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July 2010 Volume 12 , Issue 7 submit to us!

by Diane Steinbach -- Senior Staff Writer [Email This Story]

Being a writer seems like an innocuous occupation. Especially the kind of writer I am: how-to articles, travel tips and this very personal Cynic column, which tries on occasion to make people laugh. I don't write about politics, controversial issues like the death penalty or the right to life. My writing tends to focus on the likelihood of extraterrestrials, ghost cats and how to decorate a card table.

I have discovered that I do push people's buttons sometimes, in spite of my generally harmless topic selection. I write about the people and situations in my own life, and sometimes those people and situations have no sense of humor.

Recently I wrote an article (June 2010 Cynic) that dealt with Facebook and un-friending. Not only did I piss one person off, I pissed two people off. Of course, oddly enough by doing so I realized I actually had two people reading my column, which seemed like a good thing.

I wondered why these two people, both subjects of said-article even read my column. Maybe, to them, I am one of those people they love to hate. Like Celine Dion, Sylvia Browne and the entire cast of "Operation Repo."

So, after sifting through my hate mail and realizing that maybe I should tread more carefully when writing about my own life, I decided the answer to "hitting to close to home" may be the use of a pen name.

Coming up with a pen name is not as easy as it sounds. The temptation to name myself something exotic like "Charcoal Briquette" has to be suppressed, as undoubtedly no one would take someone named "Charcoal Briquette" seriously. Not that they take me seriously now but one can always hope. (If your name IS "Charcoal Briquette," I mean no disrespect.)

I began to wonder how other writers came up with their pen names. Samuel Clemens chose his pen name, "Mark Twain" as it was a common riverboat term used to describe deep water. He chose a name based on something he was familiar with and that reflected his lifestyle and environment.

If I had to choose a name based on some common phrase or environmental factor in my life I would have to call myself "Trail Mix" based on my nickname for the clumps of kitty litter I scoop up daily.

I could also be called " Didyoutake Yourpills" or "Gimme Theremote."

After telling my best friend the whole story about how I pissed off these people from my past, I asked her for suggestions for a pen name.

Her suggestion was brilliant. "Use that chick's name as your pen name! Take THAT psycho-doofus!"

My friend obviously has a way with words.

Although I thought that suggestion was just too damn funny, I had to take the high road . . .  or something that looks like it. After all, this "chick "was the wife of a friend, so I should try not to piss her off; at least not until after the divorce. (See, this is the stuff that gets me in trouble.)

Back to the pen-name drawing board.

There are a few formulas I have heard about for how to come up with your porn star or movie star name. Based on the name of my first pet and the street I grew up on my pen (or porn, if the writing thing doesn't work out) name would be "Gigi Locust." I am just grateful my first dog wasn't named "Harry" or "Bubbly," and that I didn't grow up on "Anus Street."

I have been writing for well-over ten years now and since I have a few books under my belt as well as an extensive list of web content articles, keeping my own name to write under makes the most sense. Sure, it may cost me some "friends," but I expect my real friends to be generously gifted with a sense of humor.

So, what have I learned? I guess as I sift through every carelessly typed insult or too-personal story, I have to believe that if my writing elicits an emotional response then I have done my job. For better or worse I have to claim ownership of my words. Having said that I must admit that it's good to know that "Gigi Locust" has got my back if I need her.

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Features -- July 2010 -- Mid Month Issue

Diane Steinbach
-- Additional Work --