Author's Corner

To be or not to be: Should you write under a pen name?

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For centuries, there have been countless examples writers who have taken a pen name when publishing their work.

pen name

(Flickr: Jamie)

And there are just as many reasons for doing so.

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J.K. Rowling, wildly successful author of the Harry Potter series, rocked the literary world when she attempted to publish under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. Rowling merely wanted the opportunity see her work accepted without any of the fanfare that would have likely ensued as a result of her celebrity.

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Famed 19th century English novelist Charlotte Bronté used the pen name of Currer Bell to disguise her identity as a woman in what was considered a male-dominated forum at the time. After her book “Jane Eyre” became a success, Charlotte was free to step forward and claim ownership of the work.

Anne Rice, author of the popular Vampire chronicles, famously penned her erotic Sleeping Beauty series under the pseudonym of A. N. Roquelaure for a hint of intrigue.

And great American author Samuel Clemens explains in his memoir “Life on the Mississippi” the reason he took the name Mark Twain as his own: “I was a fresh new journalist, and needed a nom de guerre; so I confiscated the ancient mariner’s discarded one, and have done my best to make it remain what it was in his hands– a sign and symbol and warrant that whatever is found in its company may be gambled on as being the petrified truth; how I have succeeded, it would not be modest in me to say.”

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Choosing to publish under a pseudonym is a personal choice, one that writers opt for a number of reasons. Perhaps they seek a more common, easily accepted name or even a less common name to aid recognition.

Some authors seek protection by writing under an assumed identity, especially when publishing controversial content; while others feel unshackled by the opinions, expectations or sentiments of others with the use of a pseudonym.

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Would you consider or have you written under a pen name? What have been the advantages and challenges?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

Kerri S. Mabee is managing editor at EducatedWriter.com and founder of Breeze Media & Communications. Learn more about her at kerrismabee.com.

Kerri S. Mabee

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