Kitty Kelley is the preeminent unauthorized biographer of our time and is the winner of the 2023 BIO Award. The BIO Award is presented annually to an individual for contributions to advancing the art and craft of biography. To celebrate Kelley and learn about her process, we are hosting An Evening with Kitty Kelley via Zoom on Tuesday, March 28, from 7 to 8 pm Eastern Daylight Time.
Kelley is the author of seven groundbreaking, best-selling biographies of some of our culture’s most iconic figures: 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).
Heath Hardage Lee will engage Kelley in conversation and then invite questions from the audience. Lee is the author of Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause (Potomac Books, 2014) and The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home (St. Martin’s Press, 2019).
They will discuss the challenges of writing books about living public figures as well as the legwork, research, and documentation involved in producing a scrupulous biography. As The Hollywood Reporter noted last year, “While many have tried to take her down, the ever-grinning Kelley has never been successfully sued by a source or subject.”
To learn more about Kelley’s work ahead of the event, we recommend her essay “Unauthorized, But Not Untrue” from The American Scholar.
The event is free and open to any who register. Registrants will receive a recording of the event.
Biography Lab 2023: An Online Forum on Craft is a one-day, online conference that will take place on Saturday, January 21, 2023.
BIO’s Board of Directors created this event, which we hope will become annual, in direct response to the feedback we received after the May 2022 online BIO Conference. While many BIO members are eager to meet in person again, many others urged us to preserve some aspects of the online conference for those unable to travel. Our post-conference survey indicated that learning biographical craft is the number one reason participants attend the Conference.
Biography Lab 2023 will feature a keynote by Dame Hermione Lee on “Biographical Choices.” Three other distinguished biographers will conduct individual 90-minute sessions on aspects of biographical craft. Eric K. Washington will lead one on finding a subject’s unwritten voice; T. J. Stiles will discuss characterization; and Caroline Fraser will direct hers on incorporating history into biographies. Each of these sessions will allow plenty of time for questions from participants. The day will conclude with an online social hour.
Best of all, the conference is offered at no charge to BIO members and to students. The fee for nonmembers is $60, which includes a year’s membership in BIO.
For more information about Biography Lab 2023, click here. To register, click here.
Please join fellow BIO members on November 10 for an hour of online social networking. This will be an opportunity to meet with those who are working on similar types of biography or who are at a similar stage in the process. When you register, your Zoom confirmation email will have a link to a questionnaire that will help us to organize the breakout rooms for this event. Please complete the questionnaire as soon as possible after you register.
This is your time to connect with fellow biographers, share tips and strategies, and feel a little less alone in your biography journey. Please join us!
This event will not be recorded.
When: November 10, 7:00-8:00 pm (US and Canada) Eastern Standard Time
BIO is pleased to announce the first in a series of online events planned for 2022-2023: a discussion of the 2022 Plutarch Award winner, Burning Man: The Trials of D. H. Lawrence by Frances Wilson. The event will take place on Saturday, September 17, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings time.
Nigel Hamilton, chair of the 2022 Plutarch Award committee, will interview Frances Wilson about the way she crafted the book, followed by ample time for questions and discussion. Copies of Burning Man are readily available. If you order it here, BIO will get a small percentage of the profit. Please try to read the book before the event.
The Plutarch committee said this about the book: “Frances Wilson’s brilliantly conceived and executed biography of D.H. Lawrence presents his life through the surprising structure of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which follows the poet’s struggles through hell, purgatory and paradise in search of, and accompanied by, Beatrice.”
Frances Wilson is a London-based biographer and critic whose books include The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth (Winner of The British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize 2008), How To Survive the Titanic; Or, the Sinking of J Bruce Ismay (winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography 2012), Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Plutarch Award 2016), and Burning Man: The Trials of D H Lawrence (finalist for the Duff Cooper Prize, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize). She was Jean Strouse Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B Cullman Center in 2018 and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Nigel Hamilton has published 25 works of biography, history and memoir, as well as made documentary films. His JFK: Reckless Youth became a New York Times bestseller and was made into a four-part ABC television mini-series. The Mantle of Command, the first volume of his wartime life of FDR, was longlisted for the National Book Award; the last, War and Peace, was published in 2019. He is currently completing Lincoln versus Davis: The Struggle Between Two Presidents.
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.
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: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZArfuusqjwsGdzjbNNOXXfJr4IVoPLGPcAz
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.
The recording of this event is available here.
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 https://anneboydrioux.com/.
Update: The recording of this event is available here.
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.