Writers through the years have, for reasons both innocent and ignoble, employed pen names. Yes, the old nom de plume, a pseudonym, an alias. I hear it beckoning to me. Or do I see it calling me? Either way, I like the idea.
At a writers’ seminar I attended, a well-published author said that it can be wise to take a new name if you have experienced significant failure under your current name. Being well-versed in significant failure, my ears shot up immediately. She warned us to avoid the curse of “stank name,” though she phrased it more gently. Getting published is hard enough without having a name associated with high levels of toxicity. Some authors go so far as to enter the Writer Protection Program, taking a complete new identity, and moving to a new town or planet.
I thought what she said made excellent sense. It’s great advice for both writers and fugitives from justice, who, after all, have much in common. Both are known to skulk about with a furtive countenance, fretfully peering back over their shoulder. Both carry their hunted and haunted look with them like a sack of rubbish they can’t bring themselves to lay down.
So I’ve invested a large amount of time (at least 15 minutes) in search of the perfect writer’s name. The name that guarantees success. The Name Utterly Transforming – which through a fluke of acronym-ism, we seem to be forced into calling the NUT name.
And I have found that NUT name. The name that inspires confidence. The name that suggests proficiency and cleverness. The name that attracts people like a colossal electromagnet. The name that speaks of dynamic personality and strength. And that name is: Roger Ramjet.
Well, OK, so that name is already taken. And it’s taken by someone who isn’t a writer and who technically doesn’t exist. So what? I’ve been accused of both of those things. Besides, lots of people have the same name. My dad and I had the same name. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there named Stephen King. It’s not a crime. Heck, I could call myself Charles Dickens if I wanted to, or William Faulkner, or Aesop. Aesop Potts has a ring to it.
I think it would be kaboodles of fun to query top literary agents using my new name of Stephen King or James Patterson. I’d tell them I’m thinking of switching things up, and would they be interested in representing me? Oh, what jolly fun!
Research can’t be denied or contradicted, though, even if I did it in my head. I should probably stick with Roger Ramjet. Don’t you just want to buy a book by Roger Ramjet? If you were down to your last few dollars, just enough to buy food for your baby and medicine for your momma, you’d spend it on a book by Roger Ramjet, wouldn’t you? You know you would. And you’d figure you had done right by the world.
Here’s my query to a premier agent, unleashing the power of the NUT name:
Dear Top-Shelf Agent,
First, let me make it blindingly clear that I am not Joe Potts. He is not the writer you’re looking for. I am Roger Ramjet. I am the writer you’re looking for.
I look forward to hobnobbing with you. We can go over my breathtaking body of work, and make fun of the sludge that Joe Potts (who I am not) writes, if you can call his verbal swill “writing.”
Kindest regards and again, to clarify, I am not now nor have I ever been Joe Potts, in spite of what my wife might claim.
P.S. Please dispatch your private jet (hovercraft are also acceptable) to pick me up, so we can discuss my choice of mind-boggling big-dollar book deals. We can sneer at Joe Potts, who is someone else entirely, as we buzz his house.
Being a writer, though, means being afflicted with at least a healthy dose, and sometimes an unhealthy dose, of self-doubt. Therefore, in spite of my exhaustive research and ninja-like decision-making skills, I may be wrong. If you have a suggestion for a better author name, please let me know. Simply send it to my Roger Ramjet email account (RoRamster@whiz.whoosh). Suggestions from Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain will be given priority consideration.