At the beginning of the month, I led a workshop for members of Living Poetry on how to submit poetry to journals. I felt that as a poet who submits my work, and as a poetry reviewer/editor on the other side of the desk for the Heron Clan anthologies, I had something to offer.

It was a very small group, but it’s been years since I’ve done this, so it was good practice. According to my friend, associate and provisional sidekick, Bartholomew Barker, L.P. Head Wrangler, I probably talked too much, so if we do this again next year, I’ll change it up a bit. But even with all that talking, I never got to the subject of Author/Poet bios, so let’s talk about it here.

Author bios serves several purposes. The first is to connect with readers and share a little of your personality. It’s also a marketing tool for selling books or highlighting causes you work for. Most journals have requirements for bios. Follow their directions. Typical guidelines are: 100 words, 50 words, or “2-3 sentences.”

Shorter is better. Even if they give you 100 words, don’t feel compelled to fill it. Write tight. Long bios are boring and can come off as pretentious. You can write as much as you want about yourself on your personal blog, or in your memoir, or annual Christmas card. Here are a few more tips:

  • If you’ve been published more than three times, or received more than two awards, pick the two or three journals or awards that are the most prestigious or well-known. More than that is boring, and readers don’t care.  
  • Put your name first and write in third person. Not only is it the preferred style, but it will help you be objective about yourself. 
  • Gentle humor is good. Sarcasm, while fun, is not appropriate for this venue.
  • Write multiple versions of your bio. And review it periodically for changes.

Do you like your bio? Does it need work?

Here’s the 40-word bio I use most frequently. Note, I include my blog address with no preamble. There’s no need to write “Follow her at …” as it’s understood. 

JeanMarie Olivieri, of Hillsborough, NC, a former corporate writer, now applies her knowledge of words and grammar to freelancing and poetry. She believes poetry can change the world. She has been published in several anthologies and online poetry journals.

A couple of years ago, Button Poetry had a poetry contest for Tweet-sized poetic bios. 240 characters. I didn’t win but I like what I wrote, and since we’re talking about me, I mean, bios, finally, someone to read it!  

I haven’t forgotten my old life
but what came before
my mid-life reinvention
is a blur.
I quit my cushy corporate job
and moved 1650 miles to start over.
But it wasn’t until I got to the steamy south
which overflows with creativity
did I find my people and become a poet.


In personal news, the streak of bad luck (see last post) has continued. This month the problems have all been in my head — well, specifically my mouth. After several attempts to save a molar it ultimately had to be pulled which left me with an infection. All tears and pain aside the incident brings to mind the first poem I wrote for someone. In this case, it was my stepdad who had just gotten dentures.

Dentures, dentures everywhere
Mix ‘em. Match ‘em. Make a pair.

He was not amused.

19 thoughts on “Bio-logy

  1. Love the twitter bio. I’ll have to work on one of those too.

    There’s nothing worse than seeing a poet’s bio that’s just a list of publications. I sometimes scan for the journals with amusing names. My favorite is the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and I’ve been published there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi JeanMarie – You’ve hooked me again! I don’t foresee writing a bio, but I will read a poem a day.
    Best wishes to feeling better. I appreciate you sharing your wit, wisdom and creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

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