On writing bios

So you’ve followed our open mic tips and got up on a few open mics, and perhaps got your first ‘feature’ slot at a gig. Most event organisers will now ask you for a photo and bio to help tell the potential audience who you are and why they should come and see you. Aside from having seen your work before perhaps on an open mic, a video (which we’ll talk about soon) or having read some of your work, a bio is one of the first introductions to who you are as a poet.

Related to that, if you’re a poet who has ‘featured’ at a gig in Melbourne, or are about it, we encourage you to submit your performer bio via our Submittable system so we can add it to the database.

Writing bios can terrify some people, they don’t know how to talk about themselves. For others, they get pretty creative at talking about themselves. Hopefully the below advice will help you craft a useful bio for your next gig.

  • Don’t make bios too long. Ask if in doubt how long your bio should be. 150-200 words is usually good. You don’t have to include everything you’ve ever done. Best to pick the highlights. The really cool stuff or the things that make you stand out. (e.g. Benjamin Solah has performed around Melbourne in places including…)
  • You want your details to show your uniqueness. Don’t just tell us you’re a poet that’s been published in/performed at all the same places everyone else has. People will likely skim over that. Tell us the weird and different places you’ve performed at. Do you perform more at schools and do workshops? Performed overseas? Published in some niche journal or themed anthology that might tell us what you write about? (e.g. …including the National Gallery of Victoria and Occupy Melbourne, and been published in Geek Mook.)
  • Try and give us a sense of your style or content. We want to know how you perform and what you perform about. Do you often write about trains or on the theme of schadenfreude? Tell us that. Are you a funny poet, an angry poet, an introspective poet? Tell us that.
  • Even better if you can get it from the mouth of someone else, such as a testimonial or review of your work, maybe from a more well known poet. (e.g. Benjamin’s work often touches on the issue of asylum seekers. Ali Alizadeh has described his work as “no-holds barred…passionate.”)
  • Try and get creative with how you describe yourself. (e.g. “Kylie is a woman, an electricity, an artist, a short play of nothing as she is nothing.” – Kylie Supski or “Originally from country Victoria, he wears city life like an itchy woollen sweater.” – Jacky T) especially if you’re describing pedestrian details such as where you’re from etc.
  • It’s good to also have an accompanying photo with you, not like a random selfie you took out clubbing, but best if it’s of you performing, perhaps in a way that captures your uniqueness. I get angry a lot so good if I include a photo of me shouting or screaming. A headshot of you on location somewhere cool and relevant also works. Everyone loves a photo of someone with a grungy looking alleyway in the background. If you write about nature, a photo of you in a forest or the bush would make sense. Often photographers around Melbourne’s gigs will have a photo of you at one open mic or another you can use. Good to ask permission first to use their images though.
  • Oh, and always write it in third-person.

Finally, don’t be afraid to change up your bio, have a few versions of different lengths or for different situations, or to write one up completely new taking from previous bios. Different details might suit different venues or gigs.

Annie Solah