Lets start out the new year with a bang, shall we?


There, that felt better didn’t it and now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

I’ve been sauntering around the internet off and on over this lovely holiday period and along that well beaten path of blogs, lit magazines and message boards, I noticed something.  Nearly every author and/or poet bio I read appeared to have been written by either a lunatic with a penchant for disconnected thoughts or a pretentious twelve year old showing off his/her new dictionary.  Apparently this is the new method of appearing unique and original.  It isn’t, it’s just obvious and has nothing to do with the purpose of a biography.  As a reader, I don’t care if you smoke a pipe, live in van down by the river, eat mushrooms during a  full moon, live in the most beautiful region of a country or dance around a may pole.  Specifically, all I want to know are the following items of importance:  Do you have anything interesting and/or important to tell me?  Is your work honest? Have you lived your life on every page?  Is your work inspired? Can you make me laugh, cry and maintain my interest to the bitter end?  As an editor or agent I would want to know this:  Have you been published?  Where have you been published?  What genre do you favour?  Have you won any awards?  Do you have an audience or readership? Why is your work better than others? Can you write a persuasive proposal that will help me sell your book?  <—This last one is where we separate those who can from those who can’t.

This is a business and consequently it is about commerce.  Publishers want to make money, they don’t want to promote nonsense, cheek or self indulgence and when the bullshit is stripped away, most writers want to make lots of  money too.  A bio is not a book.  A bio is not a poem.  A bio is the entry point and it is the writer’s first foray into the sale of their writing.  The last time I worked in sales and marketing, consumers weren’t making a mad dash to hand over the green to someone smoking a pipe, dancing around a maypole or eating mushrooms under a full moon.  I doubt agents and publishers would invest in them either.  Oh, there are hacks out there who make scads of cash, but they (and it nearly kills me to say this) do deliver a decent product for what it is and their bios are about WRITING.  😉

*As an end note, the bios I read containing the imagery mentioned above do actually exist and all the guilty parties involved in this word fuckery are in full possession of a university degree but obviously not their common sense.


Author: valo

I am a poet, writer and activist with a special interest in human rights for children and women as well as the elimination of poverty worldwide. If you read this today, feed someone locally for me will you? Drop off a non perishable food item at the food bank nearest you and consider yourself hugged. Thank you!

14 thoughts on “Okay…”

  1. I liked your candor very much. To me writng is all about the merit of the work, not the biography. I often wonder why truly great work and writers are for the most part unrecognized. Could you possibly answer this. My own experience after blogging now for a year that serious thought and serious writers are really quite few and far between. I always give a writer when I find one their due, yet as I look over the list of top authors at wordpress, I find it very hard to really understand how this came to be.

    1. I think it’s like this Marcus: The public has become trained to crave and digest garbage. It begins with teenagers cutting their reader teeth on tabloids in the supermarket, moving on from there to formula novels by people like James Patterson and his ilk until they are ready for the big time, the internet and attention spans that would rival that of a goldfish. By the time they get to us the writing is no longer important because what they are after is something misspelled, nonsensical and grammatically incorrect. This is what they can read. I’m afraid that the body of literature is nearly without a pulse Marcus and in the not too distant future it will be in the morgue if we don’t do something fast to revive it. Writers need to stop pandering to the lowest common denominator and demand that readers and writers alike up their game to a level that is higher than the intelligence of a rock. I’m so very pleased you have dropped in Marcus and left your words, your perspective is always refreshing and intelligent. 🙂

  2. I wrote mine quite a while ago and it was so hard. I suffer horribly from the old English ‘don’t brag’ thing… for instance, at a recent open mic night that I run, two poets introduced themselves with their recent publication successes. I was MC’ing and I suddenly remembered Forward Press asking if they could publish PS in a poetry book centred around Love. So I blurted it out and said, ‘I’ll add my little feather to the cap tonight’ and then finished by saying that it was wonderful to have such success from our gathering and then as I went back to my chair… well, I just wanted to crawl into a corner and rock with embarrassment. Haha. I will update my bio and, luckily, I don’t smoke a pipe or dance around a maypole so I don’t have to mention it. This is a good point made, Val, but I can’t help but acknowledge that this is one of the fundamental distinctions between authors/poets online and those who pursue local networking. I am still very wary of the internet and know to my cost the fine line between keeping a professional distance with the work you broadcast online and keeping it ‘friendly’ within the online community. If an editor is to judge your work on your online broadcasts and the audience that respond to it, then there is an infinite need to remain fairly cautious, self aware and precise with the information you put out into a public arena. Hmmmm, I may be spouting that all to myself and it may seem a little OTT but I’ll leave it here in this old comment box 🙂 I used to have similar discussions with a very good friend and we both agreed that it was a hard thing to juggle. Excellent post.

