How do you know what image best personifies you and sends the right message to fans?
The bathroom in the house I grew up in had a cabinet style sink in the corner next to the door. I would sit on the sink, my back to the wall, and open the medicine cabinet so that the mirror was right in front of my face. It looked like I was sitting in a remarkably small room, much smaller than the already small bathroom, with another girl, identical to me, sitting across from me. We would sit there for ages just staring at each other, shut together in a tiny white room.
Today I asked a friend of mine to draw a picture of me which I would use as my author picture in the backs of books and online. I've seen some examples lately of authors using drawings rather than photographs and I quite like it. Here's two examples:
E.M. Tippetts (I know her personally. She's been a big help to me in my writing career.
My friend said he'd draw me and asked me to send him a photo of myself which I feel best personifies me. How am I supposed to do that? I don't know who I am. It's been years since I've sat staring at myself in that make-believe room; I didn't really know who that girl was then. But she seemed very "other." And I certainly don't know who she is now.
There are so many parts to a person. There's the me that is the voice in my head, which is certainly a different person than the me that is the voice other people hear. There's the me that's in my writing, which is yet a third voice. So far none of these me's can be visually perceived. There's the me that's the me with my family, and the me that's the me with my friends, and the me that's the me with people I don't like (unfortunately, she can often be more polite than the family and friends versions. It's weird how that works sometimes.) There's the me that's the way that I look in my imagination, and the me that's the way I look in the mirror, and the me that's the way I look in reality. The last version is always somehow more disheveled than the others.
My friend said, "If you don't know who you are then how do you want to be perceived? What image do you want to give to your audience?"
Ugh....again, don't really know. I guess I want a picture that's kind of like the in-person me and kind of like the author me. You know, just something that personifies me as a person...so again we're back to me trying to pick a photo of myself that I don't know how to pick. Dang it.
I feel like it should look a little like this only completely different. (COVER REVEAL!!! This is the children's
book. I'm writing and illustrating myself. It'll be out just as soon as I mop a few things up with with image quality/layout stuff and figure out some kind of marketing strategy.)
So clearly this looks nothing like me, and I don't really like the style of this drawing (nor the skill level) for my author picture, but I like the attitude. This is a person who looks happy, good-natured, and wry as well as uncomfortable and unkempt. This has me written all over it.
So...do any of you have photographs of me that you think personify me, possibly making this expression. (Is it even possible for an actual person to make that expression? I'm not exactly known for me realistic portrayals of the human form.) If you have a photo of me that you think would be good, I would be eternally grateful if you would send it to me (temporarily grateful would be more honest phrasing.)
My friend brought up Shel Silverstein, saying that he thought I was a bit like him as an author (high
praise! Thank you!) in that I see the wonder in the world and look at things in quirky ways. That's maybe the gist of what he said; I don't remember exactly what he said because I was too busy basking in the fact that he told me I reminded him of Shel Silverstein, which is unfortunate because I am flagrantly misquoting him and he reads this blog...oops. Anyway, later I remembered that Shel Silverstein had the worst author picture in the history of the world. Something must have worked, because The Giving Tree was everywhere when I was a kid, but countless children, myself included, where terrified by that photograph.
Please don't send me any pictures of myself that are whatever the equivalent is to this. Or, I suppose if you must send them to me, please send me the originals so I can promptly destroy them. I will not, under any circumstances, use them for my author picture (although, I must admit, he does display the appropriate level of uncomfortable and unkempt.)
I know so many people who talk about how they are "planning" to do some creative endeavor "sometime." It baffles me. There's a certain writing group I attend where half the members at every meeting are likely to say, "I didn't write anything this time." What? It's not even, "I don't have anything I'm ready to share." It's "I didn't write anything."
I'm pretty good at motivating myself, but one thing in the book that I found valuable was her suggestion to set aside a little time each week to review my progress and what I've learned. That seems obvious but it hadn't occurred to me. I also liked her discussion about non-supportive people in your life and how to deal with them. The usual views in the writing community seem to be either your S.O.L. or you should get rid of these people. It was refreshing to hear a more measured take.
I think there are a lot of people out there who want to spend more time being creative who could really benefit from this book. If you're one of them, then check it out.
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