Are the lyrics ringing in your ears now? Do you “really want to know” the answer? Do you have a pen name, a name other than your own, that you use for writing?
A few years ago, an author I admire decided to stop writing the series she was working on. It was an excellent series, complete with characters who stole your heart and made you want to visit them in real life. Debora Geary had her reasons for ending the A Modern Witch series, but I still grieved.
However, she decided to try something new. Since her life with “Witch Central” was over, she took up a new name, Audrey Faye, and continued to write characters who inched their way into your heart.
A pen name. A new life of sorts. A fresh start. I had heard of authors who had pen names, but I never thought about why they did (other than the obvious – stay hidden). Could authors have a pen name just to have one? Could I?
Of course I can have a pen name if I want one! I researched pen names and how to form them (I know, research…), and I found some interesting information about them:
- They offer the writer a way to discover themselves.
-You may be more inclined to write about new and exciting topics if you weren’t “yourself” for a bit…
- They offer a way for the writer to differentiate their writing self from their career self.
-You may have already made a name for yourself at your job, so you need the chance to try something new with a new name.
- They offer the writer a new challenge.
-Trying to name yourself as a writer can be a challenge – finding the perfect name isn’t easy.
Now you may be asking if this applies to you… Does it? It definitely applied to me. I wanted to do all three of these things (I especially love a challenge), so I began looking into the many ways that writers rename themselves:
- anagram of their own name
- their initials
- rearrange their name
- parts of famous names
- old family names
- character names
These were definitely an excellent starting point!
A new name…
If you read about me already on this site, then you know that I’m a teacher. I use my name for teacher things, but, although I love my name, I still wanted a name that could be individually associated with my writing. Debora Geary inspired me to create a name that would do just that.
“Debora Geary inspired me to create a name that would do just that.”
As a child, my maternal grandmother would call me J.J. – my first and middle initials (Jessica Jean). I loved visiting my grandma, whom I call Nannie (not sure what the grandma naming story is though). I would still visit her if she didn’t live so far away from me, too.
I decided that J.J. would definitely be the beginning of my pen name since it brought back many happy memories of my childhood. The next step was picking a last name. I could easily use my last name (Houser), but as I’ve already said, I wanted it to be different from the name I use every day.
One of the suggestions was to look for old family names. This was by far the best idea I had seen, so I looked into them. I had no idea how many last names were associated with my family! I tried them all next to JJ until I finally landed on Burry, again related to my mom’s side of the family (sorry Dad). I even checked it to make sure it wasn’t taken – it’s all mine! JJ Burry, the writer who is Jess!
So, yes, it does take a little bit of time and effort to find the perfect pen name, but I think the process is worth it (thank you Debora Geary). There are all sorts of legal responsibilities to consider in the future, but I’m not there, yet. If you have a pen name, be sure to look into those as well!
Do you have a pen name? What’s your pen name story?
Debora Geary’s website: http://www.deborageary.com/index.html
“Should You Use a Pseudonym?” by Moira Allen: http://www.writing-world.com/business/pseudonym.shtml
“What’s in a Pen Name?” by John Wray: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/whats-in-a-pen-name