Looking professional

Being a writer isn’t always about writing. It’s not enough to be an artist; you also need to present yourself in a professional way.

With this in mind, I signed up for a free online workshop called “Love Your Author Photo.” It was put together by writer/editor Rachel Thompson and photographer/activist Vivienne McMaster, and it was all about choosing and/or creating a professional author headshot.

Why should I worry about this now, long before my book is finished, let alone on its way to publication?

Well, when my short story won the Malahat prize, they asked for my headshot… and I didn’t have one! Luckily, I was visiting my brother, who’s a talented amateur photographer. We went out to his apartment’s parking lot, where he took about 30 pictures of me with my phone. I ended up picking one of these for the magazine, which you can see here along with my interview. I look happy and relaxed but a little rumpled. It’s a nice picture, but does it work as a professional headshot?

During yesterday’s webinar, both Rachel and Vivienne provided tons of supportive, positive suggestions for taking better pictures and becoming more comfortable in front of the camera. They addressed the vulnerability that comes with putting a photo of yourself out into the world and gave strategies for circumventing the inner critic.

The idea that really stood out for me was that my professional headshot needs to represent me as a writer, not just me as a person. As a human being, of course I want to look friendly, attractive and likable in pictures. But are those the most important qualities in my writing? I should really be using a photo that hints at the style, energy and authenticity of my work.

Thanks to this webinar, I’m resolving to take more selfies and to be braver about sharing these with the world. You can already check out my Instagram feed for some of the pictures I took yesterday during the workshop. One day, I’ll hire an expert photographer to take a more professional portrait of me. In the meantime, though, I’ll experiment with ways to represent myself and my work visually as well as through the written word.