How To Write A Biography Page

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 mistrakes, from grammar to formatting to factual, please fix or report them. Except infentional mistales, which e.g. RegGiles' Peanut Butter And Jam Sandwich story cycle is packed with.

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

If you're composing in a word processor, don't bother with a lot of fancy formatting.

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

Asking Someone To Write Their Own Bio

For Everyone

For Trans Folks


There's a fairly complete list here: HistoryProjectInterview.

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

  1. If the person has passed on, put 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 who, and when. The "when" part is often very difficult for most people. Footnote factual sources as much as you can.

And... saucy tales! Readers throughout the ages love these. If you can encourage your subject to share some salacious stories, do it up! Keep your ears tuned for, prompt & prod for, anecdotes that illustrate the kind of person they are or were: these bring the person to life.

pic This main part of the biography can contain:

Photographs. The usual biography format calls for one or two photographs of the subject. We always need dates, even if approximate, for photographs. If the dates are guesses, mark them with the symbol ca. They can be contemporary or from the early days in the community.

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 Encyclopedia 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