Monday, June 09, 2008

What's in a name?

When I first started commenting on blogs ('twas the late, great Miss Snark that finally made me crack - pause for a moment to remember...), I didn't want to use my real name. I used to use a version of my name on a social site that had several trolling problems and once a woman with serious psychological problems that some of the people on the site got drawn into. So when I got my internet courage back up again I wanted to stay anonymous - but I didn't want to be one of the great flock of anonymi. I wasn't afraid to be identifiable and to show at least some of my personality.

And so, and you all know this bit, McKoala was born. She's me, but fluffier. And vegetarian.

However, recently I've begun to wonder about the sense of this. When my agent took me on a few months ago I created a web site in my real name, but didn't link it to this blog. In the past week or two I've become involved in a Top Secret but Very Exciting Project That You Will All Love and I've decided that that is a place where I would like to use my real name. I've dropped a big fat clue in This Secret Place as to my dual identity, so I think you'll spot me.

And yet... I still don't want my real name on this blog, or in many of the place where I post as McKoala. The most rational explanation is that because I'm trying to sell young adult writing, the utterances of McK, and some of her friends, *wavey*, are not anything I would particularly want my kids reading if they fell into that age group, so why would I want somebody else's kids to read them? That then begs the question, should I be posting anything I wouldn't want my audience to read at all?

But you are also my audience *more waveys*. You are an important part of my network as a writer; many of you have critiqued me, many of you have supported me, many of you have made me laugh and all of you have been nice to me. I like you. And I like not to have to mince my words around you. So I thought I would see if I can handle a dual identity. I'll stay McKoala here and at EE and most other places, but I'll use my real name where I'm being sensible (hah!). Not that I'm planning on being that sensible.

Other people have approached this issue in different ways. Robin and Precie choose to keep their blogs secret, although they post widely under their blog names. Church Lady pushed Takoda's bunny down the canyon, and then was herself pushed by Chris, who felt there was more benefit in using her real name. Conduit has never made a secret of his real name, and has now linked his real-name website to his blog. Others manage dual identities that are clearly connected to one another.

For now, I think I'd still like to retain a level of privacy for the real me. Of course, this could fall apart very fast. I'll need to create a new profile as the real me so I can log under the right name at Top Secret Project, and feel free to place bets on how long it takes me to post using the wrong name in the wrong place...

Bets aside, I'd be very interested in your thoughts on this and your own choices, and, of course, your advice on what you would do in my situation.


sex scenes at starbucks said...

This one's tricky. I mean, I write for adults, but some of the things I say could be construed in, well...

Ahem. All sorts of ways.

However, I've had more than one person tell me that my voice and crazy honesty and my unabashed me-ness is why they keep coming back and why they think I'll make it as a pro. (To them I say: Huh. Really? I mean, really? Crazy people.)

But, like it or not The Internet has taught me to be a courageous writer, and not only that, a courageous person. So exhibiting my crazy side over the airwaves can't be all bad, even if I mostly am. (Bwahahaha)

Incidently, I thought I was anon for a couple of years. Now when you google my real name you come up with Sex Scenes.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I wasn't anon for long and I usually remembered to put my name at the end. Then google got better about making the login process easier and I posted with my registered profile. Then I added my last name. Lately I've beefed up my profile to include a bit more about me like age and zodiac. I'm working up to having a real website.

I've seen how anonymous people hide behind their anonymity and feel like they can say things they might not say if their name was on it. I don't want to say anything I wouldn't be willing to put my name on.

I guess I try to live by the adage that it's easier to tell the truth so you don't have to remember all the lies and who you told what.

Not saying you need to do that. Just saying how I approached it. I respect your idea of keeping the adult section separate.

Whirlochre said...

That's how it starts, isn't it?

You appear somewhere as an Anonymous, generally clad in the most absurd and outrageous word apparel.

Then you think — I'd better get myself an identity. And you rustle up something midway between superhero and apt-insult-to-be.

Then you're really talking.

The revellation for me has been that people are prepared to talk back — good people and good talk. So what began as a volley of cannonballs, tossed idly into cyberspace to witness the slipstreams of steam is now more like rock throwing tennis conducted by benevolent giants. Actually — it's nothing like that, but you get the point.

