How hard it is to say “Hello”

I hate writing my bio.

There, I’ve said it.

Always I worry that it will be too long (does anyone need to know that much about me? just read the poems) or too short (as in too shy). And if it looks long, I cringe. (I often ask editors to let me know if it’s too long or to cut at will.)

It’s the same way with introductions, another kind of bio. Hi, I’m Joannie, and I’ve blah blah blah blah blah. I don’t want to gas on about myself, but I also try not to undermine myself.

If you know me in person, you know I can be fairly gregarious–but that’s because I know you in person. It’s different in a room full of strangers, a reading where I have to introduce myself, or a paper or online environment. Sure, I want to look my best, but what will get me there? How do I start?

I appreciate publications that specify x number of lines or not more than x words. Then I have a little corral around the horses of my past. But what does brief mean?

What does brief mean? Better to ask what’s relevant to the audience. What is relevant?

I’ve landed on using a template and limiting the number of publications to two or three, plus one anthology, and maybe mentioning where I live–and maybe mentioning where I live or that I help my husband at the winery, because that stands a chance of being interesting. Maybe mention an award, if there’s room. I’ve also looked at other people’s bios to see how they approach this task. It helps on a one-time basis. The next time, I’m wringing my ink.

Thinking about my reticence, I wondered whether a gender bias is in play. Turns out, some other people wondered, too–and studied it. They found that women tend to avoid talking about what they’ve accomplished–although they’ll brag about other people. Men, on the other hand, tend to have no trouble talking about their accomplishments. At least, that’s what the scientists say.

I realize here I’m connecting a bio with bragging–not because that’s what it is, but because that’s what it feels like.

Thanks for listening, and please let me know: Do you struggle with this, too?

Next up, I need to introduce some poems.


2 Replies to “How hard it is to say “Hello””

  1. Hi Joannie, Fortunately, I do not have to worry about MY bio 🙂
    My lit career is in “author-reading audience participant” !! As an ARAP I like to know about the interests of the person reading – I can pretty much take for granted that the author loves to read, write, &c… but what does she or he do when not writing? Travel? If so, where is an enjoyed place and why. Concert going? Birding? Sitting in small tea shops with a friend? I would guess most in attendance know the “professional” stuff about the author – that can looked up relatively easy – let us hear what the color commentator inside has to say 🙂 Weather permitting I am hoping to hear you read tomorrow at Open Books.

  2. Dan, thank you for the ARAP perspective and all those helpful suggestions. I’m going to use them. 🙂

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