Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Judicious Selection of the Facts

Mlle. Sophie Arnould,
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, c. 1773.
Oil on canvas,
Wallace Collection, London.

A biography?

We are all familiar with the brief, back-flap, bio notes that accompany a published book.

So-and-so lives in blank, with blank and pets (points if pets have unusual names, extra points if pets are exotic, like hedgehogs, alligators, Bulgarian tree frogs) does blank - any interesting hobby, interests, besides writing ( coprolite collection) has been a blank ( list of related occupations, such as former assassin.)

All this, I thought, came later rather than sooner.

So I was surprised to read Miss Snark wants a bio before she signs a writer. Useful, I suppose, as part of a presentation package to publishers. Also to identify walk-ins from Planet UR-92.

I was aghast.

Yet another item to obsess over, another Sisyphean frustration. How to cull facts from an officially ordinary life to sound intriguing.

Mlle. Arnould?

Now there's a girl.
Actress, singer and wit with the Opera-Comique, when weary of her titled lover, she dispatched to his wife everything he had given her: jewels, coach and children.


December Quinn said...

Ugh, I hate bios! I'd write write synopses of all my books twice--and then a bunch of other peoples' books--before writing a bio.

Nothing stops you from claiming the Mme.'s acheivements of your own, you know. People will think it's tongue-in-cheek.

"Bernita Harris sang opera for several years, before retiring at the behest of her lover. She soon tired of him, though, and now lives alone writing stories in longhand on her silk-sheeted feather bed. Rumors that she's actually happily married and living in Canada are shameful slander."


Ric said...

Bernita would have come to our attention earlier but for the use of her ineffaceable pen in poking holes in gin buckets throughout New York City.

Bernita said...

Ha. Another girl with a wicked and delicious imagination.
Somehow I cannot extrapolate church and community choir experience, solo mio, into opera.
Nevertheless, one could announce the boring truth and call it "shameful slander."

Bernita said...

It's because I prefer rum.
Body suits. Times Square, Ric.

Ric said...

Does not bode well to get me thus excited this early in the week...

Jaye Wells said...

I've never understood the list of past jobs. Sometimes they're interesting, but usually not.

I've had the bio request before. I assume since I remain unagented said bio was not effective. Couldn't have been the writing. No, never.

Bernita said...

You're a sweetie, Ric.

Frankly, Jaye, since I've read bits of your stuff, I have some trouble believing it was the writing.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"...and children."

LOL, I love that. It would be a great premise for a book or movie. the husband and wife are having an ideal life until..."Guess who's coming to dinner!"

I don't obsess over a bio...Iam who I am...take it or leave it! Being a good writer is enough pressure without portraying the "correct" life too!

raine said...

"And children"??

Hate writing bios.
But love this blog--the comments are making my day. :-D

And THAT is a wonderful hat.

Bernita said...

Sometimes, Bonnie, I feel an incorrect life would be more advantageous...

Thank you, Raine.
Tedious things, bios.
I think she wanted to make it plain their association was over!
I have a hat like that. Now, if I can just find an ostrich plume...

S. W. Vaughn said...

Bios... why, we're fiction writers! I say we make them up! :-)

Yeah, I guess agents need the whole package to present to publishers. I still heart Miss Snark.

Erik Ivan James said...

Is the hat like that, one of your many garden hats, Dear Gal? If it is, you need a frog, not a plume.

Good post. Never thought much about a bio. Need it for the initial query, or just upon request?

Bernita said...

She is really without peer for information, Sonya, for my money.

Big Guy, I never wear velvet working in the garden. The frog stays on my beret. The black hat is for more formal occasions.

Not the brief bio note included in queries, Erik, more detailed is on request.

Erik Ivan James said...

Thank you! I was sweating bios for a minute there. Mine is long and sorted. Um...erm...or is that long and sordid?

Bernita said...

I prefer Caesar's style...

Robyn said...

Think I could get away with something like, "The author begs you to ignore the details of her extremely ordinary life and just read the book. You'll like it better; really you will."

Bernita said...

Hee, Robyn, I concur.
And I wonder about something like " Young children do not run screaming. All evidence to the contrary I am sane. I do not have a criminal record."

MissWrite said...

LOL not to worry everyone has a bio... you like frogs wasn't it? Loving husband, great kids, live on the tundra (oops, sorry, Canada). You'll think of something. You have such a way with words you can make even the most mundane thing sounds exciting. People will be reading your books just because your bio is so much fun to read. ;)

LadyBronco said...

Oh my.

I had a hard enough time writing my query letter.

I can't even imagine how in the heck I would try and make my bio sound even remotely interesting.


Jeff said...

I thought a short bio would be easy until I sat down to write one. I think it took me an hour to come up with three or four short sentences, and then I didn't like what I had written.

Anonymous said...

Other than the utterly fictional one, I've only written bios for employers. It's like having to fudge your resume all over again. ;)

Bernita said...

Ha! she said, in her brick igloo.
Don't think I've ever read a book, Tami, because the writer sounded interesting. You're laying it on thick, but thank you.

Exactly, Lady B. - ugh!

That's right, Jeff, the voices which may whisper "this sucks" get really loud about bios.

And I have the fatal habit of painful honesty regarding CV's, Seeley.