Chrysalis: Emerging Women Writers

June 1, 2010

Will the Writer Sign Her Real Name?

By Ben Fredricson

I used a pen name on the very first piece I brought to Chrysalis to be critiqued.

“Why are you doing that?” one of the ladies asked.

“I just feel better writing under a pen name,” I said.

“We’ll help you get over that really quick,” she said.

I shrugged.  I hadn’t told her the truth.  No way.  The truth was too full of stars and fireworks.  But folks probably laughed, too,  when a ten-year-old Walt Disney told them he wanted to grow up and build a real fairytale.  Noooo, it was better to keep quiet.

You see, I just knew my words were so magnificent and overwhelming that I’d soon have to wear sunglasses to Fred Meyer because fans would bug me as I pinched peaches and filled my shopping cart with those expensive cocktail crackers and brie.

I wanted a pen name, so I could live my life in anonymity away from the paparazzi that plagued J.K. Rowling and me .

And then, I actually got a few lines published in the Oregonian.  It was a thrill to see my words in print for the first time. But…No one believed it was me. “That’s not your name,” one of the critique peers said.

“But it is me.  I used a pen name,” I tried to convince her.  She just looked at me as though I was off my meds.

So…should you use a pen name?

Well, if your name is  a real tongue-twister, you may want to try on a different moniker.

Or if you think it gives you better branding: Try Marketta Twain

Or if you’re published under hot & heavy  romance pulp and want to submit to children’s or Christian magazines, then you might consider a different name.

I soon learned the hard way that I wouldn’t have to worry about throngs of fans digging through my trash to find discarded drafts of my latest novel. I also learned how hard it was to build a portfolio of clips around my name if I kept changing it.

Okay, you can stop laughing now. There’s nothing wrong with using a pen name. Just make it clear to your editor which is your pen name and which is your real name.  I asked one of my editors if I could publish a newspaper article  under a pen.   I simply wanted some clips under that name in case I ever wanted to use it.   I had to have it approved by the managing editor and then it threw the payroll lady for a loop.  NOTE:  You may also have to explain to your bank why you’re trying to cash checks with your alias. You’re laughing again, aren’t you?

So go ahead.  Be Brit Goodwitch or Brandi Golucky, there are lots of reasons to pick a pen name…but I can assure you that fear of fame isn’t one of them.

Signed….

Barb   a.k.a.  Angelina Jolly

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