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HowtoWriteABiographyPage

picWriter Gertrude Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, arrive in New York City on October 24, 1934.

General Thoughts

There are no hard and fast rules about how to write a biography for the Encyclopedia; on this page you'll find some guidelines.

First of all, the Encyclopedia is a work-in-progress and contains mistrakes. When you see mistakes, from grammar to formatting to factual, please report them.

You are writing for a queer audience, for now, and for dozens or hundreds of years in the future. The core context is, How was this person important to the LGBT2QS* community in Halifax? Your biography must answer that.

If you're composing in a word processor, don't bother with a lot of fancy formatting. The encyclopedia doesn't have different fonts and font sizes. It has

Names of people, things and places are written without spaces in this system (in a notation known as CamelCase.) There are several reasons for that, which I can explain over a beer, and which might not exist forever - but they do for now. For now it's how links are formed within the Encyclopedia and the way we ensure that peoples' names are spelled consistently.

You'll see a mix of whimsical material in the Encyclopedia, and perhaps a disproportionate amount of information about drag queens - that's OK. It reflects the intersts of previous contributors and doesn't detract from the serious parts.

Your work is backed up in several ways. Every revision to every page is kept forever, and it's trivial to see what changed between revisions. Also, the entire system is backed up to another system in another part of the city once a day, so even a catastrophic fire in the computer centre where it's housed will have a minimal impact.

Often the easiest way to get bio information from a subject is via a face to face talk. If you do this,

The Format

You can get a sense of the diversity of styles from looking at some existing pages. To get a list of existing biographies:

Here's a basic guide to the sections and one order of storytelling that could work:

  1. If the person has passed on, their dates at the very top of the article.
  2. One paragraph with an overview of the person's relationship to the community.
  3. A very brief "Early life" section - when and where they were born, grew up, were educated. If this is salient to their later contribution to our community, it can be not so brief.
  4. A medium size "coming out" section. This is interesting to current readers and will be a storytelling core for future readers who will have no idea what coming out was, or why and how people did it.
  5. A short "Why I came to Nova Scotia / Halifax" section.

Then, the meat of your story: what things your subject was involved with, how they got involved, and when. The "when" part is often very difficult to get, so please keep it in mind at all times. If you can't do the "when" right away, gently work with your subject to find corroborating documents - perhaps within the Encyclopedia itself. Footnote factual sources as much as you can.

This main part of the biography can contain:

pic Photographs. The usual biography format calls for one or two photographs of the subject. We always need dates, even if approximate, for photographs. They can be contemporary or from the early days in the communtiy.

Ask your subject if they have photos of the LGBT community to share. These will need dates and captions, but there is room for them in the Encylopedia and in the archives.

Similarly ask if the subject has materials that can go into the LGBT archives. This is a separate project but since we're doing history, it makes sense to ask.

Encourage your subject, if they later remember more things they were involved with, or have more information, or find some photographs or other media, to contact you. This is a living document.

This page is in the HowtoCategory