What does it take to write a jazz biography?

“Writing Jazz Biographies” is the third free, interactive webinar, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 8 pm. edt, presented by the Jazz Journalists Association. Paul de Barros (Shall We Play That One Together? The Life and Art of Piano Legend Marian McPartland), Robin D.G. Kelley (Thelonious Monk: The LIfe and Times of an American Original),
and Peter Pullman (Wail: The Life of Bud Powell) will speak of research, subject-dedication and dealing with living people as sources of information in a 90-minute panel moderated by me.

The webinar is free, but pre-registration is necessary. Previous webinars, “Introducing Jazz Journalism Now” and “Covering Jazz Festivals” are archived and can be accessed without charge. Here’s a gloss on the topic:

Biographies are among the most challenging form of non-fiction written by jazz journalists and scholars. They typically require deep investigation into the subject’s world, which whether past or present will be multi-faceted and viewable from multiple perspectives. Biographies necessitate detailed research, and usually multiple interviews of people with whom the writer must carefully create ongoing relationships. To make vivid and comprehensible the life, times and accomplishments of a musician demands high level writing skills as well as special sensitivity to a vast ouevre. And biographies are not written quickly. So how does a writer select his or her subject? Are biographies sought by publishers? What are the challenges, and what are the rewards, to being a biographer?

The JJA webinars to date have attracted some 60 participants online, several from continents other than North America, despite problems of time zones. Questions for the panelists are accepted from particpants. Don’t be shy.

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