2024 BIO Conference

BIO welcomes biographers, editors, agents, publishers, and publicity professionals from across the nation and around the world to the 14th annual BIO Conference. BIO is honored again to partner with the Leon Levy Center for Biography  to host this event. Registration for the 2024 BIO Conference is now available through Eventbrite:

Register Now!

About the Conference

The 2024 BIO Conference will take place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, May 16–18, 2023.

The cost of registration is $245 for BIO members before April 1, $295 for BIO members after April 1, $345 for nonmembers, $49 for online only for members, and $99 for online only for nonmembers. Those in need of financial assistance may apply for a Chip Bishop Fellowship here.

Attendees joining online can stream all plenary events that take place in the Auditorium, including one panel for each time slot. It will be determined by May 1 which panels will be held in the Auditorium.

Additional offerings include Roundtables on various subjects, short readings of new books by members, announcements of the Biblio Award and fellowship winners, and the announcement of the Plutarch Award for the best biography of 2023, as judged by biographers.

BIO members who have a new biography published between June 1, 2023, and June 1, 2024, are invited to participate in the Members Reading. Please send the title of your book, the name of its publisher, and the month of publication here.

Face-to-face coaching sessions are available to conference participants who seek advice from an experienced biographer. Each session lasts 45 minutes and costs $50, paid directly to the coach. To request a coaching session, email a one-page description of your project along with a specific question or two here.

Program

Thursday, May 16

All times listed are New York (Eastern Daylight) time.

10:00–10:30 AM

Optional Archive Tours begin

Note: Tours are limited to those who signed up in advance. If you would like to participate, you must purchase the tour of your choosing as a ticket add-on when you register for the conference through Eventbrite. 

Conference attendees are invited to add tours of various New York libraries and archives to your schedules. Tours will require a $25 per person fee, and registration is limited. While the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library are within walking distance of the CUNY Graduate Center, transportation will be on your own to other sites (subway, bus, taxi, car services).

10:00–11:30 AM: The New York Public Library’s special collections

The New York Public Library
40th Street and Fifth Avenue

Please join us for an introduction to The New York Public Library’s special collections. We will meet in one of the historic reading rooms, the Berg Collection, to examine archival and rare materials and to learn more about the range of resources available at The New York Public Library’s flagship location, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which is one of the Library’s premier research centers, renowned for its extraordinary historical collections and its commitment to providing free and equal access to its resources. After we examine material, participants are invited on a brief tour of the rest of the building and reading rooms, and will have the opportunity to explore The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures as well as temporary exhibitions on view. Tour limited to 15 attendees; see Saturday schedule for another opportunity.

10:30 AM–12:00 PM: The New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard (at 135th Street), Harlem

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, one of The New York Public Library’s renowned research libraries, is a world-leading cultural institution devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. Attendees will learn about the resources in five major divisions of the center: Art and Artifacts; Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference; Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books; Photographs and Prints; Moving Pictures and Sound. Tour limited to 12 attendees.

1:00 PM

Registration opens, Concourse Level, CUNY Graduate Center

1:00–2:30 PM

Tour

Note: Tours are limited to those who signed up in advance. If you would like to participate, you must purchase the tour of your choosing as a ticket add-on when you register for the conference through Eventbrite. 

1:00 PM–2:30 PM The Grolier Club Library and Museum

The Grolier Club
47 E. 60th Street

BIO member Eve Kahn will give a private tour of this unique hybrid library, museum, and club, founded in 1884, America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles. It is headquartered in a 1917 Georgian Revival building designed by club member and noted architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Interior highlights include a Dutch Colonial-style tavern and a soaring Neoclassical research library with 100,000 volumes that shed light on how the printed word and image have disseminated information for millennia. Two floors of public exhibition spaces with excerpts from Grolier members’ collections will be on the tour, including an exhibit on the wild history of English language dictionaries: “Hardly Harmless Drudgery.” Tour limited to 20 attendees.

 

1:00 PM–2:30 PM Morgan Library Special Collections

The Morgan Library (Special Collections)
225 Madison Avenue (at 36th Street)

Special Collections Curator Philip Palmer will introduce attendees to the vast range of research resources at this historic site. Collections include medieval manuscripts; literary and historical documents from the lives and works of figures as diverse as Sir Isaac Newton, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Austen and John Steinbeck; the Paris Review Archive; and countless music and art sources. Attendees will meet in the Education Center. Tour limited to 20 attendees.

2:00–3:30 PM 

Workshop

Note: The workshop is limited to those who signed up in advance. If you would like to participate, you must purchase the workshop admission as a ticket add-on when you register for the conference through Eventbrite. 

Drafting and refining a book proposal has become one of the essential ingredients to selling your book and yourself to potential agents and editors. As many biographers find, it’s one of the most difficult but important parts of the process and one way writers can focus their goals and convince even themselves of the necessity of their projects. Come join the discussion and learn some tips and strategies.

Carl Rollyson is professor emeritus of journalism at Baruch College, CUNY, and has published 14 biographies, including in 2020, The Life of William Faulkner and The Last Days of Sylvia Plath. In August 2023, the University of Mississippi Press published Rollyson’s Sylvia Plath Day by Day, Volume 1. Volume 2 of his Plath biography is forthcoming in August 2024. Also forthcoming: The Making of Sylvia Plath, William Faulkner on and off the Page: Essays in Biographical Criticism, and Ronald Colman: Hollywood’s Gentleman Hero. Rollyson also hosts the podcast A Life in Biography, available at https://anchor.fm/carl-rollyson.

4:00–4:45 PM

Member Readings, Proshansky Auditorium

4:45–5:30 PM

Awards Presentation, Proshansky Auditorium

Presentation of the Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowship, the Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship, the Hazel Rowley Prize, and the Ray A. Shepard Service Award.

5:30–7:00 PM 

Opening Reception, Concourse Level

Friday, May 17

All times listed are New York (Eastern Daylight) time.

8:00 AM–8:40 AM

Registration and Breakfast, Concourse Level, Graduate Center

8:40 AM–9:00 AM

Welcome from Kai Bird, Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, and BIO President Steve Paul, Proshansky Auditorium

9:00 AM–10:00 AM

JAMES ATLAS PLENARY, Proshansky Auditorium

A conversation between Tamara Payne and Thulani Davis

Tamara Payne is a Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X, written with her father, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Les Payne. Prior to working on the book, she worked in the media industry and real estate and graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Payne worked at The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS for about one year. She then moved to China, where she taught English for two years in Shandong Province. Upon her return from China, Les Payne invited her to work on the book. She was the principal researcher while working in commercial real estate. After her father’s
sudden passing in 2018, Payne made it her purpose to finish his life’s work. The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, NAACP Image Award, and the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center Vanguard Award.

Thulani Davis is an associate professor and a Nellie Y. McKay Fellow in African American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of seven books, including The Emancipation Circuit: Black Activism Forging a Culture of Freedom, which was awarded the MAAH Stone Book Award. Her libretto work includes X, The Life & Times of Malcolm X, Anthony Davis’s Amistad, Anne LeBaron’s The E&O Line, Miya Masaoka’s Dark Passages, Steven Robinson’s The Sojourner Washing Society: A Musical in Gospel and Blues, and numerous works by Bernadette Speach, most recently, The Little Rock
Nine, an opera for younger singers. Davis has written scripts for several documentaries and narrative films, including W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices, and was the project developer for I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African American Arts. She is a past recipient of a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers Award, a Pew Foundation National Theatre Artist Residency, and a Revson Fellowship on the Future of New York City, among others. She is a past Grammy winner, amidst three nominations for her work, and has been honored by the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Committee for work on creating the Fort Monroe National Monument.

 

10:15 AM–11:15 AM

PANELS 

What Editors Want Today

The public’s fondness for biographies is constantly evolving, signaling shifting demographics, diversity, and accessibility demands and preferences. What are publishers and their top editors looking for from biographers in today’s marketplace? These editors will discuss how biography fits into their publishing lists, what conventional and creative approaches work, and what themes, subject fields, and historical periods generate the most interest. What makes a book proposal a winner, and what are the general guiding principles for a successful manuscript? (BASICS TRACK)

Moderator

Amanda Vaill is a best-selling and award-winning biographer, journalist, and screenwriter, author of Everybody Was So Young: Sara and Gerald Murphy—A Lost Generation Love StorySomewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins;and Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War.As a book publisher, her nonfiction titles included Antony Alpers’s Katharine Mansfield, Ingmar Bergman’s The Magic Lantern, Laurence Bergreen’s As Thousands Cheer,Louise Bogan’s Journey Around My Room, Taylor Branch and Eugene Propper’s Labyrinth, Blanche Wiesen Cook’s Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Leaming’s Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, Henry Leifermann’s Crystal Lee (the basis for the film Norma Rae), and Laurie Lisle’s Louise Nevelson. A past fellow of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, she is completing a dual biography of Hamilton’s Schuyler sisters, entitled Pride and Pleasure.

Panelists

Rakia Clark is an executive editor at Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. She acquires serious, literary, and narrative nonfiction and gorgeously written, plot-driven novels and short story collections. Her very first acquisition at Mariner, Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir by Brian Broome, won the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction and was named to numerous Best-of-the-Year lists. Clark’s recent bestsellers include Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood by Vanity Fair contributing writer Maureen Ryan and American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery. Forthcoming titles include Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real About the End by death doula Alua Arthur; as well as novels by National Book Award finalist Angela Flournoy, National Book Award finalist Deesha Philyaw, and No.1 New York Times best-selling memoirist Augusten Burroughs.

Dawn Davis is senior vice president and publisher of the 37 Ink imprint and executive editor, Simon & Schuster. Davis is on the executive leadership team reporting to Simon & Schuster’s president and CEO, Jon Karp. She returned to the publishing house from Condé Nast, where she had recently been editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit & Epicurious. Davis has acquired/edited many bestsellers and acclaimed biographies including National Book Award finalist Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge; Ilyon Woo’s Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom; Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First Lady of the Black Press by BIO founder James McGrath Morris; The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae, which inspired the popular HBO show Insecure; Tough Love by Susan Rice; and Whiting Award winners Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People) and Safiiya Sinclair (How to Say Babylon).

Charles Spicer is a vice president and executive editor at St. Martin’s Press Publishing Group, part of Macmillan Publishers. He acquires and edits commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, biography, and true crime. Biographies he has published include J. Randy Taraborrelli’s Jackie: Public, Private, Secret; Laura Thompson’s The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters; Anne Sebba’s That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, and Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy; Susan Ronald’s Condé Nast: The Man and His Empire; and Anne de
Courcy’s Magnificent Rebel: Nancy Cunard in Jazz Age Paris. He lives in New York and Ashley Falls, Mass.

