Archive for the ‘Biographers’ Category

2015 BIO Conference

Bio-Logo_Black2-500x193Yesterday, the Biographers International Organization (BIO) got off to a great start with pre-conference activities including information sessions at the Library of Congress, a docent-led tour of the Library of Congress by yours truly, and a lovely welcome reception at the home Kitty Kelley. Other biographers in attendance included BIO President Brian Jay Jones, Vice-President Cathy Curtis, Barbara Burkhardt and Robin Rausch (conference co-shairs), Douglas Brinkley, Evan Thomas, Nigel Hamilton, Mike Lennon, and more.

At the reception, Thomas Mann received the Biblio Award, which is given annually to an archivist, or librarian, who has gone above and beyond in assisting biographers with their research — providing essential assistance as we endeavor to tell the stories of people’s lives. Although Tom retired in January after 33 years at the Library of Congress he can be found in the main reading room on Saturdays, where he still assists researchers, just in a volunteer capacity. He is one of the many treasures at the Library and many attending last night’s reception could attest first-hand to his helpfulness, myself included.  Oxford University Press recently published the fourth edition of his book Oxford Guide to Library Research. It’s a great resource for writers.

Today the BIO Conference gets underway at the National Press Club with Evan Thomas and Douglas Brinkley discussing the Art and Craft of Biography. Taylor Branch will deliver the luncheon keynote address. He is the recipient of this year’s BIO Award.

And in between there are a host of workshops including the one below. It’s my first speaking engagement about my biography of Nicholas Katzenbach. It’s not done yet, but getting closer. If you have not registered for the conference, it’s not too late as they are accepting on-site registration. For more info click the BIO tab in the blog header. Hope to see you later!

Writing About Someone You Know 

11:00AM–12:15PM LOCATION: BLOOMBERG

Writing a biography is never easy, but does it make a difference if you know your subject? Perhaps you’re writing about a family member, a neighbor, or a former boss. Maybe you’ve met your subject in the course of researching and writing. Does a personal connection help smooth your path when it comes to approaching sources and gaining insights? Or does familiarity create its own pitfalls? How can you take advantage of your privileged position while still holding onto your artistic independence?

Moderator 

Barbara Burkhardt ’s William Maxwell: A Literary Life (University of Illinois Press, 2005; paperback, 2008), a biography of the longtime New Yorker editor and novelist, received praise in The New York Times, TLS, The Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, among other periodicals. She subsequently edited Conversations with William Maxwell (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). Burkhardt is associate professor emerita of American literature at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she was named University Scholar in 2007. A founding member of BIO, she has served on the BIO board for three years as its secretary. She is at work on a biography of Garrison Keillor under contract to St. Martin’s Press.

 

Panelists 

Beverly Gray , who once developed 170 low-budget features for B-movie maven Roger Corman, is the author of the best-selling Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Biography of the Godfather of Indie Filmmaking. Tastefully retitled Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers, it is now available (as both e-book and paperback) in an updated and unexpurgated third edition. Gray has also published Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon . . . and Beyond. She teaches online screenwriting workshops for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program. Her blog, Beverly in Movieland, covers movies, moviemaking, and growing up Hollywood-adjacent.

Michael Lennon is president of the Norman Mailer Society. He teaches in the Wilkes University low-residency M.F.A. program and is the author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life (Simon & Schuster, 2013). Most recently, he edited Selected Letters of Norman Mailer (Random House, 2014). He also wrote the introduction to the new illustrated Taschen edition, JFK: Mailer’s “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” His work has appeared in the Paris Review, The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Provincetown Arts,  Creative Nonfiction, New York, and Playboy, among others.

Amy Schapiro is the author of Millicent Fenwick: Her Way, a biography of the New Jersey congresswoman best remembered as the pipe-smoking grandmother who served as the model for Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury character Lacey Davenport and whom Walter Cronkite dubbed the “Conscience of Congress”. Schapiro is currently working on her next book, Leading Justice: The Life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach. She has appeared on C-Span/BookTV, NPR, WOR, and WABC.

