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BIO Conference Brings an International Group of Writers to Richmond

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If you’ve ever thought your life deserving of a book, start being your most compelling self.

More than 170 authors and aspiring authors who specialize in biography take over downtown Richmond this weekend for their annual conference — the first held outside a major metropolitan area. And a public event Sunday will give readers a chance to mix and mingle with those writers.

The group picked Richmond because there’s “a whole slew of very active Virginia members,” says Kate Buford, a board member of Biographers International Organization, known as BIO. “It’s just booming right now, there’s so much going on.”

What could biographers have to say to one another?

One panel will feature three biographers of Richard Nixon and explore writing about a polarizing subject. An ask-a-lawyer workshop is likely to field some questions about libel and copyrights.
Local author Dean King moderates a panel on royal family biographies — “the special requirements and hazards of” writing about famous families.

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff will be part of a panel about choosing your subject. She’s written bestsellers about Véra Nabokov, the wife of Vladimir, and Cleopatra. Her 2015 book, “The Witches: Salem, 1692,” was a much-lauded exploration of that infamous era.

At six years old, the relatively new organization has grown rapidly, Buford says.

“The genre of biography has been so popular. People are so hungry for stories about people,” she says. “Why people do what they do — that’s the core of biography. Why did [Franklin D. Roosevelt] do what he did? Everyone grew from certain roots.”

You don’t need to be a member to register for the conference. And about 30 panelists and moderators will stay through Sunday for the group’s Book Bash at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery — a chance to meet readers, sell and sign books.

“People can walk up to these Pulitzer Prize winners. They’ll be struck by how easy it is to get really good contact with some of the best practitioners of the craft,” Buford says. “There’s something really nice about biographers, a generosity to this group.

“When you’re writing a biography, you have the responsibility for that person’s life in your hands. And, if you’re any good, it produces a certain sympathetic curiosity about people’s lives. So they tend to be really fun people to be with.” S

The Biographers International Organization Book Bash will be held Sunday, June 5, from noon to 3 p.m. at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.

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