 

Melding Science and Biography

Almost every biography, irrespective of whether the subject is an author, artist, or musician, contains an element of science, medicine, or technological innovation. However, conveying a subject’s health challenges and scientific or technical pursuits in an engaging way can be challenging. In this panel discussion, members of BIO’s vibrant science and medicine roundtable who have published biographies of scientists, doctors, and innovators, will explore how to weave complex technical information into compelling narratives. Join us for an engaging exchange where panelists will share insights that will equip fellow biographers with the tools to seamlessly integrate science and medicine into any life story. (CRAFT TRACK)

Moderator

Gabriella Kelly-Davies is a doctoral student in biography at Sydney University and a visiting doctoral scholar at the Centre for Life Writing at Oxford University. She has studied biography and history at ANU’s National Centre of Biography, narrative nonfiction at Sydney University, and creative writing at the University of Technology (Sydney). Her Ph.D. includes two components: Breaking Through the Pain Barrier. The Extraordinary Life of Dr Michael J. Cousins, the biography of Australia’s foremost pain medicine pioneer, which was published in 2021, and a dissertation, Choices, Choices, Choices: One Biographer’s Experience. The dissertation explores many of the choices she is making while writing the biography and the views of biographers and literary scholars about these choices.

Panelists

Patchen Barss is a Toronto-based science journalist and author, currently working on a book about the life and work of British mathematician, cosmologist, and Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose, to be published in 2024 by Basic Books in the U.S., and Atlantic Books in the U.K. He was the 2021–2022 Sloan Biography Fellow at CUNY’s Graduate Center.

Kenneth Miller is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Time, Life, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Discover, Aeon, and many other publications. His group biography, Mapping the Darkness: The Visionary Scientists Who Unlocked the Mysteries of Sleep, was published in October 2023 by Hachette. Miller has reported from four continents on topics including science, medicine, culture, criminal justice, religion, and the environment. Currently a contributing editor for Discover, he has served as West Coast editor of Reader’s Digest, a senior editor at People, and a staff writer at Life. He was also a senior writer for Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century (Turner Books, 1995). His honors include the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, the American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Article Award for science writing, and the ASJA’s June Roth Award for medical writing. He lives in Los Angeles.

Karen Torghele is an epidemiologist who spent the majority of her career working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Task Force for Global Health in Atlanta, Georgia.  She designed and conducted oral histories related to the early years of the CDC and for the Oral History of Polio Project. The 80 video recordings of her interviews are included in the Global Health Chronicles website. An active member of BIO, Torghele enjoys its podcasts and Zoom sessions to learn more about the nuances of writing biographies. When she is not writing, she enjoys playing cello in the Atlanta Musicians’ Orchestra and adding to her lifetime bird-spotting list. Her first book, Albert Sabin: A Fierce Joy, is a biography of the developer of the oral polio vaccine, forthcoming from Yale University Press this year.

 

From Book to Film: Selling Options, Scripting, Producing

From options to Oppenheimer-like success is many biographers’ dream. But selling an option for your book is only the first step—and for some authors, the closest we’ll get—to achieving Hollywood acclaim. This panel will look at what options are and what role biographers may be asked to play if their title moves beyond the option stage and serves as a source for a biopic. (BUSINESS TRACK)

Moderator

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina is an award-winning professor of biography and English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Working with 19 other authors, she edited Britain’s Black Past, published by Liverpool University Press in 2020. She also has published nine other books, including Carrington: A Life; Black London: Life Before Emancipation; Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Unexpected Life of the Author of The Secret Garden; and Mr. and Mrs. Price: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and Into Legend.

Panelists

Kai Bird is the director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography. A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, he is the author of five biographies, including American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer—co-authored with the late Martin J. Sherwin—which was the basis for Christopher Nolan’s 2023 film Oppenheimer.

A’Lelia Bundles is the author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, a 2002 New York Times Notable Book about her entrepreneurial great-great-grandmother and the nonfiction inspiration for Self Made, the fictional Netflix series starring Octavia Spencer. Joy Goddess: A’Lelia Walker and the Harlem Renaissance, the first major biography of her great-grandmother, will be published in early 2025 by Scribner. Bundles serves on several nonprofit boards and advisory councils, including the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute. A former network television executive and Emmy Award-winning producer at ABC News and NBC News, she was chair of the National Archives Foundation and a vice chair of Columbia University’s board of trustees.

Richard Zacks is a journalist, former syndicated newspaper columnist, and author of numerous pieces for the The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, Time, Village Voice, and the like. His best-selling books cover a wide range of topics, including sex, vice, and love through the ages. His works include Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-loving New York; Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain’s Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour; The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805; The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd; History Laid Bare: Love, Sex & Perversity From the Ancient Etruscans to Warren G. Harding; and An Underground Education: The Unauthorized and Outrageous Supplement to Everything You Thought You Knew About Art, Sex, Business, Crime, Science, Medicine, and Other Fields of Human Knowledge. He has worked on several films and documentaries, including The Alienist, Pirating, and most recently, The Booze, Bets and Sex That Built America.

 

Writing Asian and Asian American Biography

As authors of current and forthcoming biographies, our panel will discuss the following questions: How can we pitch Asian or Asian American themed content for broad audiences? What surprises and challenges come from researching across language, borders, and specific art forms? How do we gain the trust of our subjects’ families, and how does the past reveal itself to the digital age? (ISSUES TRACK)

Moderator

Susan Blumberg-Kason is the author of Bernardine’s Shanghai Salon: The Story of the Doyenne of Old China and Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong. She is also the co-editor of Hong Kong Noir and a regular contributor to the Asian Review of Books, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and World Literature Today. Her work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Pop Matters, and the South China Morning Post. Blumberg-Kason lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Panelists

Karen Fang is a film scholar and cultural critic who writes and speaks for museums and film festivals around the world. Her newest book, Background Artist: The Life and Work of Tyrus Wong, is a biography of the Chinese American immigrant artist who helped make the Disney animated classic Bambi. A specialist on the intersection of Eastern and Western aesthetics, Fang has also written about the cross-cultural influences between Hong Kong and Hollywood cinema and the impact of exotic artifacts on 19th-century British writing. Her writing on Tyrus Wong has also appeared in Smithsonian magazine, Hyperallergic, and on the popular public radio series The Engines of Our Ingenuity.

Katie Gee Salisbury is the author of Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong (Dutton, 2024), a new biography of the first Asian American movie star. Salisbury’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Believer, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship in 2021 and gave the TED Talk “As American as Chop Suey.” Gee Salisbury also writes the newsletter “Half-Caste Woman.” A fifth-generation Chinese American who hails from Southern California, she now lives in Brooklyn.

Sung-Yoon Lee, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is the author of The Sister: The Extraordinary Story of Kim Yo Jong, the Most Powerful Woman in North Korea, published in America by Public Affairs in September 2023. Previously, Dr. Lee, born and raised in South Korea, taught Korean history at the Fletcher School, Tufts University.

 

11:30 AM–12:30 PM

PANELS 

Mining Archives for Research Gold

Archives and research libraries are treasure troves for biographers—if they know which ones to use and how to navigate them. Join two archivists and a curator from three of the country’s leading research institutions as they outline some of their holdings and answer your questions about how to get the most out of archives. (BASICS TRACK)

Moderator

Marc Leepson is a journalist and historian and the author of 10 books, including three biographies: Lafayette: Idealist General (2011), What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, a Life (2014), and Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Army Sgt. Barry Sadler (2017). He is at work on a slice-of-life biography of Doug Hegdahl, the youngest and lowest-ranking prisoner of war held in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. A former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, D.C., he taught U.S. history at Laurel Ridge Community College in Warrenton, Virginia, from 2008 to 2015. A BIO board member since 2013, he serves as the organization’s treasurer.

Panelists

Barrye Brown is the curator of the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She received her B.A. in history from Dillard University, M.A. in history with a focus on Atlantic World/African Diaspora from Rice University, and her M.S. in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where, as a Carolina Academy Library Associate, she held dual appointments in the Southern Historical Collection and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center Library for Black History and Culture. Prior to her arrival at the Schomburg Center, she served as the reference and outreach archivist at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. She is a 2022–2024 Rare Book School-Mellon Cultural Heritage Fellow.

Nancy Kuhl is curator of poetry for the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. She is the author of exhibition catalogs including Intimate Circles: American Women in the Arts and The Book Remembers Everything: The Work of Erica Van Horn. Kuhl is also a poet who has written four full-length poetry collections, including, most recently, On Hysteria. She received BIO’s 2019 Biblio Award for extraordinary service to biographers.

Abigail Malangone is an archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, one of the 15 libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). She has been an archivist with NARA for the past 14 years, first working at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library before joining the JFK Library in 2013. Prior to her work with NARA, Malangone worked for the Winthrop Group in New York City. She received her M.S. in library and information science from Long Island University. She is an associate lecturer at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and serves as a representative-at-large for the New England Archivists.

 

Merging Biography and Memoir

This panel explores a life-writing genre that resists classification, troubles genre conventions, and confuses marketers: the merging of biography and autobiography in books written by women about women subjects. Utilizing different perspectives, panel participants will consider questions about intention, form, and consequences, as well as gender, race, and sexuality. What is gained and what is lost when women biographers merge their own stories with those of their female biographical subjects: mothers, close friends, and mentors? Does the blending permit storytelling that otherwise defies language and other available forms? In what ways does story-merging aid the creation of subjects’ interiority and in what ways does it hamper it? Panelists will address craft, discuss complex ethical, gender, and race issues, and focus on a new direction in biography. (CRAFT TRACK)

Moderator

Linda M. Grasso is author of Equal Under the Sky: Georgia O’Keeffe and Twentieth-Century Feminism, the first historical study of the artist’s complex involvement with, and influence on, feminism in the United States from the 1910s to the 1970s. Grasso is professor of English and liberal studies at York College, CUNY, and she holds faculty appointments in the Biography and Memoir Program, the Liberal Studies Program, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is studying women’s memoirs, essays, and poetry about Georgia O’Keeffe in which the authors merge writing about their own lives with that of the artist they admire.

Panelists

Megan Marshall is the author of Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, in which she interweaves autobiographical chapters into her biography of poet Elizabeth Bishop. Marshall is the Charles Wesley Emerson College Professor at Emerson College, where she teaches nonfiction writing in the M.F.A. Creative Writing Program. She has written several acclaimed biographies of women and has received the Pulitzer Prize in Biography for Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, the BIO Award, and other distinguished awards.

Marnie Mueller, is the author of The Showgirl and the Writer: A Friendship Forged in the Aftermath of the Japanese American Incarceration, a hybrid memoir/biography about the convergences between Mary Mon Toy, a Nisei performer, and Mueller’s own life history as a Caucasian born in the Tule Lake Japanese American Segregation Camp. Mueller is a novelist and essay writer who is the recipient of several distinguished awards, including an American Book Award and the Maria Thomas Award for Outstanding Fiction.

