Pen names

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siebendach
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Pen names

Post by siebendach » April 6th, 2011, 9:41 am

Hi everyone, asking about pen names

Most authors I know don't use them. Those that use them, tell me they're a pain in the butt. I believe them.

But --- what if you intend on submitting resumes in the next couple years? It's common knowledge that prospective employers try to research you online before interviews (or hiring).

Has anyone with a corporate-type job ever had a problem with bosses or managers inadvertently finding about their writing, and disapproving of it?

Collectonian
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Re: Pen names

Post by Collectonian » April 6th, 2011, 11:13 am

I haven't had the problem since I'm unpublished, but I do plan to do all of my publications under a pen name since I work for a state agency. Rather play it safe than sorry, especially in a somewhat conservative area and when I write some, uh, racier stuff :-)

Sommer Leigh
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Re: Pen names

Post by Sommer Leigh » April 6th, 2011, 11:35 am

Sommer Leigh is a pen name - sort of. Sommer is my real first name, Leigh is my middle name. My real last name is ugly, hard to pronounce and harder to spell correctly. I knew pretty early on I wouldn't be using it, but I also knew I'd hate picking a name that wasn't mine.

That being said, I've actually considered changing it legally to Sommer Leigh if I sell and taking on a new middle name in honor of my grandma. It sounds like a lot of hassle but I'm cool with it. Thankfully so is my husband.

I don't care if my coworkers or bosses found out. I don't think they'd care.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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Cookie
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Re: Pen names

Post by Cookie » April 6th, 2011, 12:52 pm

I don't think I will use a pen name. Maybe if I cross genres, or something like that.
My bosses do not have a problem with my writing, but I work for creative people, so my situation may be a little different than Collectonian's. We've actually joked about me writing a fake memoir about my job, and make it out to seem completely horrible and abusive. We would call it "As The Cookie Crumbles."

trixie
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Re: Pen names

Post by trixie » April 6th, 2011, 1:06 pm

I've thought about this over and over. And over one more time.

I decided to stick to my real name but do go the first two initials route a la JK Rowling but without all the mad success. Which I would welcome.

I thought about using my mom's maiden name or some family name, but it just looked like it would get too messy.

bcomet
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Re: Pen names

Post by bcomet » April 6th, 2011, 3:35 pm

The attraction to a pen name has several aspects that are worth considering:

1. Keeping other professions (your own and your family's) separate
2. the Internet (it can be cool -yes- but have you seen how mean it can get-yikes)
3. privacy
4. separating different genres

Using pen names can be weird too, like you are ashamed of revealing yourself or that it becomes confusing
or how do "build a brand" under different identities?

It can be a dilemma knowing what to do, but I have heard repeatedly that you can always test the waters
with a pen name and then, if/when you are comfortable, claim you are indeed the author later.

~~

Interesting note: a lot of people here on this forum, choose to talk amongst each other "as equals" or as "anons with handles."
It's relaxing and informative and cooperative, like being in a neighborhood where you can just shoot hoops and not have to be
"bad" or "a star." No pressure. Just camaraderie.

Doug Pardee
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Re: Pen names

Post by Doug Pardee » April 6th, 2011, 4:43 pm

Totally uninformed opinion: the horse has left that barn. Using a pen name for anonymity is temporary at best. At some point, someone will post the connection between your pen name and your real name. And then it's all over. See this article http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/11/19/belle_de_jour/ about the outing of a blogging sex worker by a newspaper after five years of posting.

There are other good reasons for using a pen name, some of them mentioned by others in this thread. But anonymity is toast, regardless of the venue.

Side note: humanity spent tens of thousands of years without even a glimmer of anonymity. It was only with the rise of the big cities a few hundred years ago that anonymity became possible (in those particular societies). Some years back I lived in a relatively small city — about 50,000 — and I was amazed at just how hard it would be to carry on any clandestine activities. It seemed like everywhere I went, there was at least one person I knew.

Another side note: a number of years ago, I dithered for quite a while over whether to submit one particular writing work for online publication. My concern was exactly yours: it would be a question-mark if an employer were to come across it. I chose to go ahead and publish. My name appears on so many things on the Web these days, I doubt anyone would ever see it. Or as Chet Haase put it, "Maybe if I say enough stupid things, none in particular will stand out from the crowd and I can just get by. Presidents have been elected on less than this." Anyway, nobody's ever mentioned seeing that particular work.

bcomet
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Re: Pen names

Post by bcomet » April 6th, 2011, 5:27 pm

Anonymity may not last if you become super famous or if you are part of something controversial, or maybe if someone just has to find out.

But for what it is worth, it's at least like a star wearing sunglasses, and it can keep down the glare to a degree.

