Sunday, October 30, 2011


This is the author photo I’ve been using since 2005. On my computer, the file used to be called “Speaker.” Because I used to use it as my speaker photo--back when I actually wanted someone to hire me to fly all the way across the country and back for an hour event. Translation on that would be: A long time ago.

Now the photo file on my computer is called, “Recent.” Which is funny, because I just confirmed it’s from 2005.

Thing is, I like this one. And I’ll tell you why. And the story behind it.

When I turned 50, in 2005, I went back and forth between throwing myself a birthday bash (I usually don’t) or going to Bryce Canyon and hiking the 23-mile Under The Rim Trail. Being the complete anti-social freak I am, I chose Bryce, and made a reservation at Ruby’s, just outside the park (this was about two years before I got my little motorhome). Then I changed my mind and had the party, and forgot to cancel the reservation at Ruby’s. But that’s another story.

It was a very cool party, because all my friends were there. I was kind of selfish and invited only the people I actually like, not the ones I should like. So I had a great time.

My friend Charlotte Alexander took pictures. Well, a few people took pictures, but Charlotte was the most “official.” She’s not a photographer or anything. She just volunteered to take pictures.

And when the pictures got emailed around, everybody commented on what nice pictures they were of me. But here’s the weird part: I thought they were nice pictures of me, too. And I hate all pictures of me, always. Pictures of me are never nice, according to me. They’re just slightly less horrible than other pictures of me.

I knew the secret, too. I wasn’t really thinking about the camera. I was thinking about the friend I was standing or sitting with. I was thinking about being surrounded by all that love. And I was happy. So I didn’t smile for the camera. I just smiled. Because I genuinely felt like smiling.

I’ve had several very talented professional photographers do photo shoots of me, and I almost always wince at the results. A friend of mine who is a very good amateur has shot probably ten rolls of film trying to get good photos of me, and a few turned out pretty well, usually after I was so worn down by the process that I forgot to look awkward. But a friend with a camera at a birthday party, taking snapshots instead of fine art, caught it just right.

If you look closely at the area near my left shoulder, you’ll see a little scrap of seersucker. That’s the shoulder of my friend Clifford, who was good-natured about being cropped out. I think he gets a kick out of the fact that even that much of him appears wherever my author photo goes.

Now the only trouble is down the road somewhere, when “Recent” is no longer recent enough.


I guess I’ll have to throw another party for my 60th.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

don't judge an author by her photo - Alisa M. Libby

My Gosh, photos! I love having my photo taken! Especially an author photo for the back flap of my book, a photo that will require makeup and posing in some authorly way.

You're not buying it, are you? Me neither. But my biggest problem with my first author photo wasn't simply the photo itself, but my denial of how important it was to me. I had a book coming out and had achieved this huge thing I had dreaming of my whole life - but the thought of having my photo taken brought all of those teen insecurities back to me in full force. Not to mention the fact that this book was entirely about beauty and the main character's quest for physical perfection. And my little face would be slapped onto the back cover. Lordy lemons.

So I pretended I didn't want a photo. Or I pretended I didn't care what it looked like. All lies. How do you take a good author photo, anyhow? Aside from makeup, which I still don't know how to apply, how do you strike the right pose? It has to look cute and smart but show that you don't take yourself too seriously. Don't look smug. Don't look too impressed with yourself. Don't look too dramatic or broody (unless that's you're thing). And don't do that weird thing where your eyebrows scrunch up like you're worried. Now, smile! (Photo above was taken at Simmons by Justin Knight; photo at right taken by my friend and fellow author Lauren Strasnick outside her apartment in LA).

Now, author photos don't freak me out nearly as much as they did at first. Maybe because I've already sifted through a lot of BAD photos of myself. I still want to look smart and cute and not smug, but I know that I can always have a new photo taken. Or maybe use something old? Photo at left was taken by my Mom. Don't laugh! Princesses need to stay warm, too.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The second worst thing I've ever had to do for my writing career

I have always thought I was ugly. I don't like to borrow copyrighted photos and post them on my own pages, so for an estimate of what I think I look like, you can click here.