For the moment, I'd like to preserve my anonymity — not in order to hide away or pretend to be something I'm not, but rather so I can unleash the ruminations of my life in exile. I'm not gay, but there is a certain something of the 'coming out' about all of this. I'm even surprised I'm writing in these terms — but McK has prompted it from me. This would have been inconceivable even two months ago.

As for the fluffy vegetarian bear (Ecosse) herself, it's inevitable that the question of identity has to change if Something Happens — which I'm glad it has. But dual identity is no problem, surely? Look at all the people who have multiple blogs, for multiple purposes.

So — to the treasure hunt. I've typed 'eucalyptus', 'fluffy' and 'almost Shakespearean' into my browser, but so far all I've come up with is an advert for cough mixture aimed at the unusually hairy out-of-work actors market. But I'm determined to find you.

McKoala said...

Try 'deadly drop bear'.

Whirlochre said...

Hey — all I seek is a hit, not some Death By Mythical Oz Fluffball Stupidity Penance Eternal.

Shanta Everington said...

Well...I've always declared my real name on my writing blog in big bold letters as that was kind of the point - call it brand awareness if you will.

However, I do get what you're saying with the YA thing now that my YA novel is being published. Not that my writing blog is at all racy, sadly quite the opposite. More like I sound like a boring old codger and youngstas will look me up and down and spit out 'pah!' She can't be the one writing this fantastic stuff!

I also had an anonymous blog before about living with scoliosis, called NotGillianMcKeith (cos she's a famous one with scoli) because I didn't really want potential agents and publishers who may have read my writing blog to wade into my personal shit. It was a blog for a v different purpose and I needed it to be separate. Then when Google took over Blogger or whatever happened, my writing profile just appeared on it and I thought, 'Oh what the heck!' so now my name's on it but I don't show it on my list of blogs connected to my writing blog(s) so writing peeps are unlikely to stumble across it.

Just my thoughts on this whole topic! x

PS How can you be SO mean as to temp us with juicy titbits about Top Secret Stuff and then us NOWT!

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about Absolute Vanilla who's going on hiatus, and - well, I love blog names. It never occurred to me to make up a name, or I totally would have. There's a lot of freedom in it.

But do whatever works for you. And not just whatever works, but whatever you want to do!

Sarah Laurenson said...

I tried 'deadly drop bear'. No dice. Maybe a different search engine...

Sarah Laurenson said...


laughingwolf said...

i've used 'laughingwolf' as a moniker online for more than 15 years, but find there are others using the same name, all over the world, even on blogger [it was a woman who's long gone, but i could not use it myself]... so have made mods... even completely new names

many folk who know me as laughingwolf also know my real name, but i don't use it in my posts

but your arguments on anonymity are sound, k :O lol

do what feels best at the time....

pacatrue said...

I've been wrestling with this myself, though for a slightly different reason. I've been thinking of creating something of a real web site for my professional life and suddenly I realized I really should use my real name. I don't want to use my real name! It's not that I've ever hidden my name -- my pacatrue blog is linked from my little "professional" web site and I link back to it from my profile. Moreover, I always post as if everyone who cares could know it's me -- no venting about work or school; ditto on family and friends.

And yet I don't really want to use my real name. Pacatrue is my online pen name. I'm not hiding behind it any more than Mark Twain was hiding. It's just a pen name.

So for now I'm going to make professional stuff under my own name, and keep Paca for personal stuff, even though the connection is going to become even more transparent if I get my site finished.

pjd said...

I think I fall in line with Sarah, sort of, and Aerin. I do love all the great handles out there and wish I had my own, but then I end up deciding that I'd rather be me.

I figure if I am going to post something, I should put my own name on it. And if I don't feel comfortable putting my name on it, then I shouldn't post it. That means that not all my opinions and views are shared with the world.

Occasionally I still hit that "anonymous coward" button on a blogger comment, but that's mostly when I'm saying something I think is funny but I know nearly everyone else will think I'm a total doofus for. Oh, wait, maybe I just described my entire blog. Is it too late to get my own pseudonym?

Conduit said...

I chose Conduit simply because it was the title of the novel I was writing at the time I created the account. Like many, I created the account simply so I could comment over at Miss Snark's. I stayed anonymous for about nine months because, as daft as it seems now, I was embarressed about my writing aspirations. I would have been mortified if someone I knew in the real world found out what I was up to. Not even friends and family knew I was tapping away, writing books.

