Bios & the Quest Writer’s Conference

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You know the deal. There’s one on this site. “Anne Fleming is the author of…” or “Anne Fleming grew up in…” or “Anne Fleming’s latest book…”

This is my problem: I’ve been asked to participate in this really fantastic-looking event, the Quest Writer’s Conference, June 21-28. I was supposed to send a bio, like, three weeks ago. I could have hauled out my most recent boilerplate from a file I keep and add to like a pile of old soap ends called Bio.doc. It includes a lot of variations on the same thing. I am tired, now, of claiming that GG nomination back in 1999, and a little embarrassed — still hauling out that old chestnut? have you nothing newer to go on? am I till the end of my life going to claim one old, minor and unlooked-for honour? Need this question always be a needle under my skin?

The truly famous can say things like, “Anne Carson lives in Canada.” (Does she? Really? Where?) “Margaret Atwood’s most recent collection of non-fiction, Moving Targets, was released in September.” But if I say, “Anne Fleming’s most recent book is Gay Dwarves of America,” well, I am not saying much and I am not selling the book or the conference and it seems churlish, I think, to the organizers of the event. It’s fine for a magazine contributor’s page (which, to be fair, is where I lifted the Atwood and Carson bios). But it’s not enough for an event that hopes to inform its paying customers what they will be getting.

My favourite of my own bios is the one on which there were restraints put. Jake Kennedy and Kevin McPherson Eckhoff have long organized a beautiful, cacophonous, anti-reverent event called Word Ruckus. One year, they required the lot of us to include particular words in our bios. In the end, it is so much better than Anne Fleming is the author of.

Anne Fleming tans blotchily, like Alice B. Toklas, and worships homemade cassettes. Her poetic sensibilities are founded on “The Large Dark Aardvark song.”

But jokey bios, too, pall after a while. (Not that one. For me. Not yet.)

I keep opening the document and restarting (“Okay, not ‘Anne Fleming blah blah blah,’ but ‘Blah, blah, blah, Anne Fleming’!), leaving out the GG nomination, the Ethel Wilson Shortlist, the National Magazine Awards, or summarizing them wryly (“whose writing has been nominated for many nice awards and has even won one or two”), putting them back in, asking myself what matters to me and how do I phrase accurately anything at all.

But it must be sent in the end, and will be sent, and will not be much different from the last one though I hem and haw and waste time and this is sad because so terribly representative of the hideous hesitation and doubt of the kind of writing that really wants to be done. I need some sort of jolt of oblivion, I need to not care, and pump things out, and it’ll all be better than I thought it was, and more than that it will be DONE and so the next thing can be done and the next, and so here is my mail-off:

Anne Fleming is the author of Gay Dwarves of America, a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, the novel, Anomaly, and Pool-Hopping and Other Stories, shortlisted for a BC Book Prize and the Governor-General’s award. Her writing has been described as stellar, harrowing, savagely funny, inventive, heartbreaking, deceptively beautiful, audacious and real. She teaches creative writing at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, which hosts for the first time this summer the Woodhaven Summer Writing Intensive.