Selma

UnknownBelieve it or not, I didn’t think about my new year resolutions until a few days after the ball dropped in Times Square. Once again, “the year of the book” tops my list. Here’s hoping that 2015 is the year I finally finish writing the Katzenbach biography. It’s particularly frustrating to sit on the sidelines as debate rages over the new movie Selma and the ensuing controversy of LBJ and his support, or lack thereof, for voting rights. Katzenbach and I talked about Selma and he made it very clear that Voting Rights was a priority for the Johnson Administration with or without Selma.

Like many, I’m anxious to see the movie and glad that today’s generation will have an opportunity to bear witness to the violence that was unleashed on Bloody Sunday – March 7, 1965 – in Selma, AL. There is no controversy about whether the movie portrayed what happened that day accurately, and the two subsequent marches on March 9 and March 21; the latter of which fulfilled the original goal to march from Selma to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.

One thing is clear, this movie has gotten people talking about history and facts, what biographer doesn’t love that!

101 Great New Jersey Books

imagesThis year New Jersey is celebrating it’s 350th Anniversary. As part of that celebration, the New Jersey State Library, Rutgers Library, and the New Jersey Historical Commission developed a list of the 101 best New Jersey books and Millicent Fenwick: Her Way made the cut!

I’m in good company. Other authors on the list include Sylvia Nasar for her biography, A Beautiful Mind about John Forbes Nash, Jr.; David McCullough for his book 1776 shedding new light on the Revolutionary War; and Phillip Roth’s classic Goodbye, Columbus. More recent titles include Junot Diaz’s award winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her.

Here’s the full list of great New Jersey books:

101 Great New Jersey Books List

GENERAL HISTORY
1. Patricia Bonomi – The Lord Cornbury Scandal: the Politics of Reputation in British America
2. Charles Boyer – Old Inns and Taverns in West Jersey
3. John Cunningham – This Is New Jersey
4. Giles Wright – “Steal Away, Steal Away”: a Guide to the Underground Railroad in New Jersey
5. Graham Russell Hodges — Slavery and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1665-1865
6. Michael Immersa – Newark’s Little Italy: the Vanished First Ward
7. Nelson Johnson – Boardwalk Empire: the Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City
8. Robert Kurson – Shadow Divers: the True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II
9. Marc Mappen – Jerseyana: the Underside of New Jersey History
10. Dermot Quinn – The Irish in New Jersey: Four Centuries of American Life

FICTION (SET IN NJ)
1. Mary Higgins Clark – On the Street Where You Live
2. Harlen Coben – Fade Away
3. Junot Diaz – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
4. Janet Evanovich – Four to Score
5. Richard Ford – The Bascombe Novels
6. Nathan Heard – Howard Street: a Novel
7. Curtis Lucas – Third Ward, Newark
8. Joyce Carol Oates (ed.) – New Jersey Noir
9. Philip Roth – Goodbye, Columbus
10. Joe Vallese & Alicia Beale – What’s Your Exit?: a Literary Detour Through New Jersey

CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULTS
1. Judy Blume – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
2. Eileen Cameron – G is for Garden State: a New Jersey Alphabet
3. Wende and Harry Devlin – Cranberry Thanksgiving
4. David Lubar – Dunk
5. Joyce McDonald – Swallowing Stones
6. Carol Plum-Ucci – The Body of Christopher Creed
7. Mary Pope Osborne – Revolutionary War on Wednesday
8. Ann Rinaldi – Time Enough for Drums
9. Gertrude Chandler Warner – The Boxcar Children: The Boardwalk Mystery
10. David Wiesner – Flotsam

