nom de Plume

I’ve been thinking about my “name issue” for a few months,wondering how to deal with it, and if I should write a post about it. I’m home from work today, sick, and feeling terrible. So, of course, it seems like the perfect time to address the issue. Who am I – why do I have so many names – and which name should be on my Facebook Profile?

I’ve been a published writer in some form or fashion for the past 18 years. I started writing during my young “hate the world and everyone in it” period that I think most writer’s go through. My writing was good, but often filled with a violent aspect or harsh edge that sometimes involved living family members (the dead ones didn’t worry me so much). I decided to write under a nom de Plume (pseudonym, or Pen Name) during this time to avoid accidentally hurting or embarrassing family, friends, etc. that might read the work and recognize it’s source.

I wrote under the pseudonym, Orianna Tierney, for the first year or two. It was a good experience that allowed me to write in a free, unrestricted manner without self-censorship. I believe a pseudonym was necessary for me to actually step outside self-censorship and write honestly during this time. And, I remain an advocate of using a pseudonym as a means of reaching into your deepest, darkest self to find the honesty for the page. I still believe my writing and growth as a writer are better because I initially chose to write under an un-recognizable name.  My first intense, multilayered works were written and published during my “Orianna” period.

I was writing daily after the Orianna years and my writing quickly grew along with me as a person. The works, primarily poetry and essays at this time, started to grow and change. I understood the development of technique and the expanding substance of my work. The work became more serious and important to me as did the name under which I wrote. I adopted Marissa as my pseudonym in 1995. It was a creative re-visioning of my true first name, Margaret, and my true last name of Owen. So, Marissa Owen evolved as a nom de Plume that felt more real than my real name sometimes. (As an aside, I often contemplated legally changing my first name to Marissa, as I much prefer it, but decided to keep it due to family connections and memories.)

Writing as Marissa felt totally natural, and I came to see the writer side of me as Marissa. Most of my first, truly important publications were under this name. It was the name my writer and poet friends knew, and the one I went by with my editors. And, it was the name used for all my literary efforts. So, in an age before technology, living as a divorced mother and a writer, life was going pretty good and I was content as Marissa.

Then, three years later, in 1998, I met and decided to marry my current husband. It was my first real  “problem” with the name, but this time is was about my last name rather than my first. It took a lot of soul-searching to take my new husbands last name. I went through several months of arguing with myself on whether, and if so, how, to integrate last names. I debated on the, then popular, dash-hyphenating the two last names. After all, my children both had the last name Owen, and all my writing was published under the name Owen. In short, it was a pain-in-the-ass decision.

Eventually I made the decision -love and my desire to always be moving forward won the day. I became Colleen Mullins in real life and Marissa Mullins in my writing circles and and on paper. I had reached the place of perfection, no need to change pseudonyms ever again … and then, ten years later, along came Facebook.

I was introduced to Facebook in 2008. Suddenly, I was pulling my maiden name of Steadman out of the closet and dusting it off. How else would childhood schoolmates be able to find me? It was amazingly strange when I set up an account with my maiden name in the middle – I gave that name up at the age of 14 and never expected to use it again. Again, a very surreal experience.

Many people from school, family members, and old friends have found me on Facebook. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m very happy to be “reunited” with so many people. BUT, in the last 4 years there have been some changes that lead me to question my use of Name on Facebook. My writings (those submitted for publication in hard-copy and those on the web) are under Marissa. I’ve become addicted to Twitter and am part of a large literary group there under the name Marissa. So, what name is it to be?

Since I would answer to the call of Marissa as quickly as I would answer to the call of Colleen, and since the greater part of me at present identifies with Marissa over Margaret and would never use my maiden name anywhere other than Facebook…

I’ve decided to combine the two, while combining my world of old friends and my current world of writing and life in the automotive realm, it just seems logical for me to go by Marissa Colleen Mullins on Facebook and link all my accounts! There, it’s done! My Facebook is name updated and now you know why! Blessings to everyone – regardless of by which name you know me!~


~What about you? Do you write under a pseudonym? Have you ever thought about it?

~Are your Facebook and Twitter linked? What do you think of Social Media?

~Any amazing stories of Facebook or Twitter out there? Something amazing or uncommon?

