This is long, please bear with me:
I've been writing a mothering column for a local paper for a few years, and when I first pitched the idea to the paper I agonized over what my byline should say. FirstName MaidenName? FirstName MarriedName? Should I use my entire formal first name or the nickname I always go by? Should I include any of my middle initials (middle name and maiden name)? Should I choose a totally different pseudonym? I remember the editor I met with telling me -- somewhat jokingly, but also seriously -- that the name I chose then would be the one that would be on Oprah when I became famous, so choose wisely.
I ended up choosing Nickname MaidenName MarriedName. Nickname because I felt like it fit the tone of my writing and the relationship I wanted with my readers -- as if we were having coffee and laughing about the kids' antics. MaidenName because we live in my hometown, and a lot of people know my family, and I thought it would help with making more immediate connections with the readers; also, my parents have always been my biggest fans, and it seemed an appropriate nod to them. MarriedName because I didn't want my husband to feel overshadowed by my family, as had/has happened many times (my family's really big and loud).
I've since felt really happy with my choice -- it feels honest and real, and very "me."
I've recently been wanting to up my game a little, submit to some new places (bigger, more visible), and maybe look into compiling my columns into a larger work. And my name is holding up the whole process.
When I first started writing, my husband was very supportive. But as the years have gone by, he's become increasingly uncomfortable with our family information being so public. My column is very personal -- memoir-ish -- and I've always used his and the kids' real names. I've stopped mentioning him nearly altogether, and I've started swapping in "Boy #1" etc. for the kids' names when I can. Taking my writing more public, though, will only increase our visibility (if I'm succesful at it).
A pseudonym seems the perfect solution, and one my husband is happy about, but I can't move past the fact that creating a pseudonym now means any name recognition I've built in the past -- which will help me moving forward -- will be gone, like starting all over, and considering I've been going really slowly anyway because of having babies and everything, it's sort of devastating to think of losing what I've built up. I also don't know how to handle practical things like, what if my parents want (and they will) to tell all their friends that their daughter wrote a book, but they have to tell them it's under a different name -- it seems that defeats the very reason I'd be using a pseudonym, which is anonymity, right? I also don't know how to handle that in terms of marketing and promoting my work and social media -- I guess I'd have to get a new email address with the new name? A new FB page to promote my work? What about (and I'm really thinking very optimistically here, and long term) book signings and other publicity? Do I introduce myself using the pseudonym? Sign my name that way? How far would I have to go to convince people I'm Pseudonym and hide what my real name is? It all starts feeling very dishonest and sneaky, and I can't figure out how to get comfortable with it (though I know writers use pseudonyms all the time).
I find it all very overwhelming to think through! And I feel like I don't have anyone I can really ask, who really *knows* -- all sorts of family and friends have offered opinions, but none of them have a good sense of professional writing and publishing.
So! I'd love to hear all your thoughts! These are my two options as I see them:
(1) Best case scenario: Make my case with my husband to keep the name I've been using; if he agrees, then there's no issue (I'll be sitting down with him to talk about this soon).
(2) Middle ground: Drop my married name and go by Nickname MaidenName or FormalName MaidenName, with or without my middle initial (this is not a bad option, but my formal name just feels really formal, and I don't love my nickname with my maiden name [despite the fact that's what I went by my whole life before I was married, and still sometimes do with people who can't remember my married name]). It may be that people won't even realize I've dropped my married name, and I can continue as if nothing's happened (possible side effect: people think my marriage has broken up).
(3) Worst case scenario: Forget about trying to preserve my professional creds and start over with a totally new pseudonym. (But then -- should I figure out pseudonyms for my kids? For better and worse, mothering stuff is all I can really write right now, with my kids still little, I don't have the brainpower to think outside that!)
Thu, 10/09/2014 - 3:57pm