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HillaryJ
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Re: Pen names

Post by HillaryJ » April 6th, 2011, 6:02 pm

Due to the type of work I do and the type of company I work for, I had to disclose during the application process any other occupation. I listed "fiction writer", was asked a couple of interested but unintelligent questions about it and moved forward.

My understanding is that, unless an employer has specific written policies, it would be very difficult for them to successfully bring action against an employee based on ther off-hours activities. However, if you are stating you work for such-and-such company on a blog where you post anything that could be construed as controversial (which runs an amazing gamut), they might take issue.
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sarahdee
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Re: Pen names

Post by sarahdee » April 7th, 2011, 4:13 am

I would consider writing in a pen name but only as there is already a writer (underground/alternative music reviewer) that has my maiden name as well as a photographer who has stolen my ideal website and appears to photograph dead animal carcasses. I could use my married name but it is long and tricky so in the unlikely event of publication, I have been toying with a few pen names.

Since I would be giving up my father's name to avoid confusion with the other writer, I was thinking of using his first name as a surname. It is the sort of Christian name that often pops up as family name so makes sense....

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Falls Apart
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Re: Pen names

Post by Falls Apart » April 7th, 2011, 6:02 am

If I ever get published, I fully intend to use a pen name. My extended family is extremely conservative, and there is already enough tension there as-is without there being a book written under my name that has some pg13-y elements to it. I don't care about anonymity, but if my aunt comes across a non-classic book with so much as a mild swear in it, it's time to run. Then, if she finds out you wrote it . . . *shudders*

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Re: Pen names

Post by sierramcconnell » April 7th, 2011, 11:46 am

I use one because my real name is not beautiful enough to be a fantasy title author's name.

Jessica L. Nielsen

Yeah, uh, no. PLAIN. And somewhat non-fictiony sounding.

Sierra A. McConnell, always struck me as a tad more sparkly. Also, I feel it fits me better as the other name just never suited me at all.

Not to mention all the people who call me Jennifer. O_O (or Rebecca, whut.)
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The blog died...but so did I...and now I'm alive again! OMG.

Claudie
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Re: Pen names

Post by Claudie » April 7th, 2011, 4:07 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote:Sommer Leigh is a pen name - sort of. Sommer is my real first name, Leigh is my middle name. My real last name is ugly, hard to pronounce and harder to spell correctly. I knew pretty early on I wouldn't be using it, but I also knew I'd hate picking a name that wasn't mine.
Now I want to know. XD

I'm doing something similar to you, Sommer. I love my last name, but it's a long French thing that english-speakers would have a hard time pronouncing. Or they'd do it super wrong, and my name's pronounciation is kind of a pet peeves. So I kept the initial when I started my blog, and am likely to stick with this.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

Leila
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Re: Pen names

Post by Leila » April 7th, 2011, 4:14 pm

Nathan has a good post on this one somewhere (apologies I don't have time to go look for the link).

I think if you need to use a pen name, (for security or other reasons) the issue is resolved for you.

If it is a matter of choice, then weigh up the pros and cons of responding to a different name etc and if it doesn't seem worth the hassle, stick with your own name. Nobody can stay hidden forever using a pen name, but it can protect you from the general public at large for a reasonable amount of time. It all comes down to how far down the rabbit warren people want to go to find you and how well you hide yourself.

Sommer Leigh
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Re: Pen names

Post by Sommer Leigh » April 7th, 2011, 5:07 pm

Claudie wrote:
Sommer Leigh wrote:Sommer Leigh is a pen name - sort of. Sommer is my real first name, Leigh is my middle name. My real last name is ugly, hard to pronounce and harder to spell correctly. I knew pretty early on I wouldn't be using it, but I also knew I'd hate picking a name that wasn't mine.
Now I want to know. XD

I'm doing something similar to you, Sommer. I love my last name, but it's a long French thing that english-speakers would have a hard time pronouncing. Or they'd do it super wrong, and my name's pronounciation is kind of a pet peeves. So I kept the initial when I started my blog, and am likely to stick with this.
Mine is German. Actually, my married name and my maiden name are both German and it's got the weird ie ei spelling issue plus it sounds like someone declaring war when they say it. Or like they trying to cough something up. A hairball maybe. I tried to picture myself at a book signing and having 300 people come up and cough hairballs at me. I'm not going down that way.

The other reason I'm not going to write under my married last name is that my husband teaches high school English and my audience is young adult. So we talked early on about how using his last name would mean losing some anonyminity and how would it effect his teaching. I want to give him the option of whether to tell anyone, not have it forced on him.
May the word counts be ever in your favor. http://www.sommerleigh.com
Be nice, or I get out the Tesla cannon.

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