SCIENCE, BUSINESS & NATURE
1. Thomas Belton – Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State
2. Joanna Burger – A Naturalist Along the Jersey Shore
3. Jack Connor – Season at the Point: the Birds and Birders of Cape May
4. Ernest Freeberg – The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America
5. Jon Gertner – The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
6. Wheaton Lane – From Indian Trail to Iron Horse: Travel and Transportation in New Jersey, 1620-1860
7. John McPhee – The Pine Barrens
8. Robert Sullivan – The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City
9. Richard Veit – Digging New Jersey’s Past: Historical Archaeology in the Garden State
10. Peter Wacker & Paul Clemens – Land Use in Early New Jersey: a Historical Geography

POLITICS
1. Paul Clemens – The Uses of Abundance: a History of New Jersey’s Economy
2. Ovid Demaris – The Boardwalk Jungle
3. Steven Hart – The Last Three Miles: Politics, Murder, and the Construction of America’s First Superhighway
4. Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure – The Soprano State: New Jersey’s Culture of Corruption
5. Alan Karcher – New Jersey’s Multiple Municipal Madness
6. Duane Lockard – The New Jersey Governor: A Study in Political Power
7. Richard McCormick – New Jersey: From Colony to State, 1609-1789
8. Gerald Pomper – The Political State of New Jersey
9. Salmore & Salmore – New Jersey Politics and Government: the Suburbs Come of Age
10. John Wefing – The Life and Times of Richard J. Hughes: the Politics of Civility

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
1. Martin Duberman – Paul Robeson: A Biography
2. Gillan, Gillan and Giunta – Italian American Writers on New Jersey
3. Howard Greenfeld – Ben Shahn: An Artist’s Life
4. Walter Isaacson – Einstein: His Life and Universe
5. S. Mitra Kalita – Suburban Sahibs: Three Immigrant Families and Their Passage from India to America
6. Sylvia Nasar – A Beautiful Mind: a Biography of John Forbes Nash,Jr., Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 1994
7. Amy Schapiro – Millicent Fenwick: Her Way
8. James Still – Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still
9. Patricia Tyson Stroud – The Man Who Had Been King: the American Exile of Napoleon’s Brother Joseph
10. Mary Walton – A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot

NEW JERSEY AT WAR
1. Michael S. Adelberg – The American Revolution in Monmouth County: The Theatre of Spoil and Destruction
2. Joseph Bilby – “Remember You Are Jerseymen!”: a Military History of New Jersey’s Troops in the Civil War
3. Joseph G. Bilby, ed. – New Jersey Goes to War: Biographies of 150 New Jerseyans Caught up in the Struggle of the Civil War
4. Kevin Coyne -Marching Home : to War and Back with the Men of One American Town
5. Mark Di Ionno – A Guide to New Jersey’s Revolutionary War Trail : for Families and History Buffs
6. David Hackett Fisher – Washington’s Crossing
7. William Gillette – Jersey Blue: Civil War Politics in New Jersey, 1854-1865
8. Arthur Lefkowitz – The Long Retreat: The Calamitous American Defense of New Jersey, 1776
9. Mark Lender – One State in Arms: a Short Military History of New Jersey
10. David McCullogh – 1776

ARTS & POETRY
1. Meredith Bzdak and Douglas Petersen – Public Sculpture in New Jersey : Monuments to Collective Identity
2. Walter Choroszewski – New Jersey, a photographic celebration
3. Alan Ginsburg – Howl
4. Robert P. Guter – Building by the Book: Pattern Book Architecture in New Jersey
5. Joyce Kilmer – Trees and Other Poems
6. Robert Pinsky – Jersey Rain
7. John R.Quinn – Fields of Sun and Grass: An Artist’s Journal of the New Jersey Meadowlands.
8. Gerald Stern – This Time: New and Selected Poems
9. Lynd Ward – Vertigo
10. Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass
11. William Carlos Williams – Paterson

