The Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowship

In honor of the work of Robert and Ina Caro, Biographers International Organization has set up an annual research and travel fellowship. BIO members with a work in progress can apply to receive funding for research trips to archives or to important settings in their subject’s lives. This fellowship is a reflection of BIO’s ongoing commitment to support authors in writing beautifully contextualized and tenaciously researched biographies.

2020

Lynne Bermont
Lance Richardson

2019

Amy Reading
Nicholas Boggs

2018

Natalie Dykstra
Marina Harss

“[I]f the place, the setting, played a crucial role in shaping the character’s feelings, drives, motivations, insecurities, then by describing the place well enough, the author will have succeeded in bringing the reader closer to an understanding of the character.” –Robert Caro

In honor of the work of Robert and Ina Caro, Biographers International Organization has set up an annual research and travel fellowship. BIO members with a work in progress can apply to receive funding for research trips to archives or to important settings in their subject’s lives. This fellowship is a reflection of BIO’s ongoing commitment to support authors in writing beautifully contextualized and tenaciously researched biographies.

By their own example, the Caros have taught us the crucial importance of depicting a sense of place in delineating character.

“The greatest of books,” Robert Caro said in his keynote speech at the 2011 BIO Conference in Washington, “are books with places you can see in your mind’s eye.” He cited these examples of great writing about setting:

  • the deck of the Pequod, in Moby Dick, when the sailors haul whale parts aboard the ship to melt down for oil.
  • the battlefield at Borodino, in War and Peace, as Napoleon looks down from a hill and has to decide whether to send his Old Guard forward into battle.
  • Miss Havisham’s room in Great Expectations, with the  wedding cake covered with cobwebs, in which she lived out her life after she was jilted.

Eligibility

The Caro fellowship is open to all biographers anywhere in the world who are writing in English and whose work requires travel to a particular archive and/or a particular place significant to the life of the biographical subject. The fellowship is restricted to support works of biography, e.g. not of history, autobiography, or memoir. BIO welcomes submissions for non-print biographies such as documentary films. A publishing contract is not required for eligibility. BIO will award either one $5,000 or two $2,500 fellowships, based on the judgment of the panel of three judges.

Application Process

Complete the on-line entry form. (Please note that the form can be tricky. When filling out one’s address, for example, “city” and “state” go in the boxes above the words, not below).

Upload the following submission materials in a single document:

  • Project description (500 words or less). Provide a synopsis of the biography and explain how this work fits into the mission of the Caro fellowship. Provide details of where you wish to travel and why, and explain how such travel is relevant to your project. If you wish to travel to places where your subject lived or worked, provide relevant details. If you wish to travel to particular archives, specify why they will be important for your biography.
  • Details of your proposed budget. Provide an estimated cost of travel and possible housing.
  • Anticipated result of receipt of a Caro fellowship. Explain whether the fellowship will lead to completion of a proposal, a chapter in your biography, or completion of the work.
  • Author bio (500 words or less).

 Your document should be double-spaced, with 12-point type and standard margins. The document may be a .doc or a pdf.

Sign the on-line entry form by checking the box affirming your understanding of the rules and procedures.

There is no application fee for this fellowship.

Terms and Conditions

The deadline for entries is February 1, 2021. Receipt of all applications will be acknowledged by email. Entries will be judged by a three-person panel: for 2021 fellowships – Deirdre David, Carla Kaplan, Marc Leepson. The fellowship winner or winners will be announced by early May. Formal announcement of the winner or winners will be made at the annual conference.

FAQs

Does memoir qualify?
No, it does not.

Do I have to be a member of BIO when I apply?
No, you do not, but we would be pleased if you joined.

Am I eligible if I write young adult biographies?
Yes.

Am I eligible if I am represented by an agent or if my biography is under contract for publication?
Yes.