Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bio-Hazard


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?

What's relevant?

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?



30 comments:

  1. ha. we are a product of everyone we come in contact with or spend any significant amoutn of time with...to deny that would be silly...i just wanted some oreos....oh darn, now i am becoming my dad...haha....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Brian. We do absorb each other, don't we? Good thing Oreos are on sale this week if we're all going to want them.

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. So simple. So true. Well done, z.r. mcdonald.

      Delete
  3. In America, we call it Resident Evil, pinko.

    As long as folks leave me be, who I am (Keith Moon) is irrelevant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny, I thought you were Proust, Mr. Moon.

      Love,

      Your favorite commie

      Delete
  4. Who whoo who whooo

    I was Bourne and made into movies.

    "I was born in a cross-fire hurricane..."

    And then there is Betelgeuse's résumé.

    Me, I lived in NYC for 17 years and was asked for directions by tourists, some of whom went in the opposite direction. I hope they've been found.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D. Thank you for picking up the thread. I need you to write a bio for me sometime.

      Delete
  5. My bio begins, "In the beginning there was me". Everything else came later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A man of few words, Bill. But those words pack a punch.

      Delete
  6. I am a mother. Hear me roar. By the way, I love the idea of self medicating with Oreos. Lately I do it with those little cheddar cheese fishes but yours sounds a lot more efficient.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, MSB. I hear you. Loud and clear. That's truly boiled down. Now how about one bowl of goldfishes as the appetizer and the Oreos as entree and dessert?

      Delete
  7. From the query letter I've finished before the actual novel:

    I am a small town librarian who has never been indicted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I love this. And where were you, might I ask, when I making like the Mayflower Madam in my bio? The not-being-indicted part is my finest accomplishment.

      Thank you for the kind words, Lisa. I still think you're cah-razy, but you totally made my day.

      XO

      Delete
    2. Perfect, Sarah W. It's you.

      Averil - My words don't even come close to describing the admiration I have of your writing. When I read your blog posts, I'm wondering how you do that? It's so fucking good. And vice versa. xo

      Delete
  8. Replies
    1. You feed the birdies. You take photos. Should I go on, Thunder?

      Delete
  9. It's great to know Averil has herself an agent - a huge step toward finding a publisher and being taken seriously as a writer from what I understand.

    I always feel dishonest writing about myself too. You get to the point where there's either too much to say or nothing at all. Now I'm drawing and writing what could either be a long novella or a 40-50 page picture book. If I'm ever asked for another bio I'll just say 'I've been drawing pictures since I was three'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You most definitely have to include the chronology of your drawing, Susan. I can't wait to see what you do with the project you're working on. But no pressure. These things take time. That's something I've learned.

      Delete
  10. From the post title to the end, a funny read. I expect nothing less from you. "Lisa makes people laugh, not always inappropriately"

    I may have won a gold in the home office chair demolition derby. MAY.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Downith. When I can make a fellow humor writer laugh, I'm extra tickled. About that home office chair demolition derby - is it MAY because that came after the Empty the Liquor Cabinet Relay?

      Delete
  11. I'm pretty sure I'm that girl in the Oreo ad.

    I don't do well with bios, either -- I tend to be pretty straight-forward and boring -- but I've never for a second worried about Averil's bio. Her writing is so original and startling that I know she'll work out something amazing. It's too bad all that writers' angst and uncertainty is an inevitable obstacle, of course...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I share your confidence that Averil will write an entertaining and beautifully written bio. She has that way about her.

      And as for you, I think straightfoward is the way to go. You've an impressive foundation of literary achievements on which to build. I know that can be a curse and a blessing, but work it, Laura! You've worked hard for it.

      Delete
  12. This morning, I'm cooking for a sick neighbor. By noon, I'm a tour guide, taking a friend to the Eugene O'Neill house and discussing Pulitzers and Nobel prizes and what it must take to write plays like that. Tonight I'm the older bitch of a sister who is refusing to bail her brother out of jail.

    I am a tired chameleon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A chameleon. Yeah, Teri, I hear that. But look at all you're so capable of doing. The thing about your brother though? No way does that make you a bitch. What's your other choice? To be an enabler? Screw that. You've tried to help and learned from experience.

      Delete
  13. Well, congratulations to Averil! And I couldn't write my own bio, to save my life.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sugar in my bowl! Some Oreo cookies on the side is nice too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm the Mom, the Fixer, the Buyer, the Cleaner, the Magician, the Healer and the Chaos in the Quiet.

    I stand in the wreckage of dust and dog hair, roll my sleeves up as I roll my eyes and sigh. I used to BE somebody, Dammit.

    ReplyDelete
  16. If I knew who I am, would I be writing?

    My problem, at the query writing stage, is that I have written a romance novel, and I am plotting other romance novels. But I do not read romance novels, and I have a background in effing theology. Yeah. Good thing a friend of mine is a publisher?

    ReplyDelete

And then you say....

(Comments submitted four or more days after a post is published won't appear immediately. They go into comment moderation to cut down on spam.)