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How To Write An Artist or Author Bio: a muse, some links and examples


Dear {Your Name Here}

Please supply a 100 word biography. Please include nothing cute, nothing clever*. Please write it in your own blood, having agonised for fourteen hours over comma placings, whether or not to use your full middle name or only the initial of your middle name and/or whether to use the first person ‘I’ or the more impersonal but intermittently slightly odd-sounding third person.  Please be aware I may source your bio from public domain stuff like your social media presences anyway. Please repeat this formula ad infinitum or until you have a cache of ready-to-go copy. Go. (100 words).

Nothing brings artists to a bigger funk than asking them for a short bio. Who am I? they ask themselves. A hard-pressed editor’s quick tempo demand for a short paragraph sets off a three-week crisis of identity.

For the academic world a bio is pretty straight forward – there’s a slice of an academic one of me at the end of this post. But when you switch hats and become an artist, especially a new or fledgling artist, it feels like you’re writing a different bio for every occasion – each promoter keen on a unique spin on who and why you are so they can max up the new and sell more tickets. From verb-heavy action bios for young audiences, to koan like 50 word bursts for flash fiction anthologies, to bios that absorb the surreal or semiotically playful context in which they sit for Dada magazines and the like. I’m never the same person twice. I’ve stopped bothering with the idea that I can have and use one bio for all events and pretty much resign myself to coining a new me for each occasion.

The one rule I swear by is that, for the most important bios, I get a friend to read through what I’ve drafted. They are able to check the balance, the tone, and will usually spot glaring errors, inaccuracies, inconsistencies and omissions.

Directly below are four  links to sites containing biography advice (no endorsement implied). After that, and for what they are worth, I give some examples of my own bios. One caveat on the latter: I lead a rather untypical artistic life, so they may not be great templates!



100 word bio for local radio interview website

Kalu’s  Young Adult novels, Silent StrikerBeing Me and Zombie XI, have been published by HopeRoad.  His short story, Getting Home (The Proofreader’s Sigh) can be found in the  2015 Peepal Tree short story collection, Closure. Among his other publications are the romantic comedy Diary of a Househusband and the science fiction novel Black Star Rising (both X Press). Until recently, he ran a carnival band, The Moko Jumbies...

30 word bio for a short story anthology

Pete Kalu is a novelist.  He has sung opera in German, been detained in Calabar, Nigeria, busked near Islamabad, Pakistan and felled trees in Canada.  One of these is untrue.

 for Hay Literature Schools Education Festival Programme 2017

…As part of his immersive approach to figuring out what makes his characters tick, he has learned to tightrope walk, unicycle and juggle. The author has also spent time acting in a film as a corpse…

Alt-time bio for flash fiction anthology

Choose any two from three:

Aged 6, I passed that Cycling Proficiency Test & went on to become a Tour De France hero, quitting in a doping scandal but sans regret. My flash fiction is generally inspired by wheels, motion and the concept of spokes…


…Currently a PhD researcher in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, he has previously studied French & Spanish (Heriot Watt), Coding (Salford) and Law (Leeds). He was recently named by Speaking Volumes as one of the top 40 Black British writers…

*”nothing cute,nothing clever” was a neat bit of guidance I received from writer-lecturer friend, Geoff Ryman.

Done the bio?  OK, here’s tips on getting the bio photo done:


(Article by Pete Kalu)


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This entry was posted on May 16, 2017 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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