The Anatomy of My Pen Name

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I admit it . . . C.B. Wentworth is a pseudonym. People who know me by my authentic name often ask two questions: 1) Why do you have a pen name? 2) Why did you pick that name?  The answer to one of these questions actually relates to my upcoming adventure to London, so now seems like the perfect time to put the mystery to rest.

There are a few reasons why I decided to take a pen name.  First, I am a very private person.  I prefer to blend into my surroundings and let my words speak for themselves. From a philosophical standpoint, the content of what I write is more important to me than whether anyone knows my real name. However, I will say that I get a kick out of people searching for my pen name on Google, (I love how worpress tells me these things).  My warped sense of accomplishment is digging the possibility that someone is searching for C.B. Wentworth in order to find something I’ve written.  Second, my profession as a teacher plays a large role in my need for a certain degree of anonymity.  The last thing I want is to come to work and have students buzzing about what I wrote on my blog the night before. A pen name gives me more freedom and allows for a division between my professional life and my writing life.   If I ever get published, I want that line to remain in place.  Third, there is something very liberating about choosing what is essentially an alternative identity.  I am still myself, (that part never changes – what you see is what you get!), but its like I get to give a name to the large part of my personality that loves to create and write.  My new name serves as inspiration to be bold.

A lot of thought went into choosing my moniker.  It wasn’t like I opened a phone book and randomly chose a name! Each element has meaning.  The two initials stand for my given first and middle names.  No matter what happens in life those two names will always be mine, so they had to be included in some way.  I didn’t spell them out because I wanted a new incarnation of my “old” names which allows for the preservation my original identity without losing what my parents gave me.  The last name, Wentworth, came about in a much different way.  When I name characters in my stories, I use a baby name book and make a list of names with meanings that match each character’s personality or reflect their journey in the story.  It made sense to do the same thing for myself.  The process was enlightening as it forced me not only to examine myself as a whole, but also my identity as a writer.  After making the list, I attached my initials to each name and eliminated the ones that didn’t sound right.  When three names remained, Wentworth stood out above the rest for the simple reason that it is an English name that means “adventures.”  I have an affinity for all things English and writing has always been the ultimate adventure, so it seemed the perfect fit.  After some more thought, I realized Wentworth is also the surname of a beloved character (at least to me) in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” and that pretty much clinched it as my chosen name. Who doesn’t love Captain Wentworth??

As I get ready to embark on my journey to London, my English last name has never been more befitting of my writing adventure.  I’ve used it for almost three years now and as time goes by I’m becoming more convinced that the name chose me instead of the other way around.

c.b. 2011

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28 thoughts on “The Anatomy of My Pen Name

  1. C.B. you never cease to amaze me. How you come up with the name and how it has become a part of you. Even before I knew all that it seemed to fit. I’ll be thinking about you on our adventures.

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    • Thanks, Rita. :-) I’ll be thinking of you, too.

      People who know me personally have echoed your observation that the name seems to fit. I suppose it has my personality all over it. ;-)

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  2. It’s always nice to see how other people come across their pen names and it’s nice to have some significance in there as well. My came about because we have a X-Whippet that we did dog agility with – she was always so far ahead (going round the course the wrong way naturally) that I was always chasing – hence W.Chaser. Oh and enjoy London!

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  3. CeeBee, thanks so much for sharing this post. After much consideration, I am also using a pen name for many of the reasons you have shared. But my primary reason? Having the separation between my writing and professional life—and even from some members of my family of origin—helps to silence the Inner Critic. There are no voices in my head worried about how my words might impact this person or how that individual may be hurt by what I’ve said. Total freedom.
    Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel – and maybe in my top 10 overall. And Captain Wentworth? Be still, my beating heart. But the whole idea of hoping, longing, waiting, letting the love of your life slip away due to social pressures, then getting to have and hold him after all seven years later… What a great story.

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    • Pen names really do allow for so much more freedom – I’m glad you found so much liberation in creating your name. One thing I didn’t mention was how a pen name lets you experiment without boundaries. I’ve been playing a lot lately, because anonymity gives me a lot more room to fail (which is essential to learning and finding my voice as a writer). I’m intrigued by how the use of a pen name has silenced your inner critic. I have yet to find the cure for that cruel little voice, but I may have to start looking at my name as a possible solution.

      My copy of Persuasion is tattered and worn. Actually, most of my Jane Austen books are well-used! Her stories and characters are always so beautiful. I still swoon at Wentworth’s letter . . . <3

      Thanks so much for reading. :-)

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  4. Maggie Elice

    Thanks because I was always too afraid to ask! That’s why everything is addressed to your house (with or without stamps) as simply C.

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  5. Thanks for sharing. I like that it gives you the freedom to write. On my blog, I find myself sensoring my thoughts, keeping it simple and benign. However, when I find my voice I will need a cloak to hide behind and will start a new blog. Enjoy your adventures in London and the surrounding countryside. LR

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    • I love your writing because it shows vulnerability, which is in my opinion a very high order of honesty. It makes me curious of how much more powerful your writing will be once you decide lift your filter. Blogging has really helped me be more open and put everything out there and yes, a pen name helps me do that.

      When you do choose a pen name and relaunch a blog, I do hope you’ll forward it to me. You already have a fan. :-)

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  6. I love the meaning of your pen name–and the fact that it has to do with Jane Austen. (My books are still too new to show how dearly they’re loved, but the videos of the A&E movie adaptations that I used to watch with my mom were worn down years ago. :) )

    I’ve spent a great deal of time pondering pen names for the same reasons you have. I want to be able to preserve my privacy. After all, I’ve seen what happens when students discover you’ve written something. My program’s director happened to mention that I’m working on a novel during an open house, and my sixth grade class obsessed over it–begging for details, an autograph, anything. It was flattering but definitely distracting for a little while.

    Thanks again for sharing about your pen name. Enjoy London!

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    • It’s really fun once you start thinking about all the possibilities. Some writers even have a pseudonym for each genre they write. Coming up with one took long enough – imagine three! Good luck on creating your name. You’ll know when its right. :-)

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  7. I addmitt it.I looked you up on google too, but I was sure I heard your name somewhere else, in England.
    True… everyone loves captain Wentworth. :)

    Nice blog by the way. I like your writing style and enjoy your little adventures, like I’d be sitting there, right next to you.

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  8. JACK

    What a great choice! It really fits your personality, well, based on your posts..At first, I really thought that was your real name. I even told myself that your name has a writer’s sound to it,, thanks to this post of enlightenment..:)

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  9. I love how you chose your pseudonym. A very creative process and very personal as well. I’ve dabbled with the thought of having a pseudonym as well, which is why I never use my full name on my blogs. However, at the same time, I haven’t found anything quite what I want yet. Maybe someday. I think that if I ever published in the romance fiction catagory, I would like it completely separate from my children’s picture books. Mostly because it separates the two genres so entirely. Also, because I don’t want all of my extended family knowing I write romance. :P In some circles it’s less acceptable.

    I love the Wentworth. I am right with you on the Captain Wentworth thing. I love Persuasion. I can only think that another wonderful pseudo last name would be Darcy…. Though I suppose it has been used many times.

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    • Thanks. :-)

      Choosing a pseudonym is a tricky thing. It took me months to get to something I liked and seemed to fit who I am and my writing. Sometimes I wonder whether it was a good idea to go with Wentworth, but every time I type it out it feels right. :-)

      I think its a great idea to have different names for different genres. I know a couple writers that do this for a number of reasons. They like to keep readership separate and like you pointed out, its nice to have some anonymity. :-)

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