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The Writing Life

The Lives of Others with Debby Applegate and Kitty Kelley, moderated by Diane Kiesel

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 - 6:00 PM | Members' Room | open to the public | free of charge | registration required

Oscar Wilde said: Biography lends to death a new terror.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: There is properly no history; only biography.

Be their subjects dead or alive, join expert, entertaining, award-winning biographers Kitty Kelley and Debby Applegate to discuss how and why they choose their subjects, share with us their best and worst moments as writers, and remind us why we love reading about other people.

Debby Applegate is a historian whose first book, The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography, and was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review, NPR's Fresh Air, the Washington Post, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle and American Heritage Magazine. Her second book, Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age, was released by Doubleday in November 2021 and was a New York Times Editors' Choice for Best Books of 2021; it also won an Earphones Award as a best audiobook of the year as well as a New York Society Library New York City Book Award.

Kitty Kelley is an internationally acclaimed writer whose bestselling biographies focus on some of the most influential and powerful personalities of the last 50 years. Kelley’s last five biographies have been number one on the New York Times best seller list, including her most recent, Oprah: A Biography. She is also the author of Capturing Camelot: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the Kennedys and Let Freedom Ring: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the March on Washington. Her His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra was called “the most eye-opening celebrity biography of our time” by William Safire of the New York Times. Kelley has been honored by her peers with such accolades as the 2005 PEN Oakland Censorship Award and the Outstanding Author Award and Founders’ Award for Career Achievement from the American Society of Journalists and Authors for her “courageous writing on popular culture.” She was also selected by Vanity Fair magazine for its Hall of Fame as part of the “Media Decade” and, in 2023, received the Biographers International Organization’s BIO Award, which is given annually to a writer who has made major contributions to the advancement of the art and craft of biography. Author photo by Philip Bermingham

Diane Kiesel (moderator) recently retired after nearly 25 years as a judge on the New York Supreme Court, criminal term. She spent a decade as a prosecutor working for the legendary Robert M. Morgenthau at the Office of the New York County District Attorney. Before attending law school she was a journalist in Washington, D.C. for a group of California newspapers. She is the author of a textbook on Domestic Violence law and a biography, Dr. Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, Civil Rights Pioneer. Her latest book, When Charlie Met Joan: The Tragedy of the Chaplin Trials and the Failings of American Justice, will be out this fall. Author photo by John Halpern

The Writing Life events in 2024 are generously underwritten by Jenny Lawrence.