By Erin L. Cox
Undaunted by my busy schedule and on the eve of a week of Book Expo America activities, I zipped down to Washington, DC last weekend to participate in Saturday’s 2nd Annual Compleat Biographer Conference. Organized by the Biographers International Organization, it brought together biographers from around the country and the world to speak to some of the unique issues and circumstances that come with writing about the life of another individual.
While I was there talking about publicity and giving these writers some tools and ideas with which to promote themselves (or to see if it made sense for them to hire an outside publicist/marketer), I learned a lot about what it is to delve into the life of someone else. These writers have some challenges that many other narrative nonfiction writers don’t have and it was great to hear how they deal with those problems. The organization is an incredibly supportive and collegial one, so if you’re a biographer out there or want to support biography, it makes good sense to look into joining.
A few highlights for me were hearing Robert Caro speak about writing his Lyndon B. Johnson four-volume biography and how my people (the Texans) treated him when he first ventured down there, seeing the fabulous Stacy Schiff speak about her bestseller Cleopatra, and reconnecting with an old friend, A’Lelia Bundles, whose biography of her great-great grandmother, On Her Own Ground, I was the publicist for years ago at Scribner.