EMPOWERING BIOS

Jeanne Burrows-JohnsonWith 2019 quickly unfolding, authors and artists face a multitude of challenges and opportunities. Beyond financial planning and tax preparation, this is the ideal time to strategize and schedule events, design and/or revise our websites and social media outreach, and shape marketing materials to support these endeavors. While professional service providers can address many of these issues, there are expenditures that can be avoided if we are able to do some of the work ourselves. The essential question is whether we possess the skills and artistic vision to do so…as well as the time that will be required. Fortunately, like book synopses, several elements of biographies can be utilized repeatedly. Your picture, logos and slogans, descriptions of your work, and biographies of varying lengths and emphasis will all prove useful eventually. Today, I will suggest requisite elements of effective biographies.

WHEN WILL YOU NEED AN EMPOWERING BIOGRAPHY?
You are invited to view points raised in a humorous discussion of the need for biographies at imaginingswordpower.com/bios-to-empower-you.html. The gist of the piece is that everyone, both in and out of public view, has a need for one or more biographies…ranging from single sentences of self-introduction, to paragraphs for professional publications, and even a lengthy eulogy that will enumerate key aspects in one’s life.

WHERE TO BEGIN SHAPING YOUR BIOGRAPHY
By reviewing hardcopy and electronic files that contain materials addressing your life and work, you can gather facts, as well as previous stylistic choices from which you can draw. In addition, I suggest you create files of bios that have impressed you. These can include materials from colleagues and co-authors, as well as the brochures of professionals whose offices you visit.

Regardless of whether you work on a computer, or with pen and paper, begin listing words, phrases and other verbal images that you find attractive and worthy of positive public attention. At this point, do not be concerned about the length of your notes, their chronology, or even the vocabulary you are utilizing. For example, if you were writing a physical description of yourself, you might begin with the basics of hair and eye color with simple words like “brown” and “black.” You can add interest later by replacing “brown” with more dynamic words like coffee, chestnut, or charcoal.

IS THERE AN IDEAL LENGTH FOR A biography?
If you are a professional, you will interact with colleagues and the general public in differing ways. Each time you are required to produce a new bio, you will face varying requirements in length and style.

~ A casual meeting or elevator speech requires a single sentence of self-introduction in a first-person voice
~ Casual reference by another person requires similar length, but should be written in a third-person voice

~ Your brief self-introduction, should be about three sentences in a first-person voice
~ A brief introduction by another person requires similar length, but should be written in a third-person voice

~ Detailed self-intros often range from a paragraph to a page, written in a first-person voice
~ Complex intros that are to be delivered by someone else should be similar in length, written in a third-person voice

  ~ Anything longer can be used for slow elevators or tall buildings 

BIOGRAPHY ELEMENTS
Regardless of usage, I recommend you utilize verbiage that expresses your personality, as well as the products or services you offer. This allows readers or listeners of your promotional materials [especially prior to an event] to feel they have actually met you. You should consider including the following.

~ Education and training
~ Career highlights and focus of work
~ Professional accreditation and affiliations
~ Photographs are optional and may be appropriate to only some uses. Authors can be photographed holding one of their books and artists may wish to show a sample of their art. Head and bust shots, as well as images of you standing on a stage or at a podium will all prove useful someday. If you have action shots featuring other people, you should obtain a signed release from them.

BIOGRAPHY LAYOUTS
Biographical layouts vary with length and purpose. To maximize harmony with other promotional materials, your biography should utilize elements from your style sheet with your signature font[s], colors, logos, slogans, etc.!

USAGE OF BIOGRAPHIES
Once you have created biographies of varying length and style, you can utilize them in numerous places. Bios can be placed in several places on the internet, including: One or more pages of your website[s], your blog; Facebook and other social media sites; a framed copy can face visitors to your office or studio.

I send copies of appropriate bios to organizers of public speaking engagements twice; once when arrangements have been confirmed, and just prior to the event. I also carry copies to the event in case the host does not have one. Depending on the purpose of the engagement, the bio/intro may be short or long. If short, I print it on cardstock, as well as 8.5 x 11- inch stationery. I also carry a copy with bulleted key points in a non-glare archival quality sleeve in my presentation folder…for those unexpected occasions when I end up having to introduce myself. [With bulleted data, I can choose to add or delete points that I may decide are, or are not, appropriate to the day’s audience.]

