Let me see who you are

Who are you?

The literary you. The writer you. The poet you. The professional you?

It's a hyphen-/slash world in which most of us juggle multiple roles. Like a closet full of clothes (though nothing to wear), I've created a menagerie of personal statements to explain who I am. Marketing me/reporter me/editor/poet/teacher/reader . . .

It's difficult to write about yourself without appearing a braggart or a dullard. I've got many versions that do the job but never really shine (see also: pencil skirt hanging in the back of my closet). I tug at the words, worrying that they're too stiff, too long, too little, too much.

I don't like cutesy bios, in which a writer gets too familiar or too clever. Don't tell me your favorite foods or your cat's name, and don't share the bloated tale of how you've been writing since age two. I'm old school: keep it third person and professional.

Why this concern with the self? If you're sending your work into the world, you need a bio. We want to know the person behind the words. Who doesn't turn to the back of the book to learn about the author? And anytime your writing goes public — from novels, to poems, to blogs, to reading events and teaching gigs — you'll need a bio, and preferably short and engaging.

Here's my latest favorite bio, from Christopher McCurry as it appears in the back pages of Rattle. It breaks the literary norm in that it's not a tiresome litany of his publishing history. Instead it gives a quick but meaningful peek at who he is: 

I write poems because a high school English teacher in Bourbon County, Kentucky, believed I could, and now I want my students to believe that they can write them too. Actually, I want everyone to believe that."

In those two sentences, we learn so much: the writer lived in the South, and he is now a teacher with heart. Knowing this about him, I am eager to read more of his work.

Short, succinct, humble — that's my kind of bio, and my kind of writer.


Who are you? How do you shine in 50 words or less?