A writer bio is like all good writing: there are very few people who can really pull it off.
Have you noticed this?
Maybe you skip past a writer’s name, jumping headlong into a piece. (I know this happens a lot; I get an insane number of comments from friends who want to congratulate me on “your piece”– only it’s not mine; it’s a piece written by someone else I just happened to be promoting through Twitter or Facebook). Maybe when you finish the article, if it meant something to you, you’ll skip back to first page to peep the author’s name. But I wonder if you flip back through the pages or click on an author’s name to learn more about the person who wrote the words that just shook you straight through.
Well, I do, and that’s how I’ve become (too) finely attuned to the too-clever bio.
I don’t want to call out Oxford American–I like the magazine and God knows the South, where I’m from, can use all the positive exposure it can get–but their June issue was filled with writing by authors who’d spent way too much time laboring over clever little bios.
It made me stop and think: “Could I never get published in this magazine because I’m incapable of writing a clever little bio?”
Here’s Emily Raboteau, who’s “reading Gone With the Wind and ashamed to admit that she can’t put it down.”
And Lyn Millner, who “At forty… tried out to be a Miami Dolphins cheerleader because she thought it would make a good radio story.”
I know you’re still trying to digest that, but take this for good measure: She lives with her husband Jesse “(the honorary poet of Blue Bell Creameries), and her dog, Samuel Pepys.”
I could go on, but you get my drift.
As managing editor of Matador, I get to read plenty of these clever bios… which are only made more clever by the fact that all of our writers are also travelers and travelers always seem to want to one up one another, telling us the strangest insect they’ve ever eaten, the most far-flung place they’ve traveled in their bios, the longest stretch they’ve gone without a shower. I’ve even received a submission from the Co-Chair of the Betty Boop Festival Wisconsin Publicity Committee.
I’m not kidding.
Why the clever bios? What *should* a bio include? Is it important where you live? Who you live with? What your dog’s name is? How many languages you speak?
After reading that issue of the Oxford American I sat down and wrote myself a big ole clever bio. And because it just wasn’t clever enough, I stripped the bio I’d been using for the past year or so down to the barest bones.
How we choose to describe ourselves, how we tell our story– it’s what’s always interested me, in my work as a therapist, as a creative arts therapist, as a writer, as an editor. I want to know who you are. But I don’t think your bio can tell me that.
Sit down. Tell me your story. And make it be enough.