Need a Pen Name

I'm working on a piece of child-oriented non-fiction that is designed to help children and their families confidently move through a potentially tricky life stage. Because it's an uncomfortable topic, I'm looking for a pseudonym to make sure that my personal and professional lives are as separate as possible. 

I think I'm looking for a female version of Fred Rogers. Like Mr. Rogers, I want the name to feel trustworthy, honest and safe. I also want to be like a fun aunt who has lots of style and is very approachable. Finally, I want a name that sounds smart and accomplished. 

I'd like something without a date stamp, and that is easy for little kids to say and remember. Both First and Last names would be greatly appreciated (middle too, if you'd like.) Thanks!


October 4, 2015 4:06 AM

I think you're onto something with Fred Rogers. I think you want to go for another nicknamey sort of name, on the same ground that politicians and sales reps tend to use nicknames. I'd also suggest that it should be a bit out of step with your actual age perhaps because the name of the prototype stereotypical family (children named Little Susie and Timmy) hasn't evolved much, and maybe you'd want to harken to that to avoid the datestamp. Incidentally, this is also a genre of name that my 6-year-old finds innately appealing, so it might be time for those mid-century revivals ere long!

Susie is an idea; my kids seem to agree it is the best name ever (I am preparing myself for a future grandchild named Susie). Nell or Janie are more obviously nicknamey, and don't strike me as too datestamped. Nell is nicely accomplished-sounding, too, and a little more serious than the others. Betty or Bess might be good choices, too, though more date-stamped.  Polly is less overt as a nickname to the general public, but I think it still has that open, friendly feel. Holly and Heidi, similarly would work. Della is a more unusual choice that has the same kind of casual, maybe-a-nickname, maybe-not sort of feel.

Della might be my favorite choice for you. I'd pick the first name and then choose a surname to match it afterwards. You might want to consider some alliteration, to make it easier to say and remember. Della Dawson or Della MacDonald? Or you could pick a surname that's also a word, which I think makes memory easier: Heidi Hill. Polly Brown. Janie Peacock. Susie Rice. Nell Turner. Hattie Baker. Holly Price. Other surname ideas: Fox, Young, Cook, Bell.

You should know about as you look for a surname.

Oooh, Foster might be a good choice since it's an encouraging word. Knight would be particularly memorable to particular ages of children. Della Foster? Della Knight?

October 4, 2015 10:35 AM

I like the idea of Knight for a last name.  Perhaps Mimi would make you sound sweet, old, and accomplished, as that is what some kids call their grandmother.  Any other names that sound like Mom?  And it is nicknamy as lucubratrix suggests.  I would go with Sue over Susie, because Tim sounds more friendly than Timmy, as Timmy just sounds like a little kid. 

October 4, 2015 10:40 AM

Yeah,  well, this Mimi is old anyway.  Nan? Molly?

October 5, 2015 2:10 AM

Nan is an excellent idea - nice and short, and because of the similarity to Nana, has a comfortable grandmotherly vibe, but in a no-nonsense, straight talking sort of way (I think because it's a pared-down verison of the more familiar Nancy). I think it has some of the perenial youth of Susie while being a little more accomplished-sounding.

October 4, 2015 10:51 AM

I actually find Susie and Timmy much friendlier than Sue and Tim, precisely because they've managed to stay young sounding while Sue and Tim have grown up with their bearers. Sue Knight sounds to me like a somewhat stern 60 year old, while Susie Knight could be anywhere from Sue's age to a preschooler, but if she is older, I'd expect her to show up with a plate full of cookies. 

October 5, 2015 2:08 AM

I agree with this! I only add that "Sue" itseif might seem particularly stern (versus other truncated nicknames) because it's a word with not-so-positive litigation meaning. I'm not sure at what age kids become aware of that, though, versus the age your book is marketed towards, Caren.

October 6, 2015 12:55 AM

The book is geared toward 5-7 year olds. They probably wouldn't know anything about lawsuits at that point. :) 

October 4, 2015 7:22 PM

Wow, those are AMAZING ideas, thank you!

I absolutely love the name Foster. I love that to foster means "to encourage or promote development", which is EXACTLY what I want to do. (Thanks also for the website. I looked it up, and one of the entries says that it's an occupational name for a woodworker, which is what my grandfather and brother both do for a living. It's a round about way to connect the real me to the pen name.) 

Della intrigues me. I love that it fits in with the Bellas, Ellas and Stellas that will (hopefully!) be my readers, but it's vintage too. I like it, but I'm not sold. 

