Monday, January 24, 2011

Pen Names and Gender

First of all, I would like to draw attention to the fact that I have changed the title of my blog to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. This is because of all the characters in literature, I can relate to Stephen Dedalus of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man the most. But I'm a girl, so I had to revise it a little. I moved my former title to the subtitle area there because I liked it and wanted to keep it. In Which I Blog About Writing, Peace, and Life. Because that's what I do. I blog about writing, peace, and life. Mostly life, though mine is pretty boring. Writing and peace, however, are the two most important things in my life as of now, so yeah.

Also, in case any of you care at all, I have officially put my Patronizing Patrick story into the dump drawer along side my Untitled Literary Fiction novel that I tossed last year. At the beginning of the year, I was confident about the Patrick story, but it's really gotten no where, and I have a wonderful story called The Reason upon which I've just been typing away. I hope it sticks. My attention span seems to be shortening and shortening.

Now to the post.

I've been thinking lately of what I will do when (if) I get published, name wise. The URL for my blog is my full name, Aimée Beatrice Jodoin, which I've decided is what I would use on the cover of my books. However, there are many options that I thought of but then declined. Here, I will explain what they are and why I chose to dismiss them.

Well at first I was thinking of doing Aimée Jodoin, but I love my middle name and really want to use it. I'm named after my great-grandmother. She lived until the age of 104 in Montreal, Canada, and the only words she knew how to say in English were hello and coffee, a word which she said whilst smiling and pointing to a bottle of beer. What a sense of humor that woman had. Though I wouldn't know because I don't know very much French. Also, what's the point of having a middle name if you never use it for anything? Many people think the name Beatrice is funny or old fashioned, but I don't care; I love it.

Another option is a pen name. There are a few ways of going about that. One is to change the name altogether, and the other is to use your initials. The reason behind changing or masking your name is that you either don't want people you know to know that it's you writing this book or that you want to mask your identity gender-wise or age-wise. The most prominent examples of this I can think of are George Eliot and J.K. Rowling. Both females, they altered their identity, believing that males would not want to read their work if it was written by a female. This is something I'm am slightly worried about. When you think of a female writer, you usually think of romance, or at least I do. I however, do not write romance. In fact, I can hardly stand it. There are obviously romantic subplots in my stories because love is a very important part of life, and my stories would be rather boring if everyone was single or sociopathic. So that's my main worry, that males would not want to read my writing. There is one name that I will not reveal that I have been thinking about using as a pen name in the future. It is a male's name. Maybe I'll use it one day, which is why I won't tell you guys now. However, I think I probably won't end up using it. I think I'd have to go by the name Aimée Beatrice Jodoin. Even though many, if not most of my stories have male protagonists, I would still use my own name, not a male pen name, and not my initials, A.B. Jodoin.

I will not alter my identity to make people like me.

Isn't this something that middle schoolers deal with? I will not act like a child, changing my name or my identity to make people want to read my work. It's as simple as that. I AM Aimée Beatrice Jodoin, and I will never be anyone else, so why should I let other people believe that I am not this person that I am. If the name Aimée Beatrice makes people discard my work, then there is something the matter with them, not me. What's wrong with a female writing about sex, drugs, and rock and roll? What's wrong with a female writing from a male perspective? And even vice versa! What's wrong with a male writing from a female point of view?

Why can't we all just get along? :)

Peace, Aimee

10 comments:

  1. I knew right from the beginning that I had to change my last name at least if I was going to ever publish. My married last name is kind of ugly, hard to pronounce, and hard to spell. My maiden name is similar in its spelling difficulty. They are both heavy, weird German names.

    Also, while this is not very romantic, I'm aware of the divorce statistics enough to know that I really don't want ten years to pass and my husband and I no longer feel that being married is the right thing for us and me being stuck with all these books with his last name on them.

    So when I started hunting for a pen name I was excited, but the more I tried the names on the less they felt like me. I was uncomfortable with the idea of people calling me by other names. In the end I couldn't do it, at least, not entirely. I kept my first name Sommer and took my middle name as my last name. I decided pretty early on that if I finally get published I would seriously look into changing my name legally to Sommer Ellen Leigh (Ellen is my grandmother's first name) so that I always feel like me in my name.

