BIO Announces New Fellowship in Support of African American Lives

By Eric K. Washington, with Sarah Kilborne, Anne Boyd Rioux, and Sonja Williams BIO is pleased to announce the new Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship for African American Biography. The Rollin Fellowship will award $2,000 to an author working on a biographical work about an African American figure (or figures) whose story provides a significant contribution to our understanding of the Black experience. The deadline for applications is February 1, 2021. The Rollin Fellowship is… Read More »

On Being “Frank”

By Eric K. Washington One could say Carole Ione, also known professionally as IONE—a playwright, poet, diarist, and frequent co-creator with her longtime spouse, the late composer Pauline Oliveros —has grown accustomed to long waits. As chair of BIO’s Black Lives Matter Committee, I recently had the privilege of informing Ione that Frances Anne Rollin Whipper (1845–1901) would be the namesake of a new $2,000 fellowship next spring, to be offered for a biography-in-progress of… Read More »

Gayatri Patnaik to Receive Editorial Excellence Award

Gayatri Patnaik will receive BIO’s 2020 Editorial Excellence Award on Monday evening, November 9, at an online event featuring three of her authors: Imani Perry, Marcus Rediker, and Jeanne Theoharis, along with literary agent Tanya McKinnon. Patnaik is Associate Director and Editorial Director of Beacon Press, where for 18 years she has edited and published many books on race, ethnicity, and immigration. A native of India who emigrated with her family to the United States… Read More »

Biographies Live on Despite COVID

COVID-19 has upset publishers’ schedules for releasing new books, which might explain the large number of notable biographies coming out in the last few months of 2020 (some were postponed from spring releases). Traditional cradle-to-grave works, group biographies, and books about “hidden figures” are among the books generating interest among media outlets, before their fall and winter publication. We’re highlighting here just some of the books likely to garner critical and popular attention, because of… Read More »

Fair Use: Q&A with the Experts

On June 9, Brandon Butler and Peter Jaszi took part in a virtual workshop for BIO on fair use for biographers. Here, Butler and Jaszi answer two follow-up questions on the topic. You can see a recording of the workshop here, and read BIO’s Statement on Best Practices regarding fair use here Q: Taking into account fair use doctrine, when do we—and when don’t we—have to pay licensing fees in order to use… Read More »

BIO Workshop: Agents Discuss the State of the Publishing Industry

You can see a video of this workshop here. Three agents discuss the state of the publishing industry during the pandemic, particularly for biography and related nonfiction, as well as the agent-author relationship. Faith Childs is President of Faith Childs Literary Agency in New York and represents novelists and nonfiction writers, including biographers, historians, critics and journalists. For three decades she has been actively engaged in efforts to increase the representation of people of… Read More »

Race, Racism, and Biography

Black Lives Matter to BIO

During this historic summer of 2020, Black Lives Matter is garnering support nationally and internationally. For biographers and readers of biography, black lives matter, and writing black lives matters. Six BIO members will contribute essays to the July issue of The Biographer’s Craft about black lives, racism, and how they relate to biography. Here, in the meantime, are biographies of African-Americans by BIO members. Alexandrov, Vladimir. The Black Russian, 2013. Bell-Scott, Patricia. The Firebrand Read More »

BIO Workshop: Living Subjects

On Wednesday, June 24, BIO presents “Living on the Edge: Writing Biography of a Living Subject.”  Kai Bird (author of a forthcoming biography of President Jimmy Carter), David Greenberg (John Lewis), and Will Swift (Joan Baez) will talk about the the craft of writing an authorized or unauthorized life of a living subject. This form of biography requires juggling the skills of a journalist (tracking down key sources and interviewing them) and a historian (doing… Read More »

BIO Welcomes New Board Members and a New Vice President

By Linda Leavell BIO members recently elected a new vice president, Sarah Kilborne, and three new board members: Natalie Dykstra, Steve Paul, and Eric K. Washington. Like BIO’s membership at large, members of BIO’s Board of Directors come from diverse backgrounds and practice the art of biography in multiple print and non-print media. Sarah Kilborne has chaired BIO’s Publicity and Social Media Committee for the past two years. Thanks to her initiative and enthusiasm for… Read More »

BIO Workshop: Making Full Use of Fair Use

You can see a video of this workshop here. This meeting is free and open to all who register.  Fair use—the right of biographers and other writers, under limited conditions, to quote, paraphrase, summarize, and reproduce the copyrighted words and images of our subjects and others, without paying fees—is embedded in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976. Our distinguished panel of experts cuts through the almost universal confusion about fair use to illuminate this… Read More »