However, I have never let being ugly stand in my way of attempting anything I wanted to do. I solve the problem by not looking at myself and not thinking too much about how I look. I am vulnerable yet triumphant. I am a YA heroine.

Until I have to take an author photo.

I have been battling my own author photo for a long time, and you can click here to see what I had to say about this up until 2008. The upshot of it was that I did not want to pay to have a professional take my photo because that seemed hopelessly vain and wasteful for an ugly person, but the photo I loved that I took with my own camera was not a high enough resolution for my publisher, so I had my husband take a million pictures of me. And grumble.

Our story resumes in March 2010, when my novel Going Too Far was named a finalist in the RITA, a very prestigious award presented by the Romance Writers of America to our bloggers Rosemary Clement-Moore and Barbara Caridad Ferrer in the past. Trust me, it is a HUGE DEAL. There is a fancy ceremony at the national conference in July, and the finalists get their hair done and stuff. Your author photo is displayed on a screen as big as a Winnebago, and the resolution has to be 300 dpi at 5 x 7 inches.


Higher than my author photo.

So I finally broke down and paid a local photographer $100 to take some shots of me for this purpose. I did not think to tell her how high a resolution they needed to be. When I got them back from her, they were STILL not high enough.

And so my husband and I went into the backyard again. And I had to look at two hundred pictures of myself. All of them were awful because, after all, they were OF ME. I picked the least offensive, it was blown up as big as a Winnebago in front of an auditorium full of fancy romance writers who had gotten their hair done, and I lost to Simone Elkeles.

However, I was also a big winner at that conference. I was a winner because EXTREMELY DEPRESSED ABOUT MY OWN LOOKS, I FINALLY PAID A PROFESSIONAL TO TAKE MY PICTURE. In case you have not figured this out, the Romance Writers of America are on top of things. They invited a photographer, Studio 16, to set up at the conference hotel. This photographer has been taking author photos for a while. They know the resolution has to be high. They know you will need a copyright release so your photo can be on your books, on your website, on Winnebagos, etc. They know that there is some probability you will be ugly and wrinkly. They have a lady there to tell you how to pose, move your head a tiny bit to the right, try not to look quite so much like you are in pain. They know how to use Photoshop. They use it right there in front of you. They instantly erase the lines around your eyes and that weird thing going on with your belt, and they hand you a CD with your author photo. Done and done.

I will never be pretty but this is definitely as good as I'm going to get. Thank you, Studio 16.

And then, this year, there was another Romance Writers of America conference. It was in New York this time, and while I was in town, Simon & Schuster asked me to come over and do the first worst thing I've ever had to do for my writing career. Because I also have a lisp.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bye Bye Football Mom

When I began writing what would become DREAMING ANASTASIA, my son was playing football. High school football in Texas is basically a religion. Take out the modifier. It is a religion. That fall was sort of a blur --I wrote, I taught, I went to football games, I hosted the O-line for dinners. I rode the mom's float at Homecoming. We met before to plan our outfits: you wore you son's jersey (I'm the one on the left) along with a tiara and scepter and red boa. My hair then was very, very short. It seemed the thing to do. Truth? I was living my kid's dream, not my own.

Fast forward. I signed with my agent. She sold DA. After some serious delay - an entire year extra until Sourcebooks was ready to launch their Fire imprint for YA -- I was an author. With a book on a shelf. But before that some changes had occurred. For one, I'd grown my hair. I can't fully tell you why -- but it seemed to come with the new me. Or rather, the old me, who'd loved her long hair and then chopped it off for the practicalities of suburban mom life. When you change your life, you change your hair. At least I did. The photographer who took my author photo (below on the left), was one of my former assistant principals. He had started a photography business out of his garage. his dogs were barking and I told him to put me in the best light possible, so he climbed a ladder and banged his head on the ceiling so he could find a flattering angle. I'd actually shown him Cyn Balog's author photo -- she is tall and blonde and, well, not me. He did the best he could!

