Author’s Bio Mad Lib
I have always been shy when meeting new people. I’m the person hugging the wall of the room—watching, watching, taking notes in my head. I’d rather read the titles on people’s bookshelves and recite the names of the plants in their gardens than strike up a conversation with a stranger. My favorite party prop is a camera—I’ve gotten so good at wielding a lens that many people mistake me for the event photographer, which suits me just fine.
But nowadays, especially with online submissions, I’m required to come up with an Author’s Bio introducing myself to the world. As a writer. In the third person. Awkward.
This year, a request for an author’s bio to accompany a 12 x 12 guest-post on Julie Hedlund’s blog coincided with the start of my son’s third grade year. I’ll be volunteering every other week to teach Poetry Workshop to his class, and one of the first things I always ask young writers to do is create an author’s bio. It’s a great way to build writing community at the start of the school year, and I’ve always loved featuring bios on the classroom wall for Conferences. All year, we include the Author’s Bios and photos on children’s polished and published work, which lends great authenticity to the Writers’ Workshop. Plus the kids have a lot more fun writing Author’s Bios than I do.
If you’re a writer, completing this activity might help you strike the right balance of vulnerability, humility and humor in your struggle to craft your own author’s bio. Skip straight to the Author’s Bio Mad Lib, and have fun!
If you’re a teacher, consider trying this lesson as a formative assessment of your students’ writing abilities early in the year. You can even have them revise the bios at the end of the year to include their “publication credits,” and add the “before” and “after” bios to their writing portfolios.
I suggest completing the following series of lessons over 1-4 weeks. You can combine or emphasize different portions of the lesson according to the age and capabilities of your class. Use the Author’s Bio to introduce your class to each stage of the writing process, from getting ideas to final draft, in a series of mini-lessons followed by related practice.
Lesson Plan: Author’s Bio (Grades K-12)
This will work best as a series of mini-lessons—study mentor texts, brainstorm, draft, revise, edit—each mini-lesson preceding student practice of the same stage of the writing process with their own authors’ bios.
Introduce the Form
Ask students what they know about author’s bios and listen to their responses. Read several examples of authors’ and illustrators’ bios from a large stack of books appropriate to the reading range of the class. For younger students, you may want to pick bios that sound very similar. For older students, include bios with different structures and content, so that they can see variations in the form. Be sure to indicate where an author’s bio is usually found in a book.
Here are some authors and titles I like to share for this lesson. You can see that I prefer humorous, personal bios (the hardest for me to write!).
Christie Matheson (Tap the Magic Tree)
Gianna Marino (Meet Me at the Moon)
Jeff Brumbeau & Gail de Marcken (The Quiltmaker’s Gift)
Julio Fogliano & Erin Stead (if you want to see a whale)
Kathryn Otoshi (One)
Lemony Snicket (The Series of Unfortunate Events)
Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny Free)
Molly Bang (The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher)
Philip & Erin Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee)
William Joyce (The Man in the Moon)
You’ll want to make the books available for students after the lesson, as the kids will be very interested in reading them!
Analyze the Form
Ask, What do you notice about these bios? Generate a chart titled “Features of an Author’s Bio.” It could include:
- Written in the third person
- Tells where the author lives
- Tells who is in the author’s family
- Gives interesting details about the author (pets, hobbies, etc.)
- Lists what the author has published
- Describes the author’s awards
Model Writing (Optional)
For grades K-2 or classes with many students learning English as a second language, you may want to write one author’s bio together as a class.
Introduce yourself to the class by verbally, including many of the details that Author’s Bios commonly list.
As you speak, make notes (or better yet, have a co-teacher take notes for you) on piece of chart paper, in the form of a brainstorming web. This part of the modeling exercise is especially helpful for grades 2 and above.
Then, have the students suggest sentences for your Author’s Bio, which you compose on a piece of chart paper. For younger students, sound out words as you write them, modeling the formation of letters, spacing between words, and emphasizing punctuation. You can also use the Shared Writing technique by inviting students to help spell sight words, or sound out longer words with you. For older students, get the sentences down on the chart paper quickly, and focus on revising and editing.
Practice: Brainstorm & Draft
Kindergarten: Students draw a self-portrait, and dictate an “author’s bio” in the first person by answering questions like: What books have you written? What do you like to do? Who is in your family? More advanced writers can complete sentence frames for an Author’s Bio like the ones here.
Grade 1: Students write an Author’s Bio in the first person.
Grade 2 and above: Students begin by completing a brainstorm web about themselves. Next they draft their Authors’ Bios in the third person. For efun, you can older encourage students to include one lie in their bio, similar to the writing activity Two Truths and a Lie. This can lead to a wonderful discussion of the parameters of fiction and non-fiction.
Practice: Revise & Edit
Grade 1: Students edit for spelling and punctuation. You may invite them to add sentences if the first draft was very short or missing information.
Grades 2 and above: Students revise for clarity, sentence order, and details. You can teach them symbols commonly used for revision, such as a carat to add text or a single line to omit text. Encourage them to think about where to begin and end their pieces, as well as the most interesting details to include. This might be a good time to introduce peer feedback: have students read their pieces to each other and respond with one thing they liked best, and one question they still have about the author.
I like to recruit parents to help with this part. I always kept a basket and clipboard outside my classroom. As students finish revising and editing, they submit their manuscripts to the basket. Parents sign out the manuscripts and take them home, along with Tips for Typing Student Writing. Typists email me the finished pieces and return the manuscripts by signing them back in. I print the typed student work and distribute to the authors for proofreading. After students have edited their typed copy, I make only the corrections they have noted, then print a final copy to display with a photo or self-portrait of the author.
Generate an author’s bio by completing the mad lib below about yourself. Make long lists of details to answer each question and keep them all in a single file of “Author’s Bio Compost.” Taking the time to generate a mass of material that you could use for author’s bios makes it easier to come up with one for a deadline, and also to tailor it for a particular piece of work, agent or editor. Simply insert your name, applicable gender pronouns, and details into 3-5 sentences from the Mad Lib, and you’ve got your bio. Have fun!