 

From Ink to Algorithms: What You Need to Know About Artificial Intelligence

Writers can harness the power of AI ethically and effectively by using it as a complementary tool, staying mindful of potential risks, and upholding the principles of authenticity, transparency, and responsible content creation. Balancing the benefits of AI with a full understanding of its limits is crucial in maintaining the integrity of the writing process. This panel will discuss the real-world uses and abuses of AI, trends, benefits, and pitfalls of this rapidly expanding tool. (BUSINESS TRACK)

Moderator

Kate Clifford Larson is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of critically acclaimed biographies, including Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (2004); Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (2015); and The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln (2008). Her latest biography, Walk With Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer (2021), was one of Kirkus Reviews’s Best of 2021. An award-winning historical consultant, she has worked on feature films—including Focus Features’ Harriet, starring prize-winning Cynthia Erivo, and Robert Redford’s The Conspirator—documentaries, museum exhibits, and public history and heritage tourism initiatives. Her work deeply informed Harriet Tubman state and national parks in Maryland and New York, as well as the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and All-American Road. She has appeared on local, national, and international media outlets, including CBS Sunday Morning.

Panelists

Nigel Cameron has written extensively on the implications of emerging technologies, including Will Robots Take Your Job? A Plea for Consensus (Polity). In the early 2000s, he led the first U.S. center on the social impact of nanotechnology (at the Illinois Institute of Technology), co-edited Nanoscale: Issues and Perspectives for the Nano Century (Wiley), and for a decade directed the Washington, D.C., Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (now sadly defunct). He has testified several times before Congress, represented the U.S. at U.N./UNESCO intergovernmental meetings, and was an invited presenter at a U.N. Expert Meeting to assess the secretary-general’s report on AI and human rights. For the past four years, Cameron has been writing the biography of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, under contract with UMass Press. A native Brit, he spent nearly 30 years in the States and now divides his time between homes in France and Belgium.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s poetry and nonfiction challenges the Western myth of progress by examining the devastating impact that agriculture and overpopulation have had, and continue to have, on the North American West. Taking an ecofeminist bent, her writing also challenges the American West’s male-oriented recorded history by researching the lives of women. Her fourth collection of poems, West : Fire : Archive was published by the Center for Literary Publishing in 2021. Dunkle wrote the first full-length biography on Charmian London, Jack London’s wife, Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2020 (now available in audiobook). Her next biography, Riding Like the Wind: The Life of Sanora Babb, is forthcoming from University of California Press in fall 2024. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College, UC Davis, and Dominican University and is the poetry and translation director of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

Holly Van Leuven is a writer, ghostwriter, and editor. She is the editor of BIO’s newsletters, The BIO Insider and The Biographer’s Craft. She is also the copy editor and fact-checker of the Morning Brew newsletter, which tracks business, technology, geopolitical, and current events for over three million subscribers daily. She is the author of Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow, published by Oxford University Press in 2019, the proposal for which she won BIO’s inaugural Hazel Rowley Prize in 2014. As a digital native who is also a traditionally published biographer, and an editor tracking daily developments in AI for the average person, she is deeply interested in existing and new research tools and methodologies, particularly as they affect independent scholars.

 

Leadership in Times of Peril in Democracy

Most observers consider the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 an attack on American democracy, a flashpoint for Americans and the American political system. Historians and social scientists have pointed to growing threats to U.S. democracy, and public opinion polls show that large majorities of Americans also believe democracy is at risk. At the same time, growing numbers of Americans tell pollsters that political violence is appropriate to “save” the United States. During previous times of political and social peril, political leaders have worked to direct the nation toward the goal of a “more perfect” union. What are the qualities of leadership that are important during times of peril, when the nation is facing threat from within? This panel features biographers who have traced the careers of political leaders who rose during difficult times to fight against subjugation and to lift the ideals of American democracy. (ISSUES TRACK)

Moderator

Marion Orr is the Frederick Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and professor of political science at Brown University. He is the author of The House of Diggs: The Untold Story of Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr.’s Activist Leadership–From Emmett Till to Anti-Apartheid–and the Scandal That Nearly Erased a Legacy of Social Justice (University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming), the first biography of Michigan’s first Black congressman and perhaps the most consequential Black federal legislator to serve in the U.S. Congress. He is the author and/or editor of seven books. Orr is the 2022 recipient of BIO’s Frances “Frank” Rollins Fellowship. The House of Diggs is his first biography.

Panelists

Fergus M. Bordewich is an independent writer, historian, and journalist and the author of nine nonfiction books, including: Klan War: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save ReconstructionCongress at War; The First Congress (D.B. Hardeman Prize winner); and America’s Great Debate (2012 Los Angeles Times History Prize). He has served as chairman of the awards committee for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and is currently on the advisory council of scholars for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society. His articles and reviews have appeared in many national magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He is a frequent speaker on subjects related to 19th-century American history, and as a journalist, he reported extensively on politics, economic issues, and culture from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. He holds degrees from the City College of New York and Columbia University.

Anastasia C. Curwood is the Hallam Professor and Department Chair of History and director of the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies at the University of Kentucky. She writes about 20th-century African American women and gender through the lens of Black Americans’ engagements with social and political institutions. Her first book, Stormy Weather: Middle-Class African American Marriages Between the Two World Wars (UNC Press, 2010), centered on contests over African Americans’ marriages in the early 20th century. Her most recent work, Shirley Chisholm: Champion of Black Feminist Power Politics (UNC Press, 2023), traces the course of Chisholm’s extraordinary life, from Caribbean roots to her pathbreaking career in the U.S. Congress and quest for the presidency. Curwood is the recipient of a Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, a Ford Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a research fellowship at the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory University.

John A. Farrell is the author of four biographies of famous Americans, including his latest, Ted Kennedy: A Life (Penguin, 2022), a Top 10 finalist for the National Book Award for nonfiction and cited as one of the best books of 2022 by The New Yorker. Farrell’s 2017 biography, Richard Nixon: A Life, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a New York Times bestseller that won the 2018 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography for the best biography of the year and the New-York Historical Society’s Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History, with engraved medal, a $50,000 award, and the honorary title “American Historian Laureate” for the best volume of U.S. history or biography in 2017. His other books are Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, and Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century, the definitive account of House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., and his times.

Samuel G. Freedman is an award-winning, best-selling author, a prize-winning former columnist for The New York Times, and an acclaimed professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His books include the 1990 National Book Award finalist Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School; Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, winner of the 1993 Helen Bernstein Award; the 1997 Pulitzer finalist The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond; the 2001 National Jewish Book Award winner Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry; Who She Was: My Search for My Mother’s Life; Letters to a Young Journalist; and Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Game and Changed the Course of Civil Rights. His most recent book, Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights, was released in 2023.

 

12:30 PM–2:00 PM

Lunch

Roundtables

Roundtable Topics and Moderators 

(If you wish to participate in a Roundtable, you must sign up for one as part of conference registration. You will be given an option to select a Roundtable as part of the registration process through Eventbrite.)

1. American History: Louise Knight
2. Biography as Cultural History: Julia Richards
3. Biography, BIO, and Ethics: Sarah Covington
4. Interviewing and being Interviewed: Greg Daugherty
5. First-Time Biographers: Allison Gilbert
6. Writing Women’s Lives: Carla Kaplan
7. Group Biography: Janice Nimura
8. How to Use FOIA: Julia Mickenberg
9. Promotional Strategies: Jennifer Richards
10. Literary Biography, Table 1: Ruth Franklin
11. Literary Biography, Table 2: Linda Leavell
12. Military History: Marc Leepson
13. Music and Pop Culture: Holly George-Warren
14. Hip Hop Biography after 50 years – TBA
15. Permissions, Fair Use, Other Legal Issues: Diane Kiesel
16. Tracing Black Lives: Eric Washington
17. Supporting Yourself as a Biographer: Beverly Gray
18. Graphic Biography: Danny Fingeroth
19. The Art of the Book Review: Elizabeth Taylor
21. Biographies of Lesser Known People: Lynne Bermont

 

2:00–3:00 PM

Awards Presentation

BIO Award and Keynote Address by the recipient, followed by presentation of the Biblio Award and the Plutarch Award

3:15 PM–4:15 PM

PANELS

Writing an Artist’s Life

Are there specific qualifications necessary for prospective biographers whose subjects are visual artists, playwrights, musicians, actors, or dancers? Does such a biography affect one’s approach to writing about the life of an artistic subject—whether it be, say, cradle to grave, or focused more on criticism of subjects’ work rather than on the details of their personal lives?  Should such a biographer have a background as a music journalist or arts critic, for example? How to reconcile writing art criticism and biography? And how do we separate the artist and the art? Our panelists, who have a range of backgrounds, will discuss these questions and how their own careers have helped—or perhaps hindered—their approach to biography, as well as how their own work has led to opportunities to write about their subjects. (BASICS TRACK)

Moderator

Holly George-Warren is a two-time Grammy nominee and the award-winning author and/or coauthor of 18 books, most recently the New York Times bestseller Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones with Dolly Parton (Ten Speed Press/Crown, 2023). Her biographies include Janis: Her Life and Music (Simon & Schuster, 2019), recipient of the Texas Institute of Letters Best Book of Nonfiction; Public Cowboy #1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry (Oxford University Press, 2007); and A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton (Viking, 2014), which was deemed a Notable Book by The New York Times. Her work has appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Oprah Daily, and The (London) Times Literary Supplement. A producer of several documentary films, she teaches writing at the State University of New York-New Paltz and New York University. She is currently at work on a biography of Jack Kerouac to be published by Viking.

Panelists

Dan Charnas is a best-selling author, award-winning music and business journalist, producer of records and television, and professor. He has written four books, was the co-creator and executive producer of the VH1 TV series The Breaks, and is an associate arts professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. His latest book, Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm (2022), was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2023 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award, a 2022 Notable Book by the Library of Michigan, and made 2022 “best” lists for Pitchfork, VultureRolling StoneThe New York Times, the Financial Times, the Amsterdam NewsSpinHipHopDXEsquire, and Variety. His first book, The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop (2010), was called “a classic of music-business dirt digging as well as a kind of pulp epic” by Rolling Stone. He has been a contributor to The New York Times, NPR, Billboard, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, and many other publications.

Brad Gooch is a poet, novelist, and biographer whose latest book is Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring, published by Harper/HarperCollins. His previous books include Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love; Rumi: Unseen Poems (trans. Brad Gooch and Maryam Mortaz); Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s and the ’80s; Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a New York Times bestseller; and City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara. A Guggenheim fellow in biography, he has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and a Furthermore grant in publishing from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. He is an emeritus professor of English at William Paterson University, earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University, and lives in New York City.

Patti Hartigan is an award-winning journalist. As a staff member for The Boston Globe, she served as arts reporter and drama critic, along with a stint as cyber-culture columnist during the early days of the internet. She was an inaugural fellow in the Pew Charitable Trust National Arts Journalism Program and spent a year researching inner-city arts organizations in Los Angeles. She explored racial inequity in the art world in her award-winning 1991 Globe page-one series, “The Fine Arts: A World Without Color.” She spent five years researching August Wilson: A Life, the first authoritative biography of the great playwright who was one of the most important voices of the late 20th century and who left a lasting influence on American theater. It was released by Simon & Schuster in August 2023.