Mostly, though, as many of my Outside the Line gang has mentioned, I prefer the candid shots. This is me at Moonshine Grill last April during TLA. Sourcebooks threw a cocktail party and somehow amidst the cocktails, I ordered what I thought was a slice of pie. As you can see, it was not. Notice how I virtuously added a glass of water? By the time this picture was snapped, my life had changed in more ways than I can count.

As for the red boa in the first picture? My critique group uses it now. Every time someone sells a book or article, we pass along the boa. (We also sneak cookies and occasionally festive beverages into the library, but shhh... I did not tell you that)

I'm thinking it's actually time to snap a new author photo and I have no idea yet what I want. But I'll probably go back to my friend Marshall -- still snapping photos, mostly of wedding parties -- in his garage and see what we can come up with.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Who's that Girl (Rosemary Clement-Moore)

Author photos are a funny thing. I waited as long as possible to have mine taken. Kept waiting until I lost five pounds (which happened) and for a day with no zits (which did not). When I told my editor this, she laughed and said, “Don’t worry about it. We have people who can photoshop those right out.” (As it happens, all that worry was pointless. Jacket photos are about the size of a postage stamp when you start out. 
But the thing is, my author photo isn’t how I look in real life. By which I mean, day to day life. It’s pretty much exactly like I look when I actually get dressed and leave my writing cave.

Right down to the jean jacket, actually. I was in Pearland, Texas this week and one of the students asked if I always wear that jacket, and I had to admit, pretty much. It’s my only jacket without a zipper and a hood. (The other frequent comment is that they thought I’d be taller.)
But the person in this picture looks so... professional. And composed. She doesn’t look like someone who pulls out her hair over difficult chapters, or gets a month behind on email, or drives off with her coffee cup still on the roof of her car. 
She looks like someone who’s dogs come when she calls, and never eat her laptop power cord. I’ll bet she eats right and gets more exercise than playing Guitar Hero. She probably even gets her Christmas cards mailed before New Year’s Day. 
Let’s face it. Most of the time, I feel like I look more like this: 
But maybe that would put people off if it was in the back of the book. Maybe not readers, but I probably wouldn’t asked to visit many schools. 
I guess the idea to present a reassuring picture to readers. That we know what we’re doing as far as writing is concerned, and not just winging it, even after five books. 
Which of course I do. Totally. 
Can’t you tell from my picture? 
Happy reading everyone,

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Life Won't Wait (Trish Doller)

I don't have a post about my author photo because I don't have one. But I wanted to talk about a different picture--the one of my tattoo that I've been using as my "official" photo until I get my author pictures done.

I got the tattoo a few years ago to commemorate a favorite song from a favorite album from a favorite band. "Life Won't Wait" from Rancid is mostly a socio-political message, but there's a line in the song (which is sung by reggae superstar Buju Banton) that goes "Decide your fate, but life won't wait."


So many people tell me, "I've always had this idea for a book, but I don't have the time." Or, "Someday I'm going to write a book." Or, maybe you want to paint, learn a new language, lose weight, take up a new hobby. Whatever it is, life won't wait. You're never going to have enough time and someday will never happen unless you make it.

What are you waiting for?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Somewhere Else (Sarah Porter)

I can't possibly manage a cheerful post about my author photo this month, and there isn't much of a story behind it anyway. (I pointed a camera at a mirror.) My utterly beloved and amazing grandmother, Anne Porter, died on October 10th, just short of age 100. I'm not quite here, but in some half-zone where memory layers over the present and obscures it.

But Grammy was a writer, too. A poet, not famous or anything but noted enough to have once been a finalist for the National Book Award--and now memory clouds in again, and again I'm not here but seeing her wide astonished eyes and hearing her gentle, tremulous voice as she told me the news.

