Compleat Biographer Conference Returns to Boston, Its Birthplace

Celebrating its fifth year, the BIO Compleat Biographer Conference will be held May 16-18 at the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, the site of the first conference in 2010. Since then, the conference has grown into the premier gathering for biographers eager to learn about research and interviewing techniques, bone up on key aspects of the writer’s craft, obtain inside advice about publishing, and discover new marketing strategies.

The 2014 conference promises to continue the high standard set by past gatherings by offering a diverse and stimulating lineup of panels and master classes, plus tours of six leading research sites in Boston and Cambridge. Registration for the conference will begin in mid-December. We have secured special rates at Boston hotels, which will be on the registration site.

On Friday, May 16, members of the Boston Biographers Group will serve as guides for three morning-to-early-afternoon tours, each one including two prominent institutions. Among the sites are the Massachusetts Historical Society, New England Historic Genealogical Society, and the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America.

Saturday, May 17, will be devoted to wide-ranging panels on practical and thought-provoking topics designed to interest beginners as well as seasoned biographers. At lunch, conference-goers will gather to compare notes, talk shop, and hear from our keynote speaker—the 2014 BIO Award winner—whose identity will be announced in the January 2014 issue of TBC along with the names of prominent panelists.

Panel topics include:

  • Biography 101: Where Do I Start?
  • Funding Your Biography
  • Research: Archive to Endnotes
  • Getting the Family on Board
  • Finding the Balance: The Life, the Context, the Work
  • ‘And Then What?’—Creating Suspense in Biography
  • What Happens After You Turn in Your Manuscript?
  • Dealing with Your Agent…or Choosing Not to Have One
  • Writing Boston/Writing New England
  • Writing for Young Adults
  • The Challenges of Group Biography
  • Twice Marginalized: The Challenges of Writing About Little-Known Gay Subject
  • The Dark Side: Addressing the Unsavory Elements of a Subject’s Character
  • The University Press and Biography
  • What Editors Actually Do (and Don’t Do)
  • Cultivating Readers & Blurb Writers
  • The Book Tour: Real and Virtual
  • Market Trends for Biography
  • Diary of a Biographer: How Authors Lived Their Lives While Writing Someone Else’s

On Sunday morning, May 18, the conference will offer a select group of master classes, including:

  • The Craft of Interviewing, with John Brady, author of The Craft of Interviewing
  • Biography Workshop: Writing the Proposal, with Susan Rabiner, coauthor of Thinking Like Your Editor
  • Self-Publishing for New and Re-Released Titles
  • Promoting Your Biography: Hiring a Publicist or Going it Alone, with Carl Rollyson, author (most recently) of Amy Lowell Anew: A Biography

As in past years, the conference planning and execution rests with a cadre of dedicated volunteers. Members of this year’s Site Committee, chaired by Ray Shepard, are Chip Bishop, Allison Chisholm, Marlene Donovan, Nigel Hamilton, Elizabeth Harris, Sally Hill, Josh Kendall, Melinda Ponder, Marian St. Onge, Phyllis Steele, and Quincy Whitney. The Program Committee, chaired by Cathy Curtis, comprises Kate Buford, Greg Daugherty, Deirdre David, Beverly Gray, Anne Heller, Brian Jay Jones, Josh Kendall, Marc Leepson, Ray Shepard, William Souder, and Will Swift.