As someone who is asked quite often to provide a bio for an upcoming storytelling show, a literary festival, a corporate training session, a magazine piece, or, yesterday, for the “About the Author” section for my next book, I know how daunting this job can be.
Summarize your life in a paragraph or two. Don’t say too much, but don’t shortchange yourself, either. Also, put things in the proper order to list the most important aspects of you and your career first.
As someone who has a handful of jobs, this can be especially daunting.
What do I list first?
Elementary school teacher? Author? Storyteller? Consultant?
Many people see me as a teacher first and foremost, which makes sense. But many more, literally around the world, see me primarily as an author. Still others only know me as a storyteller or consultant.
And those are only the top four jobs. There is also wedding DJ, minister, comic, and columnist. I also own and operate StoryworthyMD, producing online storytelling courses for people and businesses.
How does one squeeze all that into one bio? And should you?
And do I include book titles? Or some book titles? If so, which ones? Do I include awards and achievements, and if so, which ones?\
Your bio can get pretty bloated pretty quickly if you’re not careful.
Last week, when I performed at the New York City Comedy Festival, the host asked for my bio, and I said, “Tell them I’m left-handed, allergic to bees, and always in need of a cheeseburger.”
She balked at first, knowing a lot about me. “You don’t want me to mention your books? All those Moth championships? The fact that you were teaching fifth graders a few hours ago?”
“Nope,” I said. “Just go with the single sentence.” In the end, she went with my request, and I kind of loved it. People laughed, which meant I got my first laugh without saying a word.
The host of a TED conference once introduced me as “one step above an idiot.”
I loved that one, too. Lots of laughter before I ever landed on the orange circle.
Neither of those laugh-inducing bios is suitable for my next book’s “About the Author” section, but they aren’t bad, depending on the circumstance.
Jeni Bonaldo recently sent me a bio for Elysha if we needed one for “Matt and Jeni Are Unprepared.” I thought it was perfect. Absolutely, positively spot-on. One of the best I’ve ever read.
Perhaps this is the secret to a good bio:
Have someone else write it. Years ago, my friend Charles wrote me a bio consisting of a single sentence. I recently found it and sent it to him, asking if he might consider revising it. At the time, I had published only two books and hadn’t yet begun my storytelling and performance career.
Things have changed since then.
Hopefully, he’ll take on the challenge, and if you would like to write a bio for me, I’d love to consider using it in the future.
Yes, I’m sloughing off another one of my jobs to other people. It’s not lazy. It’s called delegation.
For inspiration, here is Jeni’s bio of Elysha. Matching her brilliance will be difficult.
Elysha Dicks is a wife, mother, kindergarten teacher, and Speak Up Storytelling host. She spends her days teaching children to read and do math and her nights dealing with the relentless optimism of her husband and the picky eating habits of her children, all while maintaining the dewy, perfect skin of a baby child.
She loves music and knows an impressive amount of musical trivia. She loves theater, quaint Connecticut towns, and drinking Starbucks at Target.
She wishes her husband could sometimes embrace the concept of a “lazy Saturday.”
She’s a proud Smithie, an expert ukulele player, and everyone’s favorite member of the Dicks family.