So I'd rather write about her. Her writing was nothing like mine; our philosophies and ideas around writing were, too some extent, opposed. By the time I finally had a published book, her eyesight wasn't good enough to let her read it, and I'm not sure she would have liked it anyway. (Indeed, she annoyed me by assuming that, since it was a book about mermaids, it must be florid and cheesy, and have a golden-haired protagonist with emerald eyes. No, I said; Luce has short dark hair, and her eyes are charcoal. Charcoal? Grammy asked, sincerely surprised.)

So how can I claim her as an influence? She was a poet of light and nature, the everyday and the innate closeness of the transcendent; I am a novelist of the dark and fantastical, of the bitter struggle towards a transcendence that often eludes or betrays. What commonality is there, apart from a commitment to language and a gene pool?

Maybe the sense that the right words allow the emotions they convey to come out of hiding, to gain a charged vitality. Language is the window that lets us open ourselves and our experience. And maybe the light I learned from her still crosses the darkness of my own work. Those beams catch certain details and make them shine, just brightly enough that they can tell the truth as I know it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who is that?

I live in a small, dusty town in the mountains of New Mexico, a place with inconsistent sidewalks. We have a "mud season" every year. Sometimes two. To deal with the elements, we dress casually. In fact, my wardrobe mostly consists of jeans and T-shirts. And for my first photo shoot with a friend, Jessica, I broke out my nicest jeans and T-shirt.

I liked Jessica's results, but--insecure beast that I am--decided to go for a second shoot with my friend and salon owner, Marjorie Olsen. She suggested applying make-up at her salon beforehand. It sounded fun, so I agreed. And it was fun, until she looked at me through the lens , and said, "It doesn't look like you!"

She took a bunch, anyway, and I thought they were great even though they weren't exactly representative.

What do I really look like?

My senior photo doesn't lie. Just add a few years, okay?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Smile! - CJ Omololu

Like most authors it seems, I hate getting my picture taken. We've taken countless family trips where it looks like I wasn't even there because I'm artfully dodging the camera by always being behind it.

When my picture book WHEN IT'S SIX O'CLOCK in SAN FRANCISCO came out, my publisher wanted a family shot for the flap. My family is multicultural like illustrator Randy DuBurke's and they thought it would be cute to have both photos on the book. I said I'd do it if Randy would (thinking that he wouldn't), but he said okay. Our family photo was taking out on our back deck by my friend Michelle and her big camera. Surprisingly, the kids lasted for almost 1/2 an hour before they started messing around and we got some good shots. This is the one that ended up on the book jacket along with Randy's and yeah, it looks pretty cute. The boys are teenagery now so its nice to remember back when they were still adorable back in 2006.

When I started writing YA, I figured a picture of my kids wouldn't help sell the book, so my hubby and I took some shots in the backyard and this was the result. The other one is an outtake, but it's so darn cute I couldn't resist. That hair! (And the blue lips, the result of a blue ringpop I have no doubt.)

I have a book coming out in 2012 and another one in 2013, and honestly I was tired of looking at the old photo, so I figured it was time for some new ones. It always helps to have talented, multitasking friends, and I'd scheduled a writing retreat with my writer friends Robin Mellom and Eve Porinchak. Robin often helps her husband with his amazing wedding photos, and brought along his magic camera. The last morning of the retreat, I tried to chicken out - I wasn't feeling it, the weather was bad, etc. She dragged me out onto the patio of our rented house and took some photos that I not only didn't hate, I actually kind of like. As a bonus, Eve took photos of Robin taking my photos so we have a sort of circular documentation of the event.

Whew! Hopefully I can keep this author photo for awhile, as long as I don't cut my hair or get new glasses.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Better Than My Driver's License by Danielle Joseph

Okay, when you get a driver's license or a debit card with a picture ID you expect to be showing your face to a lot of people. That goes the same for your author photo but it's even more widely circulated because it's all over the internet and hopefully in a lot of bookstores!

