Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

What’s in a nickname? Do you use a pen name or have a nickname?

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This seems to be a day all about words for me. I was just sitting here looking at some papers and realized what an important role “nicknames” play in our writing.

A pseudonym can be thought of as a type of nickname — the pen name you choose or that is given to you by a publisher for some reason. Some pen names and the reason behind them are now classics: “George Eliot,” you probably know, was really a woman. Her real name was Mary Ann Evans and she wrote Victorian novels. She chose a male pen name to make people treat her writing more seriously. “Richard Bachman” was a pen name used by Stephen King. It seems almost laughable now, given his practically-a-book-a-month writing pace, but when he was starting out King’s publisher wanted to limit the novels released under his name in any year’s time. So King came up with that pen name.

Getting away from pen names, I have a name/nickname situation which has led to minor confusion all my life. My given first name is “Garold.” The name family and friends have used for me all my life is “Gary.” At some point in my high school years, I started making any business or “official” records use “Garold,” but still continued with “Gary.” As it happens, there is a “Gary” in the city where we live with the exact same last name. He’s gotten phone calls from people asking me about everything from magazine articles to sermon editing. He works in a music shop, last I knew, and repairs instruments. I was totally unhelpful on the one or two occasions when I got calls about saxophones and clarinets.

Do you have a pen name? Do you have a given name/nickname mix up you’ve been living with? Tell us about it, please.

Oh, yeah. I also have a slang nickname I picked up when I worked as a delivery driver. Don’t think I’ll share that one publicly.
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