Tool Kit: How to Write a Bio-Blurb

In an earlier craft essay, I offered a list of 7 Tools Any Military Writer Should Have in Their Toolkit. I started off with an item that most writers wait until the last minute to consider: A 50-word biographical statement. When I was a magazine and newspaper editor, I called them "bio-blurbs." Here's how I described them earlier on The Aiming Circle:
In three or four sentences, tell readers who you are, what you've done, and where they can read more of your stuff. Bonus points for humor, or other memorable indicators of your personality and voice. If you have to write for free—and literary journals are notorious bootstrap contraptions that pay only in "exposure"—you should at least make the most of the marketing opportunity. Motivate people to search you out. Don't be afraid to mention your book or your blog.
In other words, bio-blurbs are part history, part poetry, and part commercial. Ideally, they give a reader a quick picture of who you are as a writer and as a person, and where they can find more of your past and future work. Before I point out some others, because I believe in practicing what you preach, here's my own current bio-blurb:
Randy Brown embedded with his former Iowa Army National Guard unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan, May-June 2011. He authored the poetry collection "Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire" (Middle West Press, 2015). As "Charlie Sherpa," he writes about military culture at:
Here are a couple of favorites, which range from the short-and-spiky, to the toungue-in-cheeky. Each of these offers a little insight into the writer, and makes me want to know and read more:
T. Mazzara was born in Virginia, is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and lives in Queens.
-From The Pass In Review

Micah Reel is currently in Kabul, HQS ISAF but resides in Utah. He served with the USMC from 1995 to 1999, with the USMCR from 1999 to 2001 and is currently serving with the Utah National Guard. […] Mr. Reel is a recovering jarhead, card-carrying member of the Secret Squirrel Society, and an unselfish lover.
-From The Pass In Review

Dario DiBattista is the nonfiction editor for O-Dark Thirty. A combat veteran Marine of the Iraq War, he also camouflages himself as a poet sometimes.
—From O-Dark-Thirty

Jim Coppoc makes his living by some strange-but-evolving blend of poetry, pedagogy and music. Each of these things pulls from all of his life experience, including a short stint in the Army in the 1990s, most of which was served at Ft. Benning. This poem comes from his time there, and his lasting warm feelings about that experience.
—From O-Dark-Thirty 
Raised in Oklahoma, Anna Weaver served eight years as a parachute rigger in the U.S. Army Reserve. She writes about big sky, old boyfriends, and occasionally her time in service, which fell between Gulf Wars. Currently living in North Carolina with her two daughters, she has performed at open mic nights in Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville, and Savannah. 
—From O-Dark-Thirty 
Ready to get started on your own bio-blurbs? Here are some suggested best-practice techniques:
  • Focus on the facts. Mention who you are; where you live; what you've done outside of writing; where you've been published. Simple, right? Like writing a haiku.
  • Consider PERSEC ("Personal Security"). If you're not comfortable sharing details about the location of your home, family, and other private matters ... don't.
  • Write it in third-person. Always try to match the voice, tone, and mission of the publication to which you're submitting, however. If they do something different, it's OK to change your standard blurb.
  • Lead with your name: "Joan Doe is …" Sometimes, bio-blurbs appear immediately following and on the same pages of your work. Just as often, however, editors of magazines and anthologies consolidate bio-blurbs into the back matter—the "stuff at the back of the book." There, they'll alphabetize authors by last name. Leading off with your name helps match their likely editorial style.
  • Don't list your every citation or award. List only the most-recent and/or the most-important. If you list three items, that's usually enough for people to get the idea. "Smith's non-fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Publication A, Publication B, and Publication C." Naming other publications is a way of saying "thank you" to your previous publishers—and also demonstrates to future publishers that you are a professional.
  • Include your bio-blurb in your standard cover letter, whenever you're making a submission or query. This also demonstrates professionalism. While many literary editors read submissions "blind"—that is, without considering name or biography—offering a packaged personal statement up-front means they don't have to come back to you to ask for one, should they accept your work.
  • Always make word-count. If a publication's submissions guidelines calls for a 50-word biographical statement, don't offer them a 75- or 100-word one. That sends two messages: One, that you're a lazy editor of your own work. And, two: That you can't follow directions.