So here's how my story goes.

Driver's license: To my suprise when I renewed my license because I had lost my old one, I totally loved my photo. I happened to take it when I was pregnant with my son almost ten years ago. I was wearing a bright pink t-shirt and was actually expecting the worst. Then I had to renew my license a couple of years ago when my daughter was just a few months old. I ran over to the DMW with wet hair and no makeup and a hungry baby. They snapped the picture before I could even blink. Now I'm stuck with that not-so-great photo.

Author photo: When my daughter was five months old we had a family photographer take pictures of our kids at our house. She was awesome and at the end asked if I wanted a few photos of myself. She said I could use them as author photos if I liked them. I figured I had nothing to lose and actually really ended up liking two of them. They were taken in my backyard and I think because I had no expectations, I was really relaxed.

Okay and now for some fun photos:

In the photo above I'm copying my cover for Shrinking Violet.

This photo is taken at my very first book signing for Shrinknig Violet. I'm reading from my very first book, "Mommy, Can I Go to the Zoo" that I wrote in first grade!

So there you have it. I would say I am definitely a fan of candid photos and could totally do without photos that are done in front of a backdrop, like school photos! Weren't those the worst?!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Author Photo (by Emily Whitman)

This is my favorite picture of me with a book. My mother took it, of course. She loved taking pictures of us. We all grew up looking into the double lenses of a Rolleiflex camera, following instructions: "Turn your body to the side. Now look at me. Tilt your head at a 45 degree angle. Open mouth smile. Closed mouth smile." These weren't snapshots; they were portraits. Though I think my mother just got lucky with this picture. I wasn't all that obedient when I was little. I was known for things like decorating the living room with ashes from the fireplace.

Take a look at a Rolleiflex and you'll see why portraits felt like an event.

(By the way, that book is the complete works of Edward Lear, who wrote much more than limericks. It's open to a picture of Foss the Cat. I've still got that book on my shelf.)

But what does this have to do with author pictures? Everything! Because who else would I turn to when it's time to choose an author picture?

My mother took this photo a few years ago when my first book, Radiant Darkness, was close to publication. I was visiting back home in Boulder, Colorado. This is in my parents' garden. As you can see, my mother is quite the gardener. And since Radiant Darkness is a retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone, and it starts in the Vale of Enna--a goddess's garden, as full of blooms and fruits as you could find--what better place to take this picture?

(Note the body turned a bit sideways, the slight tilt of the head, in classic family portrait style.)

That's still my official author photo. Unofficially, here's the photo I like best from my time working on my second novel, Wildwing. This is from my favorite day of falconry research (thank you, Randy).

My mother is an artist with much more than cameras and flowers. She's a painter and collagist who is still participating in Open Studios events at the age of 87. Not bad. I'm hoping that kind of lifelong creativity runs in the family.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

AUTHOR PHOTO by Wendy Delsol

Like other participants in this blog, I, too, was surprised at how quickly I was asked for an author photo. Oops. And so much for anything professional. At the time, my husband was just beginning what is now a fairly serious photography hobby. He shot a few pictures, but I wasn’t in love with any of them. With time ticking away, I decided to cull through our massive computer file of family pictures. I came across one in which both my hair and smile passed muster. (The hair thing we can all relate to. The smile thing, well, I didn’t earn the childhood nickname gumby because I was green and bendable.) The picture was a group shot, but I knew with the wonders of technology I could crop it and even render it black and white. Above is the result and my author photo for STORK.

A few months later, I attended the national SCBWI conference in L.A. An add-on option of the conference was a published authors’ luncheon and individual photo shoots. The coolest thing about the resulting photo is that it was shot by poet and YA author Sonya Sones. (Those SCBWI types are excellent multi-taskers!) I think she snapped about ten shots to come up with the photo below. It’s probably my favorite current photo of me, and I used it for my adult novel, THE MCCLOUD HOME FOR WAYWARD GIRLS.

