The Pen-Name Game

Ever thought of using a pen name? I saw a suggestion that if a writer needed a nom de plume, she could take the name of the pet she had as a kid for a first name, and the name of the street she lived on as a last name. I’ve always published under my real name, but what if I wrote something so different I wanted to use another one? (Think J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith.) Maybe I should have another name ready, just in case.

The first pet I remember was a sweet gray cat named Mitzi. I don’t remember the street we lived on then, but when I was seven, we moved to 20 Hanover Road, in Mountain Lakes, N.J. Putting those together, my nom de plume could be Mitzi Hanover. I like it!

What sort of books would Mitzi Hanover write? I’m thinking superior romance novels, playful and sexy but with an undercurrent of serious plot. A sassy nurse-and-doctor romance in a teaching hospital, or a romantic suspense story of art-fraud or espionage.

Here’s another possibility. When I was a teenager, my parents briefly fostered a German shepherd that my young brother, going with the obvious like most little kids, named Shep. What would Shep Hanover write? Perhaps heart-warming animal stories, or he-man Westerns, with a main character who could be played by John Wayne or Gary Cooper.

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The inspiration for Max Wild.

I brought Lou into the pen-name game.  He grew up in the District on Patterson Street and his first pet was a kitten named Timmy. Timmy Patterson might be a friendly name for a children’s writer or a cartoonist. Much classier, though, would be a name borrowed from the tuxedo cat Lou brought home when he was older. He named the cat Osiris. Osiris Patterson — what about historical novels about Egypt, or startling stories of the occult? Cool!

Not all pet-name + street-name combinations work. Editing might be needed. When my sons were young, we had a dachshund named Max. That would be a fine manly first name for an author. Unfortunately, we lived on the somewhat pretentiously titled Wild Olive Drive. But the guys could blue-pencil it into a good pen-name: Max Wild. Perfect for articles on conservation or mountain-climbing, or thrillers about conspiracies, car-chases, and cops.

This is fun!  What would be your nom de plume?

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3 comments on “The Pen-Name Game

  1. Cecily, this is wonderful fun — and of course beautifully written! You should submit it to Writer Unboxed. Bravo, and thanks for sharing it. My nom de Plume is Penny Washington. . .

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