REFERENCE
1. Joan Burstyn – Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women
2. The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage:10,000 BC to AD 2000, By Herbert C. Kraft.
3. Joseph Felcone – New Jersey Books. Vols. I & II.
4. Maxine Lurie & Marc Mappen – Encyclopedia of New Jersey
5. Maxine Lurie, Peter Wacker ( eds.) & Michael Siegel – Mapping New Jersey: An Evolving Landscape
6. Clement Price – Freedom Not Far Distant: a Documentary History of Afro-Americans in New Jersey
7. Helen Schwartz – The New Jersey House
8. Donald Sinclair – New Jersey Biographical Index: covering some 100,000 biographies and associated portraits in 237 New Jersey cyclopedias, histories, yearbooks, periodicals and other collective biographical sources published to about 1980
9. Skinder-Strauss Associates (pub.) – Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey
10. John Snyder – The Mapping of New Jersey: the Men and the Art

RECENTLY PUBLISHED
1. Peter Ames Carlin – Bruce
2. Junot Diaz – This is How You Lose Her
3. Mark Di Ionno – The Last Newspaperman
4. Charles Graeber – The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder
5. George Kirsch – Six Guys from Hackensack: Coming of Age in the Real New Jersey
6. Cathy D. Knepper – Jersey Justice: The Story of the Trenton Six
7. Marc Mappen – Prohibition Gangsters: the Rise and Fall of a Bad Generation
8. Barksdale Maynard – Princeton, America’s Campus
9. Holly Metz – Killing the Poormaster: a Saga of Poverty, Corruption, and Murder in the Great Depression
10. Maxine Lurie and Richard Veit – New Jersey: A History of the Garden State

BIO Announces Hazel Rowley Prize – Deadline January 31, 2014

Bio-Logo_Black2-500x193 It’s still January and there’s still plenty of time to keep all those new year’s resolutions you made. My new year’s resolution is that this will be the year of the book, which for me means finishing the Katzenbach biography.

But for all those aspiring first-time authors, the Biographers International Organization (BIO) is offering a once in a lifetime opportunity for a future biographer (and I’m on a committee to help raise awareness about this new award so here goes it). BIO has named a prize after BIO member Hazel Rowley (1951-2011), an author of several biographies including Tȇte-à-Tȇte: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, translated into twelve languages.

The Hazel Rowley prize is intended for first-time biographers and will award the prize to the best proposal for a first time biography. The purpose of this award is to provide new biographers an opportunity to have their proposal read by an agent who will bring the winning proposal to the attention of editors and publishers who are actively seeking to publish biography.  The Prize also includes $2,000 in prize money.

The winner of the BIO/Hazel Rowley Prize for Best Proposal for a First Biography will be announced at BIO’s fifth annual conference in Boston on May 17, 2014.

The deadline for applying is January 31, 2014. See details about the prize and eligibility guidelines at http://biographersinternational.org/rowley-prize/

 And for more information about BIO, a grassroots organization of writers, educators, publishing experts, readers and others who support the art and craft of biography please visit: www.biographersinternational.org

Good luck!

 

2013 BIO Conference

Docent-led tour at the New York Public Library

Docent-led tour at the New York Public Library

Last weekend I attended the fourth annual Biographers International Organization (BIO) Annual Conference held in New York City. This year more than 225 biographers gathered at the Roosevelt Hotel to discuss research, writing, book reviews, social media, and a host of other topics.

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel entitled “Crafting Biography” featuring three biographers – Kate Buford, David Stewart, and Marc Leepson – who among them have written more than a dozen books. My favorite tidbit from this panel was from Marc Leepson. He does not sleep with a notebook by his side to capture all those brilliant late night ideas. Instead, he uses his phone to send himself e-mails about his words of wisdom. Why didn’t I think of that?

For those that lament the obstacles of finishing a book, feel sorry for yourselves no longer. Amanda Foreman, award-winning author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, managed to finish her second book, A World on Fire, with five children under five and a husband diagnosed with cancer. She regaled the audience with tales of how she accomplished this feat including how she had to return her original advance and find another publisher.  I will never complain again.

