. You also affirm that in the event of winning the prize, you will use your best endeavors to market your proposal for publication as a book. All decisions by the judges are final.


What are the rules on whether or not I have to be a member of BIO when I apply?

You do not have to be a member when you apply, but we would welcome you joining.

Am I eligible if I write young adult biographies?


Am I eligible if my proposal in under review by an agent, or in the process of being considered for publication?

No, the purpose of the award to is encourage biographers beginning at the beginning, so to speak.

Will the proposal be available as an example to members?

With your permission only, yes, we would like to show a first-rate proposal to our members.

Does memoir qualify if I’m writing basically to tell the story of other family members?

No, it does not. BIO limits its purview to the art and craft of biography.