Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Dreaded Bio

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I had to write a bio for my publisher this week and I was instructed to write something unique about me. You wouldn’t think that writing in any form would be hard for a writer, but this was hard for me. What can you really say about yourself?

I sat there at my desk, just thinking. What is unique about me? I’m pretty average. Being a writer was sort of unique, but since people would be reading this bio in the back of my book, they would already know that. Strike that one. I’m a mom. Still not that unique. I realized that I don’t leave my house a lot because I’m usually home taking care of kids or writing or whatever. But that’s not the type of unique you probably want people to know in a bio. “Julie is a hermit who takes care of kids and writes books and rarely leaves her house except to shop for food.” Yeah, I don’t know if my publisher would think that was a good idea to tell people.

Maybe part of the problem is that I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble about a writer’s life. I mean, my husband has been asked several times when he’s going to retire since his wife is a published author, because, of course, being a published author means we have oodles of money lying around and we fill the tub with hundred dollar bills and roll in it before bed every night, right? Wouldn’t that look great in my bio (and my bank account)? “Julie loves to take a dip in a cool, money-filled pool each night.” Oh, man, I laughed myself silly even just writing that. (Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with rolling in your royalty money in your tub, if that’s what you like to do.)

But I also don’t want to be someone like my daughter’s BYU professor who introduced himself to the class by going over his resume. Although she did find out where he went to school and what jobs he’d had, it was pretty boring. I’m assuming my readers don’t care much that I worked at a tomato stand for a summer job once. Maybe they care that I earned a degree at BYU. I thought I wanted to put that in, even though it may be boring, because I worked hard for it, so it just seems right that I could have that there at least.

So my list of unique things about me was pretty short. I’m a mom. I’m a hermit. I’m a writer. (Not necessarily in that order.) So I expanded my list to things I’ve done. I got to meet Princess Diana. I’ve been able to travel to places such as London, Paris, Athens, and Ottawa. I teach a journalism class. I’ve had eight children. I’m working on my eighth book. I play the flute and I’m learning the bagpipes, (but I sort of stink at the bagpipes. They’re hard to play!)

Of course that’s the list I ended up using for the bio, mostly because it made me sound unique and interesting whether I am or not. I threw in that I teach at BYU to balance the unique with the boring, but all in all, I was pretty happy with it. Here’s how it turned out:

Julie Coulter Bellon loves the number eight, which is probably why she has eight children and is excited to see her eighth book taking shape. Her claim to fame, besides being an author, is that she got to meet Princess Diana when she was twelve years old. Julie loves to travel and her favorite cities are Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. She’s learning to play the bagpipes and she’s not very good at it, yet, (she thinks she sounds like a sick moose), but she’s working on it. She teaches a journalism course for BYU Continuing Education, and loves to stay up with current events and our changing world. You can keep up with Julie and all her projects at www.juliebellon.com


What do you think? Will my publisher be happy? When you read a book, do you even read the author’s bio? What kind of things do you want to see there if you do?


18 Comments:

At 1/13/2011 1:32 PM, Blogger Rachelle said...

I love it! This is so much fun and a great snapshot of a really cool person! :) Yes, I always read the author bios and enjoy reading where the author lives and if they have a family or not.

 
At 1/13/2011 1:42 PM, Anonymous Wm Morris said...

I'd say lose the "probably." Own the preference.

One issue with this bio is that you can only use it for this book. On the other hand, I do like the lead in so I say keep the 8 thing and then fret about a new one for the next book.

Also: I like bios like this that actually share a bit of info about the author and aren't just a list of Works Published. And I always read the author bio.

 
At 1/13/2011 1:48 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I always read the bios, hoping for some insight into the person behind the scenes.

Yours above highlights activities in foreign countries, creative pursuits and the ability to self-deprecate humorously. I'm slightly surprised to not see a mention of your work in editing.

I can see that I have a connection with you already in that MY favorite number is 8 (also, 88 is doubly good.)

My own bio would probably go something like this:

Jon abandoned the tropical paradise of sunny Florida for the snow-capped mountains of Utah for a year or two (or 17) to help out a friend. It's just this sort of insanity that has led Jon to work on an Army base noted for chemical weapons research, Medicare, and three different companies within a block of each other. He reads and writes when he can, at home with his wife and two beautiful cats. Jon is a member of MENSA and has no idea why.

 
At 1/13/2011 1:52 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Rachelle, I like to read the bios, too.