The conference isn’t just about what you learn, but who you meet. On Friday, I took a research tour of several libraries with our guide, Nancy Goldstone. At the New York Public Library I learned about the Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Papers, and have since found correspondence between him and the subject of my next book, Nicholas Katzenbach. One letter in particular provided me with a timeframe for a William Safire column I have tried to track down. I was off by about a decade, no wonder why I couldn’t find it?!?

Networking is another perk of BIO. At the conference I met fellow writer Steve Weinberg who is writing about Garry Trudeau. I did a slew of research about the evolution of Lacey Davenport, most of which I didn’t include in my book due to space constraints. Now, however, I plan to give the Lacey research to Weinberg so it can be put to good use. And for me, Weinberg offered to put me in touch with his father who was in the same POW camp, Stalag Luft III, as Nicholas Katzenbach during World War II. I’m always surprised by the bountiful serendipity that occurs at BIO.

Katherine Hourigan, Knopf’s managing editor, accepted the Plutarch Award on behalf of Robert Caro.

Katherine Hourigan, Knopf’s managing editor, accepted the Plutarch Award on behalf of Robert Caro.

I could go on and on about all the connections made, but I don’t want to bore the reader. So I’ll conclude where the conference ended, awarding the first Plutarch Award to Robert Caro for The Passage of Power, his fourth volume on President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Ironically, Caro was in Texas doing research for his next LBJ volume so one of his editors, Katherine Hourigan from Knopf, accepted the award on his behalf. Well-deserved.

 

 

A Gathering to Honor Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach

ImageLast week on the summer solstice, June 21, the Katzenbach family held a memorial service in Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University to celebrate the life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach. Everything about the memorial was an apt reflection of the man who passed away on May 8, 2012 at the age of 90.

His quick wit, sense of humor, and decency were on display for all to see through the memories of his friends and family. There was so much laughter in Richardson Auditorium that day that if you didn’t know better you would have thought you walked into a comedy club not a memorial service.

It was only fitting that the memorial was held at Princeton University, his alma mater, and an academic institution for which he cared deeply about, spending years on its Boards of Trustees and also providing pro bono legal services on occasion. Former Princeton President Bill Bowen was the first to pay homage to the man no longer among us. “He was truly ‘one of a kind’: a gentle giant of a man, as kind, compassionate and humorous as he was brilliant,” said Bowen.

Following Bowen were three lifelong friends, all of whom had known Katzenbach for a half-century or more – Herb Sturz, Jack Rosenthal, and Ward Chamberlin, the latter of whom had known Katzenbach since their teenage years at Exeter. He regaled the crowd with stories of a European adventure they took following high school graduation. They went on a biking tour of France and wouldn’t you know it, it happened to coincide with the Tour de France. The boys tried to ride ahead of the pack (avoiding several miles and towns on the route) so they could arrive at the next layover ahead of the cyclists, but hoping to be mistaken for them.

One of the most memorable stories was told by Jack Rosenthal. He recounted a visit Katzenbach made to the LBJ Ranch in which President Johnson took his guests deer hunting. Katzenbach was not thrilled about the prospect. He was not a hunter. “And then,” as Rosenthal told it, “inspiration struck. Katzenbach said, ‘Mr. President, as much as I’d like to shoot a deer, I don’t think I should, I don’t have a Texas hunting license.’” This was particularly problematic given his position, as attorney general and he didn’t want to violate the law. LBJ responded, “You know, I never thought of that.” Both Katzenbach and a deer were spared.

