Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Author Bio: Comedy or Consistency?

I pride myself on my sense of humor and complete lack of professionalism in most instances. At work, I can certainly maintain a certain level of upstanding demeanor. But, I choose to avoid it in most informal instances, and I think it's made me a better person, writer, and leader. Knowing how to approach each audience and tailor your inter-personal skills to the person or group you are addressing is, to me, a crucial skill.

My first novel, Number 181, is a military thriller that focuses more on action and ignores most of the comedic stylings and witticisms to which my friends have grown accustomed. So, how to write queries? What about a bio? Do you showcase your own personality in them or maintain consistent, professionalism when your work is marketed as a thriller?

Most will tell you to always err on the side of caution and stick to professionalism (unless you're writing the next Christopher Moore-style satire that will have your readers LOLing... I can't believe I just wrote 'loling'). I struggled with this, largely because I treat agent queries like a resume or interview. Though I have advanced degrees in engineering, I handle interviews extremely informally as I feel it (a) separates me from the crowd and (2) is a better indication of my true personality, and personality is key to many employment opportunities. If you could read any of the numerous queries I sent out, you would find a couple subtle jokes. But, that's only because I removed the other three obvious ones. It was a painful removal process, cuz they were damn funny. Even 'lol'-worthy...

My author biography, though, allowed me to be a little more open with my personality as it wasn't absolutely tied to the book. I have plans and ideas for several other stories, and more than one of them have comedic elements. So, as the bio is about me and not the book, I let some character seep in.

Russell Stoewe is a full-time NASA engineer and part-time baseball player. He's often magnanimous and periodically hilarious. He writes. He photographs. He travels. He conquers. He loves water chestnuts and finds clowns displeasing.

Russell earned a graduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. He has spent more than a decade working for NASA in systems engineering, project management, and operations at Kennedy Space Center, Florida and Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. His work has taken him across the country and around the world, possibly an artifact of his management trying to get rid of him. He’s launched Atlas Vs and Delta IIs, satellites and astronauts, and loved every minute of it.

He's run marathons and played a decade of amateur baseball. He's made appearances on TV and in movies. All that's left to dominate is Saturday morning cartoons, but his efforts to have a Transformers character modeled after him have been met with roadblocks and frustration. Alas, it's doubtful that Moronicon will ever see the light of day.

Subtle and reserved with only a few chuckle worthy points, but it's enough to tell people (I hope) that I would be a fun person to grab a beer with and watch football.

What amount of humor do you allow into your professional correspondence? Do you see it as a hindrance or help? Risky or acceptable?

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1 comment:

  1. Adding some humor to the workplace, in my opinion, is worth the risk. As long as it is: situationally appropriate, productivity doesn't suffer as a result and it does not offend anyone. Though I realize with that last stipulation, I may have limited you significantly, Russ :)

    One of the biggest compliments I got as a boring sr manager was when I overheard someone walking into the quarterly regional executive update meeting whisper to her friend, "Sweet! We got the FUN one!"

    Sadly, I have learned that academic journals do not appreciate humor of any kind and in fact, the more boring your writing, the more likely you are to be published. Boo.