Writing a Biography: Or, I Wish I Could Remember What I Did Last Year

Posted on 19/04/2012 by


And then I get to the part where they say, And wouldn’t you like to write us a biography? And I say very politely: No, not really. But, you know, I don’t think it was really a question.

So I went and looked up what I wrote back when I was applying for my PhD scholarship, which is still moderately relevant, and has the benefit of bearing evidence of my short-term memory from six years ago. This is important because I have this bizarre mental glitch where I can only ever remember the first thing I published/won an award for and the most recent. Everything else is a blank. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s just because it’s all for short fiction, which I don’t really care about. So I think, You gave me money? Excellent. I’ll go away now. La la la. And then the whole thing falls out of my head.

So all I have left is this vague recollection that I sold things for very small amounts of money that barely folded, or won awards that paid in book vouchers. I can point to the books I bought with the vouchers… I couldn’t tell you what I wrote that earned those vouchers though…

So I read my 2006 biography and went, Oh hey, I forgot I wrote that. And also, That was terrible. I am glad it’s now thoroughly out of print. But at least I have something to write in my biography other than, I usually only submit shorts when someone bribes me, and when I finished my doctorate I forgot pretty much everything I’d ever done in sheer relief. I don’t think that’s a great sales pitch.

What I really want to say is, I published some things and I won some things, but they were mostly local, thoroughly obscure or, you know, things I’d rather no one knew I wrote, could we forget about it, yes? But if I actually say that I sound pretentious and if I just tell them I’ve done nothing of note it sounds like I’ve never done anything, which is only true in my head where I think it doesn’t count unless it’s a novel.*

I wish I’d learned to write it down when someone paid me for my work rather than just doing a dance of glee and running away with the money very quickly. This is like doing your taxes for the first time and realising it might have been helpful to keep your receipts…


* And I know that’s a dumb position to take. It’s just that short fiction isn’t really my area. I don’t read a lot of it, I don’t write a lot of it, and I’m not particularly enamoured by my own attempts in the area. I like narratives where there’s time to explore, for the characters to evolve. I want to be sucked into a world I don’t want to leave. And I don’t want to be spat back out again fifteen minutes later. But suggesting we ignore the entire field is horrifically unfair to those who do write it, love it and are great at it. It still counts. It’s just… different.

I really, really wish I could do both: write/love novels and short fiction. This would be so much easier.


Posted in: Kandace