Every version of my given name you can think of, I’ve heard it. My name has been the source of confusion for many and exasperation for me through the years. Having to constantly correct people, albeit gently (I know it’s a tough name), can get a little frustrating. The first day of school was always a blast as I would wonder just how the teacher would butcher my name that year. If the teacher or professor hesitated, I knew he or she had gotten to me. In most cases, they just don’t bother and go straight to my last name. I have scratched out my name and written in the phonetic spelling at ceremonies, I’ve cringed at the mention of my name in obituaries, family members have come to my aid to make sure it was said the right way, my husband has told people who have called and messed up my name that “I don’t know anyone with that name that lives here”.
All this name-butchering business made me seriously consider a pen name. In my twisted imagination, the scene goes like so: an avid reader is in a bookstore and only has enough money for one book. She picks up my book and a book by Jane Smith. Both covers look great. She flips it over and the summary is intriguing on both stories. Both books are roughly the same length. Both books are the same price. She turns the book back over; her face scrunches up in confusion as she trips over my name. (“What the…?”) She tosses my book away in favor of the author whose name she can pronounce. **end scene**
My cover to Wild Oats has the pen name I decided on. I made an email account up, and even went so far to buy the domain, just in case. However, as I sat in class one night, I realized that the pen name didn’t feel right. It felt like I was hiding or living a double life, one as the wife/mother/employee/student and one as “The Writer”, like it was some sort of secret identity or alter ego. I am way too busy with one life to even attempt living a second. So, I tossed the pen name in favor of my “government” name. Besides, isn’t a pen name pointless if your face is plastered on the back cover, on facebook, twitter, and this blog?
Pen names are cool and there are many reasons why a writer would choose one.
- If he/she writes in more than one genre for example.
- The writer wants to be gender neutral.
- The writer’s given name is a common one
- The writer’s real name is the same or very close to another author’s.
- The writer wants to be one of the first names to be displayed in the store or index, so she intentionally uses a last name that begins with “A”.
- The writer wishes to tell-all or bash family, friends, coworkers, etc. and keep anonymity (that writer, by the way, is just begging for a defamation lawsuit…)
- Or in my case, you just want a name people can pronounce.
I’m curious as to how many of my fellow writers are using pseudonyms. Is there a reason why you use one? For the real-name users, how do you feel about pen names?
Added: Thanks to fellow crusader Elizabeth Twist for giving me a few more reasons to use pen names that I’d forgotten about. 🙂