 

Writing Black Lives Today

Writing biographies of African Americans today requires capturing rich and diverse experiences while acknowledging the intersectionality of the individual’s identity. How do factors such as race, gender, class, and sexuality intersect to shape those experiences and accomplishments and are they really important? How do biographers navigate the archives where many lives remain hidden and obscured? What are the latest trends in African American biography and what is its future? (CRAFT TRACK)

Moderator

Kevin McGruder is associate professor of history at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. His first biography, Philip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem, was published by Columbia University Press in 2021. During the 1990s, McGruder served as the director of real estate development for the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a nonprofit church-based organization in Harlem. His book Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem, 1890-1920 was published in 2015.

Panelists

Tanisha C. Ford is a cultural critic and a professor of history at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her latest book, Our Secret Society: Mollie Moon, and the Glamour, Money and Power Behind the Civil Rights Movement, was published by Amistad in October 2023. Ford has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, The Root, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar, and she’s been featured on NPR, among other places. She was named to The Root’s list of the 100 Most Influential African Americans. Ford also is the author of Dressed in DreamsKwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful, and Liberated Threads, which won the 2016 Organization of American Historians’ Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for best book on civil rights history.

Doug Melville is the author of Invisible Generals: Rediscovering Family Legacy, and a Quest to Honor America’s First Black Generals (Atria/Black Privilege Publishing, Simon & Schuster, November 2023). The book tells the previously little-known story of his great-uncle, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., and Benjamin O. Davis Sr., a father and son who helped integrate the American military and created the Tuskegee Airmen. Melville has given three TEDx Talks and been featured in numerous periodicals, including ForbesUSA TodayThe Washington Post, and Time, as well as on numerous television programs. He is currently a global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the luxury industry.

Amrita Chakrabarti Myers earned her doctorate in U.S. history from Rutgers University and specializes in Black women’s history in the Old South. A committed activist on and off campus, Myers is regularly interviewed by outlets ranging from PBS and NPR to Fox News on equity matters, and her editorials on policing, anti-Blackness, and racism have been published in The Washington Post and the Louisville Courier-Journal. Her latest publication is The Vice President’s Black Wife: The Untold Life of Julia Chinn (Ferris & Ferris/University of North Carolina Press, 2023). Myers’s first book, Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston (University of North Carolina Press, 2011), received several awards including the Southern Association of Women Historians’ Julia Cherry Spruill Book Prize and the National Council for Black Studies Anna Julia Cooper-C.L.R. James Book Prize. She is currently Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington.

 

Biographers’ Survival Tips

How do biographers survive during the yearslong researching, writing, and editing process? Like explorers, biographers must be prepared to face a sometimes circuitous and rocky road to publication. How does one manage the process and keep on track? What other options to writing and publishing full biographies are out there? How do you craft a career? These experienced and adventurous authors have successfully navigated the journey to crafting biographies over the years and have tricks up their sleeves and backpacks full of trade secrets to share when bringing their subjects’ stories to life. (BUSINESS TRACK)

Moderator

Beverly Gray has spent her career fluctuating between the world of the intellect and show biz. After finishing her doctorate in contemporary American literature, she worked with B-movie legend Roger Corman for nearly a decade, then began covering the entertainment industry for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Hollywood Reporter. Her first book, an independent biography of her former boss, debuted on the bestseller list. Two subsequent editions bear the new, improved title Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers. She has also published a second biography, Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon… and Beyond. Her latest book, Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How The Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation, was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month. Gray leads advanced screenwriting workshops online for UCLA Extension’s world-renowned Writers’ Program, and blogs twice weekly at BeverlyinMovieland.com

Panelists

Lisa Napoli is the author of four books: Radio Shangri-la, about a young woman she met at a radio station in Bhutan who longs to come to America; Ray & Joan, about the great philanthropist who gave away the McDonald’s fortune; Up All Night, about Ted Turner and the making of CNN; and Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie, about the founding mothers of NPR and the network’s creation. A longtime BIO member and graduate of Hampshire College, she hopes to finish her M.A. at the CUNY Graduate Center in the Biography & Memoir program this spring.

Simon Read is the author, most recently, of The Iron Sea (Hachette, 2020) and eight other works of history and biography. His forthcoming book, Scotland Yard: A True Crime History of Its Most Infamous Murder Cases,will be published by Pegasus Books in the U.S. in August 2024 and Welbeck Publishing in the U.K. in September. Two of his books, Winston Churchill Reporting (Da Capo, 2016) and Human Game (Berkley, 2012), have been optioned for movie/television adaptations. His work has been featured on the top-rated true crime podcasts Morbid and Criminal, and his writing has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Time, Publisher’s Weekly, and other publications. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Barbara D. Savage’s first biography, Merze Tate: The Global Odyssey of a Black Woman Scholar, is an incisive examination of a scholar who thrived despite steep obstacles, taking her from a farm in the Midwest to Kalamazoo to London and to the world beyond. It was published by Yale University Press in November 2023. Savage is a historian and the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought at the University of Pennsylvania. Her other works include Your Spirits Walk Beside Us, winner of the 2012 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

 

Intimacy & Boundaries

At BIO’s 2023 conference, several women biographers traded war stories about sexual harassment experienced during research. What can be done when, say, the perpetrator is a key source or estate executor? What recourse do we have in the absence of an HR department? The discussion expanded from there to questions around navigating intimate relationships with our subjects and their families. Unlike newspaper journalists, biographers don’t have a clear and externally imposed code of conduct. How do we cultivate intimacy with our subjects’ friends and relatives while remaining professional? What happens when a biographer gets drawn into uncomfortable family dynamics or offered gifts? This panel will investigate these questions while opening a discussion around general principles to guide us beyond our gut feelings in such situations, including the role BIO might play in offering support for biographers caught in unfavorable power dynamics. (ISSUES TRACK)

Moderator

Ruth Franklin is a book critic and former editor at The New Republic. Her first biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright/W.W. Norton, 2016) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, BIO’s Plutarch Award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2016, a Time magazine top nonfiction book of 2016, and a “best book of 2016” by The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, and others. Her book A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (2011) was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize. Her criticism and essays appear in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other publications. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in biography, a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a Leon Levy Fellowship in biography, and the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism. Her latest book, about Anne Frank for the Yale Jewish Lives series, is due out in fall 2024.

Panelists

Bill Goldstein reviews books and interviews authors for NBC’s Weekend Today in New York and was the founding editor of The New York Times books website. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Goldstein received a Ph.D. in English from the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is writing a biography of Larry Kramer, to be published by Crown. He received a Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowship from BIO in 2022 to support his work on the book, and is a 2023–2024 fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. He is the author of The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster, and the Year That Changed Literature, published in 2017.

Kitty Kelley is the author of seven biographies: Oprah: A Biography (2010), The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty (2004), The Royals (1997), Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography (1991), His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra (1986), Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star (1981), and Jackie Oh! (1978). Widely acclaimed as an author of unauthorized biography, Kelley has displayed courage and deftness in writing unvarnished accounts of some of the most powerful figures in politics, media, and popular culture. Among other honors, Kelley has received the 2005 PEN Oakland/Gary Webb Anti-Censorship Award; the 2014 Founders’ Award for Career Achievement, given by the American Society of Journalists and Authors; and, in 2016, a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Washington Independent Review of Books. Vanity Fair named her to its Hall of Fame as part of the “Media Decade.” Most recently, she received the 2023 BIO Award.

Abigail Santamaria is the author of Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), and is currently at work on I Am Meg: The Life of Madeleine L’Engle, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She is a 2023 MacDowell Fellow and a recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar grant (2022), a Sustainable Arts Foundation award (2021), and a Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellowship (2019), among other honors. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York TimesVanity Fair, and Literary HubShe earned an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

 

4:30 PM–5:30 PM

PANELS

Alternative Approaches to Biography

This panel of writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians will discuss creative treatments in biography. They’ll address ways of seeing, adapting, and interpreting others’ lives through various media, such as film, graphics, music, and text, including less conventional forms for biography, such as comics and opera. They want to spark the conversation about research and methods, too. What sorts of tools, skills, and resources have they discovered or developed for their various projects? How much creative license have they and others claimed or found necessary for interpreting a life? For each approach, what are the best ways to convey a sense of how a life was lived? (BASICS TRACK)

Moderator

Leslie Brody is a Bronx-born biographer, essayist, and playwright. She has been a librarian for both the Sierra Club and the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science. She has also been a contributing editor to the Hungry Mind Review, and an on-staff book columnist for Elle magazine. Her first book, Red Star Sister, was awarded a PEN Center USA West award. Subsequent books include A Motel of the Mind (essays with Gary Amdahl), Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford, and Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy. Brody’s plays and librettos, including an adaptation of Harriet the Spy, have been produced in venues across the country. She has received fellowships and residencies from the NEA, Camargo, Hawthornden, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Yaddo, and MacDowell, among others. She is currently a professor in the Media and Communication Department at the University of Redlands.

Panelists

Janice Engel is an award-winning filmmaker whose feature-length documentary Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, followed by SXSW and other festivals, garnering numerous awards and a deal with Magnolia Pictures for a national release. In 2020, it jumped the pond, premiering in the U.K. and Ireland via Modern Films. In 2022, it was selected as one of the 213 Best Movies Directed by Women in the 21st Century by Rotten Tomatoes to commemorate Women’s History month. Engel has crafted numerous bio-documentaries including those of Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, and Marvin Gaye for major media companies. What We Carry, her multimedia series dedicated to preserving Holocaust survivors’ first-person narratives, premiered at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, and is housed in the permanent collection at Yad Vashem in Israel. Engel is a member of the International Documentary Association and Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Ann McCutchan is an author, essayist, and librettist who has published six books, including three biographies: Marcel Moyse: Voice of the Flute; River Music: An Atchafalaya Story (an eco-biography of sound documentarian Earl Robicheaux); and The Life She Wished to Live: A Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Author of The Yearling. The Life She Wished to Live was a finalist for the Marfield Prize for Arts Writing. “Reaching for the End of Time,” a personal essay about French composer Olivier Messiaen, appeared in The Best American Spiritual Writing. McCutchan’s most recent opera libretto, The Devil’s Dream, is based on the collective life of the Carter Family (Mara Gibson, composer) as drawn by novelist Lee Smith. McCutchan has received residencies and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cornell University, the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and many others. She holds graduate degrees in music and creative writing and has been a professor of both.

Mimi Pond is from San Diego, California. She attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California. In the 1980s, she worked as a cartoonist and illustrator and produced five humor books, including The Valley Girls’ Guide to Life.  She moved to Los Angeles in 1990. She has continued to write and to draw web comics for numerous national magazines and websites. In 2014, her graphic novel Over Easy, a fictionalized account of her post-art school waitressing career in Oakland in the late 1970s, was published by Drawn & Quarterly, garnered dozens of positive reviews, was on The New York Times bestseller list, and won a 2014 PEN Award. The second volume of this story, The Customer Is Always Wrong, was published by Drawn & Quarterly in 2017. She is currently at work on a work of graphic nonfiction about Britain’s storied Mitford sisters, to be published in 2025 by Drawn & Quarterly.

