On Monday, Averil Dean wrote about the difficulty of writing a bio. Who is Averil Dean, you ask? That’s exactly what she was trying to capture in a paragraph. Not an easy task for any of us, but perhaps even more so for a writer because without any formal training (as many of us do not have any), how does one tie a seemingly unrelated background to a legitimate standing in the world of publishing?
It’s not like other kinds of bios in that one doesn’t often go from being say a mail carrier to an accountant without having some distinguishable, defining education, training and (hopefully) experience. No offense to postal workers because goodness knows I love them even if I don’t always have money to give them at the holidays, but I don’t want the guy whose bio reads “Can drive on the other side of the Jeep” doing my taxes.
And bios are weird things. They ask a lot of anyone. Do any of us really know who we are? And if we do – how do we boil it down, condense it, compact it into a few sentences packed with meaning?
What are the elements you’re happy to share? What stays hidden? Best left to the shadows.What would you really like to say, but can’t? Or won’t?
Most of us have at least one bio floating around the internet in the form of a profile. I’ve lost count of how many I have. Like me, they aren’t consistent. My Twitter bio is one of my favorites, but I’m not about to have that on my LinkedIn profile. Of course, google Lisa Golden twitter and voila! Now you know that everything they said about me in high school was true.
Someone asked me exactly what was it they said about me in high school? That conversation starter lead to many more interesting conversations.
It’s all contextual. Who you are, or rather the relevant parts of who you are, depends on the situation, doesn’t it? For example, when I wrote the bio requested of me for the staff newsletter, I kept it simple. A few words about my past job in a psychiatric hospital, a passing nod to my education (which turned out to be quite relevant because one of the people making the decision to hire me is also an I.U. grad), and a quick mention of the awards I’ve won in the International Administrative Assistants Olympics. (Silver medal in sorting out Fed-Ex Fuck-ups; Gold in Excel Spreadsheet Obstacle Courses, and an all expenses paid weekend at the Sybaris and a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon for coming in fifth place in the Chicagoland Office Chair Demolition Derby 1994.)
I’ll leave it to you to figure out which element of my experience is most relevant to my newish job. While you do that, I’ll just sit here and watch the two Duty Officers rearrange the furniture in my boss’s office and stack a pile of empty cookie containers in front of another person’s closed office door.
Now, as for Averil’s dilemma. Well, that’s something all together perplexing. Pardon my hyperbole, but she’s the best damn erotica-thriller writer I’ve read. Her prose, hot and tense in the it leaves good welts realm of superb, borders on the poetic. The hell with a bio. Her writing will speak for itself. Of course she has a fabulous imagination, but I suspect, like any writer, you can see shades of who Averil is by reading her.
The reason Averil must write a bio is because she recently signed with an agent. After much squealing and jumping around and group hugging, I thought it wise to tell you all because there may be a secret erotica fan or two hanging around here. Please take a minute and go congratulate Averil on her good news.
While Averil was trying to distill her essence into a few well-turned phrases, I was fretting that I’d reached Level Six of becoming my mother. My most recent symptoms include nagging Nate’s girlfriend Bree to consider going to school to be an R.N.
My mother did the same thing to me. Naturally I didn’t listen and the tear in the fabric of our mother/daughter relationship over that disappointment has never quite healed.
I left those chilling thoughts behind and moved on to musing that I’m also turning into MathMan’s mother. I actually pulled an insert about the nursing profession out of Sunday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution and gave it to Bree to read. Shit. My mother-in-law (may she rest in peace) surrounded herself with stacks of yellowing Chicago Tribunes and Sun-Times that you weren’t allowed to move or throw away because she planned to go through them and cut out articles she thought her children would find interesting.
I arrived home feeling out of sorts. I changed my clothes and went out to wash the car before dinner.
Sponge in hand, I stared at the fading light behind the pine trees and had my last realization of the day. Last because after that, I self-medicated with enough Oreos to pass out.
While I stood contemplating whether or not to detail the car’s interior, the sun sunk lower.
Now I was my father.
Be yourself they say. Sounds good, but it’s not quite that easy.
And I quote: Who are you?