I know it’s no longer news, but a couple months back, the author of a well-reviewed book was unmasked as J. K. Rowling, the bestselling author of the Harry Potter series. Rowling was delighted with the experience. When critics praised her outing as Robert Galbraith, she knew the compliments were genuine, that her novel really deserved them all. She wasn’t just riding on the waves created by her earlier fame.
The article about Rowling’s literary adventure stuck out for me, because at the time her identity was revealed, I had recently published for the first time under a pseudonym. I chose to do so for different reasons than Ms. Rowling: I needed to protect the identity not of myself, but of various people within my community who were part of a real-life cautionary tale.
Unlike Rowling, when my short story came out, I had very mixed feelings. On one hand, I felt that I had done a service, telling an untold story and drawing attention to an under-reported phenomenon. I hope that readers learned something from reading the story, perhaps something that will help them make different, better choices than those made by myself and several members of my community.
On the other hand, I felt it was one of my best pieces of writing ever, and no more than five people will ever know that I wrote it.
I’m writing something again that will — if accepted — be published under a pseudonym. Again, I want to champion a cause without causing embarrassment to others, and without infringing on their privacy. But it will come again at the cost of my ego.