When I first started writing for publication I had no idea how much writing I would do in my life. I didn't see the need for a pen name and used my own name in the by-line. There were a few times I used a pen name to protect the identity of the characters in my stories but most of my work was under my own name.
As time went on and I moved from short articles and stories to Sunday school quarterlies and then to books, my name became known in our Mennonite circles. Perhaps I should have used a pen name for my own protection. Since my first name is not a common one, it often gives me away when I am introduced to someone. I can see the wheels turning in their heads and the light come on when they recognize my name. If possible, I beat a hasty retreat before the gushing and questions begin.
Too many people seem to think writers are a novelty or on an upper level. I've had people tell me they were awed to be in the presence of an author. As if writers are like some kind of side-show at a circus or something. Sorry to burst your bubble, but writers are just ordinary people who live and breathe like everyone else. If they are women like me, they cook meals, clean the house, wipe children's noses, tend a garden, and do all the ordinary things other women do. And then they play with words to exercise their creativity instead of decorating cakes or piecing quilts.
This morning someone called about a project I was working on. She went on to say how much she admired my work and how surprised she was to learn I was a writer. She knew my name but when she saw me she was surprised that is who I am. She never would have guessed from looking at me that I was a writer. I said, "I know I don't look very intelligent," and she floundered around trying to explain what she meant. I just look so ordinary; like any other Mennonite woman in the crowd.
After I hung up I couldn't help wondering, how is a writer supposed to look? Should I carry a feather quill and an ink bottle, stick a pencil behind my ear, or type on my laptop everywhere I go? Should I try to look more intelligent? Use more big words? Be more serious?
I think I'll go on just being me. I like being able to hide in a crowd.