Thursday, June 9, 2011

What's In A Name? by DL Larson

I get so frustrated when I know the answer to a question but can't bring it to mind. Such an experience happened over Memorial Weekend when I heard the poem, In Flanders Fields. Way back in fourth grade, our class memorized said poem and I felt sure I would never forget who wrote it. I know it orginated from a doctor in WWI. His name .... I'm crumpling paper here trying to remember.

Names are important. As writers we have the decision to use our own name, partial name or a pen name. Do we want to be a Mark Twain or George Orwell, both who used pen names, each for different reasons. Or do we want our own name on our books?

Perhaps we want to be like Daniel Handler with his famous children's books. Who, you might ask, is Daniel Handler? As a children's librarian, I do know the answer to this pop quiz. None other than Lemony Snicket. Handler chose to make his character the author of his Series of Unfortunate Events. A rather cool idea and kids love this style of writing.

Then there is the identity hide-out by using initials. Many folks accused me of doing this. I've received notes and emails stating if they had known I was a woman they would never have purchased my book. Wow! That's powerful information. I'm glad I chose to go with DL and not Deb. Except I wasn't trying to hide my femaleness, I was simply trying to get away from an over-used name. DL is a nickname and therefor why I don't use periods behind each letter. Unfortunately that has caused much confusion. I think DL sounds very female, but D.L. has an ambiguous sound so I can understand folks thinking I used initials to hide my true identity.

So have you recalled the author of In Flanders Field?
Is it Eric Blair? Samuel Clemens or John McCrae?

Still not sure? If you don't put Mark Twain and Samuel Clemens together, then you are NOT smarter than a 5th grader! That leaves Eric and John. Hmmm. Eric Blair is the author of Animal Farm and 1984. Does that help? He didn't believe his writing was good enough to use his real name. And I say, Lord, give me strength, if George Orwell didn't feel worthy to use his real name, what am I doing fumbling about trying to put words on paper?

So that leaves John McCrae! If you knew he was the author of In Flanders Field, then you get to go to the head of the class! With a gold star by your name!

Take a moment to share what name you have chosen to use as a writer. Feel free to explain your reasons.

Til next time ~

DL Larson


SBJones said...

When you mentioned that you had customers tell you that they would not have purchased your book because you are a woman reminds me of J D Robb. She knew that a guy would not be sitting in a subway train reading a Nora Roberts book.

I chose to use a pen name, SBJones, for several reasons. First is that my real name is common. If I Google my real name, all that comes up are actors and athletes with the same name. Second is that my real name is 15 characters long and makes printing on the cover of a book small. For Amazon and all I have is a thumbnail size pic to sell my book. And lastly SBJones already has a 10 year presence online. That is the name I have used. I can Google SBJones and on the front page of Google are links related to me. My website that I set up last month is on the second page and rising. Its smaller and shows up on a book cover thumbnail. And friends in real life actually call me Starbuck Jones or Mr. Jones.

Debra St. John said...

I chose to use a pseudonym for writing because I wanted to keep my writing life separate from my 'real' life. Being a teacher and writing spicy romance doesn't really mix!

I used a first name (Debra) close to my own (just with a variation of spelling), so if I'm ever at a conference and someone calls my name, I'll actually answer. The St. was just added for fun, and John is my hubby's name.

What I didn't check before I decided to use the new name was if there were others out there with that same name. There are. Namely a photographer out in California, but it hasn't proved to be a problem.

Deb Larson said...

I chose DL for similar reasons - I want to acknowledge someone when they are trying to get my attention. I have had this nickname since before writing, before being married - so I'm comfortable with it. And Larson is way too common, but when I google my name - I'm usually the first on the list - so I'm happy about that.
Thanks Debra and thanks SB for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I am still mulling this issue over so I am extra glad to hear your thoughts. There are at least a couple of nonfiction books I will want my real name on but aside from that I am not sure.


Deb Larson said...

BrendaW - when you find the right name it will feel real! I hope that makes sense to you. Good luck in naming 'yourself!!'
DL Larson