Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm Hyper-Interesting, Check Me Out! Or, the Art of the Bio

Today is the last day for submitting your stories to 100 Stories for Queensland. It's a great cause and time is running out for you to submit, so go do it now and then come back here (there is a time difference so best hurry). I'll give you a minute, go on.

I submitted mine yesterday after a beta-read, a proof-read and a polish. What I had forgotten - perhaps because I chose to - is that my submission had to be accompanied by a 50 word biography. No problem. I've done harder things than that for charitable causes, although now that I come to think of it, not very many. . .

Writing a short biography is hard. I had to do one before, for Explorer Publishing, and because that was appearing in an actual printed book, the tone was slightly more formal than most bios you read online. It also made sense to give some idea why I was qualified to write about Dublin, so some of the content was effectively decided for me by the nature of the book. But for most online submissions, and for my blog, I find myself hopelessly lost.

My default voice - as regular readers may know - tends towards the flippant, so my impulse is to write a bio like this:

Ellen is almost 27 years old but still feels like she's 17. She drinks a minimum of five mugs of tea a day and bakes the fourth-best chocolate chip cookies of anyone she knows. Her ambition is to kill the other three and steal the crown. She writes about the more miserable periods in Irish history and is relieved to find that a contemporary setting suits this best.

Most of the above is true, apart from the cookie thing. I would never kill the others. It would result in a glut of substandard cookies and I may be vindictive but I ain't dumb.

Some writers do the 'list of random facts' style bio, which I love, provided I already know the blogger. My random facts meme on Wednesday was great fun to read (for me at least!) because I already knew the commenters. If I find one on a random blog, unless I've read enough of the blog first (and a few entries is usually enough), it doesn't always grip me. The facts need to be very well chosen - Kitty's blog is actually a very good example. Rather than just a list of unrelated minutiae, the combination of lifestyle, aspirations, interests and principles works well.

A very nice spin on the random-facts style bio is the 'I prefer. . .' one. Kitty (who really seems to have this online bio thing nailed) used to have a short bio that said she preferred running to walking and hoodies and jeans to sweaters and pearls, among other things. It was short but very effective because the contrasts painted such a clear picture of a person withough being too exhaustive.

I don't have the knack of random fact selection, sadly. Even the bio I wrote for myself above, which was mostly done with tongue firmly in cheek, went off on a totally irrelevant subplot about baking cookies and made myself sound like a serial killer. I probably should have made more of the fact that contemporary Ireland has become a pleasingly misery-heavy setting for books again.

But I don't want to be boring either.
Ellen is almost 27. She was born in February 1984 and currently lives in Dublin. Her hobbies include knitting and baking. She usually writes realistic fiction with a historical bent and is currently experimenting with an urban fantasy. She is 5'3.

I've come to the conclusion that my preference is for a mixture of the two. I like to have some idea of how old a blogger is and where they live, which is just my own taste (also, if you're 16 and write a good blog, I need to envy you fully because I was nowhere near that interesting when I was your age). But those details alone give very little sense of a person so some colour, in the form of the random facts, makes a huge difference.

What types of bios do you like best? Have you had different responses based on bios you've used?


  1. I like quirky bio's that give people a view into the author's mind. But at the same time I like informative bio's as well... They just shouldn't be too long.


  2. I like to know where the author lives, their age and what they like to write about, and why. A hint of personality should be in there too. I like quirky facts but there is a risk of overdoing the quirky.

    As you say, the bio needs tailoring to the publication.

  3. Good luck with your submission!!! I submitted mine but just fluffed out my bio - I hate writing bios as I never know what to write!!! I think mine was insipid in the extreme!

    I can't wait to read what you wrote when I get this book (with your story in it of course!). Take care

  4. I loved your tongue in cheek bio. But then that is my sense of humour. I have been out of the loop and only found out about or rather mentally registered the 100 Stories for Queensland. I am really annoyed at myself. Missed the Pakistan one too. Where is my head? Don't answer that. I find Bio's very difficult to write for anything. Will be on the lookout for the publication and reading both your and Old Kitty’s submissions.

  5. Oh, Bios - they are so hard to write! I think your bio should match the voice of your writing. Easier said than done, I know.

  6. Misha, I forgot that. Length is sodding crucial! :)

    Christine - totally agree. Location, age and quirkiness but not too much quirkiness are definitely things I like to see.

    Best of luck Kitty! I look forward to reading yours :) If they don't get accepted, I'd love to read yours anyway.

    Ann, I kind of liked it too but then I can't expect everyone to share my odd sense of humour as much as you do :) Sorry you missed out on 100 Stories for Queensland - the deadline crept up on me a bit, I had a late night on Wednesday trying to get it written.

    Agreed, Talli - great idea in principle but so hard to do!

  7. I think I definitely prefer a slightly tongue in cheek bio. It helps me feel like I can connect with the author.

    Of course, I completely suck at writing bios.

  8. I was hooked into this blog from the bio on. It has all the major points--tea, novels, Ireland (aka everything important to Life Itself).

    I get annoyed with over the top "hilarious"/overtly quirky bios. Maybe I just have a deficient sense of humor but I like to know that people can take themselves seriously.

  9. My default would lean towards the slightly snarky bio.

    Yours works!


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