guide to writer bios

[Your Name Here] is a writer: A guide to bios 

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Never is a writer more stumped than when he or she is asked to provide a bio. One would think a writer would be the perfect person to do such a thing, but it turns out the same discomfort applies to those in command of the written word.

Why?

We’ve all experienced the same uncomfortable moment. You’ve met someone new and he or she has asked you what you “do.” Writers are so accustomed to rejection that the prospect of simply stating, “I am a writer” inspires dread. It’s the conversational equivalent of a persistently blank page. Even I, the seemingly confident purveyor of advice, often chicken out and say I’m a freelance editor instead of a writer, or, heavens forbid, a poet.

This tangent is going somewhere important and relevant to the task of bio writing.

Step 1: Claim your writerhood.

We writers are good at cleverly dodging around, making witty remarks about ourselves and our bowling averages. Just say it: [Your Name Here] is a writer.

The hard part is over. From there, it’s just a list of sentences.

Step 2: Be brief.

I’m sure you’re a wonderful person with many, varied accomplishments and experiences, but if you hit 200 words, it’s far too long. A bio is meant to be a brief snapshot that accompanies your work, giving the reader an idea of who you are. If the bio is too long, it will distract from the work itself. Readers usually have a set amount of time to read; you want them to spend as much of it as possible on the work you’ve painstakingly crafted.

Ask yourself what information is pertinent to the audience, and keep it relevant to that. Don’t let yourself fall back on the comfortable crutches of humour and anecdote.

Here is a map of sentences. You don’t have to do these in this order, but don’t go over one sentence on each. This will help you get started, and then you can go back and edit if there’s too much, or if you feel like you’re babbling. Depending on what the bio is for, you might want to include more than one example of projects and curtail the personal stuff. Use your instincts to decide what’s appropriate.

  • penWhere are you from, and where are you now?
  • What are you working on NOW?
  • Have you been recognized with any awards or publications?
  • Do you have a blog or website? Have you contributed to a website, blog, or print media?
  • Where did you go to college, and what did you study there? (This is optional, and just stick to the highest level – this isn’t a resume.)
  • Quickly describe one or two things outside of writing that are important to you (hobbies, etc).
  • Tell us a little bit about your family life. (This, too, is optional. Only add as much as you’re comfortable with; you don’t have to over-share.)
  • This is the hard part: What is important to you in the current context for which you are writing this bio? Why are you here, and what do you bring to the table that is uniquely yours? For professional bios, do you have a personal philosophy that inspires you? For more laid back bios, what does your participation in this context mean to you?

Step 3: There.

Your bio writing muscles have had a good stretch. Now you can go back and polish it up in your own way with your own unique voice.

All you have to do is condense your writing history and personality into a very brief paragraph. No problem. Sound your barbaric yawp over the rooftops: you are a writer!

 

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Kate has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She enjoys all the equipment on the writing playground, evidenced by her many simultaneous projects. She is a freelance writer and editor, author of the poetry collection How to Love an Introvert, and is working on a piece of non-fiction while dabbling in children’s books and flash fiction. She’s the Platform Manager at Mash Stories and the owner of Black Squirrel Workshop LLC.

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