Authors write under pseudonyms for different reasons. During the 19th century, it was common for women writers to use masculine pen names for fear the public would not take them seriously otherwise. Chopin’s live-in girlfriend, Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin, for example, wrote under the name George Sands.
Following that rationale was Joanne Rowling’s decision a couple of centuries later to publish her Harry Potter series under the name, J. K. Rowling. She hoped that a gender-neutral name would appeal to teen boys, an important segment of her target audience. Perhaps her action paid off. Perhaps, Harry Potter would have been a runaway success with those teen boys no matter what.
Some of the writers who publish under a pseudonym may surprise us. Stephen King, author of 50 novels, has published 7 under the name Richard Bachman. Nora Roberts, author of 209 romance novels, has used the pseudonyms J.D. Robb, Jill March and Sarah Hardest for some of her works. Often they use pseudonyms when they stray from genres in which they are known.
In 1973, Ballantine Books published a memoir by Andrew Tobias, written under the name John Reid, The Best Little Boy in the World. The New York Times hailed it as “a story told well…uniquely frank…splendid.” Echoing the critics, the public showered the book with praises of their own. However there was a sense of disappointment among readers that such a relevant book was written under a pseudonym. The author confessed to this sin in a note at the beginning of the book, which reads in part, “This is a book about owning up to one’ s true identity, yet I have disguised the characters and signed it with a pen name..”
Mr. Tobias felt compelled to write under an assumed name. The reason was simple. In this memoir he revealed his true sexual identity at a time when coming out as gay was unpopular. On the twenty fifth anniversary of its publication, however, Andrew Tobias published under his own name the sequel, The Best Little Boy in the World Grows Up. In an era of Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper, Rosie O’Donnell, celebrities who have openly celebrated their sexuality, there was no need for Mr. Tobias to hide his identity.
Now, back to you. Do you have a secret you’ve never told anyone? We’re you the one who smashed the family car’s front fender, the one who broke one of your sibling’s toys, ate the last of the ice cream, took a cookie at a friend’s house without permission, broke the gate to the back yard or patio, broke your neighbor’s window? And kept those mischiefs to yourself? Here’s a call to action. I want you to write those stories down. They can be short, between 250 to 500 hundred words max. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Under the subject matter write “story.” I will read them all and publish the best three under your name or a pseudonym of your choice. Tell me which you prefer. By writing down these anecdotes, which can be later linked to others to create a narrative of your life, you’re taking the first steps toward writing your own memoir.
Happy writing. The deadline for your submissions is October 8, 2012. The language can be English or Spanish.