FYI: I recently received a call from a radio personality wanting to interview me. For a mere $125 per quarter of an hour, I can be featured on a drive-time radio show…This has reminded me of other [free] opportunities I have had. Not only am I glad to have varied bios at the ready for those I choose to pursue, but I’m thinking about preparing a series of questions that I might want an interviewer to ask…

Wishing you the best in your unfolding Life’s journey,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, narrator, and public speaker

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

 

Interview and Oral History Projects 4

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

You’ve successfully conducted an interview!  Regardless of whether an interview is the first or the hundredth, I hope you will feel a sense of accomplishment while parting company with whomever you’ve interviewed! By this point, you should have an audio (if not visual) recording of the dialogue, plus notes you’ve composed prior to and during your conversation. You should also have a signed interviewee release that can allow you to draw from the experience indefinitely.

The Significance of Your Relationship with Your Subject
In my last discussion of general and oral history interviews, I noted that it is good to impress your subject positively.  Doing so includes: projecting a pleasing appearance and voice; demonstrating the level of your commitment, as shown by your research and organization of pertinent questions; and, your sensitivity to their physical, mental, and emotional circumstances.

That last issue is one that is often neglected by professional, as well as novice, interviewers.  Too often a sense of righteousness on the part of the interviewer as truth teller can prevent development of a significant rapport with the interviewee.  While it is important to maintain a professional relationship, the lack of a rapport with your subject may lead to a diminished level of trust and desire to reveal themselves fully.

Your Parting Words
As you prepare to depart from an interview, you will want to leave the door between you and your subject open to further communication.  After all, they’ve trusted you with a part of themselves and they want to know that you’ll value what they have shared with you. Even if you have not established a warm relationship, you will want to facilitate future communication and assure them that they will have an opportunity to view a transcript of the interview.

This does not mean you are relinquishing your role as the interviewer, nor does it imply you are going to change revealing the realities of your conversation. However, if errors are found by either of you, there should be a means for adding explanatory notes. This is especially useful in clarifying names, relationships, numbers, dates, and sequences, which may have been transposed or mistakenly described.   

Editorial Procedures
During the transcription and editorial process, you may need to communicate with your interviewee to gain clarity on numerous points. To maintain accurate records, it is good to receive replies to your questions by email or other written documentation

This is especially useful if there are conflicts regarding the meaning of a passage. After all, the interviewee is relaying answers to your questions through the lens of their point of view.  While you  may never agree with their explanation, the transcript and your notes will allow future readers and/or listeners to experience a close approximation of the event and draw their own conclusions.  This is why clear records of all your communication and notes are so important.

The method[s] of annotation you choose for your transcript can take several forms. This is where your creativity comes into play.   Personally, I try to avoid footnotes.  Instead, I employ bracketed statements for minor clarification and section endnotes for issues dealing with proper nouns and other facts that may stimulate a future reader to pursue answers to their own questions.

Although the interviewer should not remove actual dialogue, you can provide clarification of key points by including a glossary of foreign and specialized vocabulary, as well as an index. Some authors dislike the use of indices if they plan to publish via a downloadable vehicle that may render pagination inaccurate and irrelevant. However, readers of a work published on the Internet may be able to utilize a find/search tool to locate terms they wish to revisit and readers of a hardcopy edition will be pleased with the inclusion of an easy reference tool at the back of the work. 

Another means for heightening the usefulness of your final product is separating your transcript into sections. If the interview was conducted during multiple sessions, utilization of chapter breaks is quite logical. Even when the conversation was held on a single occasion, separating sequenced questions and answers provides natural breaks.

Such a layout should facilitate communication between you and your subject[s] as you review the nearly finished project. Once you have completed editing and annotating your transcript, you can proceed to shaping a final format to meet any requirements for publication. [See my previous blog, Interviews & Oral Histories #3, for the closing  discussion of interview publication.]

Future Interviews with The Subject
The potential for scheduling future interviews may depend on issues beyond a mutual desire to do so. For example, if the interview is part of a larger project controlled by someone else, you may be limited in continuing your relationship with your subject.  And, although the current publisher may express an interest in further interviews, shifts within their organization may preclude future publishing through them. Even when you are working on a wholly freelance basis, your ability to publish may depend on your finding a new source willing to take on the project. And if you decide to expand the initial work into a series of articles or even a book, the task may become even more challenging.

As I’ve noted before, planning, executing, and publishing an interview is a unique experience. Even without the permanency of the Cloud, an interview lives far beyond the event itself! The effort you put into researching your subject’s life and work may prove of interest to people far beyond your targeted readership.  The dialectical elements of the conversation, introductory remarks, annotations, and other explanations will serve not only to illuminate your subject, but also your own life’s work.

In my next blog about interviews, I will discuss the renewal and publication of oral history interviews I conducted more than 25 years ago with a dear Hawaiian auntie whose family history is very interesting…The title is, Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias.

Wishing you the best in your writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

Here are my offerings on interviews and oral histories.
Overview of Interview and Oral History Projects, June 2015
Researching for Interviews, July 2015
Conducting Interviews, May 2016
After the Interview, August 2017

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.