 

Writing LGBTQ+ Lives

What are the responsibilities that authors carry while researching and writing about LGBTQ+ persons? Whether writing facts or speculating about a person’s sexuality and gender identity, what are the challenges biographers face, particularly in a world where LGBTQ+ rights are threatened and books about LGBTQ+ persons are being banned in parts of the country? What considerations should authors make in discussing a subject’s private life, especially if the subject lived in another era when hiding their true selves was necessary? Are there specific qualifications necessary for prospective biographers of LGBTQ+ subjects? (CRAFT TRACK)

Moderator

Nicholas Boggs rediscovered and co-edited a new edition of James Baldwin’s collaboration with French artist Yoran Cazac, Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood (2018). His Baldwin biography, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, has been supported by a 2023 Whiting Creative Nonfiction grant and fellowships from the NEH, the Leon Levy Center for Biography, the Gilder Lehrman Center and Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He is also the recipient of a Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowship from BIO. He lives in Brooklyn.

Panelists

Cynthia Carr is the author of Candy Darling: Dreamer, Icon, Superstar and Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, winner of a Lambda Literary Award and finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. Her previous books are Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America and On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century.

Will Hermes (he/him) is a culture journalist, author, and teacher. His books include Love Goes to Buildings on Fire (2011) and Lou Reed: The King of New York (2023), and he co-edited (with Sia Michel) SPIN: 20 Years of Alternative Music (2005). Hermes is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, a longtime contributor to The New York Times and NPR, and an occasional contributor to Pitchfork and other publications. He has taught journalism and creative nonfiction, in various proportions, at Sarah Lawrence College, SUNY-New Paltz, and the University of Minnesota, and is on the adjunct faculty of the Clive Davis Institute at Tisch/NYU.

Jessica Max Stein is a New York-based writer who teaches writing and literature at the City University of New York. She is the author of Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography, the life story of Muppet performer Richard Hunt, published in March 2024 by Rutgers University Press. BIO honored the Funny Boy book proposal as one of three finalists for its 2016 Hazel Rowley Prize. Stein’s writing has been cited in The New York Times; she received an Amy Award for young writers from Poets & Writers magazine; and won an Ippie for best editorial from the Independent Press Association. A reporter and former editor of The Indypendent, Stein has published work in more than 100 magazines and journals, including a longtime column at The Bilerico Project.

 

Research Tips From Award-Winning Writers

Research and documentation are at the core of any biography. This panel’s prize-winning authors will share their research strategies and approaches and engage in a discussion about the pros and cons of hiring researchers or doing the work yourself. The internet has changed the nature of research, and in some cases reduced the need to visit archives in person altogether because of digitization. Not all primary sources, however, are available in digital or audio format. Good old-fashioned research in dusty old archives is oftentimes necessary. How can authors be confident in the research done by contracted help? What is the author’s responsibility? And now with plagiarism all over the news, how does an author manage issues of accuracy and integrity? (BUSINESS TRACK)

Moderator

Laurie Gwen Shapiro is a biographer, journalist, filmmaker, and NYU journalism professor. She writes for many publications, including The New Yorker and The New York Times. As a director, she has won the Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for an Emmy. Her unlikely New Yorker story, “The Improbable Journey of Dorothy Parker’s Ashes,” won a 2021 GANYC Apple Award for best article, and her New York Times profile of a living WWII pilot received the 2022 Silurians Press Club gold medallion as best profile. The Stowaway, her first nonfiction book, was an Indie Next selection and national bestseller. Viking Books will publish her narrative nonfiction tale of Amelia Earhart’s marriage in 2025.

Panelists

Debby Applegate

Emily Nussbaum is a staff writer for The New Yorker and previously was the TV critic for the magazine. She’s the author of I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution and the forthcoming Cue the Sun: The Invention of Reality Television. In 2016, she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. She lives in Brooklyn and enjoys performing Boolean searches and using the Wayback Machine.

 

Who Gets to Tell the Story?

In recent years, much has been made over the problem of cultural appropriation: the inappropriate or unacknowledged use of a culture or identity by someone outside that culture and identity. How might this be reflected by an author writing a biography of someone from a different background? In short, who gets to tell the story? Is this question even appropriate to ask when discussing the craft of writing biography? Our panelists—each of whom has written about lives beyond their own identities—will engage this topic and assess the political, social, and cultural implications of producing meaningful life stories. (ISSUES TRACK)

Moderator

Carla Kaplan, Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University, has published seven books, including Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance (HarperCollins), a group biography of Black Harlem’s white women, and Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters (Doubleday), an epistolary biography; both were New York Times Notable Books. She is currently completing a biography of Jessica Mitford, the British aristocrat turned American activist and best-selling muckraker (most famous for her exposé The American Way of Death), forthcoming from HarperCollins. Other works include books on Nella Larsen, Elizabeth Laura Adams, Zora Neale Hurston, and women’s writing. Kaplan chairs the editorial board of the feminist journal Signs, founded Northeastern University’s Humanities Center, has held fellowships from the NEH Public Scholars, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Cullman Center, the DuBois Institute, the Schomburg Center, the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, and elsewhere. She serves on the board of BIO.

Panelists

Jonathan Eig is the best-selling author of six books, including most recently, King: A Life, which The New York Times hailed as the “definitive” biography of Martin Luther King Jr., and which was nominated for the National Book Award. Eig’s previous book, Ali: A Life, won a 2018 PEN America Literary Award and was named one of the 25 greatest biographies of all time by Esquire magazine. He served as consulting producer for the PBS series Muhammad Ali, directed by Ken Burns. Eig’s first book, Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, was on the New York Times bestseller list and won the Casey Award. His books have been listed among the best of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post,and The Wall Street Journal. His fourth book, The Birth of the Pill, will be staged soon as a theatrical production by TimeLine Theatre in Chicago.

Lizzie Skurnick is a winner of BIO’s 2023 Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship for “biographical works-in-progress that make a significant contribution to our understanding of the Black experience.” She won for her work, The Special Students: My Great-Grandfather at Harvard, His Mysterious Death, and the Rise of the Talented Tenth, forthcoming from Henry Holt & Company. A writer, editor, and critic, her work has appeared in publications and other media outlets including The New York Times, Time, and NPR. Her first book, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading (HarperCollins, 2009), is a literary and cultural history of young adult fiction based on her column of the same name.

Ilyon Woo is the New York Times best-selling author of Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom—a Kirkus Prize Finalist, one of The New York Times’s “10 Best Books of 2023,” and one of People Magazine’s“Top Ten Books of the Year.” She is also the author of The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times. Her writing has appeared in The Boston GlobeThe Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and The New York Times,and she has received support for her research from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Antiquarian SocietyShe holds a B.A. in the Humanities from Yale College and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University.

5:30 PM–7:00 PM

Closing Reception, Concourse Level, Graduate Center

Saturday, May 18

10:00–11:30 AM

Tours

Note: Tours are limited to those who signed up in advance. Note: Tours are limited to those who signed up in advance. If you would like to participate, you must purchase the tour of your choosing as a ticket add-on when you register for the conference through Eventbrite. 

The New York Public Library’s special collections

New York Public Library
40thStreet and Fifth Ave.

Please join us for an introduction to The New York Public Library’s special collections. We will meet in one of the historic reading rooms, the Berg Collection, to examine archival and rare materials and to learn more about the range of resources available at The New York Public Library’s flagship location, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which is one of the Library’s premier research centers, renowned for its extraordinary historical collections and its commitment to providing free and equal access to its resources. After we examine material, participants are invited on a brief tour of the rest of the building and reading rooms, and will have the opportunity to explore The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures as well as temporary exhibitions on view. Tour limited to 15 attendees.

Panelists

Patchen Barss is a Toronto-based science journalist and author, currently working on a book about the life and work of British mathematician, cosmologist, and Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose, to be published in 2024 by Basic Books in the U.S., and Atlantic Books in the U.K. He was the 2021–2022 Sloan Biography Fellow at CUNY’s Graduate Center.

Kai Bird is the director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography. A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, he is the author of five biographies, including American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer—co-authored with the late Martin J. Sherwin—which was the basis for Christopher Nolan’s 2023 film Oppenheimer.

Susan Blumberg-Kason is the author of Bernardine’s Shanghai Salon: The Story of the Doyenne of Old China and Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong. She is also the co-editor of Hong Kong Noir and a regular contributor to the Asian Review of Books, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and World Literature Today. Her work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Pop Matters, and the South China Morning Post. Blumberg-Kason lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Nicholas Boggs rediscovered and co-edited a new edition of James Baldwin’s collaboration with French artist Yoran Cazac, Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood (2018). His Baldwin biography, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, has been supported by a 2023 Whiting Creative Nonfiction grant and fellowships from the NEH, the Leon Levy Center for Biography, the Gilder Lehrman Center and Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He is also the recipient of a Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowship from BIO. He lives in Brooklyn.

Fergus M. Bordewich is an independent writer, historian, and journalist and the author of nine nonfiction books, including: Klan War: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save ReconstructionCongress at War; The First Congress (D.B. Hardeman Prize winner); and America’s Great Debate (2012 Los Angeles Times History Prize). He has served as chairman of the awards committee for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and is currently on the advisory council of scholars for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society. His articles and reviews have appeared in many national magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He is a frequent speaker on subjects related to 19th-century American history, and as a journalist, he reported extensively on politics, economic issues, and culture from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. He holds degrees from the City College of New York and Columbia University.

Leslie Brody is a Bronx-born biographer, essayist, and playwright. She has been a librarian for both the Sierra Club and the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science. She has also been a contributing editor to the Hungry Mind Review, and an on-staff book columnist for Elle magazine. Her first book, Red Star Sister, was awarded a PEN Center USA West award. Subsequent books include A Motel of the Mind (essays with Gary Amdahl), Irrepressible: The Life and Times of Jessica Mitford, and Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy. Brody’s plays and librettos, including an adaptation of Harriet the Spy, have been produced in venues across the country. She has received fellowships and residencies from the NEA, Camargo, Hawthornden, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Yaddo, and MacDowell, among others. She is currently a professor in the Media and Communication Department at the University of Redlands.

Barrye Brown is the curator of the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She received her B.A. in history from Dillard University, M.A. in history with a focus on Atlantic World/African Diaspora from Rice University, and her M.S. in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where, as a Carolina Academy Library Associate, she held dual appointments in the Southern Historical Collection and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center Library for Black History and Culture. Prior to her arrival at the Schomburg Center, she served as the reference and outreach archivist at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. She is a 2022–2024 Rare Book School-Mellon Cultural Heritage Fellow.

A’Lelia Bundles is the author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker, a 2002 New York Times Notable Book about her entrepreneurial great-great-grandmother and the nonfiction inspiration for Self Made, the fictional Netflix series starring Octavia Spencer. Joy Goddess: A’Lelia Walker and the Harlem Renaissance, the first major biography of her great-grandmother, will be published in early 2025 by Scribner. Bundles serves on several nonprofit boards and advisory councils, including the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute. A former network television executive and Emmy Award-winning producer at ABC News and NBC News, she was chair of the National Archives Foundation and a vice chair of Columbia University’s board of trustees.

