Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pen Name = Presumptuous Fraud?

I have a picture of Albert Einstein in my bathroom with his "Imagination is more important than knowledge" quote. Sometimes, we talk. Occasionally, he brings a friend.

A month ago, I was considering my hair in the mirror, thinking of dying it blond, so I could paint it a different color every week: pink, chartreuse, purple, depending on my mood. I flashed to one of my favorite characters, Mavis, from J.D. Robb's "Death" series, who does just this very thing, and it's a trait I find endearing.

Suddenly, from nowhere leapt Ernest Hemingway shouting, "THAT'S IT! THAT'S YOUR PEN NAME: MAVIS HEMINGWAY HERRELL!"

He grabbed my hand and waltzed me around the room, then deposited me, breathless, back in front of the mirror. Standing before me was Mavis Hemingway Herrell, grinning her shit-eating grin. "Hell-o," she drawled, then we giggled as we danced our own happy jig.

When I turned back to Ernest, he was gone. This didn't preclude us from having a conversation in which I told him how presumptious people would think me for daring to take his name. His head appeared from the ceiling, upside down to his full white beard. He looked quite insulted.

"It's mine to give and I'm giving it to You. Where is the presumption in that?" With a cheeky grin and a twinkling eye he disappeared in to the ceiling.

For days I contemplated that pen name. I liked it. But using it seemed tantamount to blasphemy.

I googled it. You know I had to. And found several Mavis Hemingways in Europe. I doubt anyone ever thought badly of those ladies for sporting the Hemingway moniker. But then they're probably not climbing the slippery slopes of authordom, either.

Stale mate.

So I'm asking you guys. What do you think? Do you like the ring of 'Mavis Hemingway Herrell'? Or does it make me sound like a presumptuous fraud?

Why is finding a pen name such an elusive feat, anyway? *sigh*

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Click to read the speech in which Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. It's a great read if you're curious. Even better is the two minute recorded excerpt from Hemingway's acceptance speech.


Roland D. Yeomans said...

Ernest is a scoundrel. You will notice that he went by his own name.

Pen names are good when you want to write in many genres and you are known famously for just one.

My advice is to just use your own name unless there is some solid reason not to. That's just me.

Imagine the thrill of seeing your own name on the cover of your first book! Roland


If you need to use a pen name that name sounds fine, but personally I rather like my name so any future poetry books will bear that.

Have a good day.

Ivy Bliss said...

Mavis Hemmingway Herrell sounds so, I don't know, Virginia Woolf...and that, my friend, is a compliment (coming from me, anyway)

I have contemplated pen names several times. I wanted something British. Something orginial. Something...Virginia Woolf.

But then, I just dropped my last name and felt like that was good. (And easy.)

A.T. Post said...

Mavis Hemingway Herrell.

I like it.

a girl questioning the world said...

Nice blog!!! I'm following!! Come chcek out my blog!! :)

Shannon Lawrence said...

First, I love Mavis! And the Robb series.

As far as pen names, I've heard so many differing opinions that I can't really offer you mine. It has been brought to my attention, though, that authors are increasingly expected to interact with their readers, at least online, and that pulling off a persona/ pen name could be tricky.

While I like the sound of the name, mightn't it be too long?

You know what, though? As a writer, you have the right to use your creativity and do whatever you see fit!

Tina @ Life is Good
and I are joining forces in a followup A to Z challenge. We're going to visit and comment at each of the original A to Z participants, and we hope you'll join us!

Shannon @ The Warrior Muse

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