I recall the first time an editor asked me to write a byline for a magazine article. It was a frantic time. What could I say about myself in a few short lines?
After much thought, frustration and drafts, I came up with something like this: Diane Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living in central Nova Scotia.
I know…pretty boring. I honestly didn’t know how to write a byline or create a biography. From the examples I seen in current newspapers (this was 1998), most of them were this simple. Being new to publishing, I was a little weary of being too different from the rest.
After having a few articles published, I added another line: Her work has appeared in Saltscapes, Canadian Gardening and East Coast Gardener.
I didn’t loosen my stance on bylines until I entered a children’s book in the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia writing competition. For some reason, the personal restrictions for writing bylines were lifted, and I felt free to be more of myself…after all, I was using a pen name (which was necessary for judging purposes). No one would tie the silly stuff I wrote back to me.
I continued with this philosophy for my first book. I wanted something playful because it was a kid’s novel. Listing where I had been published didn’t pertain to the subject, so I left it out. Here’s what I wrote instead:
Candy McMudd has been telling stories since she tamed a wild dog named Sam and raced through the forest searching for hauflins. Not content to sit and listen, she spent her childhood exploring the Secret Pond and climbing forbidden trees.
Candy was born into a large family and spent the first 29 years of her life in Cole Harbour, Halifax County, Nova Scotia. She currently lives in Milford Station. Although she loves walking along the beach collecting rocks and shells, searching for ship wrecks and sneaking up on fairies, her passion is writing.
Around this time I read that biographies should reflect and be in the same tone as the novel. The Candy McMudd bio fit well with Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove.
When I wrote the biography for Shadows in the Stone, a fantasy novel, I stuck with this theme and added a plug for the future books in this series.
Here is the first paragraph:
Diane Lynn McGyver was born in Cole Harbour, NS, and spent her summers running barefoot along the shores of Liscomb Harbour and rowing her small boat across its still waters. She remembers her first trout caught in the river by the same name and the feel of the soft black mud as it curled around her toes. Back at home, she found solace in the trees and travelling the footpaths to the Secret Pond, The Falls and The Rocks. At every corner, beneath every branch and on every ripple, the spirits watched her and sometimes shared their stories.
Recently, a member of our East Hants Writing Group spoke about the trouble she was having writing her first biography. Jayne Peters recently signed on with Bryler Publications to publish a children’s book, Messy Jessy.
Here’s Jayne’s first biography. It’s has a professional tone and lists her credentials:
Jayne Peters is an elementary school educator who has been teaching in Nova Scotia for the past twenty years and in 2012 was presented with two Teaching in Excellence awards.
The joys of reading and writing are a daily part of Jayne’s life both in her classroom and at home. When she isn’t teaching, reading or writing she enjoys practicing yoga and spending quality time with her family.
While watching her youngest daughter, Jessica, go about her daily activities Jayne was inspired to capture Jessy’s zest for life in her first children’s picture book, Messy Jessy.
Through Messy Jessy it is Jayne’s hope that readers are able to witness the virtue of joyfulness, as well as the importance of being in the moment and living life to the fullest. Jayne hopes that Messy Jessy will be a book enjoyed by both parents and children and that it will help foster a love of reading. This book allowed Jayne to combine her joy of writing with her affection for children. She encourages everyone to explore “What if…?”
Jayne is a member of the Nova Scotia Writer’s Federation and resides in Lantz, Nova Scotia, with her husband and their three children: Emma, Nathan and Jessica.
Here’s is Jayne’s second biography, whimsical and playful:
Jayne Peters understands that getting “messy” is part of having fun. As a child she loved sneaking up on tadpoles, walking in the rain, and covering herself in mud when the tide went out. She currently lives in a house full of red heads, loves molasses on “Grampy’s” homemade bread, enjoys puffy blankets but wants the covers to stay neatly tucked in at night. Her cold feet love to snuggle into colorful fuzzy socks but Jayne gets tired of trying to find the pairs (of socks) and is forever wondering where those naughty fairies put them. While watching her youngest daughter, Jessica, go about her daily activities Jayne was inspired to capture Jessy’s zest for life in her first children’s picture book, Messy Jessy.
What do you think?
As an adult buying a book of fiction for a child, which of the two author biographies—the professional or whimsical—would entice you to buy? These biographies are the ones which appear within the book or on the back cover, not a publisher’s website.
Would you feel differently if it was nonfiction, say a book about animals or the planets?
Do you judge a book by the author blurb on the cover? Or do you not even read the biography before buying a book?