August 17, 2012

Bio BSing

Me, Age 4

I was already thinking about author bios when I came across this great piece in the Millions. Edan Lepucki is annoyed by all the extra jobs writers put in their bios and "favors academic and publication history over life and work experience" but then says "though one could argue–and do so convincingly–that that isn’t necessarily what matters most."

She says:
The truth is, every published writer has been faced with summing themselves up in just a few sentences. It’s not easy, and a bio isn’t a fixed thing–or at least not until you’re dead. Until then, it (hopefully) evolves with each new publication, each year lived. The decision of what to include and exclude persists throughout one’s career.

Bios are a sticky wicket.  I have a number of them for different occasions.

Here's my conservative formal bio, which most editors seem to prefer.
Tamara Linse was raised on a ranch in northern Wyoming. She received a bachelor’s and master’s in English from the University of Wyoming. Her work has been a runner-up for the Georgetown Review 2010 contest, a top-5 finalist for the 2009 Arts & Letters Prize, a top-3% finalist for Glimmer Train’s 2007 Fall Short Story Award for New Writers, and a semifinalist for Black Lawrence Press’s 2008 Hudson Prize for a book of short stories. Her stories have been or will be published in the Georgetown Review, South Dakota Review, Word Riot, and Talking River, among others. She regularly attends conferences such as Bread Loaf and Tin House and lives in Wyoming, where she is an editor for a foundation. 
Well, that's the one that goes on the website.  For submissions, I tailor this a little bit with insider info.
I was runner-up for the Georgetown Review 2010 contest, a top-5 finalist for the 2009 Arts & Letters Prize, a top-3% finalist for Glimmer Train’s 2007 Fall Short Story Award for New Writers, and a semifinalist for Black Lawrence Press’s 2008 Hudson Prize for a book of short stories.  I am published in literary magazines such as the Georgetown Review, South Dakota Review, Word Riot, and Talking River, among others.  I regularly attend conferences such as Bread Loaf and the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop (where I was awarded a mentorship with Little, Brown editor Judy Clain).  I have an M.A. in English from the University of Wyoming, where I’ve taught writing. My literary agent is Rachel Stout of Dystel & Goderich, and I work as an editor for the University of Wyoming Foundation and as a freelance writer and editor. 

 But I don't prefer either of these.  Maybe it's because sometimes I feel like an outsider and my qualifications will never be good enough.  I resist the prestige angle.  So I urge editors to use this one.
Tamara Linse lives in Wyoming, where she writes short stories and novels. To support her writing habit, she also edits, freelances, and occasionally teaches. You can find her at tamaralinse.com.
Now, that's a little more interesting, but then I like to add an unusual and intriguing sentence right before the mention of the website.  I think that's what people are trying to do when they add the odd jobs they've worked.  Here are a few of mine. 
Tamara’s new book is about love, loss, recovery, and socks. Well, not socks exactly.
Having grown up on a ranch, Tamara appreciates indoor plumbing. 
Tamara lives in Wyoming with her husband Steve, who thought he was marrying a “normal person.” They enjoy puns and gardening. 
Tamara broke her collarbone when she was three, her leg when she was four, a horse when she was twelve, and her heart ever since.
In reality, I'm much more interested in the long version, what comes out in the writer's work and in essays ~ in long form.  The bio the length of a paragraph tells you almost nothing.
 
Now you know all my secrets. 
  

2 comments:

Erica Olsen said...

Hello! I came to your blog via a Reflections West post on Facebook. One of the best bios I've heard was from a visual artist, a fellow resident at Jentel in Wyoming this past winter. It went something like: [name] has had sex. [name] has been in love. A brief, eloquent summary of emotional experience.

Tamara said...

I hope you enjoyed Jentel!

What a great bio. Absolutely. An eight-word story.

Thanks for stopping by!