~Keep Writing! 

 

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Writing an Author Bio: How to Win the Race! Part 1

“All runners (writers) in place!”

“Ready! Set! Go!”

The starting gun fires and the race begins!

Half the contestants stumble and turn, blindly running in the wrong direction. The other half run toward an imaginary finish line in the distance . . . somewhere?

Welcome to the world-cup championship race for the best Author Bio!* You, the writer (or hope-to-be writer), must tell the world who you are, and why they should listen to you, in a succinct 25 to 150 words. No solid guidelines exist to help you and there is no definitive formula for winning. Ready! Set! Go!

Does this scene sound familiar to you? Do you sit at the keyboard, palms sweating – trying to figure out who you are, what you have to say, why your work matters – trying to create the perfect Author Bio? If so, this article will help you understand and formulate a great Author Bio that works for you!

Warming Up: Defining Yourself as an Author!

I’ve been thinking about Author Bio’s for several weeks due to my blog getting more clicks on that page. It’s time to revise and update, and that decision, to re-work my own personal Bio, led to this article. Honestly, I never enjoy writing my Author Bio. It always seems a bit egotistical and pretentious – listing all my previous publication credits,talking about myself formally, introducing myself with all that pomp and grandeur – it’s not really a comfortable process even if you’re an old hand at it.

It’s even worse if you’re new to the writing profession. How do unpublished writers create credibility for their work and a professional sense of who they are in the Bio? After all, it’s not like you can say, “I’ve never written anything before, but I know my work is worth publishing. Trust me.” Right? Well, you can do that, but it never works out to your benefit!

The Author Bio is the starting point for any serious writer.**  Most editors read your Author Bio and your cover letter before even glancing at your submission. (I’ll talk about cover letters in another post.) The effort to write a good Author Bio is both necessary and worthwhile. A “good Author Bio” will help to define who you are as a writer and what your work says to the world. It is a source of clarity and purpose if done correctly. It is also, based on my years of experience as an editor, one of the most neglected parts of a submission package.

Starting Line: Understanding the Three Types of Author Bio’s

The Author Bio is the first impression an editor will have of you. It should contain the same level of writing expertise as your work. It should provide a glimpse into your philosophy on writing and the motivation behind your work. The first key to writing a good Author Bio is to understand that it is intricately linked to your work as a writer.

There are three main types of Author Bio’s:

1. Author Bio A: Educational credentials and previous publications in the small-press arena and/or winning or high placement in literary contests;

2. Author Bio B: Non-educational credentials, but combinations of publications in local or online arenas, mixed with small-press and literary publication credits;

3. Author Bio C: Non-educational and Non-published credentials, may have a blog or informal online publications or no publication history of any type.

These Bio Types are intentionally broad to allow for varying degrees of writing expertise and publication history.*** The Type label is an organized way for us to discuss “writers” as professionals, using their background, particular focus and interests, and their degree of publication experience in order to write an effective Author Bio.

It is important to remember that your Author Bio is actually your writer biography – not your mom biography, your I keep a perfectly clean house biography, or I love ice skating biography – your Bio should represent you as writer and your specific area of interest regarding a piece of work and it’s inclusion in a specific magazine or market. (The exception to this rule: Stephen King can say anything he wants in his bio!)

The Type A Bio will typically be a more experienced professional writer or an academic with numerous publication credits in their field of study. They often have a PhD or an MFA,  attend well-known workshops, are involved with writer colonies, and may be a full-time writer, professor, or editor. They often blog professionally for various media,win numerous prizes and grants via writing competitions, and may have published books one or more books.

The Type B Bio often holds a college degree and is a writer for local publications or literary magazines. They may own or edit a small-press magazine, have numerous literary publications, have won or placed in literary competitions, and may be a professional blogger with a medium to large following. They are usually less involved with national events/publications and more involved in local arts programs and cultural events or organizations in their area.

The Type C Bio is typically the beginning writer or a more mature person who has retired and is now pursuing a life-long dream. They may or may not have a college degree, may have written for local regional publications, may have some published credits or none at all. They often start writing as an emotional release, an escape from troubled lives, or because they are an avid reader and have always wanted to be a writer. They often have a blog with a small following and may or may not participate in community writing activities or reading groups.