Not long after that, I needed another picture for the jacket of FROST, STORK’s sequel. (This is all within one calendar year, by the way.) I contemplated using Sonya’s photo again, but there was my husband with all his new—and expensive—camera equipment. One weekend, he took a few indoor and outdoor shots around our home. This is the one I eventually selected and is off our back deck.

And because STORK is a trilogy, I’ll soon need another photo for book three, TIDE. What does anyone think about this one????

Tee hee. And I am a Wendy after all.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Author Photo -- Then & Now (Cheryl Reneé Herbsman)

You'd be surprised how often people ask if that's me and my husband on the cover of my YA debut, Breathing. It's not. But I always find it interesting that people think it might be. Even though I had the design team make the female model look significantly less skinny than she actually did in the real photo (that's a story for another day), I still wouldn't mind people thinking I ever had that body.

We ended up using two author photos for the book. I found myself shocked and somewhat terrified when my editor called to say, "Hey, could you send us an author photo in the next day or two?" What? I suppose I'd known I'd need to do that at some point, but no one had said anything, and I didn't realize it would be so soon. So I was completely unprepared. "It doesn't have to be anything fancy," my editor said. "A snapshot is fine." But I didn't want a snapshot. It felt too important. Having an author photo was just one more piece of the dream of becoming an actual author and I took that dream very seriously.

 Luckily, I have a neighbor who's an amateur photographer. I called him up and he was happy to come by and take photos. We took a lot of them -- inside, outside, in a white top, in a black sweater, smiling, not smiling, up close, far away. In the end, we decided to go with this one. It was taken in my living room. I think I liked this one best because it felt the most real. The smile didn't feel forced, my eyes were actually open (which is rare for me in photographs), and I hoped it felt as though you were standing in the room talking with me, the way it might feel to be with me in real life.

So I sent that one to my editor and she loved it and that might have been that. Except the next day I was sitting on my bed, where I almost always sit when I'm writing, and I looked up and saw on my wall a framed photo of my husband and me when we were teenagers. We're on a beach, which was always our favorite place to be. It's also my main character, Savannah and her boyfriend, Jackson's favorite place to be. And the idea popped into my head that maybe it would be fun to use that photo instead of the author photo. I asked my editor what she thought (of course fretting that she would think it was ridiculous) and she loved the idea. I sent her the photo and she thought it was perfect, probably because it really evoked the setting and the feeling of Breathing. She still wanted to use the author photo I'd already sent as well so it would be clear that the book wasn't written by a teen, but rather reminded the reader that I'd been there and remembered what it was like. 
I can assure you that when I was sixteen-years-old it never in a million years could have occurred to me that this picture would someday find its way to the cover of my first published novel. (Clearly, if I had thought of it, I wouldn't have let the fact that I had no clean clothes left convince me to wear that shirt!)
But I do love this photo, I love the sweetness it shares, and I love that it pays homage to our relationship because I don't think I ever would have made it to the point of getting a book published without my husband's support. 

So that is how I ended up with two author photos on the cover of my debut novel: the author then and now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An old author photo and a possibility for a new one (Stephanie Kuehnert)

I was unbelievably excited to take my first author photo and because I always want everything to be symbolic, I decided to have it taken at a place that had a lot of meaning for me and also related to my first book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE.

The book I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE is inspired by my own teenage obsession with punk rock (who am I kidding, the obsession continues to this day!) and female bands in particular. The title even pays homage to the band Sleater-Kinney, who wrote an awesome song called "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone," that I listened to constantly while writing the book. I first saw Sleater-Kinney at The Fireside Bowl, a Chicago bowling alley that was used mainly as a punk venue in the 90's. (I guess they still have the occasional show there, but apparently it's all cleaned up and nice inside. I haven't been back and I kind of prefer it all grungy and grafittied and sticky and smelly like it is in my memories.) The band in my book, She Laughs, plays their first Chicago show at the Fireside and I decided to take my little tribute to my own teenage punk rock days even further and have my author photo taken in front of it.

