I read a lot of authors’ “About Me” pages on the Net, and I always read the author information on jacket flaps of the books I love. As a kid, I didn’t have a clue where books came from . . . that name on the front or the spine was simply a way to find the next book I might love. But the writer? The writer didn’t matter. The story mattered.
These days, writers have become a part of their stories. We now have authors in the schools and authors at bookstores and author festivals where kids drag parents from table to table. As a writer, I find that now I want to know the heart of these people whose work has touched my own heart. Somehow I think that reading those “About Me” pages and the jacket flaps will give me a glimpse of that heart. Most often, what I get is the amount that could be seen in a small fragment of a broken mirror. I know . . . it’s not the author’s fault. Some editor has asked for flap copy and it has to be in by tomorrow or some critical deadline will be missed. The author has neither the time nor the word count to reveal his or her heart.
I had a different kind of “about the author” experience this morning. I went to the new website of a writer friend, Sandra Neil Wallace, and found a warm beating heart on the “About Me” page. This wasn’t promotional copy meant to entice the reader into buying a book. This was someone’s truth on the page. And it was phenomenal writing, the kind every editor looks for. Why, I wondered, don’t more of us take the time to put something real on every page, whether it’s a query letter or a synopsis or an “About Me” page? Our readers (or potential readers) are reading this stuff. They’re making judgements about whether or not we can write and whether or not they want to read our stories.
As writers, we must always put our truths on the page, whether we’re crafting a novel or writing a blog or that all-important “About Me” page on our websites. I hope you’ll read Sandy’s page and take her honesty to heart . . . and that you will give that level of honesty to every page you craft.
As for me, it’s time to take a fresh look at what I’ve revealed “about me” on my website and see if I can’t step through the fragment of broken mirror to see what lies beyond.
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Sandy’s website gives me hope. Someday I’ll have a lovely website, too!
I didn’t pay attention to the “realness” of authors until I started attending reading conferences. Now when I read aloud to kids, I share interesting tidbits about the author. Imagine how much fun I have telling kids that when Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was a little girl, she bit the ears off her sister’s chocolate Easter bunny!
That’s a good one! I wonder if it’s a kid thing or an author thing? I took a bite out of every candy in my boxes of chocolates . . . ostensibly so I’d know which ones I wanted to keep (nut filled, chocolate filled, caramel filled) and which I would share (jelly, fruity cream filled).
In a recent workshop on creating a sense of place, I kept saying “Don’t forget the food!” Speaking of which, here’s an insider’s tip you can share: Rich Wallace (author and former Highlights editor) and Marcia Dunsmore (gourmet chef) will be teaching Food and Fiction in 2011. We’ll have it up on the website soon. Yum!