Do You Write Under A Pen Name? (& Other Fun Facts)

AMB

As law students filled the room, the moderator of the event whispered to me, “Are there any fun facts I can include about you in the introduction before you speak?”

“Huh?” I replied. Fun facts? Lawyers aren’t fun.

“Isn’t there something interesting about you that I can tell the group?”

“Like what?”

“Like whether you write under a pen name.”

“No,” I replied, forcing her to stick with my stodgy professional bio. I do write under a pen name, but it’s not like I was under oath or anything. If my answer to her question had been “yes,” I wouldn’t have any need to write this blog and my books under a pseudonym.

The audience that day was a group of future legal advocates, individuals who might’ve been interested in Amelia Elkins Elkins, in which a modern version of Jane Austen’s Anne Elliot navigates the American courts after her mother’s untimely death. However, selling a handful of books isn’t a good enough reason to expose my literary side to my future professional peers.

As I discussed briefly in Anonymity Doesn’t Only Protect the Trolls (It Protects Nice People Too), I choose to remain semi-anonymous, whether on the cover of my books or in comments on blogs and reviewing sites, because I want to keep a line between the different facets of my life (personal vs. professional, online vs. real life). I explore legal issues on this blog, like copyright infringement, that are quite different from the civil rights work I do in my real life. I wouldn’t want potential clients who contact my office to be confused about my practice areas. Plus, I like my privacy.

Still, there must’ve been something I could’ve said to the moderator. In Last Week Tonight’s recent show on Prisoner Re-entry, John Oliver said to a courageous guest who feared being seen as nothing more than a former inmate: “Everyone has at least three other things about them that are interesting.” Indeed.

So, what are mine (apart from my double-life)?

  1. My twins were born more than three months early, but today, you’d never be able to tell; 🙂
  2. I was voted “Most Opinionated” by my high school class (a dubious honor, but sadly, a well-deserved one);
  3. In September, I planted 1,200 spring bulbs in the hopes that they’ll bloom in time for my birthday (making me look forward to getting another year older!).*

Your turn: What would you have told the moderator to include in your introduction? If you write under a pen name, would you have disclosed it?

*Extra fun fact: If you couldn’t already tell from #3, I’m nuts!

23 thoughts on “Do You Write Under A Pen Name? (& Other Fun Facts)

  1. Do I write under a pen name? No, not exactly. My first name is in the name of my blog, but on the other side of things, not very many people in my personal life know about my “blogging alter ego” (haha). It’s not that I’m trying to hide it, but I didn’t want to have the only people I interacted with be my mom and close friends (Do you know what I mean?) I started this blogging and reviewing thing for many reasons, one of them being to be a part of the community and to interact with other (crazy people? Nerds?) people like me. Thanks for the great post!

    1. It makes sense that you would want to separate your real life and online identities for that reason. My family knows about my blog, but only a few of my family members comment here. I love hearing their opinions, but it’s nice to interact with others in this space.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Literary Feline

    In your shoes, I would have likely done the same thing. You have very good reason to want to maintain a separateness from your writer self. I often wish I had chosen a completely different name when I started blogging. It’s a bit too late to change that now though. I think if I did ever write and publish a book, I would use a pseudonym. I didn’t always feel that way though.

    My favorite facts about myself include my once being a newscaster for a radio station as well as playing a small role in a radio soap opera (mind you, I was in elementary school at the time–we had a school radio station with very limited broadcast range. It was so much fun.) and singing the Natioinal Anthem at a San Francisco Giants baseball game and twice at Sacramento Kings basketball games (again when I was a child–it was with the Camp Fire choir).

    1. A pseudonym gives me a sense of freedom that I wouldn’t have under my real name. It isn’t a perfect division–some people have figured it out–but it helps.

      It’s really interesting that you got to sing the National Anthem (more than once)! Those must’ve been wonderful experiences to have as a child. Does Mouse sing too?

