Author Photo Angst

There are very few photos of me, probably because I don’t willingly appear in any of them.  Even when I was very small I was bad at pictures. For years I wanted nothing more than to have buck teeth like a friend of mine, so every time I was expected to stand still for a family picture I put my top teeth over my lower lip, causing my patient father to intone before clicking, “Put your teeth away, Laura.”

Looking awkward is one of my natural gifts. I probably look awkward in photos because I am awkward in real life. Like the time I was attacked by vegetation. Or the time I threw myself into a cute boy’s locker while trying to play hard-to-get.

But now, to my horror, I’m told I need an author photo to promote my new book. Although I successfully eluded requests to put my picture on the back cover, I’m told I need such a photo for publicity materials. Whaaa? This is my third book (or fourth, or fifth, depending on how you count) and I’ve never had to assemble anything resembling publicity. But book reviewers, apparently, want to check the flesh-covered skull I smile from before they consider cracking open a copy.

In an effort to put this off longer, I have procrastinated by looking up what sort of photos truly laudable writers have gotten away with over the years.

Edith Wharton hides behind hat, enormous sleeves, and dogs.

Susan Sontag wears a costume and peeved expression.

Tom Pickard augments architecture.

Gwendolyn Brooks is ornamented by the treasure of her family.

Astrid Lindgren shows what she thinks of the pretense.

Here are a few more examples.


I have no illusion my work will ever come close to that of these legendary writers, but it’s fun to watch what they do with their faces.

I have never successfully posed for a picture. My eyes slam shut. I make silly expressions. I put things on my head. The whole idea of being captured by a camera seems ridiculous, maybe because the concept that we are what we appear to be is absurd.

So here I am, expected to supply a new, professionally taken picture. I’d like to find a photographer who would let me pose on a tree limb, owl on my shoulder, teapot on my head, tender defiance on my face. That’s hard to do when the budget is zero. So I’m going with an unedited picture my daughter took of me a few years ago, riffing on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s well-known picture. It’ll have to do.

(BTW, if you actually know where I might find the rare creatures known as “book reviewers,” please whisper their hiding places to me.)

25 thoughts on “Author Photo Angst

  1. Your photograph is creative, wonderful and you are definitely a lovely looking woman person. I love your choice of prop!! My latest book of poetry I chose to be seen walking away toward a big old oak tree with a flowing shirt and colors to match te scenery. And in my latest health memoir book I am on the cover ….a photo taken when I was age five!!!! It worked. Good luck with your literary career.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wheee! Kathleen happens to be the co-editor of a wonderful poetry journal (Gyroscope Review Her vote for “the sillier the photo, the better” carries some weight.

      I also discovered, thanks to the link with her comment, that she blogs at One Minnesota Writer and ya’all need to dash over there right now to read “For Once I’m Part of a Revolution.” A strong piece about what it means to be a woman in her 50’s. (I’d have left a lively comment but comments are closed.) Here’s a taste:

      “But we are here, doing our business with grace, skill, and compassion for those around us. We are here with an understanding of the power of gratitude as well as of the damage bitterness and anger can do, which is important since there’s plenty to be angry about. We are here with a sense of fearlessness because what do we have to lose by stepping up and out?”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Wow! Thanks for all of that, Laura. I’m am very appreciative of your kindness and I had no idea the comments were closed on that particular post of mine that you like so much. I might have to consider changing my settings for people can continue conversations a bit longer. Now, go find some of your wonderful work to send us over at Gyroscope when we reopen to submissions on April 1!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Would love to, April Fool’s Day is my kind of day.

          And Kathleen, if you know of a back room where poetry reviewers whisper, I’d like to knock on that door with my arms full of homemade goodies to entice even one of those rare creatures out.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Awesome post as usual Laura. I never knew such author photos were in existence…it makes me want to read their books. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a good example to follow. I love “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a page, a whole page of notes!, which will miraculously become a book review for Blackbirds. And by the way, you are as beautiful as I thought you were! (I hated having casual photos taken but I somehow manifest Marilyn Monroe and boom – it worked!)

    Liked by 1 person

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