Years ago my parents made a pivotal decision affecting my entire life. They chose my name. Michelle Pressma (I’ll skip the middle for sake of brevity – ha!). At times I wondered whether they had chosen correctly. Did I feel like a Michelle Pressma? I asked myself this question mainly in adolescence. Since then I’ve had no time for that level of foolish self-indulgence and preferred to get on with the business of living Michelle Pressma’s life than angsting over the appropriate moniker for the “true me.”
Except, recently this issue has reared its ugly head again. I became a writer and started realizing that many of the most beloved author names painting the books I’ve adored are pseudonyms and not actual birth or legal names. I began to consider this issue. If the wonderful day came when I was offered a book contract, would I choose a pen name or keep the name I’ve used my entire life? I began to feel indignant I would be forced to change my real name. Heck, even when I married I stubbornly insisted on keeping my name. Just because I’d chosen a husband didn’t mean that I’d given up my identity. Why was his name better than mine? Sure, I caved to popular tradition by giving my children his last name, but to this day I keep my own.
I asked myself if I was I ashamed of what I had written? I wasn't. I am a deep believer that to feel shame about an important part of your identity (and what is more self-defining than that which we create?) eats away at self-esteem. We need to be accepting of who we are even at the same time we acknowledge our weaknesses. (Okay, getting off the soapbox now.)
No, I decided. I would not choose a pen name.
Life continued. I met many new writing friends who considered this same question. Often they chose a pen name to protect their privacy, their non-writing career paths, the lives of their children. There are professional reasons to choose a pseudonym, as well. Reasons having to do with sell through numbers, attaining and keeping readership base while genre hopping, keeping first option rights if you create something significantly different than what you produce for a current publisher, etc…
I started to feel the pressure. Then I made a decision to start a project I’d feel uncomfortable publishing under my own name. Fine, I said. I’d choose a pen name for this and similar projects, but still publish other material under my own name.
More friends were offered first contracts. They chose pen names. As it became apparent there was some hope for publishing the material I’d decided would go under my true name, I revisited the question. Yes, there was an argument that my outside career might be affected by my publishing history. Not that my work would be in jeopardy, but that boundaries with clients might be affected.
Consequently, I began the difficult search for alternative names. I examined and discarded and did domain searches for a variety. I had already purchased the domain name for Michelle Pressma and the pseudonym I had previously identified for my less traditional writing. Finally, I came to an uncomfortable peace with a second alternate name for my mainstream fantasy--the stories I’d originally intended to publish under Michelle Pressma. I purchased the new name.
As I write this blog I remain uneasy about my choice. No publishing contract has arrived as of yet for my stories, though I have some hope. I have not made a transition with my website url. You can still visit http://www.michellepressma.wordpress.com/ and read about my mainstream fantasy work. But a distinct possibility exists that Michelle Pressma may disappear in the future. For a few moments Quirky Ladies blog readers might scratch their heads. Huh, what happened to Michelle Pressma and who is this (fill in the blank with pen name) person who has popped up on the Quirky list? Luckily, I have full confidence that this readership will make the transition easily. Heck, I’m not that self-involved that I believe folks waste their precious time obsessed with me. If you do, stop this instant and get a life.
Thank you for indulging me with this rambling. This choice has been on my mind. I am proud of what I write. Some if it is pretty darn good. One way or another, if I publish, and no matter what name I choose, readers will get a chance to enjoy the words I suffered over for so long. They’ll meet the characters I fell in love with and visit my worlds. In the end, this is the important legacy. Like many writers, I write because I have to write. That doesn’t go away no matter what I call myself.