  3. Jaclyn

    I’m with you – I wouldn’t have disclosed my pen name either. But I like your fun facts (and can’t wait to hear what a riot of color your garden is going to be in the spring.)

    Three fun facts for me… Hmmmmm…

    1) I’m working (slowly, very slowly) toward my Adirondack 46.
    2) My daughter is named after the title character in my favorite childhood book.
    3) My first job was teaching piano lessons to little kids.

    Fun thought exercise!

    1. Good luck working towards the Adirondack 46! I don’t know how you find the time to do it–I’m impressed!

      I absolutely love your daughter’s name and that book. Is your son also named after a fictional friend?

      1. Jaclyn

        Thanks! We’ve got a long way to go on the 46!

        My son is not named after a book, but his name is meaningful in other respects. It means “gift from God,” which we thought reflected the (very unexpected) way he came into our lives. My husband and I also both had dreams about him with his particular name starting very early in my pregnancy – in my case, even before we found out at 13 weeks that he was a boy! So his name is special, but not for literary reasons!

  4. A writer friend wrote under a pen name while pre-published, but then his agent and editor insisted he switch to his real name because it makes promotion and publicity on social media more effective. On the other hand his day job is in software, so there probably isn’t any overlap with picture books. As for me, I do worry about privacy issues. But for now as long as the public can tell the difference between me and the same-name writer/journalist in the UK, I’m good!

    I would have told the moderator that I spent my 16th birthday at a Star Trek convention. Or that I once pushed a school bus out of a snowdrift.

    1. Yes, writing under a real name definitely would make promotion/publicity easier. I’d be more interested in that if I weren’t content with my current professional path. For now, I want to keep it separate. That might change someday!

      How neat that you spent your 16th birthday at a Star Trek convention! Are you still a fan?

      1. And my mother even gave me a pass to leave school early that day! I’m not an active Trekkie at this point in my life, but it’s always been such a huge part of my life that I hear all the Trek news from everyone I know. The really interesting angle is how it keeps coming up in my professional life (science educational publishing). My current boss is a Trekkie; the man she replaced is a Trekkie; I skipped out on part of a sales meeting in 2008 to see The Star Trek Experience in Vegas before it closed (with my then-boss’s blessing). I knew I’d found the right niche when I slipped up and told that “Sweet 16 Star Trek Convention” story during my first job interview in the field, and my soon-to-be-boss said, “Oh, you have to meet so-and-so! She’s a big fan.” And yes I got the job.

  5. I don’t write under a pen name, but I have wondered about it randomly now and then if it was the right decision. But I don’t mind it, I mean when people search for me they find me. Whereas a friend of mine has a limited online presence and if people search for her another person with her name and a criminal record comes up! And as for fun facts who knows what I’d say, probably I’m a book blogger, so creative haahaa.

    1. Being a book blogger is definitely a fun fact! A few people who know me in real life have stumbled across my blog. That’s always awkward. It doesn’t happen as often now that I make an effort to use my kids’ initials instead of their full first names (which are unusual names in the United States). I’m not embarrassed by my blog, but I do like to keep it separate from the rest of my life.

  6. 1200 bulbs? Wow, you were busy. Oh, the three things. I usually don’t touch on those things I guess because it is hard to narrow down what I feel makes me different or interesting. No pen name here because it came out all on its own, no admission by me. Social media has a way of making us known.

    1. It was overkill, but I had a large area to cover. My yard was essentially a blank canvas until this year–the previous owners planted almost nothing. It’s 200 daffodils and about 1,000 (more or less) early snow glories. We’ll see how it turns out.

  7. 1. I write under a pen name. My real name is reserved for friends.
    2. I was born in Germany to a German mother and an American father stationed there after the war. I was there maybe two years before returning to the States.
    3. In junior high school, my hundred-yard dash was recorded as one second off the Olympic record set that year. The teacher was amazed, but nothing came of it, and I only run now when chased. 😉

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