BIO Workshop: Promoting Your Book During the Pandemic 

This meeting is free and open to all who register. May 27, 2020 01:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada) Jennifer Richards and Rachel Tarlow Gul from Over the River Public Relations will share what they have learned about how book promotion is changing during the COVID-19 pandemic. They will share their insights and strategies and explain the role of a publicist and how to hire one. Former Random House, Inc. executives, Richards and… Read More »

Sonia Purnell Wins 2020 Plutarch Award

Sonia Purnell’s A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II (Viking/Penguin) has won the 2020 Plutarch Award for the Best Biography of 2019. The Plutarch is the world’s only literary award given to biographers by biographers. Named after the famous Greek writer, BIO awards the honor to the best biography of the year, chosen by a committee of five distinguished biographers. The award comes with… Read More »

Jay Prosser Wins Hazel Rowley Prize

Jay Prosser is the 2020 winner of BIO’s Hazel Rowley Prize for his proposal for Empire’s Loving Strangers: Journeys Through an Asian-Jewish Camphorwood Chest, a biography that explores one Jewish family’s experiences and connections across empires and centuries. Prosser is a reader in humanities at the University of Leeds in England, where he has taught since 1999. His book was previously shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Prize for the best unpublished biography, which is… Read More »

BIO Announces Winners of Caro Fellowships

BIO’s Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowship Committee (Deirdre David, Marc Leepson, and Steve Paul) is pleased to announce the selection of the 2020 winners: Lance Richardson and Lynne Bermont. Richardson, who lives in Austin, Texas, is working on True Nature: The Pilgrimage of Peter Matthiessen (under contract to Knopf/Pantheon [US] and Chatto & Windus [UK]). The $2,500 award will enable him to travel to Dolpo, in remote Nepal, the landscape that inspired Mattheissen’s best-known… Read More »

Mayborn/BIO Fellow Looks at Two Subjects, Two Cultures

Working on a dual biography of a relative who crossed paths with the Chiricahua Apache chief Geronimo, Morgan Voeltz has faced several challenges. She has also come to a conclusion that is probably familiar to many biographers: “Neither of these characters is entirely a hero,” she said, “and neither is entirely a villain.” Voeltz spoke about her experience working on the biography (her first), at a talk on February 20, at the Women’s International Study… Read More »

New Hidden Figures Fellowship Replaces Mayborn/BIO Fellowship

James McGrath Morris, the driving force behind the Mayborn/BIO Fellowship, is helping to launch a new fellowship program to assist aspiring authors working on a book about a lesser-known figure who merits a biography. The Santa Fe Hidden Figures Fellowship will provide a grant of $1,000, a two-week stay in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in a casita at the historic Acequia Madre House in cooperation with the Women’s International Studies Center (WISC), dinner five nights… Read More »

BIO Announces Finalists for 2020 Plutarch Award

BIO’s Plutarch Award Committee has chosen five finalists for the 2020 Plutarch Award for the best biography of 2019.  The selected titles include the third book in a multi-volume biography of Lincoln, a look at the lives of renegade anthropologists, and the story of an American spy during World War II. “It’ been a remarkable year for biography,” said Caroline Fraser, Plutarch Award Committee Chair. The finalists have emerged from an exceptional long list that… Read More »

BIO Cancels 2020 Conference

In light of reports about the worldwide spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 and the announcement by the CUNY Provost to cancel public programs and in-person class meetings for the rest of the spring semester, the BIO Board of Directors decided—regretfully but unanimously—to cancel the 2020 BIO conference. Everyone who has registered will receive a full refund of the registration fee plus all additional fees. As much as possible, BIO will preserve the 2020 program for… Read More »

Bio Announces Longlist for 2020 Plutarch Award

BIO’s Plutarch Award jury has nominated 10 books for the Plutarch Award, honoring the best biography of 2019. The Plutarch is the only international literary award judged and presented by biographers. BIO’s Plutarch jury will choose five finalists from the longlist and announce the winner on May 16 at the 11th Annual BIO Conference in New York. This year’s nominees, in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, are: All the Powers of Earth: Read More »

