Written by A Guest Author July 21st, 2022

Who Am I? And the Author’s Bio

By Emily-Jane Hills Orford

You’ve been asked to supply an author’s biography (author bio) to accompany your publications (either books, stories or articles). No more than fifty words in length. What do you say? What do you write? How can you keep it this short?

For me, I like to revert to the exercise I always hand out to my writing students. It’s an exercise I have repeated frequently many times over the years. I tell my students, or myself, to ask the question, “Who am I?” Then I write my answer in first person. It’s an interesting exercise, because it helps clear our minds so we can focus on what defines us as people as well as writers. And, it changes every time we answer the same question.

Now, I know the author bio is supposed to be in third person, as if you are someone else writing about you. But this ‘who am I’ exercise will help you focus on what’s important in your life – or, at least, what you think is important. The first-person perspective of ‘who am I’ helps us define ourselves from a more personal perspective and, by defining ourselves as writers, we strengthen our writing resolve and we come to the stark realization that this process of “who am I” is an ongoing, multi-dimensional, ever-changing exercise. Everything in the world is in a state of flux and so are we as writers. As writers, we have to know who we are in this big, diverse world before we can ever begin to place ourselves and our souls into everything we write.

So, who am I? There’s no word length here. This is how I like to begin:

I am a writer. Therefore, I am immortal. Pretty powerful words for one such as I, relatively unknown (for now, but that will change, I hope). I am a storyteller, a descendant of many storytellers, a passionate believer in the simple fact that life is a story just waiting to be told. All that a life story needs is a writer to believe in the story, to believe in its worth, to write the story.

I don’t stop there. My answer evolves into a lengthy essay exposing my background and how I came to be a writer.

Our word, our written word, is eternal. As we reach out to find our inner voice, our own unique, individual voice, we might ask, what is it that makes a life so special?

Now, how does all this help with writing an author’s bio? Especially if you really get carried away and you’ve written a thousand plus word essay? And in third person? First of all, you don’t want to make it too long – fifty words max. I’ve come across some pretty lengthy author bios that read more like my ‘who am I’ answer than a concise introduction to the writer. Remember, after all, it’s the story the reader wants to read, not the author bio.

After doing my prescribed exercise, I make a list of things I should consider including in my bio:

  • Full name – of course, that’s always important;
  • Something interesting about me outside of writing – for me it’s my music and my gardens (among many other things);
  • Education (be concise, thorough, but not too wordy);
  • Genres I write;
  • Awards I’ve received for my writing (don’t go into too much detail, sometimes just qualifying myself as an award-winning author is enough);
  • Where I live – I don’t really need this, and I probably don’t want to include too much detail here, but readers are always interested to learn in which part of the world we writers live;
  • Webpage (a must in this era of online promotion) and other social media sites (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Now I have my list, it’s time to start writing my author bio, keeping in mind that shorter is best. Over the years, my once very lengthy author bio has now compressed to a few sentences. And my latest and most preferred bio can be found at the end of this article.

We are writers, so writing the “who am I” and the author bio shouldn’t be too much of an issue, right? If you follow my suggestions, I think you’ll come up with a pretty concise and satisfactory author bio, one that’s just the right thing and appealing enough that readers will actually read it and, more important, they might look you up for more publications and resources on you and your writing.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford is a country writer, living just outside the tiny community of North Gower, Ontario, near Canada’s capital city. With degrees in art history, music and Canadian studies, the retired music teacher enjoys the quiet nature of her country home and the inspiration of working at her antique Jane Austen-style spinet desk, feeling quite complete as she writes and stares out the large picture window at the birds and the forest. She writes in several genres, including creative nonfiction, memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction.



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