Digital Content

BIO Announces Zoom Event with Gerald Howard

Update: The recording of this event is available here

The next session in our online workshop series “How to Read Biographies Like a Writer” has been scheduled for March 30 (7 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Central). The hourlong conversation will feature an esteemed publishing veteran, Gerald Howard, and his intriguing selection: the late Patricia Bosworth’s Montgomery Clift, which he describes as “the best celebrity biography (so-called) of the past fifty years” and a model for all “biographers who have to deal with sad and scandalous aspects of public figures, especially in the arts.” Those who’d like to read the book ahead of time can readily find copies available.

Gerald Howard is a recently retired book editor who worked with numerous biographers over the course of his career. He had the pleasure of reissuing Bosworth’s biography of Diane Arbus in the mid-nineties when he worked at Norton. His essays and reviews have appeared in The American Scholar, the New York Times Book Review, n+1, Bookforum, Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications. He is currently writing a biography of the influential editor and critic Malcolm Cowley.

Howard will be interviewed by Steve Paul, BIO board member and member of the online workshop committee.

Please join us for what will prove to be a lively and enlightening discussion on the craft and creation of biography.

Date: Wednesday, March 30, 7 p.m. Eastern/ 6 p.m. Central

The event will also be recorded and available for later viewing.





BIO 2022 Conference Registration is Open!

The 2022 BIO conference will take place online Friday through Sunday, May 13–15, 2022. Panels, social hours, and roundtables are live and take place in real time. Other events are prerecorded and may be watched at your convenience, as indicated. The panels will also be recorded and available to conference participants a week or two after the conference itself.


Detailed session information is available here.

The cost of registration is $49 for BIO members, $99 for nonmembers. Those in need of financial assistance may apply for a Chip Bishop Fellowship here.

The conference will begin with the James Atlas Plenary, in which two experimental biographers address the theme of the conference: “Disrupting the Conventions of Biography.” Plenary speakers will be Craig Brown, author of 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret and 150 Glimpses of the Beatles; and George Packer, author of Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the America Century.

On Saturday the 2022 BIO Award winner, Megan Marshall, will deliver the keynote address. A long-time advocate for biography and biographers, Marshall is the author of The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism; Margaret Fuller: A New American Life; and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast. Her books have received multiple awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Margaret Fuller.

Panels on the basics of biography, its craft, its business aspects, and its recent disruptions are offered on all three days. Sixteen live Zoom panels will include Biography in the Age of #metoo; Biography in Different Forms; Biography in the Worst of Times; Biographies of Families and Family Members; Black Women’s Biography; and Bertelsmann and the Future of Publishing.

Also offered will be round tables 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 2021, as judged by biographers. New this year will be two virtual social hours, one on Friday afternoon and the other on Sunday evening.

BIO members who have a new biography published between June 1, 2021 and June 1, 2022 are invited to participate in the conference reading. Self-published books are not eligible. Please send the title of your book, the name of its publisher, and the month of publication here.





BIO Zoom Happy Hour on Feb. 22

Chase away the winter blues with an hour of social networking with your fellow biographers. It’s been almost three years (!) since our last in-person conference, in May 2019. We miss getting to mingle with old friends and hear how their projects are going, as well as meeting new biographers and learning about their projects.

The BIO Online Event Committee therefore invites you to our first virtual happy hour, where you can meet and socialize with fellow biographers. The event will begin with some general comments from the committee, and then we will rotate among smaller breakout rooms, randomly assigned. Each “room” will have a moderator from the committee or a member of the BIO board. This is your time to meet your fellow biographers but also to share some of the challenges you are facing in your work, to help us learn how we can better serve you as we develop our online offerings. We hope to see you there!

This event will not be recorded.

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 22, 7-8 pm Eastern time
Register here:

BIO Online Event Committee:

Anne Boyd Rioux (chair) is a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar and the author of three books, including Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist, chosen as one of the ten best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune. She is a member of the BIO board of directors and a BIO coach.

