Sunday, October 12, 2008

About the Author

I never quite know what to put together for my author write-ups. I have a reasonable idea as to what is expected of them, yes, but I can never seem to dash one off in the space of a few minutes. It's like being asked to introduce yourself to a complete stranger in the middle of a fancy-dress party -- they have this strange idea of who you are and what you do, they expect you to fill in the gaps in their perception, and you have absolutely no clue what to say.

I mean... "Hi, I'm Sean, and I'm a writer." What else could I possibly say beyond that? It's not like I'm going to tell them that I use the literary approach in order to pick at the essence of humanity, much less start talking about the elements of style, verbiage and denouement.

So I stand there, smiling stupidly at their questions, until they get creeped out by the silly grin on my face and wander off towards the buffet table.

About two years ago, when one of my stories was on the precipice of release by Philippine Genre Stories, I sent the following write-up for accompaniment of the work:

Sean is a writer, a manager, a critic, a conceptualist, a strategist, and a logician. While this doesn't mean that he'll try to force square pegs into round holes, it won't stop him from looking for something that will actually fit. For that matter, it also won't stop him from asking why the pegs are square, or why the holes are round, or why the sun is bright, or why the sky is blue. This is why Sean never gets invited to polite gatherings, you see.

A good write-up should have certain qualities associated with it. For starters, it should help clarify the identity of the author, and give an idea as to the background from which he sourced his/her story. It should grant an impression of what the author aims to do with his work, and perhaps include any current honors or future aspirations. All in all, it should leave readers to feel as though the writer has become a small part of their lives.

I break these rules for no particular reason, and in fact, I don't know why. My write-ups are given to vague, unmeaningful ramblings that serve little purpose other than to weird people out. The fact that they're usually accompanied by a photo of a stuffed penguin does not help matters.

I'm still using the infamous penguin photo, mind you, which happens to be the same one that I use on both my Blogger and Multiply sites. I'm using it again when another one of my stories comes out in a forthcoming issue of Philippine Genre Stories.

For the record, the write-up that I handed in for this new work reads as follows:

Sean Uy is a writer, an analyst, a mathematician, and a creative consultant. He fantasizes about playing the saxophone, collects stuffed toys, and observes the collective strangeness of this planet's inhabitants. He occasionally comes up with short stories like this one, which will probably earn him another visit to the local psychiatrist once his family finds out.

No, it still doesn't say anything substantial. If it's supposed to make me feel like a member of the reader's family, I'm likely to be the Weird Uncle Who Makes Funny Armpit Noises.

Somehow I'm thankful that the story is a lot longer than the write-up itself. Hopefully people will dwell on those two thousand words long enough to politely ignore the write-up at the end. Or perhaps the shorter work would lose out in a battle of normal deviance.

Besides, you're reading this blog. That means that you already have an idea as to what kind of person I am, right? That means that you can enjoy the story without necessarily having to figure out that little bit of strangeness at the end, right?

...Good. If you need me, I'll be right over there by the buffet table. I hear that they have an excellent selection of cheeses today.


Dominique said...

Congratulations on the story, Sean. If it's for the issue that I think it is, I think we'll be sharing space.

I always have trouble with the writer's bio, too. I just go for the most straightforward introduction possible, which centers around what I do.

Sean said...

Dominique: I suspected that, actually. It's good to see that we just might be going into the same issue.

Must I point out that what you do is interesting? I mean, I can't just tell people that I'm a systems analyst at some multinational company. That would be a little boring, I think... and it would get the company watching me closely. :)

banzai cat said...

I see we're all here at the buffet table again. ;-)

Personally, I have this odd bit of possession wherein something in me wants to go exorcist-girl in the bio. Then I just beat it back down and tell something that's informative without really saying something. I know, I can't help but feel schizo about the whole concepts of bios.

Dominique said...

Hey, hey, looks like the gang is here. I wonder who the fourth person is.

@Sean: I don't think what I do now is particularly interesting but I suppose it comes from my self-deprecatory nature.

@BC: yeah, there's that thing about writing about yourself in the third person. For some people, though, it just comes naturally ;-)

Sean said...

Banzai Cat: I don't think that that's strange. I find that writing a bio is like disconnecting a little bit of your personality from its source, yet not so much that you give the whole thing away. The problem is that we end up making them so vague that people can jump to any number of conclusions about us -- I've been referred to as a "physicist" once -- that we might as well be promoting our own dual identities.

And darn it, don't mention The Exorcist while we're at the buffet table. That's pea soup in the big brass tureen right there.

Dominique: With our luck, the fourth writer is probably somebody who would overshadow all three of us put together (and beat us in a fettuccine-filled cage match). Like maybe Alan Moore.

Anonymous said...

The nicest one I've seen so far is by Terry Pratchett in Good Omens. Here's an excerpt:

He chose journalism as a career because it was indoor work with no heavy lifting. He's managed to avoid all the really interesting jobs authors take in order to look good in this sort of biography.

He also mentioned something about wanting fans to send him banana daiquiris. Maybe you can do the same next time? ;)

Anonymous said...

BTW, congratulations! :)

Sean said...

Ida: Hah... I remember reading that. It's actually a revised version of his bio, the original version of which said that he was working an office job until he realized that he was making more money in writing.

Sadly, I can't ask for readers to send me stuff, if only because I'd ask for something utterly strange. I suspect that Pratchett really does like banana daiquiris, though, whether or not his Librarian of Unseen University exists or otherwise.

banzai cat said...

@dom: Hell, writing in the 3rd person is fine. Talking in the 3rd person is scary for the person next to you. :-D

And the 4th person reference is so... Third Policeman. ;-)

@sean: I guess I dislike talking about myself and would rather let my story speak for itself. Which is ironic given how writing is purely an ego game. :-D

You know, let's suggest to Dean to set up a buffet table at the launch, make this official. :-D

Sean said...

Banzai Cat: Dean would probably send us the bill. :) I bet his ears are burning right now.