Pen Name PSA

6 Apr

I’ve been to 7 writerly things in the last 1.5 months. At every event I’ve seen the same thing happen — and it shocked me every single time.

Sometimes it came from readers or bloggers, but sometimes it came from other writers *who should know better.* It’s a question that is not only rude but can put an author’s livelihood at jeopardy:

Is that a pen name?

First off, if I had a pen name, I’d have a REALLY good reason for it. Life is too complicated to balance multiple personalities. I never know how to introduce one of my friends. After those awkward, I’ll just let her introduce herself moments got out of hand, she finally said, “If the person is a friend, feel free to give them my real name.”

I hate having to make that call for something she feels strongly about. I finally just decided to introduce her to everyone as her pen name.

Beyond that, people have pen names for very real reasons. We’ve all seen it in the writing community and in the news: Writer’s who have lost jobs, their standing in their community, their place in their church, the respect of the peers because they write (typically Romance, Erotica or Fantasy)… all because people are nosy.

So it comes down to this: Everyone at these events claims to love books and writers. If you do, you won’t put them on the spot. You’ll respect them and their privacy. You won’t share if you overhear a name slip. You will be in on the secret and respectful of it.

Please, don’t make me stand next to a friend who is trying to keep her real life separate (typically for important reasons) and by utilizing a pen name and make her squirm. It’s uncomfortable, embarrassing and unfair.

If you love writers, protect them.

For the first time ever on the blog I’m going to ask you this: TELL OTHERS! Tell others how awkward, embarrassing and unfair that question is.


4 Responses to “Pen Name PSA”

  1. Gwen Hernandez April 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Great point, Bria. I always figure if someone has a pen name it’s for a reason. If you introduce your friend by her pen name and she wants to reveal her actual name, then it’s her choice.

  2. briaq April 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Right. The safe route for me.

    It’s the asking that shocks me… I wish everyone knew, but I had *expected* writers to understand.

  3. abby mumford April 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    i have to admit, pen names were a new phenomen for me. i never personally knew anyone who used one so i never stopped to think about the reasons why someone would. now that i’m more immersed in the writerly world, i do know people with pen names and i know that there are a variety of reasons to use one, and just like asking someone “so when are you getting married?” “when are you having a baby?” it’s inappropriate to ask “so is that your real name?”

    i’m glad i learned this leasson not the hard way. (at least, i don’t think i did. oh crud, i hope i didn’t make anyone mad!)

  4. briaq April 10, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    LOL Well, no one reported you on twitter!

    The difference between “When are you going to get married” and “Do you have a pen name” is only one can get you fired. We had at least 3 firings that made the national news in the last three months when someone’s writerly moonlighting came to light.

    FWIW I’ve never heard you ask anyone that LOL

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