Last night I attended the first post-summer break meeting of the Washington Biography Group, “an informal gathering of people who write memoirs or biography,” as our semi-sort of official bylaws read, “attended by professional writers as well as people writing personal or family memoirs (and a few who are working up the courage to do so).” I was initiated into the group more than a year ago by Linda Lear (of Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature fame) and it’s more of a support group than an instructional one (though that happens, too), as more than 50 writers, readers, and enthusiasts sit and share stories. It’s always a useful and pleasant way to pass two hours.
Since this was our first meeting since late Spring (we take summers off), we spent the evening updating the group on how we spent our summers, and it’s always interesting to hear the wide variety of projects people are working on. Works in progress include books on 19th century naval heroes, Marty Robbins, Mary Wickes, Russian czars, concentration camp survivors, and institutionalized family members. And that’s just for starters.
Other highlights included:
* Linda Lear sharing her frustration on the difficulty of changing publishers to reissue her Rachel Carson biography (and re-clearing alllll your rights);
* Diane Diekman (Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story) gushing with excitement about meeting Mel Tillis during her research — and learning he was a fan of her work;
* Marc Pachter enthusing on the tones of forgiveness in John Lahr’s Notes On A Cowardly Lion: and
* My colleague at Arcade, Dr. Stephen Weissman, discussing his forthcoming book on Charlie Chaplin, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.
All in all, a terrific meeting. And I think I should add: you don’t need to be a writer to attend the meetings. If you’re a reader who’s passionate about biography, history, or non-fiction, you’ll fit right in. Our next meeting is October 27, at the Washington International School in Washington, DC.