Nigel Cameron has written extensively on the implications of emerging technologies, including Will Robots Take Your Job? A Plea for Consensus (Polity). In the early 2000s, he led the first U.S. center on the social impact of nanotechnology (at the Illinois Institute of Technology), co-edited Nanoscale: Issues and Perspectives for the Nano Century (Wiley), and for a decade directed the Washington, D.C., Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies (now sadly defunct). He has testified several times before Congress, represented the U.S. at U.N./UNESCO intergovernmental meetings, and was an invited presenter at a U.N. Expert Meeting to assess the secretary-general’s report on AI and human rights. For the past four years, Cameron has been writing the biography of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, under contract with UMass Press. A native Brit, he spent nearly 30 years in the States and now divides his time between homes in France and Belgium.

Cynthia Carr is the author of Candy Darling: Dreamer, Icon, Superstar and Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, winner of a Lambda Literary Award and finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. Her previous books are Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America and On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century.

Dan Charnas is a best-selling author, award-winning music and business journalist, producer of records and television, and professor. He has written four books, was the co-creator and executive producer of the VH1 TV series The Breaks, and is an associate arts professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. His latest book, Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm (2022), was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2023 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award, a 2022 Notable Book by the Library of Michigan, and made 2022 “best” lists for Pitchfork, VultureRolling StoneThe New York Times, the Financial Times, the Amsterdam NewsSpinHipHopDXEsquire, and Variety. His first book, The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop (2010), was called “a classic of music-business dirt digging as well as a kind of pulp epic” by Rolling Stone. He has been a contributor to The New York Times, NPR, Billboard, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, and many other publications.

Rakia Clark is an executive editor at Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. She acquires serious, literary, and narrative nonfiction and gorgeously written, plot-driven novels and short story collections. Her very first acquisition at Mariner, Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir by Brian Broome, won the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction and was named to numerous Best-of-the-Year lists. Clark’s recent bestsellers include Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood by Vanity Fair contributing writer Maureen Ryan and American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery. Forthcoming titles include Briefly Perfectly Human: Making an Authentic Life by Getting Real About the End by death doula Alua Arthur; as well as novels by National Book Award finalist Angela Flournoy, National Book Award finalist Deesha Philyaw, and No.1 New York Times best-selling memoirist Augusten Burroughs.

Anastasia C. Curwood is the Hallam Professor and Department Chair of History and director of the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies at the University of Kentucky. She writes about 20th-century African American women and gender through the lens of Black Americans’ engagements with social and political institutions. Her first book, Stormy Weather: Middle-Class African American Marriages Between the Two World Wars (UNC Press, 2010), centered on contests over African Americans’ marriages in the early 20th century. Her most recent work, Shirley Chisholm: Champion of Black Feminist Power Politics (UNC Press, 2023), traces the course of Chisholm’s extraordinary life, from Caribbean roots to her pathbreaking career in the U.S. Congress and quest for the presidency. Curwood is the recipient of a Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, a Ford Postdoctoral Fellowship, and a research fellowship at the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory University.

Dawn Davis is senior vice president and publisher of the 37 Ink imprint and executive editor, Simon & Schuster. Davis is on the executive leadership team reporting to Simon & Schuster’s president and CEO, Jon Karp. She returned to the publishing house from Condé Nast, where she had recently been editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit & Epicurious. Davis has acquired/edited many bestsellers and acclaimed biographies including National Book Award finalist Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge; Ilyon Woo’s Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom; Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First Lady of the Black Press by BIO founder James McGrath Morris; The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae, which inspired the popular HBO show Insecure; Tough Love by Susan Rice; and Whiting Award winners Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Heads of the Colored People) and Safiiya Sinclair (How to Say Babylon).

Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s poetry and nonfiction challenges the Western myth of progress by examining the devastating impact that agriculture and overpopulation have had, and continue to have, on the North American West. Taking an ecofeminist bent, her writing also challenges the American West’s male-oriented recorded history by researching the lives of women. Her fourth collection of poems, West : Fire : Archive was published by the Center for Literary Publishing in 2021. Dunkle wrote the first full-length biography on Charmian London, Jack London’s wife, Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2020 (now available in audiobook). Her next biography, Riding Like the Wind: The Life of Sanora Babb, is forthcoming from University of California Press in fall 2024. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College, UC Davis, and Dominican University and is the poetry and translation director of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

Jonathan Eig is the best-selling author of six books, including most recently, King: A Life, which The New York Times hailed as the “definitive” biography of Martin Luther King Jr., and which was nominated for the National Book Award. Eig’s previous book, Ali: A Life, won a 2018 PEN America Literary Award and was named one of the 25 greatest biographies of all time by Esquire magazine. He served as consulting producer for the PBS series Muhammad Ali, directed by Ken Burns. Eig’s first book, Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, was on the New York Times bestseller list and won the Casey Award. His books have been listed among the best of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post,and The Wall Street Journal. His fourth book, The Birth of the Pill, will be staged soon as a theatrical production by TimeLine Theatre in Chicago.

Janice Engel is an award-winning filmmaker whose feature-length documentary Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, followed by SXSW and other festivals, garnering numerous awards and a deal with Magnolia Pictures for a national release. In 2020, it jumped the pond, premiering in the U.K. and Ireland via Modern Films. In 2022, it was selected as one of the 213 Best Movies Directed by Women in the 21st Century by Rotten Tomatoes to commemorate Women’s History month. Engel has crafted numerous bio-documentaries including those of Jackson Browne, Fleetwood Mac, and Marvin Gaye for major media companies. What We Carry, her multimedia series dedicated to preserving Holocaust survivors’ first-person narratives, premiered at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, and is housed in the permanent collection at Yad Vashem in Israel. Engel is a member of the International Documentary Association and Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Karen Fang is a film scholar and cultural critic who writes and speaks for museums and film festivals around the world. Her newest book, Background Artist: The Life and Work of Tyrus Wong, is a biography of the Chinese American immigrant artist who helped make the Disney animated classic Bambi. A specialist on the intersection of Eastern and Western aesthetics, Fang has also written about the cross-cultural influences between Hong Kong and Hollywood cinema and the impact of exotic artifacts on 19th-century British writing. Her writing on Tyrus Wong has also appeared in Smithsonian magazine, Hyperallergic, and on the popular public radio series The Engines of Our Ingenuity.

John A. Farrell is the author of four biographies of famous Americans, including his latest, Ted Kennedy: A Life (Penguin, 2022), a Top 10 finalist for the National Book Award for nonfiction and cited as one of the best books of 2022 by The New Yorker. Farrell’s 2017 biography, Richard Nixon: A Life, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a New York Times bestseller that won the 2018 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography for the best biography of the year and the New-York Historical Society’s Barbara and David Zalaznick Book Prize in American History, with engraved medal, a $50,000 award, and the honorary title “American Historian Laureate” for the best volume of U.S. history or biography in 2017. His other books are Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, and Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century, the definitive account of House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., and his times.

Tanisha C. Ford is a cultural critic and a professor of history at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her latest book, Our Secret Society: Mollie Moon, and the Glamour, Money and Power Behind the Civil Rights Movement, was published by Amistad in October 2023. Ford has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, The Root, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar, and she’s been featured on NPR, among other places. She was named to The Root’s list of the 100 Most Influential African Americans. Ford also is the author of Dressed in DreamsKwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful, and Liberated Threads, which won the 2016 Organization of American Historians’ Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for best book on civil rights history.

Ruth Franklin is a book critic and former editor at The New Republic. Her first biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life (Liveright/W.W. Norton, 2016) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, BIO’s Plutarch Award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2016, a Time magazine top nonfiction book of 2016, and a “best book of 2016” by The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, and others. Her book A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction (2011) was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize. Her criticism and essays appear in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other publications. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in biography, a Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library, a Leon Levy Fellowship in biography, and the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism. Her latest book, about Anne Frank for the Yale Jewish Lives series, is due out in fall 2024.

Samuel G. Freedman is an award-winning, best-selling author, a prize-winning former columnist for The New York Times, and an acclaimed professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His books include the 1990 National Book Award finalist Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School; Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, winner of the 1993 Helen Bernstein Award; the 1997 Pulitzer finalist The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond; the 2001 National Jewish Book Award winner Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry; Who She Was: My Search for My Mother’s Life; Letters to a Young Journalist; and Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Game and Changed the Course of Civil Rights. His most recent book, Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights, was released in 2023.

Katie Gee Salisbury is the author of Not Your China Doll: The Wild and Shimmering Life of Anna May Wong (Dutton, 2024), a new biography of the first Asian American movie star. Salisbury’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Believer, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship in 2021 and gave the TED Talk “As American as Chop Suey.” Gee Salisbury also writes the newsletter “Half-Caste Woman.” A fifth-generation Chinese American who hails from Southern California, she now lives in Brooklyn.

Holly George-Warren is a two-time Grammy nominee and the award-winning author and/or coauthor of 18 books, most recently the New York Times bestseller Behind the Seams: My Life in Rhinestones with Dolly Parton (Ten Speed Press/Crown, 2023). Her biographies include Janis: Her Life and Music (Simon & Schuster, 2019), recipient of the Texas Institute of Letters Best Book of Nonfiction; Public Cowboy #1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry (Oxford University Press, 2007); and A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton (Viking, 2014), which was deemed a Notable Book by The New York Times. Her work has appeared in such publications as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Oprah Daily, and The (London) Times Literary Supplement. A producer of several documentary films, she teaches writing at the State University of New York-New Paltz and New York University. She is currently at work on a biography of Jack Kerouac to be published by Viking.

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina is an award-winning professor of biography and English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Working with 19 other authors, she edited Britain’s Black Past, published by Liverpool University Press in 2020. She also has published nine other books, including Carrington: A Life; Black London: Life Before Emancipation; Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Unexpected Life of the Author of The Secret Garden; and Mr. and Mrs. Price: How an Extraordinary Eighteenth-Century Family Moved Out of Slavery and Into Legend.

Bill Goldstein reviews books and interviews authors for NBC’s Weekend Today in New York and was the founding editor of The New York Times books website. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Goldstein received a Ph.D. in English from the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is writing a biography of Larry Kramer, to be published by Crown. He received a Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowship from BIO in 2022 to support his work on the book, and is a 2023–2024 fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. He is the author of The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster, and the Year That Changed Literature, published in 2017.

Brad Gooch is a poet, novelist, and biographer whose latest book is Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring, published by Harper/HarperCollins. His previous books include Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love; Rumi: Unseen Poems (trans. Brad Gooch and Maryam Mortaz); Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s and the ’80s; Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a New York Times bestseller; and City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara. A Guggenheim fellow in biography, he has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and a Furthermore grant in publishing from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. He is an emeritus professor of English at William Paterson University, earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University, and lives in New York City.

Linda M. Grasso is author of Equal Under the Sky: Georgia O’Keeffe and Twentieth-Century Feminism, the first historical study of the artist’s complex involvement with, and influence on, feminism in the United States from the 1910s to the 1970s. Grasso is professor of English and liberal studies at York College, CUNY, and she holds faculty appointments in the Biography and Memoir Program, the Liberal Studies Program, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is studying women’s memoirs, essays, and poetry about Georgia O’Keeffe in which the authors merge writing about their own lives with that of the artist they admire.