BIO Hires Michael Gately as Executive Director

BIO’s Board of Directors has hired Michael Gately to serve as the organization’s executive director. His duties include working with BIO’s Program Committee to organize the annual conference; working with other committees to publicize and administer BIO’s various awards; and assisting the board with administrative responsibilities. Gately assumed his new, part-time job on January 6, 2020. A graduate of Princeton University, Gately has wide experience in publishing and education. His previous positions include being the… Read More »

What’s Love Got to Do with It? A Passionate Biographer Talks about Getting to Know Her Subject

By Dona Munker, New York Correspondent Every serious biographer knows that only the most intense engagement with a subject can compel the writer to spend years in the archives and construct a narrative that has the energy it needs to carry both writer and reader across the finish line. Which is why, as Janice P. Nimura suggested to an audience at the City University of New York Graduate Center in October, biographers always long to… Read More »

Ileene Smith Receives 2019 Editorial Excellence Award

Ileene Smith, winner of BIO’s 2019 Editorial Excellence Award, received her award on November 13 at the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Smith has been vice president and executive editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux since 2012. She is also editorial director of the Jewish Lives series published by Yale University Press and the Leon D. Black Foundation. Smith has previously been the recipient of the… Read More »

Hermione Lee Wins 2020 BIO Award

By Justin Spring Dame Hermione Lee, Emeritus Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford, is the winner of the 11th annual BIO Award, a prize bestowed yearly by the Biographers International Organization to a distinguished colleague who has made a major contribution to the advancement of the art and craft of biography. Lee will receive the honor on May 16, at the 2020 BIO Conference at the Graduate Center of the City University of New… Read More »

BIO, Other Organizations Issue Statement on Fair Use

By Kai Bird Perhaps a biographer’s worst nightmare is to be told by his or her publisher’s lawyers that he or she cannot quote from all those colorful diaries and letters and must instead rewrite his or her manuscript so as to only paraphrase or summarize these sources. This happened to Ian Hamilton in 1986, when he was sued by the subject of his biography, J. D. Salinger. Random House compelled Hamilton to rewrite his… Read More »

A Tribute to James Atlas (1949–2019)

By Anne C. Heller He could be seen among gatherings of biographers wherever we meet: at festivals and symposia, on prize committees, at literary parties, leading panels of his distinguished friends in explorations of their craft, gallantly introducing new biographers to colleagues and readers with a keen and generous word of praise. His standards were old fashioned, unusually high, and deeply literary, and his praise will be remembered and cherished by the unknowable number of… Read More »

First-time Biographers, Apply Now for the Rowley Prize!

Biographers International Organization (BIO) is now accepting applications for the Hazel Rowley Prize. The prize rewards a biography book proposal from a first-time biographer with: funding (a $2,000 award); a careful reading from an established agent; one year’s membership in BIO (along with registration to the annual conference); and publicity for the author and project through the BIO website, The Biographer’s Craft newsletter, etc. The prize is a way for BIO—an organization of biographers, agents,… Read More »

Sign Up for the New BIO Quarterly Newsletter

Have you signed up to receive The Latest News in Biography quarterly newsletter? You can read the premiere September 2019 issue here. We hope you will share the newsletter with your colleagues and readers. Please subscribe here. Do you have biography news you would like to share for future newsletters? Let us know!… Read More »

Ileene Smith Wins Editorial Excellence Award

Ileene Smith is the winner of the 2019 Editorial Excellence Award, given each year by BIO to an outstanding editor, from nominations submitted by BIO members. Smith has been vice president and executive editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux since 2012. She is also editorial director of the Jewish Lives series published by Yale University Press and the Leon D. Black Foundation. Smith has previously been the recipient of the PEN/Roger Klein Award, the Tony… Read More »

Morgan Voeltz Swanson Wins Mayborn Fellowship

Morgan Voeltz Swanson won the Biography Fellowship awarded annually at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, held in July at the University of North Texas. The fellowship is cosponsored by BIO and BIO co-founder James McGrath Morris. With her fellowship, Swanson receives a two- to three-week residency in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and mentoring from Morris during her stay. In addition, she will receive complimentary admission to the 2020 BIO Conference and a $500 stipend. During… Read More »

Video Highlights from the 2019 BIO Conference

Here are some highlights from the 2019 BIO Conference, held in New York City on May 17-19. You can see the morning plenary with David Remnick, Stacy Schiff, and Judith Thurman, and Nigel Hamilton introducing 2019 BIO Award winner James McGrath Morris, who gave the keynote speech.… Read More »