Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why I Used a Pen Name Today

I submitted a short story under a different name today. By different I mean not Sarah Sarai. I used a last name that has meaning to me and instead of a first name, cleverly (hah) used an initial.

The email I submitted through is my back-up email.  My name isn't visible though since it has embedded therein a quotation from Emily Dickinson--something that didn't occur to me until I hit "send"--it's not the great ruse to beat all ruses. 

I made the choice of using a pen name because this story was just rejected with the comment that although well-written it seemed a bit young adult.

That wasn't intended as an insult or taken as such. I did wonder, however, if the reaction might not have factored in my being a woman.  Catcher in the Rye is a bit young adult, but no one (except the fool right-wingers who like to burn books) would reject Catcher.

Brainstorming ways to fool with a false scent, I also changed the protagonist's name from Jennie, which is super girlie, to C.G., which evokes neither Barbies nor high school.  (And not in the least bit coincidentally, use C.G. as a prefix to Jung and you have C.G. Jung, who collected the unconscious and then regifted it to all of us.)

The protagonist name change is a good idea in general.  It improves the story. Whether or not changing my name to a more gender ambiguous initial plus a last name will have an effect on getting published, I can't be sure.  My poetry gets accepted enough I don't let my mind wander to the number of rejections I might get because I am a woman.

My fiction, however, has such a distinctly and surprisingly, to me, female voice, it is at risk of dying of neglect.  With Vida publicizing the discrepancies in number of women versus men who get published, I can feel at least a little assured this feeling of annoyance is not sour grapes on my part. 

We'll see.

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