Steve Paul, a BIO board member, is a longtime journalist, book critic, and author of Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell, recently published by the University of Missouri Press. His previous book was Hemingway at Eighteen: The Pivotal Year That Launched an American Legend (Chicago Review Press). A New England native, he lives and writes in Kansas City, MO.

Holly Van Leuven is the recipient of the inaugural BIO Hazel Rowley Prize and the author of Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow (Oxford University Press, 2019). She is the editor of The Biographer’s Craft and a member of the BIO board of directors.

BIO Announces Zoom Event with Anne Zimmerman

The recording of this event is available here

Anne Zimmerman

BIO’s “Reading Biography Like a Writer” series continues with its third Zoom event, featuring Anne Zimmerman on Thursday, January 27, at 7 p.m. (Eastern Time). In conversation with Anne Boyd Rioux, Anne Zimmerman will discuss what biographers can learn about the craft from the recently published Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am (HMH 2021). Julia Cooke’s Come Fly the World tells the story of several “ordinary women” who embraced the liberation of a jet-set life by working as stewardesses for the iconic Pan Am Airlines. Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the book is a biography writer’s lesson in how to write about subjects who lack extensive archives. This conversation will help first-time biographers, those working on family history projects, and anyone exploring how big historical moments (the Vietnam War, the feminist movement) touch writing about the lived experiences. Reading the book ahead of time is not necessary, but if you can read at least part of it, that would surely enrich your experience. The event will also be recorded and available for later viewing.


Anne Zimmerman’s first book, An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher (Counterpoint), is the product of extensive research at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library. She edited two subsequent collections of the noted food writer’s work: Love In A Dish and Other Culinary Delights and M.F.K. Fisher: Musings on Wine & Other Libations. She lives in Portland, Oregon and has taught for many years in Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program, including a course on biography writing. She is finishing a memoir.

Anne Boyd Rioux is a member of BIO’s Board of Directors, a BIO coach, and the author of Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters (Norton), chosen as one of the best books of 2018 by the Daily Mail and Library Journal. Her biography Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist (Norton) was chosen as one of the ten best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune. She is the recipient of four National Endowment for the Humanities awards, two for public scholarship. You can find her online at



BIO Announces Zoom Event with Debby Applegate

Update: The recording of this event is available here.

Debby Applegate

BIO’s “Reading Biography Like a Writer” series continues with its second Zoom event, featuring Debby Applegate on Tuesday, December 7, at 7 p.m. (Eastern Time). In conversation with Holly Van Leuven, Applegate will discuss what biographers can learn about the craft from Nancy Milford’s groundbreaking feminist biography Zelda: A Biography (Harper & Row, 1970). The book explores the tumultuous relationship between Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, a great beauty and gifted writer, and her more famous husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Reading the book ahead of time will not be necessary for gaining insights about voice, structure, use of sources, and more. But if you can read at least part of it, that would surely enrich your experience. The event will also be recorded and available for later viewing.


Debby Applegate is a former president of BIO and the author of the newly released Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age (Doubleday), as well as The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher (Doubleday, 2006), for which she won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. She is the chair of the BIO Advisory Council.

Holly Van Leuven is the author of Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow (Oxford University Press, 2019) and the inaugural winner of BIO’s Hazel Rowley Prize (2014). She is the editor of The Biographer’s Craft.

BIO Workshop: Promoting Your Book During the Pandemic 

This meeting is free and open to all who register.

May 27, 2020 01:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Jennifer Richards and Rachel Tarlow Gul from Over the River Public Relations will share what they have learned about how book promotion is changing during the COVID-19 pandemic. They will share their insights and strategies and explain the role of a publicist and how to hire one. Former Random House, Inc. executives, Richards and Gul founded Over the River Public Relations in 2000, and have applied their expertise to nurturing authors’ careers from the beginning, to building greater awareness for established names—whether it’s creating full-scale marketing plans, launching new books, or planning and implementing innovative approaches to keep authors and their work visible in the public eye.