Wm, thanks for the input! I hadn't noticed the "probably" problem. And you're right, this is a book-specific bio, but I have a static bio as well. This one is a teeny bit more fun, I think. :)

 
At 1/13/2011 1:57 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Jon, I knew I liked you! It must be the "8" connection. And you're a member of MENSA? I have a whole new level of respect for you. :)

As for editing, I didn't think that was unique, really, so I didn't put it in. Thanks for remembering that detail, though! :)

 
At 1/13/2011 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love it! You're such a fun person. I hope all 8 of your kids appreciate that.

Wm's suggestion about probably is great. You want your pros, even your bio pros, to be specific.

You may want to consider dropping the "when she was tweleve years old" so people will be left wondering HOW OLD YOU REALLY ARE. Those kinds of little teases are good for your author mystique.

You may also want to consider slightly strenthening the point of view. Right now its sounds a lot like you're writing this, which you are, but it seems, to me, that you're hoping to write this in the voice of your editor. Simple things like changing "she thinks she sounds like a moose" to "she sounds like a moose" will make that change for you. Other changes like rewriting "Meet Princess Diana" to "a chance meeting with Princess Diana, or "she reassures her listeners" or even "though she has yet to master the instrument" all serve to firmly place the point of view in the head of someone other than yourself. You're just too good at establishing the point of view character, even when you write your bio.

So here are my useless suggestions:

Julie Coulter Bellon loves the number eight, which is why she has eight children and is excited to see her eighth book taking shape. Her claim to fame was a chance meeting with Princess Diana on a visit to Great Britain. Sadly she wasn't invited on a private tour of Buckingham Palace. Julie loves to travel and her favorite cities are Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. She’s learning to play the bagpipes and though she has yet to master the instrument (she sounds like a sick moose), she reassures listeners that she's working on it. She teaches a journalism course for BYU Continuing Education, which keeps her on the cutting edge of current events and world news. You can follow Julie's acclaimed writing, her moose-like bagpiping and her take on everything from family to world-shaping events at www.juliebellon.com

 
At 1/13/2011 2:46 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, anonymous! Can I have you write my bios from here on out? I LOVED it! (Really, can I use that?)

 
At 1/13/2011 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure. As long as I get to read number 8 soon...

 
At 1/13/2011 2:52 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Well, if I knew who you were, anonymous, I might give you a sneak peek . . . ;)

 
At 1/13/2011 2:57 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Great bio, Julie!

Whenever anyone says "tell something unique about yourself," my brain instantly shuts down. I'm lousy at writing bios.

 
At 1/13/2011 4:14 PM, Blogger Annabel said...

Great post. You did a great job. Regards from hotels in London

 
At 1/13/2011 5:09 PM, Blogger Shanda said...

I love reading authors bios. I really liked your original version, but working in some of the tweaks suggested would make it even better!

Good job, Julie. I had to write a bio for a review and it's weird writing about yourself in the 3rd person like that.

Shanda :)

 
At 1/13/2011 5:19 PM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

It looks great. The fact that you would even try to learn to play the bagpipes makes you unique! And I feel your pain. I always hate having to rewrite my bio. It's amazing how everyone else's life always seems more interesting than our own.

 
At 1/13/2011 6:15 PM, Blogger Anna Buttimore said...

Julie, none of this staying in hotels in London nonsense; next time you're over, come and stay with me! Love the bio - they can be difficult to write, and if all these people are going to read it, it should be as fun and entertaining as the book itself.

 
At 1/13/2011 6:32 PM, Blogger Th. said...

.

I just bumped into my bio in the back of the new Irreantum while looking for someone else's and I read it several times, frowning, wondering if I liked it. I used to write really frivolous bios, but now that I've got a real resume, I feel this need to prove my respectability. Like respectability's ever done me any good.

 
At 1/13/2011 8:34 PM, Blogger Krista said...

Bios are TOUGH! This is a fun one, though. Really interesting tidbits about you that make me curious as to how your travels and such will translate into your books.
I only had to pause to wonder if it was YOU who was 12 years old, or Princess Diana? Ha!
Great job, Julie!

 
At 1/18/2011 5:27 PM, Blogger Rebecca Talley said...

Great bio, except you forgot to mention your super cool friend, Rebecca Talley. if you add that, it'll be perfect :).

 
At 1/19/2011 3:16 PM, Blogger Kim Coates said...

This bio sounds great. Yes, I usually do read the bio on books, but it's really great to see all that back story of how you come up with it. From it we know that you are a normal human, but have done some pretty cool things.

 

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