Fortunately, I have a lot of talented friends and my friend Jessie is actually both a photographer and writer, so I asked her to take the picture for me. My husband (who was only my boyfriend back then, awww!) and I drove over to the Fireside and Jessie rode over on her bike. It was drizzling a little bit, but Jessie took a bunch of pictures quick.

I really loved these which really showed the building:

But obviously my publisher wanted me to be more of the focus in the picture, so I went with this one:

It has served me well for two books (and it tied into BALLADS OF SUBURBIA really well because there is a big scene that takes place at the Fireside Bowl since my characters hang out there like I did as a teenager) as well as lots of posters for readings, etc, but it doesn't really look like me anymore. I have a lot more tattoos now and honestly the hair I have in that photo is probably the most boring hair I've had since I was 14. I had to dye it a somewhat normal color because I was working this office job. Right before I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE came out, I dyed my bangs pink. I took three weeks off from work (that was the only perk of that job, great benefits and loads of vacation time) to do events for the book and my best friend who knows me all too well, especially by my hair habits, said, "Now that you dyed your bangs, I know you aren't going back to that job." Sure enough, the owner of the bar I'd worked at in college asked me to come back to work for him and I decided that would be a more flexible (and way more fun!) job to have as writer, so I went back to the office with my pink bangs and gave my two weeks' notice. I've had fun hair ever since and think I need an author photo that reflects that. I've been writing for this awesome online magazine for teen girls, ROOKIE, and have been using this pic. My husband took it on our honeymoon. What do you think?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Author Photos and Bizarre Reactions (Jenny O'Connell)

When I found out this month's theme - what's the backstory behind your author photo - I couldn't imagine what I'd write about. And then I remembered what happened when I had a new picture taken for my YA books. And I thought, "Oh, yeah!"

This is my current author photo, on the left, which is on all of my YA books.

This photo on the right is the author picture that was on my adult books.

My hair was longer in my YA photo because my books were published a few years after my first adult book, but that's not the only difference if you look closely.

A few years ago, my agent wrote about how I use Jenny instead of Jennifer for my YA books, and talked about my "new" YA author photo on her blog.

Here's what she said: "Jennifer, being the savvy author that she is, decided to do a photo op that had a younger feel. She even decided to remove her wedding rings for the photo since being “married” might feel too stodgy and established for her younger readers..."

Well, the responses that got from her blog readers - totally unbelievable!! (you can read them here if you have a strong stomach) A maelstrom of comments ensued, calling me a liar for not wearing my wedding rings, a sell-out for disguising my married status, a soulless being who put marketing above honoring my marriage. You name it. Then you had the people defending my choice, saying, in essence, who cares?

I was stunned. Really, who gives a rat's ass what an author chooses to do with their author photo? If author photos sold books, you can bet more authors would be investing in high-priced photographers who could make them look like supermodels. The fact is, in the author photo for my adult books I wore the same jewelry I wear every day (I have fallen hook, line and sinker for those DeBeers commercials that say a diamond is forever, it's all I wear). And when I considered my author photo for my YA books, I looked at my existing author photo and thought: No. No. No. It did not say "this person knows what it's like to be 17 years old." It said, "This person knows her carats."

So I had a new photo taken, by the same photographer. And I wore what I'd wear in every day life - cargo pants and a tank. But I did NOT wear my jewelry. Not because I was trying to hide the fact that I was in my late 30s and married with kids, but because I didn't want the distraction of having readers look at my picture and wonder if I could actually relate to them. As a first-time YA author who had 5 adult books already out there, that was a real concern of mine. I wanted readers to not see me as an "author" but rather someone they could actually talk to, someone who would actually listen to them, and someone who could laugh at herself. I wanted my new photograph to make me feel accessible, and one way to do that, I thought, was to remove the extraneous decoration.