Listen Up! BIO Has a Podcast

Hear what biographers have to say about their work in BIO’s new, weekly podcast. You can find out more about the podcast and listen to an interview with James Atlas, author of The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale, here.


Fighting for the Digital Future

by T.J. Stiles
The world’s wealthiest corporations may take your work in its entirety for their own profit. They do not have to ask you for permission, let alone pay you. That’s essentially the ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in the Authors Guild’s long-running legal battle against Google over its massive book-digitization program. Remarkably, the court exacerbates the disparity of wealth and power in America by undermining property rights—even as it violates the purpose of copyright law.

The editors of The Biographer’s Craft (TBC) have been kind enough to let me respond to an opinion piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Pamela Samuelson, cited in the last issue of TBC. As a member of the board of the Authors Guild, one of BIO’s sister organizations, I want to explain why the Authors Guild is appealing the decision—and why it’s terrible for authors.

Samuelson, and the Second Circuit, turn the issues completely upside down. They focus on the end result: that Google has chosen, for now, to make search results available only in snippet form. (Google defines for itself what “snippet” means, by the way.) They argue that this does not undermine the book market, as readers can’t read an entire book this way.

That might be a good argument if the Authors Guild had sued end users of Google’s service. But we didn’t. The lawsuit is not over how Google dispenses stolen goods, but the stealing itself. The corporation made complete copies of our books for its own profit. The courts have always held that such copying is a blatant violation of creators’ rights, whatever happens afterward.

Google itself tells us that search and data-mining rights for books have value. It spent millions on its book-digitization project, and it is legally obligated to use its resources to make money for shareholders. And if Google can do it, so can anyone; Google’s profits from our books will invite competition. But what if Google had lost? What if the courts had held that business corporations must negotiate with authors? Then Google and any rivals would have to bid, driving up the value of our rights.

After all, that is the point of copyright: to promote the creation of art and knowledge by reserving to creators the financial rewards of their work. And those rewards are growing thinner. The book market is one of the last pieces of the economy in which the individual is a key player, yet authors find themselves powerless before the new digital gatekeepers—corporations that tower over even publishers, our traditional business partners. These gatekeepers profit from distribution, not creation, and they are deliberately driving down the value of our creations in digital form.

Of course, academic authors do not depend on income from their books. That’s a good thing; academic writing is essential to society. But our culture needs more than monographs. As a recent Authors Guild member survey shows, writers’ incomes are declining, not growing. We need every possible income stream to stay in business.

In the end, this case is about the future of the book itself. Therein lies the irony of Google and Samuelson’s position: They are the luddites, arguing that the book market will always be the same, that authors must be limited to their existing rights and traditional notions of the book itself.

The decision in favor of Google holds that the computer search is a “transformative” use of a book, which denies the original creator any rights. If it’s transformative merely to have a computer look through a book, that’s setting a very low bar for allowing others to use entire works without permission. One could argue that adaptations for film, television, or audiobooks were far more transformative; if the Second Circuit’s doctrine had prevailed a century ago, countless authors would have been denied critical income and creative control.

The Authors Guild is not opposed to the Google books program; rather, we want authors to be included and rewarded, to be incentivized to make the most of the technological future. Already digital media are changing the way people “consume” books; authors want to help shape new models of reading their work. But the court is narrowing authors’ rewards—and opportunities—in the digital realm.

Personally, I fear that this decision will make it still harder for authors to digitally transform their own works. We have barely tapped the possibilities—overlaying traditional narrative text with images, sound, embedded digressive essays, intertextual links, and interactive features, and who knows what else. That’s what I wanted for the digital edition of my most recent book, but the downward pressure on e-book prices by digital gatekeepers made it impossible, since it would have cost more than the print edition. The Second Circuit’s decision, I fear, will exacerbate the trend. Even if we could afford to transform our books, we’d be forced to compete with wealthy corporations over digital iterations of our own work. That’s a competition we can’t win.

T. J. Stiles received the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. His newest book is Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America. He is on the BIO Advisory Board and the Authors Guild Council.