    I have the added benefit that whenever I did something wrong growing up everyone always yelled, "Sommer Leigh get back here RIGHT NOW" so it never feels like someone elses name :-) That's me alright.

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  2. I worried a little over the 'men don't read female writers' issue, even though the core target audience is undoubtedly female for the subgenre I'm using (urban fantasy - sort of an Angry Chicks in Leather flavor). That was a little disappointing to me, because I want men to enjoy my writing as well. Then I noticed, in a discussion on a writer blog, a librarian who mentioned books in the subgenre were just as popular with young men as with women, even though all the subgenre writers are female, all the protagonists are female, and the books run heavy with sex and romantic angst. Go figure.

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  3. Thanks for the comments, Sommer and Margo! See, my last name is fairly difficult to pronounce. It is 100% French, so I'm sure those who speak French or live in France would be the only people who pronounce it correctly. But that's okay. It never bothers me much when people mispronounce my name.

    I feel as though most of my writing is equally appealing to both males and females, and I hope that both genders enjoy it. :) As well as people of all ages, though probably not children; some of my subject matter is a bit iffy.

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  4. I'm a guy and I read a lot of women writers. I'm not sure if the "men not wanting to read women writer" is still valid. It sounds like something that maybe was true at one time but not now....I don't know.
    I look for well written stories.
    I think I'd focus more on my words and let the professionals help you with using the right name once your published....notice I said "once" you're published, not "if" you get published.
    Now, get back to work!!! :)

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  5. I wish you didn't say "in case any of you care at all". I cared and very much enjoy your blog. I just have not been able to comment until now due to getting most of my senior stuff done. Sometimes it takes a while for things to work out, be encourage. Sometimes I feel the same way, but I don't let it get me down. When one door closes, another one opens. You're excellent blog writer and I really do enjoy your blog very much.

    As for the post, I say amen to it. I'm not going to write under a pen name. People will not like/dislike my work on my name, they wil like/dislike it on how it is written.

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  6. Thanks Melody! I'm so glad you enjoy my blog! Blogging is very difficult! And if I sounded sad or discouraged, don't worry; I'm not. I'm a very optimistic person. You and Life101 are right that readers should like writing based on the writing, not by the author. Thank you so much again. :)

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  7. First, thanks for the Joyce reference. I really, really, really need to read Portrait of an Artist. I've read excerpts but haven't ever read the whole thing. Maybe this year.

    As to the Name thing, I think you bring up good points. My first reaction was to wonder how much thought needs to be given to a Name (or pen name) in the 21st century but then I decided it's just as relevant today as it was hundreds of years ago...maybe more so since the world is so much "smaller" than before.

    My personal thinking is that unless your name is "problematic" or such that you need to distinguish your writing from other aspects of your personal/professional life...you should use your given name. There are arguments/worries about whether to go with full name, or initials or whatever and I'm not sure of the answers on those.

    The "problematic" aspect shouldn't be a big deal for most people. There are some very cruel parents who give their kids names that just won't fly in the "public sector" (a la Bart Simpson prank phone call names) and there are sometimes unfortunate connections (such as if some famous celebrity shares your name and you need to avoid the connection).

    The harder things to deal with I think are the times when you may want or need to separate your writing life from your "other" life. Or perhaps you have multiple writing lives (I know of a couple of authors who write in multiple genres and use a different name for each).

    In the end, it comes down to the multi-layered question posed by the Bard ages ago "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." While it's true that the name doesn't technically matter...it is still the opening identity to the public and you need to be sure that whatever you choose is something that will work for you for the long haul. Or else you'll become 'the artist formally known as Prince' :)

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  8. Wow, thanks Okie. I didn't even think of that: a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. That totally makes sense and I agree with that!

    But I still believe that I will stick with Aimée Beatrice Jodoin, my real name. I mean, there is more to life than selling a ton of copies of my book, though publishers may think otherwise, and being myself is a big part of my life, so, you know, yeah.

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