When I sold my first short story (waves at SS@S) I had to reappraise the situation. The story would go out with my name on it. I already had a basic music-related website under my own name (why I though making music was less shameful than writing is anyone's guess), so I thought I'd better rebuild it to reflect the writing thing. Just in case, in the very unlikely event, in the almost possible circumstance, that some industry professional might see the short story and want to know more about me. Not that could really happen, of course.

Coming out as a writer was a very, very scary thing. I still don't really discuss it with people I know in the real world, though a little more so in recent weeks. Lately, I've been looking at the idea of changing my account name and blog URL to reflect my real identity. I've bagsied the name already, it's just a matter of doing the switch-over. The only thing that's holding me back is that Google will lose all those indexed pages, and people won't know me in comment trails anymore. I've rarely blogged about personal matters, so there's nothing lurking there to bite me.

As for you case, McK - there's a good argument for starting a separate blog under your real name, and keeping it distinct and focused on your writing. In this blog you talk about family life quite a lot, and that might be something you want to keep away from your professional stuff. But, of course, trust your gut instinct on this one.

Sorry for the long-winded comment!

Shona Snowden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
McKoala said...

Blink and you missed it - I just posted under the wrong name! The rot sets in already. Here's what I wrote -

It's very interesting to read all your thoughts on this. Shanta mentions brand awareness, which is very important. If - hopefully when! - my novels are published then I will need to strengthen and deepen my brand. My readers should be able to type my name into Google and come across something that appeals to them.

For now, though, I think I'm happy to mess about in the shallows of branding.

LOL Conduit. Depends on the quality of your music.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Ah. The tangled web. The high drama. It all starts with a simple post. The shame. The agony. The...

What were we talking about?


Shona Snowden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
McKoala said...

omg, I did it again. This isn't going to last.

Anyway, Sarah, we were talking about deadly drop bears, I believe:

ChrisEldin said...

I felt the same as you, Mck.
And I'm writing MG, for the even younger set!
But....Blogging allows me to be who I really am, and socialize in a way that I never thought possible (introvert in real life)--with WRITERS to boot! I want to be me, all the way.
If I ever get published, I might go back to Church Lady...

Robin S. said...

I say- keep your secret identity for the places you're unsure of.

And I know you were waving at me! Go ahead - you know you were!

My last name isn't anywhere around where I am, not for the same reasons, but for privacy issues, until I decide how I want to go with it.

You just do what you feel like you wanna do- your friends will be more than happy to do whatever you need them to do. I certainly am.

sylvia said...

For me, a specific issue is things coming up on Google. If you search on my full name, I am the only real match, followed by matches of my mother using my first name for examples in her academic work. So I'm very aware of how easy it is to find me. About once a month, I get an email from someone in my past saying "Just remembered that time when we did stuff, so I thought I'd look you up - neat to see what you are doing."

And it's lovely but I don't really want every person I've ever known to see every word I've ever written. And then there was the time my son and his friends searched on their own names and stumbled upon a piece I'd written about having a child and breast feeding and exhaustion and masturbation.

He was a bit embarrassed.

So I have false boundaries. My full name is only attached to "official" Sylvia words.

The rest is first-name only. Like Blogger comments - you know I'm Sylvia and you all can find the rest from there but someone searching on my name isn't landing on this.

For my gaming writing I have a different name - so kind of the opposite of what you are describing in terms of YA. I know that a lot of the young-boy-gamers really don't want to be confronted with the fact that I'm older than their mothers and still play better than them.

Is Sylvia much different from McKoala? I've decided to leave a clear trail but I could just have a blogger profile dead end, and you'd have to try to work out which Sylvia I was based on bits and pieces from my comments - a much bigger deal.

I guess that's the crux: my concern only runs one way. Do you mind if McKoala leads to you or just if your stuff leads to McKoala.

sylvia said...

Blink and you missed it

OK, you MUST sort out different systems for different names. Blogger is Sylvia, Livejournal is the gaming nickname, is a different Sylvia for dieting stuff.

What about looking at Wordpress for your real-name work and leaving Blogger for McKoala? To be fair, she was here first.

sylvia said...

My boyfriend just had a brilliant idea. Can you ban people from your blog?

That is, can you ban your realname blogger account from your McKoala blog and vice versa to stop you from posting as the wrong person?

McKoala said...

Hi Sylvia - you've been busy. I like the simple and elegant idea of banning myself. I'll check up on that!