TBC Readers Get Early Crack at Seats for Caro Speech at the Levy Center for Biography
By special arrangement, a group of
seats have been set aside for TBC readers wishing to attend Robert A. Caro's September
lecture in New York. Each year the Leon Levy Center for Biography
selects a biographer of note to give the annual lecture on the process of
researching and writing a biography, with a focus on their current work in
the well-known biographer of Robert Moses and Lyndon Baines
Johnson, will give the 2009 lecture on September 29.
Readers wishing to
obtain one of these reserved seats must email their name, address, and phone
number to us no later than midnight MDT August 31. You will receive a reply
that will include instructions and restrictions on the reservations.
Pulitzer Prize winner, Caro is the author of The Power Broker: Robert Moses
and the Fall of New York and The Years of Lyndon Johnson, the latter
comprising three published volumes to date: The Path to Power, Means of
Ascent, and Master of the Senate. Caro is currently at work on his
fourth and final volume, an examination of Johnson's years in the White House.
His September 29th
lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in Elebash Recital Hall at the Graduate Center,
the City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York.
Presenters Sought for 2010 "Compleat Biographer" Conference as BIO Nears Establishment
Biographers International Organization (BIO) is seeking
biographers who are willing to put on a workshop, chair a panel discussion, or
make a presentation at the first ever Compleat Biographer conference, tentatively
scheduled for May 23, 2010.
expected that BIO will become formally established this fall, and preparation
is underway for its first professional conference. The day-long meeting will
probably be held in Boston, New York, or New Jersey. The conference will focus
on practical aspects of the craft and art of biography. Among the proposed
If you wish to be a presenter,
please write to us.
- choosing a subject;
- dealing with the family of
- beyond the advance:
funding your research
- when you can't get there: hiring a researcher by long distance;
- Internet research;
- note-taking systems; and
- publicizing your biography.
Personal Historians to Meet in October
The keynote speakers at the annual conference of the
Association of Personal Historians will be Maureen Taylor, an expert on
genealogy and photography; Charles Hardy III, president of the Oral History
Association; and Lily Koppel, author of The
Red Leather Diary. The conference is scheduled for October 21 through
October 25 in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
more than two-dozen panels and workshops at the conference are the following:
For more information, consult the
Association of Personal Historians's website.
- Corporate and
Organizational Histories: How to Get the Biz and Do the Work, presented by
- Lessons from the Memoir
Revolution: How to Improve Your Product, presented by Jerry Waxler
- The Nuts and Bolts of
Video Biographies: What You Need to Know to Run a Business, presented by
Vanda Krefft: A Levy Center Fellow
In its first two years the Leon Levy
Center for Biography has awarded eight one-year $60,000 fellowships to
biographers. The fellowships are among the most competitive and significant
funding awards available to biographers. TBC is running profiles of the four
2009-2010 fellows. In May we featured Mary Lisa Gavenas, in June Wendy Lesser, and in July John Matteson.
The writer Vanda Krefft first learned about William Fox
through a colleague and friend, the late Angela Fox Dunn, who was the movie
mogul's niece. "Angela, who spent time with Fox during her childhood and whose
mother had been his favorite sibling, had many colorful, lively stories about
'Uncle Bill,'" Krefft told TBC. But for a long time, Krefft assumed that Fox's
biography had already been written. "Then I checked, realized that it hadn't
been done, and began to investigate," she said.
"The more I learned, the richer the
story became. I began to see it not just as the story of someone who goes from
absolutely nothing to the full realization of his dream, only to lose it
completely, but also as the story of his time and place, early
twentieth-century America. Fox was also a very compelling personality--an
expert storyteller with a masterful command of pacing, drama, and humor; a
shrewd yet visionary businessman who had only a third-grade education; and an
extraordinarily moral person who was motivated largely by a desire to help
others while he helped himself."
Once she started her research, Krefft quickly
understood why no serious biography of Fox had ever been done. He left no
personal papers, and the movie studio he founded, 20th Century Fox, kept
virtually no significant documents from his time. "This was the greatest
challenge I faced at the outset. However, it also turned out to be a great
opportunity because it prompted me to think about other places where
information about such a public life would show up. And, thanks to the
Internet, it's now possible to locate and access those resources."
Krefft will bring a wealth of
newspaper and magazine writing experience to the project. Over the years her
work has appeared in Elle,
Redbook, Woman's Day, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. HarperCollins
will publish her Fox biography, which is her first book. Based in Los Angeles,
Krefft will spend the coming year exploring Fox's life in New York, where he
kept his home and where the company was headquartered.
"The Levy fellowship is a great blessing that will allow me to
explore in depth all the relevant information at many of the city's libraries
and museums," said Krefft. "I'll also be able to visit the places where significant
events in Fox's life occurred."
Stars and Stripes Now Available Online
Working in partnership with Stars and Stripes, a daily independent publication for the U.S.
military, Newspaperarchive.com has digitized a large portion of the archive of
the newspaper and made it available online. The searchable database currently
includes the years 1948 to 1999. By the end of the year, the company hopes to
have added the World War II era.
