The Evolution of My Pen Name

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When I created my pen name, it was all about cloaking my true identity while also creating an entirely new one for the writer I hoped to become, (see The Anatomy of My Pen Name).  It’s been almost four years since I adopted C.B. Wentworth and I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown into my pseudonym and embraced the role of a writer.

The first time I typed out my pen name and put it on the cover of my novel’s first draft it was like I had a little secret.  I hadn’t told anyone about it and I was even a little hesitant about telling my inner circle.  Why would a girl with a perfectly good name go and change it?  It was hard to explain why I needed to give my writing persona her own name, but then I realized I‘ve got a great support system that would still have my back if I had decided to go by Bertha Schlotzky.

As I grew more comfortable with the idea of other people reading my work, I decided to establish a presence for my pen name on the internet.  I started by setting up an e-mail account that was completely separate from my “real” e-mail. Then, I created a profile on facebook with details that only related to my pen name.  At first it was an odd experience to see this “stranger” every time I signed in, but I very quickly got accustomed to seeing my alter ego on the screen.  She was becoming more and more real.

After launching my blog, the name C.B. Wentworth started to take on a much deeper meaning. My readership grew far quicker than I thought and turned a obscure pen name into something that was recognized publicly.  C.B. Wentworth was a writer and I wasn’t the only one who knew her purpose.  It was suddenly so much easier to believe in the possibility of publication when the numbers kept going up each day, comments continued rolling in, and e-mails started showing up in her inbox.  Then, of course, was the day I spotted my pen name in one of those coveted Freshly Pressed squares.  Hey, maybe this whole writing thing really  can happen!

It’s one thing to self-publish my self-made moniker, but quite another to see it in print thanks to the decision of an editor.  While it was only a little square in a newspaper, (see A Little Victory), it still gave C.B. Wentworth some credit for getting a little closer to the ultimate goal of publishing a novel.  I do, however, have to admit I loved seeing my little creation in black in white . . . that name was meant to be in print and I’m starting to feel much less crazy about believing in such a thing.

The journey of an aspiring writer is a long one fraught with fear, doubt, and failure.  My pen name and I have gone through some devastating lows and exhilarating highs.  The yo-yo effect wreaks havoc on the whole concept self-belief.  There have been days where I’m ready to delete everything I’ve ever written from my hard drive.  And days when I wonder why I’m putting so much effort into something that seems so out of reach.  After my last rejection, (see The Bright Side of Losing), I bounced back quicker than usual thanks to a raging case of optimism and a very thoughtful gift I received for Christmas.  One of my oldest friends had my pen name printed in the most meaningful way I could ever imagine:

Thank you, M.

With this plaque hanging on the wall above my writing desk, I can’t help but believe in myself as much as my friend believes in me.  C.B. Wentworth, Author  has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

c.b. 2012

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