By Lisa Lickel
That biography—scares a lot of us new writers. Yet it's a vital part of your craft. Think about it: you fiction writers create characters all the time, but when it comes to using words to describe you panic. "I'm boring," I heard at a class I recently taught. "What if I don't have any publishing credits?" "Why does anyone care if I have any interesting hobbies?"
Let's visit the situation.
I'm a mystery lover and just dying to feed my passion this weekend. At the book store and I have $12.73 with me. Read the back of the potential book cover with me:
In one hand I have Bats In the Belfry, a cozy by Saint Gail; it's new to me, but book 2 in the Manse Murder Mysteries. Saint Gail was the daughter of a pastor, is married to one, and the mother of another. She has a master's degree in Momhood and likes to race stock cars on the weekend. Visit her website for More Momhood Racecar stories and sign up for her newsletter which is full of tips on how to murder someone without leaving a clue.
In the other hand I have Everybody Hated Roger, a cozy by Cec the Curmudgeon. I've never heard of him either, but I like the cover and it's the right length book and price. Cec the Curmudgeon is a stay-at-home househusband who only drives his Rabbit hatchback to church on Sundays. He pecks out his stories on his Royal Underwood by day and dreams up stories in Technicolor by night. He plans on getting e-mail someday so he can interact with his fans.
Um—not really a choice there for me. Saint Gail is going to have the more interesting story because she lives an interesting life. But the only thing she didn't have control over was being born a pastor's daughter. We all start somewhere, usually at ground zero. Putting yourself out there for the public is scary—there's just no getting around that, but authordom is show business, folks! "I'm nobody - a PTA, mini-van driving soccer mom." Yeah, so? Bet you got a zillion stories of back seat and sideline humor. Pick a couple and focus on your momhood qualities. "There's no way my life is interesting. I drive semi-loads of shopping carts from one side of the country to another." (Quick hit: how many shopping carts to a semi-load? 500. Ask me how I know.) Well, golly-gee – there's another zillion stories about angels on your shoulder, traffic tales, dictating your books on tape. Pick something: "Semi driver Royal Underwood got his writing career off to a start while driving cross country, listening to stories of fellow travelers in untold diners, watching other long-haul goodbuddies deal with the loneliness on the road and meeting his future wife at a monster truck rally in Omaha." Now, that's interesting.
Anybody can be interesting. One of my favorite authors writes about his life in rural Wisconsin. How boring can a short bald guy who married late, lives on a run-down farm and is not-mechanically inclined, be? Here's the beginning of his bio: Raised on a small dairy farm, Perry equates his writing career to cleaning calf pens – just keep shoveling, and eventually you’ve got a pile so big, someone will notice. Perry further prepared for the writing life by reading every Louis L’Amour cowboy book he could get his hands on – most of them twice.
Yep – it's Michael Perry, author of several books; the first one was his take on moving back home and being an EMT.
Maybe you can't do better, but you can be just as good.
Me? Why, Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her novels include mystery and romance, all with a twist of grace. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin Magazine and loves to encourage new authors. Find her at LisaLickel.com.
I didn't start out this way – took me a while to get there, and I'm still growing.
How about you?