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Monday, September 6, 2010

What's A Bio?

As executive editor of Starsongs magazine, one of my responsibilities is to obtain a bio from Starsongs contributors. After I sent out the request for bios, I realized that some young writers, being published for the first time, might not know what a bio is.

Readers are fascinated to know about the person who wrote the stories, poetry, articles, etc that they read. That is the purpose of a bio. It tells your readers about you, the writer. As you write your bio, consider the things you believe your readers would like to know about you.

A bio is usually limited to a certain number of words, so include the facts that are most important and that relate to your work. Let's create a sample bio:

Jane Doe is a high school student at Anywhere High School in Somewhere, New State. She lives on a ranch with her mom and dad and four brothers and two sisters. Jane likes to ride horses and take care of them. She also helps her mom and dad by feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs every day. She has been on her school basketball team for three years. Last year, her team went to state. Jane wants to go to college and be a veterinarian after she graduates. She likes to write short stories and won a county short story contest in fifth grade. She visits her aunt and uncle in New York City every summer.

Okay, all of the things that Jane has written are important to her and her life. However, this bio is 117 words and the editor has asked for no more than 50 words. Uh-oh! That means 67 words need to be cut out of this paragraph!

Let's take a look at the things that are most important to the reader. Where you live and your approximate age, as well as your writing history are usually of interest. However, the fact that Jane won a short story contest and has submitted a short story to the magazine tells the reader she likes to write short stories, so "she likes to write short stories" can be eliminated. Five words gone, 67 more to go!

The other facts mentioned in this bio can be kept or eliminated depending on the type of story Jane wrote. If her story is about horses, then the information that she lives on a ranch and works with horses would be relevant. The fact that she plays basketball would not, nor that she visits her aunt and uncle in New York City every summer.

Suppose Jane has written an essay about basketball, Now her participation on her school basketball team and in state competition would take precedence over the fact that she lives on a ranch. The sentences about fishing and gathering eggs from the chickens are not necessary at all unless Jane's story is about her battle with an attack hen! Neither is the fact that she visits family in New York City every summer, unless she wrote a story about the difference between country and city life, for example.

When limited to a word count, consider the aspects of your life that relate to the subject of the work you have written. Speak to the here and now instead of the future. Therefore, "Jane wants to go to college and be a veterinarian after she graduates" is not important at this point in time.

Always write you bio in third person. In other words, write "Jane Doe is...." instead of "My name is Jane Doe and I...". It may seem strange to write about yourself in third person, but this makes your bio sound more believable. No one likes to hear someone brag on themselves, but if someone else is bragging about you, then it's more easily accepted!

As always, be careful what you reveal about yourself. When you present your information in a bio, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people may read it. Don't ever give out anything personal, such as your street address or telephone number. It is best to make general statements, such as the city and state where you live, or if in a small town, the name of your state only. Don't mention the specific school that you attend. Your grade or level of school is plenty.

A bio is a great way to tell your readers a lot about yourself in just a few words. It is also an opportunity to let people know your accomplishments and the things that make you special.

Happy writing!
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