Tuesday, August 8, 2017

PEN NAMES

...a.k.a nom de plume

“...What is your name?”
The child hesitated for a moment.
“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she said eagerly.
Call you Cordelia! Is that you name?”
“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name. But I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name.”

From ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L. M. Montgomery ©1908


Ever since I read these lines, way back in the wee days of self-conscious awakening of middle childhood, I knew I had a bosom buddy in Anne Shirley who so desperately wanted to be called Cordelia.

I’d already named myself many times. I have a prescription my mother saved from when I was two, and told the doctor my name was Skippy. What two-year-old would want to be called Mirka if she could be Skippy?

For authors, the pen name (or pseudonym) is an old and venerable tradition. The French idiom for it, nom de plume,  literally means "name of feather," which harks back to the quill pen, a writing implement used since 600 AD. The nom de plume used to be a way to hide identity if the writing was too racy, too politically sensitive, or just plain not the sort of writing one wanted to be known for.

Nowadays, most of the above reasons don’t hold for long. It’s too easy for an interested party to trace the true identity of a writer, and we don’t worry about casual interest. Only the truly interested could pose a potential problem down the line.

Most authors who opt for a nom de plume do so for reasons of branding. They may want to publish under different names for different genres of writing, or re-invent themselves after a less than brilliantly successful debut. Or, like Anne-with-an-E, they may find their legal name uninspiring.



"Oh, I'm not ashamed of it," explained Anne, "only I like Cordelia better. I've always imagined that my name was Cordelia—at least, I always have of late years. When I was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like Cordelia better now. But if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an E."
 
"What difference does it make how it's spelled?" asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.

"Oh, it makes SUCH a difference. It LOOKS so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can't you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you'll only call me Anne spelled with an E I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia." 



I have come a full circle from my days as Skippy. I have made peace with my legal name, and branding is something I still can’t wrap my head around.  I seek authenticity in what I read and what I write.

But every now and then, I wonder.
Dalilah Corazon?
Jo Bunkerville?
D. D. Durk?

Ah, the possibilities.

Who would you be?

 
 
A good article about the challenges of choosing a pen name is linked here.



17 comments:

  1. Love this Skippy! I have such a big ego, I want to see my name. Also, I have a thing about transparency -- I could never take on a different persona. What you see is what you get. Pretty simple. I have toyed with the idea of using my confirmation name for my religious writing: Maria Teresa ... it's only much later I realize the initials MT = empty and this goes back to the ego again.

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    1. Never thought about MT=empty. Brilliant.
      BTW-- you're the second Maria Teresa (Catholic confirmation name) that I know. the first was form thirty years ago, and she was Maria Teresa Veronica.

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  2. You have a great name and your writing style and personality are your brand. I don't believe you need anything more .

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    1. Thank you, Diane. You're a good reader to have in one's corner.

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  3. I liked the Skippy part! Cute.
    I've never considered a pen name, but I did write a children's picture book in which I was given a pen name.

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    1. Now I'll have to think about what your given pen name was...

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  4. Oh, how I love Anne. I wouldn't mind being Cordelia.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Cordelia has a feminine romantic ring, doesn't it?

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  5. I think Mirka Been is a cool author name, although I can see the appeal of Skippy for a kid. I toyed with the idea of a pen name once, but then decided it would have too many complications: Checks being cashed, for instance, manuscripts being returned. I really do wonder how some authors juggle all that, but I'd prefer to bypass all that.

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    1. Well, I can honestly say I didn't give myself my legal name. Sometimes it's better not to have one's hand in such.

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  6. I'm Ashelyn Drake because my romance gets steamy and I write for younger readers under my real name. I like separating the two to keep young minds away from things they shouldn't read.

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    1. Excellent reason, Kelly. I know a local writer who has different pen names for cozies, horror, and literary novels. I think the latter is actually under her legal name.

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  7. Shortly after I first read Anne of Green Gables, I started initialling my artwork, AE. (And for a while I thought I was Anne Shirley, although I only borrowed her first name.):-)

    It's so hard to get published that I would need a good reason to start from scratch with a different name. So after I had my first publishing credit, I stuck with the same name.

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    1. So you were AnnE Etlin for a while? It has a nice flow...
      I wonder how many AnnEs are, in fact, named or self-named after the one who wanted to be called Cordelia.

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  8. Nice - I like both Mirka and Skippy as names. I've had to choose a couple of pen names for the ESL books I've written (I'm not sure why - I think so the students would think it's different writers?) so I chose my grandfather's name and my mother's maiden name. I think they'd like to have their names on books.

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    1. That is so nifty. I never thought of a pen name as a way to honor someone.

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  9. Well done, Skippy. I think I prefer your real name, though. All the Anne of GG references are so much fun to read, one of my favorite books!

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