top of page
Search

How to Write a Bio: A Bio-logy Lesson

Beverly Davis (she/her) is a working class, Manchester poet. She writes about her experiences of growing up in the 70s. She’s been featured in The Poets Review

 and aspires to be featured in a Tory-less Britain. In her spare time, she breeds hamsters.


Now who would like to hear more about Beverly? Anything stand out? For a start, Bev doesn’t exist, but nonetheless, she’s given up a weekend of protesting and gardening to help us write a bio.


Bios are small introductions to who an artist is. Publications and events ask for them as ways to introduce and credit poets, but how to write them? I say a bio answers four things:  who are you, what do you do, what have you done or are currently doing (briefly), and where can people find you. Let’s see how Bev does it.



A hand holds a pen to a page as they write poetry


Who are you?


Generally, this is where you put your name and your signifiers. What facets of your identity are you choosing to represent your work, your brand?


“Beverly Davis (she/her) is a working class, Manchester poet.” 


First of all name. How do you want to be known? Full name, nickname, stage name. Your name is your brand. That is what you want people to remember. Now how to make it memorable?


From her pronouns, we know Bev is inclusive and socially conscious. This also tells queer people that Bev is likely a safe person to interact with. Including your pronouns also normalises their use. This means that when trans and non-binary people use their pronouns in their bios, it stands out less and if enough people do it, it becomes more accepted in the wider poetry and arts communities.


We later learn that Bev’s work is political, so ‘working class’ makes sense to include. This is the perspective of her work, and what it’s grounded in. This also draws in the political poetry fans.


Location also plays an important role here. This is one that I personally think should be in every artist's bio. Whether you go down to your specific village or wider county, this is a big way people identify with you. So for me, I am a non-binary poet from Yorkshire, so the queer folk and the Northerners go ‘this is one of ours!’ and are more likely to remember me. 


You also might change your specificity depending on the publication. If it’s an anthology for Northerners, you might want to stress that part of your identity more than usual. Not just Yorkshire, but this is my village and this is where it is. This is how that facet of me manifests in my writing.


The more specific you are, the more likely your bio will speak to the right audience for you. As a basic template:


‘Name’ is an ‘adjective’ poet/writer from ‘place’.




A pile of books sites on a windowsill next to plants and white curtains. The sky outside is bright.



What do you do?


The first sentence (“Beverly Davis is a…”) also answered part of this question. Bev is a poet. Maybe Jill is a potter, or Tom is a dancer. Maybe Bev also does sculpture. Just make sure whatever this bio is for, you say what your relevant practice is, and if you want to also include that you breed hamsters (as long as that is an actual thing you do), it’s also a very memorable tidbit for your audience.


It does help if your memorable tidbit is actually mentioned in your work. I assume Bev has a poem about breeding hamsters. And now I want to hear it. I’ll be looking out for it, in fact.


More than just what you do on a day to day basis, what kind of work do you create? What are the themes your work deals with, the social issues you tackle, what genre might your worki fall under? What can potential readers expect when they pick up a copy of your work? 


“She writes about her experiences of growing up in the 70s.”


We know where Bev’s work is based, we know it’s political, about a childhood in the 70s. Now doesn’t this sound like enough information to decide if you want to know more about Bev’s work?


As a very basic template:


‘Name writes about this, this, and this…’


Check out some examples of incredible bios in our award-winning Northern anthology - Ey Up



What have you done or are you currently doing?


“She’s been featured in The Poets Review, and aspires to be featured in a Tory-less Britain.”


Bev has been mercifully brief here, and often that is the best way to do it. There’s a temptation to list all of your achievements, to spend most of your bio listing like it’s your past jobs in your CV - but that is not the way to go.


Most people will not read your achievements beyond the first three, so keep it brief. Include notable prizes and publications. Include your book if you’ve got one. Include any events you run or a show you’ve got coming out.


Advertise your current projects, but don’t overdo it. A bio’s power is in brevity, so check your word count. What are the requirements asking for?  If it’s short (10-20 words), then prioritise. Does it still answer the main question that a bio asks for? Could this section be cut down?


The most important sections are who you are and what kind of work you do. If there’s not enough room for your achievements, it might be good to let your work speak for itself.


Where can people find you?


Bev has not included her social media handles, but if you’ve got them, we would recommend it!


If it’s for a written publication, it means people have a way of looking you up. If it’s for a performance, it’s a bit easier to just say your socials at the end of the performance so the pronunciation isn’t butchered, but if there’s going to be written advertising for the event with your bio on, then by all means go ahead.


If you or your publisher have a website that means people can find more of your work, include it. If people like your stuff, they should have a way to find more!



A large pile of books sits on a table with a sign written on white card reading 'Poetry' in black handwritten text.


Anymore for anymore?


There’s also the option to write your bio in first person. Same shit, different toilet: the content is the same but first person can make it sound more informal and personalised. Your tone will depend on what the bio is for. Have a look at past bios of that publication, judge it by vibe or by the pieces you’re submitting, or by the other performers if it’s a spoken event.


And finally have fun with it! Does your bio juxtapose your work or is it in the same style? Is your memorable detail an inside joke with people who are familiar with your work? Have you got a bio ready to go?


Many choose to have a few prewritten bios that they can tailor to what they need it for. Some like to just wing it.


And some like me just introduce themselves at the bottom of the blog.


 

Alex Callaghan is a poet from Leeds. You can find them on Instagram at @poetry_ditties or on Twitter as @ABCallaghan2

1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 commentaire


I would also like to meet Bev and be in a Tory-less Britain please 🙏 Nicely proves your point especially breaking down what each bit of information in a bio gives the reader.

Also a really useful reminder to keep checking the bio is up to date and stuff too. Plus I’ve found it can def help introducing myself at open mics and other events because I know my own bio off by heart so helps the initial jitters when you get up there 😊

Love these posts!

J'aime
bottom of page