Beverly Gray has spent her career fluctuating between the world of the intellect and show biz. After finishing her doctorate in contemporary American literature, she worked with B-movie legend Roger Corman for nearly a decade, then began covering the entertainment industry for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Hollywood Reporter. Her first book, an independent biography of her former boss, debuted on the bestseller list. Two subsequent editions bear the new, improved title Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers. She has also published a second biography, Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon… and Beyond. Her latest book, Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How The Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation, was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month. Gray leads advanced screenwriting workshops online for UCLA Extension’s world-renowned Writers’ Program, and blogs twice weekly at BeverlyinMovieland.com

Patti Hartigan is an award-winning journalist. As a staff member for The Boston Globe, she served as arts reporter and drama critic, along with a stint as cyber-culture columnist during the early days of the internet. She was an inaugural fellow in the Pew Charitable Trust National Arts Journalism Program and spent a year researching inner-city arts organizations in Los Angeles. She explored racial inequity in the art world in her award-winning 1991 Globe page-one series, “The Fine Arts: A World Without Color.” She spent five years researching August Wilson: A Life, the first authoritative biography of the great playwright who was one of the most important voices of the late 20th century and who left a lasting influence on American theater. It was released by Simon & Schuster in August 2023.

Will Hermes (he/him) is a culture journalist, author, and teacher. His books include Love Goes to Buildings on Fire (2011) and Lou Reed: The King of New York (2023), and he co-edited (with Sia Michel) SPIN: 20 Years of Alternative Music (2005). Hermes is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, a longtime contributor to The New York Times and NPR, and an occasional contributor to Pitchfork and other publications. He has taught journalism and creative nonfiction, in various proportions, at Sarah Lawrence College, SUNY-New Paltz, and the University of Minnesota, and is on the adjunct faculty of the Clive Davis Institute at Tisch/NYU.

Carla Kaplan, Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University, has published seven books, including Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance (HarperCollins), a group biography of Black Harlem’s white women, and Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters (Doubleday), an epistolary biography; both were New York Times Notable Books. She is currently completing a biography of Jessica Mitford, the British aristocrat turned American activist and best-selling muckraker (most famous for her exposé The American Way of Death), forthcoming from HarperCollins. Other works include books on Nella Larsen, Elizabeth Laura Adams, Zora Neale Hurston, and women’s writing. Kaplan chairs the editorial board of the feminist journal Signs, founded Northeastern University’s Humanities Center, has held fellowships from the NEH Public Scholars, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Cullman Center, the DuBois Institute, the Schomburg Center, the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, and elsewhere. She serves on the board of BIO.

Kitty Kelley is the author of seven biographies: Oprah: A Biography (2010), The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty (2004), The Royals (1997), Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography (1991), His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra (1986), Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star (1981), and Jackie Oh! (1978). Widely acclaimed as an author of unauthorized biography, Kelley has displayed courage and deftness in writing unvarnished accounts of some of the most powerful figures in politics, media, and popular culture. Among other honors, Kelley has received the 2005 PEN Oakland/Gary Webb Anti-Censorship Award; the 2014 Founders’ Award for Career Achievement, given by the American Society of Journalists and Authors; and, in 2016, a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Washington Independent Review of Books. Vanity Fair named her to its Hall of Fame as part of the “Media Decade.” Most recently, she received the 2023 BIO Award.

Gabriella Kelly-Davies is a doctoral student in biography at Sydney University and a visiting doctoral scholar at the Centre for Life Writing at Oxford University. She has studied biography and history at ANU’s National Centre of Biography, narrative nonfiction at Sydney University, and creative writing at the University of Technology (Sydney). Her Ph.D. includes two components: Breaking Through the Pain Barrier. The Extraordinary Life of Dr Michael J. Cousins, the biography of Australia’s foremost pain medicine pioneer, which was published in 2021, and a dissertation, Choices, Choices, Choices: One Biographer’s Experience. The dissertation explores many of the choices she is making while writing the biography and the views of biographers and literary scholars about these choices.

Nancy Kuhl is curator of poetry for the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. She is the author of exhibition catalogs including Intimate Circles: American Women in the Arts and The Book Remembers Everything: The Work of Erica Van Horn. Kuhl is also a poet who has written four full-length poetry collections, including, most recently, On Hysteria. She received BIO’s 2019 Biblio Award for extraordinary service to biographers.

Kate Clifford Larson is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of critically acclaimed biographies, including Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero (2004); Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (2015); and The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln (2008). Her latest biography, Walk With Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer (2021), was one of Kirkus Reviews’s Best of 2021. An award-winning historical consultant, she has worked on feature films—including Focus Features’ Harriet, starring prize-winning Cynthia Erivo, and Robert Redford’s The Conspirator—documentaries, museum exhibits, and public history and heritage tourism initiatives. Her work deeply informed Harriet Tubman state and national parks in Maryland and New York, as well as the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and All-American Road. She has appeared on local, national, and international media outlets, including CBS Sunday Morning.

Sung-Yoon Lee, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is the author of The Sister: The Extraordinary Story of Kim Yo Jong, the Most Powerful Woman in North Korea, published in America by Public Affairs in September 2023. Previously, Dr. Lee, born and raised in South Korea, taught Korean history at the Fletcher School, Tufts University.

Marc Leepson is a journalist and historian and the author of 10 books, including three biographies: Lafayette: Idealist General (2011), What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, a Life (2014), and Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Army Sgt. Barry Sadler (2017). He is at work on a slice-of-life biography of Doug Hegdahl, the youngest and lowest-ranking prisoner of war held in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. A former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, D.C., he taught U.S. history at Laurel Ridge Community College in Warrenton, Virginia, from 2008 to 2015. A BIO board member since 2013, he serves as the organization’s treasurer.

Abigail Malangone is an archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, one of the 15 libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). She has been an archivist with NARA for the past 14 years, first working at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library before joining the JFK Library in 2013. Prior to her work with NARA, Malangone worked for the Winthrop Group in New York City. She received her M.S. in library and information science from Long Island University. She is an associate lecturer at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and serves as a representative-at-large for the New England Archivists.

Megan Marshall is the author of Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, in which she interweaves autobiographical chapters into her biography of poet Elizabeth Bishop. Marshall is the Charles Wesley Emerson College Professor at Emerson College, where she teaches nonfiction writing in the M.F.A. Creative Writing Program. She has written several acclaimed biographies of women and has received the Pulitzer Prize in Biography for Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, the BIO Award, and other distinguished awards.

Kevin McGruder is associate professor of history at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. His first biography, Philip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem, was published by Columbia University Press in 2021. During the 1990s, McGruder served as the director of real estate development for the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a nonprofit church-based organization in Harlem. His book Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem, 1890-1920 was published in 2015.

Ann McCutchan is an author, essayist, and librettist who has published six books, including three biographies: Marcel Moyse: Voice of the Flute; River Music: An Atchafalaya Story (an eco-biography of sound documentarian Earl Robicheaux); and The Life She Wished to Live: A Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Author of The Yearling. The Life She Wished to Live was a finalist for the Marfield Prize for Arts Writing. “Reaching for the End of Time,” a personal essay about French composer Olivier Messiaen, appeared in The Best American Spiritual Writing. McCutchan’s most recent opera libretto, The Devil’s Dream, is based on the collective life of the Carter Family (Mara Gibson, composer) as drawn by novelist Lee Smith. McCutchan has received residencies and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cornell University, the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, and many others. She holds graduate degrees in music and creative writing and has been a professor of both.

Doug Melville is the author of Invisible Generals: Rediscovering Family Legacy, and a Quest to Honor America’s First Black Generals (Atria/Black Privilege Publishing, Simon & Schuster, November 2023). The book tells the previously little-known story of his great-uncle, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., and Benjamin O. Davis Sr., a father and son who helped integrate the American military and created the Tuskegee Airmen. Melville has given three TEDx Talks and been featured in numerous periodicals, including ForbesUSA TodayThe Washington Post, and Time, as well as on numerous television programs. He is currently a global head of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the luxury industry.

Kenneth Miller is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Time, Life, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, Discover, Aeon, and many other publications. His group biography, Mapping the Darkness: The Visionary Scientists Who Unlocked the Mysteries of Sleep, was published in October 2023 by Hachette. Miller has reported from four continents on topics including science, medicine, culture, criminal justice, religion, and the environment. Currently a contributing editor for Discover, he has served as West Coast editor of Reader’s Digest, a senior editor at People, and a staff writer at Life. He was also a senior writer for Our Times: The Illustrated History of the 20th Century (Turner Books, 1995). His honors include the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism, the American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Article Award for science writing, and the ASJA’s June Roth Award for medical writing. He lives in Los Angeles.

Marnie Mueller, is the author of The Showgirl and the Writer: A Friendship Forged in the Aftermath of the Japanese American Incarceration, a hybrid memoir/biography about the convergences between Mary Mon Toy, a Nisei performer, and Mueller’s own life history as a Caucasian born in the Tule Lake Japanese American Segregation Camp. Mueller is a novelist and essay writer who is the recipient of several distinguished awards, including an American Book Award and the Maria Thomas Award for Outstanding Fiction.

Amrita Chakrabarti Myers earned her doctorate in U.S. history from Rutgers University and specializes in Black women’s history in the Old South. A committed activist on and off campus, Myers is regularly interviewed by outlets ranging from PBS and NPR to Fox News on equity matters, and her editorials on policing, anti-Blackness, and racism have been published in The Washington Post and the Louisville Courier-Journal. Her latest publication is The Vice President’s Black Wife: The Untold Life of Julia Chinn (Ferris & Ferris/University of North Carolina Press, 2023). Myers’s first book, Forging Freedom: Black Women and the Pursuit of Liberty in Antebellum Charleston (University of North Carolina Press, 2011), received several awards including the Southern Association of Women Historians’ Julia Cherry Spruill Book Prize and the National Council for Black Studies Anna Julia Cooper-C.L.R. James Book Prize. She is currently Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Lisa Napoli is the author of four books: Radio Shangri-la, about a young woman she met at a radio station in Bhutan who longs to come to America; Ray & Joan, about the great philanthropist who gave away the McDonald’s fortune; Up All Night, about Ted Turner and the making of CNN; and Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie, about the founding mothers of NPR and the network’s creation. A longtime BIO member and graduate of Hampshire College, she hopes to finish her M.A. at the CUNY Graduate Center in the Biography & Memoir program this spring.

Emily Nussbaum is a staff writer for The New Yorker and previously was the TV critic for the magazine. She’s the author of I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution and the forthcoming Cue the Sun: The Invention of Reality Television. In 2016, she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. She lives in Brooklyn and enjoys performing Boolean searches and using the Wayback Machine.

Marion Orr is the Frederick Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and professor of political science at Brown University. He is the author of The House of Diggs: The Untold Story of Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr.’s Activist Leadership–From Emmett Till to Anti-Apartheid–and the Scandal That Nearly Erased a Legacy of Social Justice (University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming), the first biography of Michigan’s first Black congressman and perhaps the most consequential Black federal legislator to serve in the U.S. Congress. He is the author and/or editor of seven books. Orr is the 2022 recipient of BIO’s Frances “Frank” Rollins Fellowship. The House of Diggs is his first biography.