The three friends were followed by Katzenbach’s four children, as different as can be, but all inherited Katzenbach’s wit and knack for storytelling. The last of his children to speak was his daughter, Mimi. Her theatrical background and stage presence commanded attention. She explained why there was a Bloodgood Maple tree on the stage. The answer can be traced to the Revolutionary War and Katzenbach’s namesake, Dr. Nicholas deBelleville.  As she said, goodness flowed through his veins. During the Battle of Trenton, Dr. deBelleville ordered both sides to carry their wounded to a bloodgood maple tree in the middle of the battlefield and he treated them all. “Like his namesake on the battlefield,” said Mimi, “Dad did not discriminate among those who are wounded in the fight for freedom and justice.”

After the service everyone retired to the Prospect House, a Victorian mansion in the center of campus, which once housed Princeton University presidents such as Woodrow Wilson. At the Prospect House friends, family and colleagues from as far back as Katzenbach’s days in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations to his tenure as general counsel at IBM, and beyond, mingled and reminisced about the man who not only impacted the hundreds in attendance, but also this nation.

A Gathering to Honor Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach

Last week on the summer solstice, June 21, the Katzenbach family held a memorial service in Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University to celebrate the life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach, former attorney general. Everything about the memorial was an apt reflection of the man who passed away on May 8, 2012 at the age of 90.

His quick wit, sense of humor, and decency were on display for all to see through the memories of his friends and family. There was so much laughter in Richardson Auditorium that day that if you didn’t know better you would have thought you walked into a comedy club not a memorial service.

It was only fitting that the memorial was held at Princeton University, his alma mater, and an academic institution for which he cared deeply about, spending years on its Boards of Trustees and also providing pro bono legal services on occasion. Former Princeton President Bill Bowen was the first to pay homage to the man no longer among us. “He was truly ‘one of a kind’: a gentle giant of a man, as kind, compassionate and humorous as he was brilliant,” said Bowen.

Following Bowen were three lifelong friends, all of whom had known Katzenbach for a half-century or more – Herb Sturz, Jack Rosenthal, and Ward Chamberlin, the latter of whom had known Katzenbach since their teenage years at Exeter. He regaled the crowd with stories of a European adventure they took following high school graduation. They went on a biking tour of France and wouldn’t you know it, it happened to coincide with the Tour de France. The boys tried to ride ahead of the pack (avoiding several miles and towns on the route) so they could arrive at the next layover ahead of the cyclists, but hoping to be mistaken for them.

One of the most memorable stories was told by Jack Rosenthal. He recounted a visit Katzenbach made to the LBJ Ranch in which President Johnson took his guests deer hunting. Katzenbach was not thrilled about the prospect. He was not a hunter. “And then,” as Rosenthal told it, “inspiration struck. Katzenbach said, ‘Mr. President, as much as I’d like to shoot a deer, I don’t think I should, I don’t have a Texas hunting license.’” This was particularly problematic given his position, as attorney general and he didn’t want to violate the law. LBJ responded, “You know, I never thought of that.” Both Katzenbach and a deer were spared.

The three friends were followed by Katzenbach’s four children, as different as can be, but all inherited Katzenbach’s wit and knack for storytelling. The last of his children to speak was his daughter, Mimi. Her theatrical background and stage presence commanded attention. She explained why there was a Bloodgood Maple tree on the stage. The answer can be traced to the Revolutionary War and Katzenbach’s namesake, Dr. Nicholas deBelleville.  As she said, goodness flowed through his veins. During the Battle of Trenton, Dr. deBelleville ordered both sides to carry their wounded to a bloodgood maple tree in the middle of the battlefield and he treated them all. “Like his namesake on the battlefield,” said Mimi, “Dad did not discriminate among those who are wounded in the fight for freedom and justice.”

After the service everyone retired to the Prospect House, a Victorian mansion in the center of campus, which once housed Princeton University presidents such as Woodrow Wilson. At the Prospect House friends, family and colleagues from as far back as Katzenbach’s days in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations to his tenure as general counsel at IBM, and beyond, mingled and reminisced about the man who not only impacted the hundreds in attendance, but also this nation.