Name to be determined later
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
My love for all things paranormal started in childhood, in my elementary school library, as well as the movie theatre. (Remember the original Escape to Witch Mountain, 1975?) My obsession with Star Wars and Star Trek continued the addiction, which has now morphed into a love for blood-sucking vampires (JR Ward!), sexy werewolves/shapeshifters, and irridescent dragons. When I found out that JJ Abrams was directing a new Star Trek movie (being released on May 8, 2009) I practically swooned with excitement. Chris Pine plays the young James T. Kirk. Personally, I like my heroes older and wiser and a touch craggier. Pine is too much of a pretty boy for my taste. Give me Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) any day. The cast of this new movie has a couple of my favorites...including Simon Pegg who is brilliant in Shaun of the Dead (did I mention I also love tongue-in-cheek horror movies?). I am most excited to see Eric Bana as Nero. I realized as I looked at his photo, that he most closely resembles Nicholas Klaus, the hero of my book Sweet Inspiration. I think a lot of romance writers use celebrities/actors as inspiration for our heroes. So, even though it pains me to say this...Hugh Jackman has been temporarily replaced as Number One Source Of Inspiration for me. Eric Bana will be playing the villain in the new Star Trek movie, and something tells me I'm going to have a difficult time cheering for the good guys! I would love to hear from other writers who they envision as their heroes, and if anyone else is getting pumped for this movie. Live long and prosper.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
More Authors Turn To Web And Print-On-Demand Publishing, CNN April 6, 2009
This is a fascinating article. I like the idea that there is more than one "path" to publication. Lisa Genova (photo above), author of Still Alice, took matters into her own hands following rejections by publishers and agents. She self-published her book for $450, it got great reviews, Simon and Schuster picked it up, and now it's on the New York Times Bestsellers List. She wins the "Master of Her Own Destiny" award for this week! Here's the article....
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Kudos to our own Penny Watson for getting her romantic Christmas paranormal published! So exciting. Another Quirky Lady under contract! This is definitely appletini celebration worthy. And Penny, I promise not to post those cell phone pics of you dirty dancing at the NEC conference on our blog....Really. You sure know how to celebrate and you deserved to! Good job and congratulations! We are so proud of you.
Another round of applause goes out to one more Quirky Lady, Tara Holt, chairwoman of this year's awesome NEC Conference, Let Your Imagination Take Flight. Great job, Tara! Wonderful speakers, workshops, and overall seamless organization of the event. So now you need to kick back and relax with an appletini to toast your success. Thanks go to you and the other conference committee members for a job well done. Congrats!!!
I have always enjoyed attending writer's conferences. Besides the workshops, the networking, and bonding with friends, it's so exciting to see and hear published authors speak and share their stories. To hear Eloise James, Lisa Scottoline, Susan Wiggs, Lisa Gardner, Suzanne Brockmann, and just recently Jennifer Greene and Jessica Andersen share their journey to publication is inspiring and uplifting. As they recount the bumps and curves taken along the route, they remind us that once upon a time, they've trudged the same path as us. Many of their stories make me laugh, most encourage me, a few make me teary-eyed (Sherrilyn Kenyon), but all of their stories give me hope. After listening to their triumphs, rejections (yes, even they've received them), and animal analogies (Jessica Andersen -- too funny), I always return home ready and revved to write again.
Another part of attending conferences is that if you're lucky and you've pitched to an agent or an editor at the conference, you might return home with the right to dream that your contract is within reach -- once you mail in your requested material. I love that promise. This year I met with an agent. Before I had a chance to give my nerve wracking eight-minute pitch, she asked me, "Now what can I do for you?" Oh, so many answers there.... But mostly, when I pitch my book, I simply am looking for the chance to keep my dream alive. And by simply meeting with me and requesting a partial, this agent fulfilled this desire.
That's what a good writing conference delivers -- the gift of hope.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The Quirkies had a wonderful time at the 2009 Let Your Imagination Take Flight conference. Natascha Fawthrop, an aspiring romance writer from Albany, New York, drove all the way to Framingham for the book signing. We had a great talk, covering such topics as JR Ward, the importance of critique partners, and not being afraid to think outside of the box. We also decided we do not like to be "dismissed" in any way! (I also had a terrific, if not completely sober, conversation with Mary Pat Glynn on Friday night. She told me I have "chutzpah"- I am sensing a common theme!). Here are a couple of photos from the book signing. I was Jennifer Greene's "assistant" at her book signing table, which basically meant we gabbed with each other and her fans. We discussed how much we both love adverbs! I love her!
In photo: Penny Watson, Natascha, Jennifer Greene (l. to r.)