Tuesday, November 07, 2006

About the Author

One of the nice aspects of getting a story published is that you usually get to write a short "About the Author"-type intro. Most writers use this to summarize a short repertoire of works, or reveal little bits of background about themselves. Others use it to joke around, figuring that if a reader bothers to look over this sort of stuff, then he might as well get entertained while he's at it.

I get the feeling that I probably hate these write-ups for a strange reason: I never really know what to say when I'm asked to write them, much less how to be funny or how to impress people. Some authors can somehow compress profound lines of thought into a few short words; I usually find myself forced to hoard entire sentences just to describe a single idea.

In Dean Alfar's Philippine Speculative Fiction (Volume 1) anthology, for example, my write-up went as follows:
Sean Uy has been writing since he was 12 years old, and has explored a broad selection of genres in the span of a largely unheralded writing career. He has been published in Singapore's Eggplant magazine, and has done work with characters and settings for Anito: Defend a Land Enraged, the first entirely Filipino-made computer game. As a contextual moralist, critical thinker and self-proclaimed literary hack, Sean currently pounds out insights on his weblog at http://lengthofwords.blogspot.com. He has, to the best of his memory, never owned a monkey.
This, of course, was not the best way to present myself. It's an awkward write-up, mind you. It's the knobby-kneed girl in your sixth-grade class who might just turn into a beautiful fashion model one day, but who -- in all probability -- will probably just remain largely unremarkable.

It even has a factual inaccuracy in there, although I didn't learn about the fate of Eggplant magazine's literary division until after I had seen the write-up in print. What's to be shared is that the story that I submitted to them never actually got published, which I took as another shred of proof that the universe hates me.

Apart from that, the write-up contains a reference to this blog, which can be construed as a shameless attempt at self-promotion. (In reality, this is one of the few avenues where I write regularly in a public context.) It also contains a reference to monkeys, which I put in there simply because monkeys improve everything (and because I couldn't think of anything else besides).

All in all, you can probably see why I'd like to put together a better summary of myself for next time. This is not the sort of masochism that a writer should inflict upon himself.

The problem is that I don't know exactly what I should put into a write-up, or exactly how I need to express it. It's like putting a show at a childrens' party: Whenever I try to be funny, I always end up making kids cry. But I digress.

For the moment, I just have to grin and bear it. I suppose that I'll probably get better at this sort of thing the more times I get published. But then, that'll mean that I'll need to write a lot more publishable works, and then consequently get embarrassed for at least the next few write-ups. I still lose when I win, then.

For a ten-minute exercise, the author write-up tends to be a remarkably excruciating experience. You'll have to forgive me if I grit my teeth for a while.

Perhaps I should look at things from the bright side: No one's asked me to send over a picture yet. The last time I had one taken, I had to pay for the broken camera lens...


Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

"...monkeys improve everything." Amen. But that's coming from someone born in the Year of the Monkey. :p

I like writing about myself (egomaniac alert!), but I find it difficult to encapsulate my whole being-- personality, interests, beliefs, values-- into a dinky little paragraph. Just as vanity is one of my worst character flaws, verbosity has always been my greatest shortcoming (ironic pun not intended) as a writer, among others. That may explain why I don't even have anything original written under "About Me" in my blog.

Sean said...

Ailee: To be honest, who doesn't like writing about themselves? We're the only people who can really describe ourselves down to the smallest fiber of our being, after all. :)

Seriously, though, I know what you're talking about: Verbosity is terrible. You simply can't encapsulate a person's... personality in one single paragraph. Heck, you can't capture every nuance of a person in any number of paragraphs, period.

But at least we try to do so, I suppose, even if it's just to give people a basic idea of who we are. That in itself is a little funny, though... I always thought that we expressed ourselves through our work. :)

kat said...

And I wonder why I hate the question, "Describe yourself" during job interviews. I suppose it'll be easier if you were given a guideline or a format of some sort to follow, but then, it probably won't be interesting. Trying to describe yourself in a quick but effective (and if possible humorous) way is probably a good exercise. Good luck. I have to admit I'll be of no help here. :)

Dominique said...

That's why I think a mindmap is the best solution. A picture paints a thousand words.

How was Singapore, by the way?

Sean said...

Kat: On the other hand, it's not as though it's easy to find people who would be of any help in this field. That, and we tend to have a negative perception of people who spend too much time concentrating on themselves...

Dominique: Er... I'll just stick to practicing my writing for a while. (I think it feels intimidating, having your entire personality spread out like some form of stellar cartography.)

I would imagine that Singapore's as populous as always, if that's what you're wondering. I'll reiterate my wishes to visit there regularly, just for the bookstores. :)