Biography Conundrum

About two weeks ago I made the decision to put in an application to participate in an event called the Blue Pencil Café at the local Word on the Street Festival. It’s an opportunity for unpublished authors to have their work reviewed by a professional and ask questions. I figured it would be a good learning opportunity and a chance to get a feel for the local book scene.

The application guidelines were brief:

  1. A three page, double-spaced excerpt of my writing.

         No problem! I know the perfect thing!

     2.  My contact information

          Ppptf! That’s easy! Go me!

     3.  A short biography outlining your writing experience

          My wha-? A biography? About my writing? Umm…

Biographies are important. Not only do they tell your readers about your writing experience, they are a way to humanize a name and make you relatable to your audience. For ones sent to editors and publishers, biographies are used for the sell. It’s your opportunity to tell them “I’m a wonderful writer and you need to publish my work because…”

Biographies for authors should be short (around 250 words seems to be the acceptable length), written in the third person, include personal details, and list some literary achievements.

But what happens when you’re new to the literary scene and have no credits brag about?

Somehow, I didn’t think the publishing world of Atlantic Canada wanted to know about my riveting publication XYZ Inc. Company Policy Manual or my engrossing Real Estate Marketing Survey. But as an unpublished author, that’s all I had.

How on earth was I going to sell myself?

Panic set in. Not only did I need a biography, thanks to my supreme procrastination skills the clock wasn’t only ticking, it was counting down the final hours to the deadline. I needed help, so I went to some of my critique partners for assistance.

The conversation went something like this: *

Me:              HELP!!!! I need a bio detailing my writing and I’m stumped.

My Awesome CPs:  We’ll help. What do you have?

Me:             Polly J. Brown has been writing since childhood. She is currently editing her first novel length piece and working on a second.

My ACPs:    This is super-boring, Polly. You need to add some fun.

Me:             A fun bio? Oh, well here’s the one I have on the Happy Author’s Guild Blog. Wait! I’m part of the Happy Author’s Guild. That counts as writing experience.

How about this?

Polly J Brown manages money and people, both at work and home. She resides on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore  with her husband, three children, and a geriatric beagle. She belongs to the Happy Author’s Guild Blog.

My ACPs: That’s a great start. What else do you have?

Me:           Well… I’m a member of Scribophile too! I’ll put that in!

My ACPs: Why don’t you mention what you’re working on now?

Me:          That’s a great idea!

So after a conversation that went on a bit longer than the dialogue above and some editing, I ended up with my final biography:

Polly J. Brown manages money and people, both at work and home. She resides on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore with her husband, three children, and a geriatric beagle. She belongs to the Happy Author’s Guild Blog. When she isn’t dreaming of writing short stories, she is hard at work editing her first novel length work or distracting herself by writing a second. 

What I learned from this is that even though I’m unpublished, there’s still something to write. Writing hasn’t been an isolated hobby. I have a work in progress. In fact, I have several. My biography is a work in progress as well, only the nature of it is different.

So after hitting the publish button on this blog post, I’m hopping in the car and headed to the Blue Pencil Café. To talk about writing, editing, and adding credits to biographies.

* Conversations were creatively altered for your reading pleasure.


Polly J. Brown didn’t put her biography here since you’ve already read it three times.

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