Okay, this is really not being posted by Anonymous. It’s plain ole me.
Writers live in the same world as the rest of you, which means we have to live with the people who read our work.
Yesterday Hevria began to post a series entitled “Truth And Dare.” The first post was by the outstanding writer, Chaya Kurtz. Entitled, “Backlash,” Chaya described the artistic desire to bare her opinions for all the world to see, but how when she did this, she suffered from the subsequent reactions that readers had. Today, sometimes she censors herself.
Anyway, it’s a fabulous post, and I recommend you read it, as well as the other pieces in the series.
When I commented on her post, a topic came up in the conversation I had with Chaya that has been on my mind lately — that being, is it right to publish anonymously or under a pseudonym?
The reason I’ve been thinking about anonymity and pseudonyms lately is that I’m just beginning an odd publishing flurry of many pieces in a very short period of time (even though the pieces were written and submitted at very different times). Is just so happens that over half those pieces will not be published under my name.
Am I hiding my opinions under a pseudonym?
Honestly, I wish I could write everything I do under my own name. It makes it easier to attract readers, and one of the pieces I’m most proud of was written under a pseudonym. And I have no problem telling people my opinions or embarrassing myself. I’ve published many opinions that aren’t exactly popular, and I’ve let all sorts of interesting tidbits out of my closet. The entire world can now read all about my OCD, my parents’ ugly divorce, and how insecure I feel about my looks. Readers know I’m a reverse snob who drives a jalopy almost daily through Beverly Hills and that I live in a tiny apartment with largely second-hand or third-hand furniture. I’ve been trolled, gotten all sorts of funny, knowing looks, and I’ve had to defend myself against challengers, but that’s all okay by me.
However, I don’t write under another name for my own benefit. Sometimes, I think there are lessons to be learned from my observations of the people around me. I’ll write an essay or a true short story about those people.
In many cases, the story is unflattering, but I feel the story needs to be told because other people have the same struggles. Sometimes, the subjects of my stories tell me that they want me to tell their stories, but they don’t want the details of their lives to be common knowledge. Frankly, if I’m writing a piece, it’s my choice. Being featured in one of my stories is not a choice for all the people I write about.
By writing under a pseudonym, I’m simultaneously able to give voices to the unheard (largely, in my case, people with mental health issues or special needs of other sorts) and to protect them, because unfortunately society contains many people who do not yet accept their challenges as “normal.” In the Jewish world, even if I change a subject’s name in print, as soon as I am noticed as the author, people can often connect the dots well enough to trace a line back to the real name. It’s a very tightly knit community.
Being able to write these stories without damaging people is very important to me. In most secular media, you are not permitted to publish anything not under your name. And their reasons are good — if you are willing to put your name on something, you are taking responsibility for the facts and opinions published under it. And you are better able to attract readers through social media, which requires you to use your handle. However, I’m glad that most Hareidi magazines continue to allow writing posted without the author’s real-life name.
The truth is that I really, really wish I could share those pieces with all of you. I love hearing back from my readers and engaging with them. I’m very proud of one of the pieces, in particular. I could tell you my pseudonyms so you could find my pieces (two essays, a reported essay, and a true short story), but then I wouldn’t achieve what I’m trying to do by adopting those pseudonyms in the first place.
In the meantime, I’ll have to comfort myself with the pieces I’m publishing under my actual name. Two very exciting short stories will be coming out for Pesach, G-d willing, one in The Jewish Press, and the other on JewishFiction.net. When they are released, I’ll tell you all about them.
So, that’s where I stand on the issue of anonymous and pseudonymous writing. What do you think? I’d love to hear in the comments. Please post one!