I read all of the comments and was speechless. I thought two things: 1) Really, people? You are reading way too much into this; and 2) You people need to find a real interest in life if you have this much time to be talking about someone else's author photograph. It wouldn't take a genius to go to my website and learn I'm married and have kids. In fact, my first book was dedicated to my daughter, my second to my son. This wasn't about hiding my marital status. It was about trying to let the focus be on the books, not on me or my life.

But at the end of the day I didn't really care what anyone thought. I know why my fingers are bare in that photograph. My husband loved my "new" photo so much he kept it on his desk, and the lack of bling on my finger didn't bother him at all. The funniest thing about all of this? On the actual book jacket my publisher cropped the photograph so you can't even see my hands. All this fuss over nothing!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

SNAP IT! by Jan Blazanin

Ever since junior high when I was old enough to realize how I looked in photos, I’ve balked about having my picture taken. (Running and hiding is more like it!) So when my agent asked for an author photo for Fairest of Them All, I was sure that a professional photographer was the only way to go. My best chance of looking presentable was having my picture taken by someone who knew lighting and posing and could digitally remove anything too horrifying. My author photo turned out okay--except for the wrinkles the photographer added--so I was happy with my decision.

But A & L Do Summer is outdoorsy and humorous, so I wanted something less formal for my author photo. My guy Mike loves to take pictures and offered to do a Saturday morning photo shoot. We scouted several locations and settled on the Paragon Prairie Tower in Urbandale. Flowers, benches, and a pond with fountains surround the mosaic tower, which is gorgeous from top to bottom. If I could have found a way to have my picture taken halfway up, I would have.

The morning of the “photo shoot” was sunny, warm, and windy. So much for styling my hair, which is curly and does whatever it pleases anyway. The wind would give me a perfect excuse for it being a mess. But just before Memorial Day I’d had a minor eye procedure to remove dead skin cells from my corneas. (Yeah, it was as gross as it sounds!) Two weeks later my eyes were still ultra-sensitive to the light, and looking at the camera was excruciating. The only way I could stand it was to cover my eyes until Mike said, “Okay,” look up and try to smile while he snapped, and shield my eyes again. He was amazingly patient, though, and several of the photos turned out okay.

When A & L Do Summer was headed for the final printing, Mary Albi from Egmont emailed me about doing something a little different for my author photo. Earlier I’d sent her some pictures from my childhood in the country, and she wanted my opinion about using one of those instead of a traditional author photo. One, especially, of my brother Dan and me sitting on a wagonload of cornstalks with our goats and cow in the background would be an excellent fit with the many farm references in A & L. Since I’d also dedicated the book to Dan, it was perfect.

This author photo in the inside cover of A & L Do Summer is by far my favorite. I look as happy as a “hog in slops” and my wild, curly, wind-blown hair doesn’t matter one bit.

LUCKY ME (Holly Schindler)

I'm not being sarcastic when I say it: I'm really lucky. I've got a mom and brother who have given unwavering support as I got my writing career off the ground. We're talking monetary support, we're talking shoulders to cry on through the years of rejection, and we're talking being proud of me during the years when there was absolutely nothing braggable going on in my life.

But they didn't stop there: Mom is also my first reader, and has been on every single book, published or not, that I've ever written. And my brother, John, has become my own personal photographer.

When I needed an official author photo for my first two books, John was there, camera in hand. This shot (at left) was taken in one of our dog's favorite parks. (If you put your ear close enough to the photo, I'm pretty sure you can still hear Jake barking at geese in the background.) It also appears in the back covers of both A Blue So Dark and Playing Hurt.

John has also snapped all the photos of me that have shown up in various posts throughout the blogosphere:

He's also been at every single one of my author events, including my first-ever signing, at the now-defunct Borders:

And, he's also become my videographer over the past few months, allowing me to add video interviews to my recent Playing Hurt Blog Tour, and filming any discussions I take part in, so readers who aren't able to be at my events in person can see excepts on YouTube...Like this visit to my local Library Center:

Really. Come on. Lucky.