On Being Accepted: Part ii, Who’s Who in the Who’s You?

Last week we discussed the importance of having a professional and high-quality Headshot. If you’re the kind of writer that’s applying for festivals, book launches, and funding opportunities, then you also need to be the kind of writer that will do the simple things right.

Now, ok, there’s an argument to be made that doing things the way everyone else does things will just make you blend in, and you want your work to stand out, right? And that’s a fine argument. If you can make your own headshot and bio stand out in a way that is also crafted and creative then go for it! But most people won’t, can’t, or just couldn’t be bothered. Because who needs to go into that much effort for a formality?

So that’s headshots. Get one done. What’s next? The Bio.

Your bio is the Who’s Who of Being You! It’s a short, concise description of what you do.

Here’s an example:

“Stanzas is a poetry-focused arts organisation which gives emerging writers a platform to perform their work both in an open-mic environment and also in print via their monthly chapbooks and readings. They meet once a month in Ormston House, and you can find out more at stanzas.ie or by emailing stanzas.limerick@gmail.com”

This example outlines, in brief, that we have regular meetings, an open mic, a paper series, and gives information about our website and email: in 52 words. Fifty Two! That’s one third what you’re given for most bio word counts.

Here’s another example:

“Stanzas formed in July 2014 in an environment of changing arts practices in Limerick City following years of apathy and flight. We approached our work with the clear dedication of wide-eyed infants, unaware of the barriers, costs, procedures, and histories. Our first event…”

etc, etc. You can imagine how the rest goes, right? That kind of a bio would detail, in minute, every event held, who was there, what the theme was, why it was totally amazeballs, and more. That kind of a bio would go on for 1500 words. That kind of a bio isn’t a bio, it’s a personal history. And there’s nothing wrong with a personal history. In the About section of your personal website.

The absolute worst kinds of bios are the ones that say: So-and-so began reading at the age of three and was instantly spellbound by the imagination of Humpty-Dumpty and Winnie the Poo.

Well done, you and every other poet was an early adopter of reading. The only reason it would be important to note your reading habits would be if you learned how to read in prison following fifteen years of political exile and now have a Nobel winning book of poems. That’s interesting. That’s unique. That is something you have claim to.

Well, not you. You read from the age of three. Like the rest of us.

Maybe all that is a little harsh. But let’s face it, Bios are boring, because most people are fairly boring. And that’s ok. Boring is fine. We read, we write, we wonder should we eat pizza or pasta. Some people have non-boring lives, but they’re the ones fleeing war and persecution, and would gladly trade for a life of peaceful boredom.

So next time you’re asked to write a bio, don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t try to fluff up your life. Just say it as it is.

“So-and-so is a poet and painter. S/he likes art deco and was recently involved in the production of “Theatre & Co”. Their house is full of daffodils.”

Lovely. Boring, but lovely.


This blog was written by Shane “Is a Poet and Photographer” Vaughan. If you have something to say and nowhere to say it why not get in touch at stanzas.limerick@gmail.com?



On Being Accepted: Part ii, Who’s Who in the Who’s You?

On Being Accepted: Part i, “The Unbearable Likeness of Image”

So you’ve sent your poems off, got a response, and hey presto! You’re being published/booked for a reading/accepted for a slam. And then comes the dreaded email…

“Hi Mx, can you fire on a headshot and bio when you get a chance? Thanks!”

Now, some of you may know all about headshots, and that’s great – but how many of you have one? And no, that selfie you took by the window is not going to work.

First, let’s find out what a headshot really isn’t: It’s not a selfie, it’s not done by your mate who’s into photos, it’s not frivolous, it’s not taken by your phone no matter how good you think it is at taking photos. A Headshot is an accurate representation of how you currently look. It’s designed primarily for the acting industry so that agents can picture you in a variety of roles, but it’s super useful for loads of places and f reasons. And one of those reasons, increasingly, is at festivals.

Poets now take up premium stage space at a field of festivals (Field? a tent a festivals? A disappointment of festivals??) and those poets need to have their faces plastered on posters and billboards and flyers and brochures. Not to mention the actual poetry festivals that are around.

Now, there’s nothing wrong, per se, with using a photo from the ’80s that you had you niece takes photo of on her phone and that you then sent in a word file to the festival organiser to use. Just like there’s nothing “wrong” with going hunting for pears. You can do it, but it leaves one asking questions. There’s also nothing wrong, per se, with using a file that is 6 kilo bytes big. Yes, that is your face, no the poster isn’t printed to the size of a stamp. There’s even nothing wrong with that shot of you by the window that you took on your phone! You’re right! You’re really really good at taking selfies. The problem is it looks like a selfie. Not a headshot. And even if you did take it on a plain background with would lights, it would still be too small for larger printing.

So when it comes to headshots, you’re best off getting it done right. Spend a few quid and get something that will last you a few years, give or take a radical haircut. Go to an actual photographer with an actual photo-making box. Get a few varieties, a nice plain background, make sure it’s big enough that someone could use it on a flyer or a billboard if they wanted to. Make sure it’s your actual face. Make sure it’s your actual face as it actually is now.

It might seem silly, even egotistic, but it’s professional. Be proud of your work. If someone asks for a headshot, send them a headshot, not a photo, but that unbearable likeness of image: the profile shot.


This post was written by Shane ‘Photo Baby” Vaughan. If you have something to say and nowhere to say it then email us at stanzas.limerick@gmail.com


On Being Accepted: Part i, “The Unbearable Likeness of Image”