One can only access
Newspaperarchive.com's collection, however, by subscribing to the service or by
using a terminal in an institution that subscribes. Early editions of the
newspaper, from February 8, 1918, to June 13, 1919, may be searched
online, free of charge, at the Library of Congress.
issue of Stars and Stripes was
published by Union soldiers during the Civil War. It was revived during World
War I, published in Paris in 1918 to serve members of the American Expeditionary Force under General of
the Armies John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. Some of its staff went on to become
famous journalists, including Private Harold Ross, who later became the founder
and editor of the New Yorker
After the war the newspaper ceased
publication but was started again in World War II and has remained in print
In the four months since TBC inaugurated this new feature of
posting photographs of our work spaces, it has become the most popular item in
This month at TBC's Room of Our Own we are featuring the office of
Diane Diekman, who has published two
memoirs, A Farm in the
Hidewood and Navy
Greenshirt, as well as one biography, Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story.
She is currently writing Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins, with a tentative
publication date of 2012.
Send your photos to us.
Amanuensis: A person
whose employment is to write what another dictates, or to copy what another has
written. Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
of us leave instructions for our future biographers. Anne Sullivan Macy did so.
The woman best known as the teacher of Helen Keller wanted to be remembered as
a skilled and innovative educator--but without the idolization that came along
with working miracles. In "Foolish Remarks of a Foolish Woman," a self-compiled
collection of short reflections, she directed future biographers to avoid such
veneration. "I have met a number of famous men uneventfully," she wrote, "but I
have learned something about them. They are Human like the rest of us, they are
not gods or even sacred cows as their biographers would have us believe. [Read more]
--Kim E. Nielsen, GM History News Network
All libraries are, of course, petri dishes of simmering
lust, but the BL is extreme: its walls contain more erotic pressure than an oil
rig, a North Sea fishing trawler, and several series of Mad Men
combined. And it turns out that I'm not alone in thinking so. [Read more]
--Sathnam Sanghera, London Times
Tips Corner: Doing Oral History for a Biography
Conducting interviews is an important aspect of research for
those biographers lucky enough to be working on a subject for whom there are still
living sources. Biographers with journalistic training are often well equipped
to do this work. For those who don't have such training or experience, here are some websites with useful
Tips for Interviewers, from the Regional Oral History Office
of the Bancroft Library at Berkeley.
U.S. Army Guide to Oral History is available free-of-charge
in an HTML or PDF version.
Tips on Conducting an Oral History, for a class at Washington University, in both Word and HTML.
Sixteen specific interviewing tips adapted from an article by Bob Brooks.
From the Editor's Desk
At our July editorial staff meeting a reoccurring topic of
discussion came up. No, it had nothing to do with the budget cuts that resulted
in closing down the espresso bar. Rather, it was the summer doldrums. A large
contingency of our writers, editors, and graphic artists have been pushing to
combine the July and August issues. Let's face it: these are not the busiest months
in our business. Successful biographers are sipping Tom Collinses on Martha's
Vineyard, and the less successful ones, well, they are quietly plotting their
In the end,
we opted to continue publishing monthly and not combine any issues. But, as a
compromise to our overworked staff, you will note the August issue is light on
"It's not unusual for biographers to fall in love with their
subjects," notes Heller McAlpin in her review of Camus: A Romance in the Washington Post, which abandoned its book review section but still runs reviews in its
pages. What is unusual, McAlpin continues, "is for a biographer to address a
lifelong passion for her subject as directly as [the author] Elizabeth Hawes
does." Read the review for a fascinating tale of Hawes's on-and-off
decades-long attraction to Camus.
is never far for any of us who spend years with a subject. I have written about
two men who are hard to love (in one case a murderer), so I am often asked how
I stuck with the research and the writing. The answer, it seems to me, is that
readers often confuse the fuel of passion. In Hawes's case it may well be love.
But in many situations, as in mine, it's a burning fascination with our
subjects that drive us. The latter seems more suitable to our craft because one
is able to see a subject's clay feet. Lovers rarely do.
James McGrath Morris
P.S. New trend? Two biographies listed below as sold to publishers in July are now in stores.
Link Yourself to Other Biographers, Editors, Agents, and Readers.
Make sure your Web page is listed in the TBC Directory of Biographers
Sold to Publishers
The following are among the biographies recently sold to publishers, as reported by Publishers Marketplace and other sources.
Detmar Blow with Tom
Sykes, Blow by Blow: The Story of Isabella Blow, to Harper
Alana Stewart, My
Journey with Farrah: A Story of Life, Love, and Friendship, to Harper, for
August 11, 2009
Avi Shilon, Begin: 1913-1992, to Yale University Press
Catherine's Gift: Inside the World of Dr. Catherine Hamlin, to Lion Hudson Books
Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson, to Simon Spotlight Entertainment,
for publication on
July 14, 2009
The following are biographies in stores this month. In cooperation with Publishers Weekly, many titles are accompanied by a link to the PW review.
The Queen of the Ring: Sex, Muscles, Diamonds the Making of an American Legend
by Jeff Leen
(Atlantic Monthly Press)
Girl: The Incredible Story of How Swimmer Gertrude Ederle Changed the Nation
by Tim Dahlberg,
with Mary Ederle Ward and Brenda Greene
Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank
Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up
by K. C. Cole
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Marx's General: The Revolutionary Life of
by Tristram Hunt (Metropolitan)
Fidel and Che: A Revolutionary Friendship
by Simon Reid-Henry
Why This World: A Biography of Clarice
by Benjamin Moser
(Oxford University Press)
The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
by J. Randy
(Grand Central Publishing)
Madoff with the Money
Too Good to Be True: The Rise and Fall
of Bernie Madoff
by Erin Arvedlund
James McGrath Morris,
P.O. Box 660
Tesuque, NM 87574
Photo of James McGrath Morris
by Michael Mudd