The Art of Biography Writing
Biography writing can be a fraught, delicate business – from choosing a worthy subject to ensuring a life is interesting to the reader, a biographer often has to deal with difficult relatives, conflicting stories, and embittered rivals. Their subject may be dead – or worse, infuriatingly alive. And writing memoir and autobiography can have its own set of problems.
What choices does a writer make when faced with drastically differing versions of events? And how does a biographer decide which aspects of a life remain untold?
Janine Burke interviews Stephany Steggall, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Caroline Baum as they discuss the art, the attraction and the dangers of writing a life.
Janine Burke is an art historian, biographer, novelist and freelance curator.
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Clarke is the ABIA and Indie award winning author of over nine books for adults and children, including the critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the best-selling memoir The Hate Race, the Victorian Premier’s Award winning poetry collection Carrying the World, and the Boston Globe/Horn Prize winning picture book The Patchwork Bike, illustrated by Van T. Rudd.
She is the editor of Best Australian Stories 2017, and Growing Up African in Australia. Her forthcoming poetry collection is How Decent Folk Behave (Hachette).
Stephany Evans Steggall has written biographies of Colin Thiele, Ivan Southall and Bruce Dawe, and she is the author of Status and Sugar, a history of the Australian Society of Authors. She holds a PhD in Australian Literature from the University of Queensland, and in 2013 was awarded the Hazel Rowley Fellowship for her recently-published memoir, Interestingly Enough: The Life of Tom Keneally (Nero, 2015).
Caroline Baum is a respected journalist and presenter. She has worked for the BBC, ABC, Time Life Books, Vogue magazine (UK and Australia), was the founding editor of Good Reading magazine and the editorial director of Booktopia.