    1. Oh good god I know what you mean Kiersty! That third person bragging bullshit was hard for me to do the first time but I detach for the serious stuff and make a joke of it on my about on this blog. I didn’t put up my publishing credits here online until I’d actually done something that mattered so it’s a work in progress still. LOL I had laugh at your story about the open mic night and your outburst because I can damn well relate to that feeling! Ya know, we have ye olde queen on our money up here in Canada too in addition to that work ethic/don’t get too big feeling or we’ll take you down a peg or two way of life. It took me a long time to let myself feel pride and oddly, it coincided with my new found anti religious enlightenment. 😉 I just share and fair it and all is tilting the right way on the old axis. My feelings about privacy took a trouncing a few years back when I discovered there is no such thing and that it’s all an illusion. For a time I had my privacy pirated by an out of control media until I took control of it and said my truth. Essentially, my shit is out there, I took control of it and I want it out there but I also deeply respect the privacy of others and in particular other women. Information is power. Own it and it won’t own you. Oprah knows all about this, and sister let me tell you, she has been pummelled by the media, but she just walks on. If a writer is going for the big time, I mean fame and money, this is a part of the deal you have to accept. Trust me girl, I fully expect someone to hate my guts when my memoir hits stores but I say, fuck it. I lived it, it’s mine and I’ll damn well tell it the way I suffered it. Basically, if you do nothing someone will yank your chain, if you do something someone will yank your chain so you may as well make it worthwhile. 🙂 and I will leave you with a quote from Oscar Wilde, one I’m sure you know well, being a Brit and a poet: “The only thing worse than being talked about, is NOT being talked about.” Thanks for this amazing discussion you’ve opened up here Kiersty, this is why I write, to open up the dialogue. Now…where did I leave those mushrooms? 😉

  3. This was nice to read I have noticed that as well with a lot of writers online. They seem to like to make a spectacle of themselves but fool’s gold exist because there is real gold somewhere.

    Ive been working on a book of poems for two years now its been a laborious process between working 2-3 jobs. I am hoping 2011 will be my year to finally finish and publish them. If it goes well I will be sending you a signed copy 😀

    1. Tell you what Dave, If you send it I will review it! 🙂 I’m certain that your book of poetry is brilliant and you are very thoughtful to want to do this. 🙂 I like your reference to fools gold, that is a very clever statement.

  4. Man have you been busy – I’m away from the computer a couple of days and !!! I wouldn’t pay to much attention to blog bios and about thingys – surely they wouldn’t use them in literary magazines, books etc., – but then again, maybe some would – haha. The writing should speak for itself in complete separation from the bio (and I love when journals etc., don’t even want a bio and I love it even more when they blind read poems etc., so they are not too influenced by names and contacts etc.,). Happy New Year Val 🙂

    1. Yep, I’m on a writing bender wrapped up in great resolve to succeed. I agree with you about the publications who don’t use bios or blind read. This cult of personality is destroying art in the mainstream, making it something it shouldn’t be, bland and safe. The next thing you know the bios will be discussing tummy tucks and rehab histories. Happy New Year to you my good buddy Gabrielle! 2011 will be brilliant and the water will recede Aussie. HUGS

    1. LOL no it’s not you D! hahaha drool is fine but when it degenerates into frothing at the mouth, Houston, we’ve got a problem 😉 Seriously, most of this is designed to somehow stand out and capture the attention but it’s the wrong kind of attention! I liken it to manuscripts printed and sent on coloured paper with unicorns or or envelopes in neon green. It just screams NON WRITER. Now, you young man ARE a writer and you damn well know it too.

  5. Mine probabl leaves a lot to be desired, but that’s not why I came here. I wanted to say thank you. I got some stats/data from WordPress today talking about 2010 visitors to my blog. It turns your site is one of the #1 referrers to my blog and, evidently, my blog gets enough visitors to fully load 6 747s, let’s just hope they aren’t the kind falling out of the sky. 🙂

    Also, got your new batch of letters while I was further down South visiting my kinfolk. Will start reading soon!

    1. Any bio you have is brilliant Tel, and you know it. 🙂 You have made me feel ten feet tall by saying I’ve had a positive affect on your blog visits. Now, about those 747’s, um no pat downs unless they look like George clooney, then you MUST Call me for my expertise in this area. lol I’m happy you got some down time with your kin, it’s good for the soul. I can’t wait to see what you think of the new letters! I get so excited about you and Gabe reading them and it is such a fire under my ass to keep going. You and Gabe and my girl keep me at it and there is no way I could ever thank you enough.

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