The first step in writing a great Author Bio is to decide your Bio Type and then make an  honest assessment of self.  Nathaniel Hawthorne was right when he said:

“No man, for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one is true.”

Many people in the world wear masks on a daily basis, but the writer must to step from behind his mask and view himself with distance and perspective.

It is the element of distance that allows the writer to find truth in himself and the piece of work he’s creating. Again, Hawthorne makes a succinct point when he says, “Accuracy is the twin brother of honesty; inaccuracy, of dishonesty.” Good writing always flows from a place of emotional honesty and perspective cultivated and polished by the writer. instinctively, the reader understands this and backs away from the work of an overwrought, dishonest writer.

(E.g. Writing a story of Aunt Martha being fat because you hate her guts, and with no other intention or depth, will seem hostile, petty, and pointless to the reader. You’ll lose them before the end of the first paragraph. On the other hand, writing a story about Aunt Martha, from a place of honesty and compassion, detailing your journey to forgive her and move away from hatred, will gain a reader’s interest and involvement. They’ll want to know how the story – your journey – works out and will likely continue reading.)

Take a long, serious look in the mirror and then take a long, serious look at your writing from the position of observer. It’s time to start writing.

(Read Part 2 Here)

Photo courtesy of:training racing pigeonswebsite.

*The term Author Bio is used in its general, wider meaning throughout this article to include any writer, poet, author, etc. that would be formally submitting work for acceptance and publication.

**I realize that writing and publication has changed a great deal these past years. However, whether submitting work in a traditional snail-mail manner or via online submission tools or emails, I still believe a certain level of professionalism is required. Thus, the Author Bio and cover letters are treated as necessary to any submission process regardless of the format.

***I firmly believe that you can be a successful writer regardless of your particular Bio Type or level of experience. I also believe that no one type is better or worse than the other. These Types are used as a simple guideline to understanding the various levels of professional achievement, along with the slant or focus of particular writers. It is not intended to be in any way discriminatory, argumentative, or seen as support or rejection of any particular group or individual writer.

Silence Screams 1

True silence is the rest of the mind. -William Penn
Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence.  – Pythagoras

 

The silence is much louder than I remember.

Words are a shrill hawker of the street promoting unwanted wares and thoughts roll in thundering reverberation across a mental landscape of water, air and mist. Time has an ebb and flow about it. The concrete solid state of things wavers – there is a stillness beyond that beckons, calls, whispers, pleads…soaks into tired bones and weary mucles, flows across the brokenness of heart, the tattered rags of ego. I have lived almost a year in this place where silence screams.

It started in a hotel room in Pryor, Oklahoma. A long day moving metal – selling cars – at another store, in another town. The idea hit me when I sat down on the bed – “I will not write again.” It was a simple, resigned understanding that washed through my mind and into my soul. Sadness followed the thought, a requiem to what writing had once been to me. And then, just a dull sense of loss and the knowledge that part of me would die with all the unspoken words. A better part of me somehow, in my estimate, a part that had believed in love, justice, and mercy. The niave world of letters and words and stories was something of my past, but I couldn’t see it as a realistic part of my future. The storyteller was saying goodbye.

The thought of never writing again was a foreign concept to me. I had been writing since I could write – my first poems where published when I was nine years old. I had spent years freelancing, achieving consistent yearly publication for 13 years. I had created and published two small-press magazines and edited writers working for me from all across the country. My most treasured possessions in life were pens, papers, and books.  And I had been an avid journal keeper and letter writer all of my life. “Never writing again” would have been a funny, ridiculous concept to me prior to September 2008. 

But, that night, sitting on the bed in a run-down motel, it was a concept that suddenly seemed real and logical. After all, people grow up and they change. I was about to turn 41 the next month, and I had been working 65-70 hours a week in an insane job for over four years. There wasn’t time to write anymore, and honestly, I couldn’t imagine having anything else to say. I prayed about the realization – it seemed more like that than an actual decision, and then I started thinking about all the projects I would never complete and the books that would remain unwritten. I said goodbye to the words and the person I had been when I cared so much about them.

I kissed the stories goodbye.