Mimi Pond is from San Diego, California. She attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California. In the 1980s, she worked as a cartoonist and illustrator and produced five humor books, including The Valley Girls’ Guide to Life.  She moved to Los Angeles in 1990. She has continued to write and to draw web comics for numerous national magazines and websites. In 2014, her graphic novel Over Easy, a fictionalized account of her post-art school waitressing career in Oakland in the late 1970s, was published by Drawn & Quarterly, garnered dozens of positive reviews, was on The New York Times bestseller list, and won a 2014 PEN Award. The second volume of this story, The Customer Is Always Wrong, was published by Drawn & Quarterly in 2017. She is currently at work on a work of graphic nonfiction about Britain’s storied Mitford sisters, to be published in 2025 by Drawn & Quarterly.

Simon Read is the author, most recently, of The Iron Sea (Hachette, 2020) and eight other works of history and biography. His forthcoming book, Scotland Yard: A True Crime History of Its Most Infamous Murder Cases,will be published by Pegasus Books in the U.S. in August 2024 and Welbeck Publishing in the U.K. in September. Two of his books, Winston Churchill Reporting (Da Capo, 2016) and Human Game (Berkley, 2012), have been optioned for movie/television adaptations. His work has been featured on the top-rated true crime podcasts Morbid and Criminal, and his writing has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Time, Publisher’s Weekly, and other publications. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Carl Rollyson is professor emeritus of journalism at Baruch College, CUNY, and has published 14 biographies, including in 2020, The Life of William Faulkner and The Last Days of Sylvia Plath. In August 2023, the University of Mississippi Press published Rollyson’s Sylvia Plath Day by Day, Volume 1. Volume 2 of his Plath biography is forthcoming in August 2024. Also forthcoming: The Making of Sylvia Plath, William Faulkner on and off the Page: Essays in Biographical Criticism, and Ronald Colman: Hollywood’s Gentleman Hero. Rollyson also hosts the podcast A Life in Biography, available at https://anchor.fm/carl-rollyson.

Abigail Santamaria is the author of Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), and is currently at work on I Am Meg: The Life of Madeleine L’Engle, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She is a 2023 MacDowell Fellow and a recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar grant (2022), a Sustainable Arts Foundation award (2021), and a Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellowship (2019), among other honors. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York TimesVanity Fair, and Literary HubShe earned an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

Barbara D. Savage’s first biography, Merze Tate: The Global Odyssey of a Black Woman Scholar, is an incisive examination of a scholar who thrived despite steep obstacles, taking her from a farm in the Midwest to Kalamazoo to London and to the world beyond. It was published by Yale University Press in November 2023. Savage is a historian and the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought at the University of Pennsylvania. Her other works include Your Spirits Walk Beside Us, winner of the 2012 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

Laurie Gwen Shapiro is a biographer, journalist, filmmaker, and NYU journalism professor. She writes for many publications, including The New Yorker and The New York Times. As a director, she has won the Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for an Emmy. Her unlikely New Yorker story, “The Improbable Journey of Dorothy Parker’s Ashes,” won a 2021 GANYC Apple Award for best article, and her New York Times profile of a living WWII pilot received the 2022 Silurians Press Club gold medallion as best profile. The Stowaway, her first nonfiction book, was an Indie Next selection and national bestseller. Viking Books will publish her narrative nonfiction tale of Amelia Earhart’s marriage in 2025.

Lizzie Skurnick is a winner of BIO’s 2023 Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship for “biographical works-in-progress that make a significant contribution to our understanding of the Black experience.” She won for her work, The Special Students: My Great-Grandfather at Harvard, His Mysterious Death, and the Rise of the Talented Tenth, forthcoming from Henry Holt & Company. A writer, editor, and critic, her work has appeared in publications and other media outlets including The New York Times, Time, and NPR. Her first book, Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading (HarperCollins, 2009), is a literary and cultural history of young adult fiction based on her column of the same name.

Charles Spicer is a vice president and executive editor at St. Martin’s Press Publishing Group, part of Macmillan Publishers. He acquires and edits commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, biography, and true crime. Biographies he has published include J. Randy Taraborrelli’s Jackie: Public, Private, Secret; Laura Thompson’s The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters; Anne Sebba’s That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, and Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy; Susan Ronald’s Condé Nast: The Man and His Empire; and Anne de Courcy’s Magnificent Rebel: Nancy Cunard in Jazz Age Paris. He lives in New York and Ashley Falls, Mass.

Jessica Max Stein is a New York-based writer who teaches writing and literature at the City University of New York. She is the author of Funny Boy: The Richard Hunt Biography, the life story of Muppet performer Richard Hunt, published in March 2024 by Rutgers University Press. BIO honored the Funny Boy book proposal as one of three finalists for its 2016 Hazel Rowley Prize. Stein’s writing has been cited in The New York Times; she received an Amy Award for young writers from Poets & Writers magazine; and won an Ippie for best editorial from the Independent Press Association. A reporter and former editor of The Indypendent, Stein has published work in more than 100 magazines and journals, including a longtime column at The Bilerico Project.

Karen Torghele is an epidemiologist who spent the majority of her career working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Task Force for Global Health in Atlanta, Georgia.  She designed and conducted oral histories related to the early years of the CDC and for the Oral History of Polio Project. The 80 video recordings of her interviews are included in the Global Health Chronicles website. An active member of BIO, Torghele enjoys its podcasts and Zoom sessions to learn more about the nuances of writing biographies. When she is not writing, she enjoys playing cello in the Atlanta Musicians’ Orchestra and adding to her lifetime bird-spotting list. Her first book, Albert Sabin: A Fierce Joy, is a biography of the developer of the oral polio vaccine, forthcoming from Yale University Press this year.

Amanda Vaill is a best-selling and award-winning biographer, journalist, and screenwriter, author of Everybody Was So Young: Sara and Gerald Murphy—A Lost Generation Love StorySomewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins;and Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War.As a book publisher, her nonfiction titles included Antony Alpers’s Katharine Mansfield, Ingmar Bergman’s The Magic Lantern, Laurence Bergreen’s As Thousands Cheer,Louise Bogan’s Journey Around My Room, Taylor Branch and Eugene Propper’s Labyrinth, Blanche Wiesen Cook’s Eleanor Roosevelt, Barbara Leaming’s Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth, Henry Leifermann’s Crystal Lee (the basis for the film Norma Rae), and Laurie Lisle’s Louise Nevelson. A past fellow of the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, she is completing a dual biography of Hamilton’s Schuyler sisters, entitled Pride and Pleasure.

Holly Van Leuven is a writer, ghostwriter, and editor. She is the editor of BIO’s newsletters, The BIO Insider and The Biographer’s Craft. She is also the copy editor and fact-checker of the Morning Brew newsletter, which tracks business, technology, geopolitical, and current events for over three million subscribers daily. She is the author of Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow, published by Oxford University Press, for which she won BIO’s inaugural Hazel Rowley Prize in 2014. As a digital native who is also a traditionally published biographer and an editor tracking daily developments in AI for the average person, she is deeply interested in existing and new research tools and methodologies, particularly as they affect independent scholars.

Ilyon Woo is the New York Times best-selling author of Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom—a Kirkus Prize Finalist, one of The New York Times’s “10 Best Books of 2023,” and one of People Magazine’s“Top Ten Books of the Year.” She is also the author of The Great Divorce: A Nineteenth-Century Mother’s Extraordinary Fight Against Her Husband, the Shakers, and Her Times. Her writing has appeared in The Boston GlobeThe Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and The New York Times,and she has received support for her research from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Antiquarian SocietyShe holds a B.A. in the Humanities from Yale College and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University.

Richard Zacks is a journalist, former syndicated newspaper columnist, and author of numerous pieces for the The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, Time, Village Voice, and the like. His best-selling books cover a wide range of topics, including sex, vice, and love through the ages. His works include Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-loving New York; Chasing the Last Laugh: Mark Twain’s Raucous and Redemptive Round-the-World Comedy Tour; The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805; The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd; History Laid Bare: Love, Sex & Perversity From the Ancient Etruscans to Warren G. Harding; and An Underground Education: The Unauthorized and Outrageous Supplement to Everything You Thought You Knew About Art, Sex, Business, Crime, Science, Medicine, and Other Fields of Human Knowledge. He has worked on several films and documentaries, including The Alienist, Pirating, and most recently, The Booze, Bets and Sex That Built America.

Lodging

BIO has reserved rooms at two midtown Manhattan hotels at a group rate significantly cheaper than rates of other comparable hotels on Thursday and Friday nights, May 16 and 17, 2024. Reserve before April 16 to get the group rate. 

 The rates for the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express are for king standard rooms with free breakfast and WiFi. They do not include a $3.50/day occupancy fee but both hotels will honor BIO’s tax exempt status, so you will not pay the 14.75% sales tax, a savings of nearly $100 over two nights (the taxes may appear when you reserve your room, but they will be manually removed by the hotels). Both hotels will honor these rates for up to 3 days post-block (i.e., if you choose to stay extra days after the conference), but rates for nights before the conference will be $50/night higher due to graduation week demand.  

Hampton Inn Manhattan / Grand Central (0.9 miles) $319 / night 

231 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017  

Click here for the group rate.

 

Holiday Inn Express Manhattan / Times Square South (0.2 miles) $329 / night 

60 West 36th Street, New York, NY 10018 

Click here for the group rate.

Other midtown Manhattan hotels are listed below with their distances from the Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avenue at 34th St.). As of early February, these hotels, listed from least to most expensive, have refundable rooms for less than $400 per night (before tax and fees) for Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17, 2024. Some offer AAA and senior discounts. 

 

Pod 39 (0.6 miles)  

145 E 39th St. (between Lexington and 3rd Ave), New York, NY 10016 

 

Pod Times Square (1.2 miles)  

400 W 42nd St., New York, NY 10036 

 

Club Quarters Grand Central (0.8 miles)  

128 E 45th St, New York, NY 10017 

 

Freehand Hotel (0.8 miles)  

23 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10010 

 

Best Western Premiere Empire State Hotel (0.3 miles)  

16 E 30th Street, New York, NY 10016 

 

MOXY NYC Times Square (0.5 miles)  

485 7th Ave (at 36th St), New York, NY 10018 

 

The Draper New York (Tapestry Collection by Hilton) (0.1 miles)  

4-6 W 37th Street, New York, NY 10018 

 

Hilton Garden Inn New York / Midtown Park Avenue (0.2 miles)  

45 East 33rd Street, New York, NY 10016 

 

Hyatt Grand Central New York (0.7 miles) 

109 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017 

 

You may find better prices by searching Booking.com or on other hotel reservation sites, or by staying farther away from midtown and taking the subway or bus. Most subway lines stop near the Graduate Center, which is 0.4 miles from Penn Station and 0.6 miles from Grand Central.