Saturday, March 7, 2015

Another Word on Writing your Bio

By Libby Prifogle 

A few weeks ago Dr. Kelley gave a wonderful class on bios and it made me realize how essential the "bio' is to all aspects of the publication process. I am picking up on a little resistance in writing bios from the group, so I wanted to share my experiences in writing bios for literary magazines/websites. 

As we all tackle submissions in literary magazines this year, you'll have to submit a bio and/or cover letter with each submission. If they don't ask for one with the submission, the editor will need one for the publication. While each publication will have different requirements, it is generally between 50-150 words (and if you are a few words off, it's probably going to be okay). I think it's understood, but just wanted to add - the bio needs to be written in 3rd person unless otherwise noted. If it seems daunting to sum up your life in 50-150 words - well, it is a challenge. I write and rewrite my bio and in my opinion it's never going to be a final draft (I gave mine a complete overhaul as I wrote this post). This is my current bio:

Lisbeth Prifogle served her country as a United States Marine officer and is working on a memoir about her experiences in a war zone. Lisbeth holds an MFA from Antioch University - Los Angeles. Her work was featured in Poem Memoir Story, The Splinter Generation, Citron Review, In the Know Travel, Hormones Matter, and the forthcoming veterans anthology, Homecoming. Lisbeth is an active member of the Bayou Writers Club where she gives presentations and writes articles on the craft and business of writing. She lives in Louisiana. 

All publications will have a bio or byline at the end of a story/essay/article. Generally speaking, most periodicals (commercial magazines and newspapers) use bylines and literary magazines use bios (each publication makes that determination). As Kelley brought up during her presentation, it's good to have a byline as well as a short, medium, and long bio prepared so when you're asked for it, you can promptly provide it. For ideas and examples, read other writers' bios in your favorite literary magazines or books, although I think you get a wider variety in literary magazines.

Quick tip: Go to the "Editors" page of any literary website for a quick list. For example, these editors have bios around 50 words:

Printed anthologies are also a great quick resource.

Don't have anything published yet? No worries. First, write something for the Bayou writers blog. I keep mentioning this at the meetings and I'm saying it again because it's a great way to get published and show you're a credible writer. Second, talk about what you are working on, and anything relative to writing (degrees, writing classes or retreats you regularly attend), what you like to write, where you live or like to read. For example (totally made this one up - working up the courage to try fiction again some day):

"Lisbeth Prifogle grew up in Manhattan and fled the states as soon as she turned 18. At the moment, she resides in Thailand. Lisbeth annually attends the ExPat Writing Association's writing and publishing conference and regularly attends online writing seminars. Currently, she is working on a dystopian novel that follows survivors of a global financial collapse. Lisbeth keeps a travel blog titled Unexpected Journeys, it can be found at

This bio tells readers that this parallel universe Lisbeth travels, treats her writing as a profession, and probably has some interesting stories that likely show up in her fiction. You want your bio to be interesting, but remember this is your introduction as a writer so focus on writing. 

To pick on an active member of the group for another example, Chris always participates in the clever prompts (that I find to be really challenging) and shares them at our meetings. Chris your bio could, and in my opinion should, include somewhere in it: "Chris is a master at golden shovel poetry form, zhongs, and micro-fiction."  

The members who present for The Business of Writing and/or Reading like a writer segment can include that in the bio. "Dennis is an active member of the Bayou Writers Club and gives regular presentations on the craft and business of writing at bi-monthly meetings." 

In closing, start working on your bios and bylines. Don't be intimidated if you don't have a degree/certificate in writing publications, you're a member of the fastest growing writing club in Southeast Louisiana so submit your work to be posted on the Bayou Writers blog and submit submit submit!

And because I haven't written my byline yet, here's a first draft: 

Lisbeth Prifogle is a graduate of the MFA program at Antioch University - Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Poem Memoir Story, Splinter Generation, Citron Review, In the Know Traveler, and the forthcoming veterans anthology, Homecoming.