Holly is fantastic. I like that Holly Foster has the repeated short O sound, and couldn't be friendlier! Also, the book is Chirstmas related, which I think is fun. 

I had originally been playing with Lindy Rose or Lena Rose (homages to my two grandmothers), but wondered if the last name Rose sounded too Jewish to be attached to a Christmas-related book. Thoughts?

I think Holly Foster might be the winner. I'd love brutally honest replies.

Thanks again!


October 4, 2015 8:11 PM

I don't know any Jewish Roses (last name, that is). I know several non-Jewish.

ETA: There is the association with the Christmas rose.

Sorry, between my tablet and the hotel wifi, something isn't working right, hence the double post.

October 5, 2015 1:44 PM

My next-door neighbor is in his 70s and has the surname Rose. He's not Jewish.

I really like Foster or Day. If you're looking for a timeless name, I'd suggest something like Mary or Elizabeth.

October 4, 2015 8:32 PM

I like Holly Foster for you in abstract (it has that friendly vibe like Fred Rogers), but it's a bit much for a Christmas-related book IMO. Do you plan on writing more child-oriented non-fiction? Would you consider using the pseudonym again? 

If you like Della Foster, maybe Emma Foster might appeal? Or Rose Foster?

I do like the sound of Holly Foster, FWIW. Friendly and easy to pronounce.

October 4, 2015 9:15 PM

This would definitely be the pseudonym for all child-oriented non-fiction (I have a several ideas for additional projects, none of which have anything to do with Christmas). I would definitely want my pseudonyn to create a "brand".  

October 4, 2015 11:49 PM

Perhaps Molly Foster? Molly was actually the first name that sprang to mind when I read your initial post. Another name that I think fits that timeless, child-friendly vibe is Annie. Annie has the additional benefit of sounding a lot like Auntie, and I could totally see "Auntie ___" as a pen name for a children's author.

One thing I remember hearing about pen names is that publishers like short last names, so they can print them big on the cover when you get famous ;-). Foster's only six letters, but if you want to go a little shorter something like Boon, Day, or Goode might work (they also put you closer to the front of the alphabet, which I believe also has advantages).

October 5, 2015 12:24 AM

I used to like the name Molly, but then I had a terror of a student with that name. (Occupational hazard for teachers, I think! Annie is so happy, though. Annie Day has a nice ring to it. (Is it too close to "A New Day"?)

Thanks for the thoughts on the short last names toward the beginning of the alphabet! Like Lucubratrix suggested, Bell might do the trick (with the right first name). Otherwise Albright brings us to the beginning, but lengthens the name. 

October 5, 2015 2:16 AM

Albright is nice and friendly, even if a bit longer, and it subtly conjures up images of "All right", which I think is a nice one! Perhaps with a shorter first name: Nan Albright?

Annie Day is a combo I would encourage avoiding for a child because of the "A new day" overtones, but I think that might actually be exactly what you want, right?

October 5, 2015 2:17 AM

Oh, and nedibes nails it with Boon as a surname suggestion. Positive, short, beginning of alphabet, a recognizable word. Bam!

October 5, 2015 2:14 AM

Lindy seems very young-adult to me, so I wouldn't use it for this context. Lena is I think a super idea, though - it's nicknamey/friendly and pretty timeless, but also complete as a name.

Rose is one I've never really encountered as a surname before, so given its ubiquity as a middle name it leaves me waiting for the surname a bit.

October 4, 2015 9:41 PM

Could you use Carrie Foster? 

October 5, 2015 6:39 PM

Carrie F__ automatically fills in as Fisher for me, and then I have to circle back that no, it's not Princess Leia. :-) Probably not an issue for the target audience, though.

October 6, 2015 12:59 AM

Thank you all for your help! I have a good short list to work with. I think I'm going to test out the names with friends (and their kindergarten age kids) and see the winner.

I was really loving the name Holly Day, and then I said it aloud and realized that it wouldn't work. 

If you think of anything else, I'm open! Thanks again!

November 9, 2015 3:31 AM

Haha yes when I say it aloud with my New Zealand accent it sounds like holiday

November 9, 2015 3:30 AM

Last name ideas:





Foster (someone above mentioned)






First and Middle name combos:

Annie Jane

Lily May

Lily Jane

Meggy Jane

Meggy May

Milly Jane

Milly May

Kelly Jane

Kelly May

Sally May/Sally Jane/

Sara May/Sara Jane

Sarah May  or Maisie/ Sarah Jane

Maisie May/Maisie Jane


Good luck with your story :)