Nom de Plume or Non?

Alison Morris -- September 9th, 2008

My nonfiction-work-in-progress is still a long way from seeing the light of day as a finished book, but even since its earliest stages I’ve intermittently pondered the question of what name I should use once I’m published. My instinct it to just use my first and last names, Alison Morris, and keep it simple. But, here’s the catch — there’s already an "Alison Morris" out there who has penned a couple of children’s books. One website had even attributed her books to me at one point, until I corrected their (understandable) mistake. The simple solution might be to go the middle initial route, but "Alison L. Morris" doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, and I’m not sure it simplifies things enough. A very embarrassing case in point: just this week I learned, for the very first time, that Michael Rosen and Michael J. Rosen are NOT the same author! Anytime I’ve seen "Michael Rosen" with or without the "J" I have (I now realize) skipped over the step in which one reads the author’s bio. because I thought, "Yep. I know who he his and I know his books." But not so! It turns out Michael J.’s middle initial didn’t spare him 10 years of my idiocy, so perhaps "Alison L. Morris" isn’t a safe solution after all.

I could go with my full name, but "Alison Louise Morris" sounds… a bit more formal than I’d like or perhaps a bit too feminine for some of the topics I most want to write about. I’m not inclined to go either the "A. L.", "Ali" or "Al" route, so…? Hmm. This all feels a bit tricky.

Given the normalcy of being raised with a not-so-oddball name, I can’t imagine that my situation is all that unusual, but it’s not one I’ve heard authors and illustrators speak about before, so…? I’m asking. Those of you with books under your belts, how did you settle on your published name? And if you decided to shirk your workaday identity and use a pen name, why did you make that choice? How do you settle on the name you’re using?

If you haven’t got an answer to any of those questions, at least tell us what silly name you’re assigned by Professor Poopypants’ Name Change-o-Chart 2000 (thank you, Captain Underpants and Dav Pilkey, for giving the world this mindless form of entertainment). According to Professor Poopypants (and who wouldn’t trust a man with that name?) I could consider publishing as Stinky Bananafanny, which would CERTAINLY stand out on my book’s cover, I should think. Though perhaps not quite as much as Crescent Dragonwagon.

21 thoughts on “Nom de Plume or Non?

  1. David Morris

    I don’t have any books under my belt, but I do have #14 of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series in my brief…case. Alison, are you aware that your grandfather had a cousin Horace? Yes, Horace Morris (but everyone called him “

  2. writeroffthelake

    Is Morris your married name? If so, have you considered using either your first name initial, your maiden name and then your married name…or your first name, maiden name, married name. With a name as unusual as mine – Vanessa N Hanko – this is a problem I’ll never have. And if I ever feel the need to use a more male sounding name, I can easily go with “Hank Van Dine” – my middle name is Nadine. And should I end up selling in two different genres and feel the need for two different female sounding names, I’ve got that covered, too. Since I’m of Slovak descend and “Ova” is added to female’s last names, I’d use Paula Hankova. Okay…so maybe I should spend more time writing than thinking about this – LOL.

  3. anon

    Go with Alison Morris if that’s the name you feel is you. The other Alison Morris hasn’t published since 2003 and most of her board books wouldn’t be carried in libraries anyway. You may have to explain the coincidence every once in a while, but you’ve built up a following under your name, which might translate into sales. You don’t want to pass that up.

  4. Lisa Yee

    My full name is Lisa Feldmann Yee, but I publish under Lisa Yee since that’s what I mostly go by anyway. However, I am CONSTANTLY mistaken for Lisa See, the bestselling author. If only I could get her royalty checks. I like A.L. Morris. Or if you really want to spice things up, what about J.K. Rowling Morris?

  5. Suzi W

    As a cataloging librarian, yeah, you should definately think about a change. Don’t get me started on “authority records.” I like A.L. and agree that then folks in the know can call you Alison, just like we all know J.K. is really Joanne.

  6. LaurenBaratzLogsted

    I’m unlucky, in that people always mispronounce at least one of my names and some people shrlve me under L rather than B. I’m lucky, in that there’s only one Lauren Baratz-Logsted in the world. I like the sound of. A.L. Morris.

  7. ShelfTalker

    I’m greatly enjoying all of your sage and often entertaining advice. Donna, I love “Gidget Toiletbutt”! Thanks for that kind offer! And, Carter, my hats off to you for your daring and cleverness. If I was to share Gareth’s last name at some future point it occurs to me that I could change my middle initial to “B” and then my name would be a little bit my own AND a little bit Captain Underpants!

  8. R.J. Anderson

    My nom de plume is just my maiden name and initials — not only because I’ve always liked the way it looked, but because my married name is subject to unfortunate mispronunciation. However, I’ve found that I share my pseud with a college football player, a hockey player, a sports journalist (what is it with the sports?), and at least one high-level research scientist, among others. However, at least I am not competing in the same field with those others — whereas if I spelled out my first name, I could be confused with at least two other fiction authors I know. I have no easy solution to your problem, unless you just want to be “

  9. K.Finlay

    I’m in a similar boat! I share the same name as a famous performance artist, and I would say we have, uh, very different styles. (And the way we spell our last names is slightly different, too, but everyone from my high school STILL thinks that what happened to me.) But you know, even though I think about my nom de plume, I would LOVE it if that problem were to ever realistically arise — because that would mean I’m getting published!

  10. Vicky Uminowicz

    Hi Alison, I remember thinking about this very subject when I was young – but for a different reason! I wanted to be a writer when I was about 8 or 10, but I knew that the first 3 letters of the author’s name were written on the spine of all the books in the library. Well, my last name was Titcomb – and I didn’t think it would be good for all my books to have “TIT” on the spines!! Good luck with your choice of names! I think A. L. Morris has a good ring to it, too. Whatever you choose, I can’t wait to read it!!

  11. Marisa Miller

    I know exactly what you mean. I was at a writing workshop and an agent said she always googles any potential clients (the discussion was about whether to blog or other web activities, and how to not create future messes for oneself)…I worry about using my real name. Cuz if you google it…you get another woman…who’s got a VERY different career from mine. I would laugh if I wrote material of any kind for adults, but I write for kids! Not to mention, self-esteem issues of another kind whenever I type my name in google. Go ahead, google it, I dare ya!

  12. Donna Beck

    Hi Alison, I like A.L. Morris but you can use my poopypants name aka Gidget Toiletbutt. Haha! Even though my name is common, I’ve inserted my maiden name to make me stand out. Donna Sarhal Beck.

  13. Antony Johnston

    I’m very fortunate to share my exact spelling with only about a dozen people in the world, none of whom are authors 😉 Are you so attached to “Alison”? Why not just go for “Louise Morris”? Or, a compromise, “A. Louise Morris”?

  14. HA

    How about A. Louise Morris? I don’t connect with my middle name at all, so I’m not sure that would do for you. I will say that even though you are not inclined to go with A.L., I really like that.

  15. Kat Brokaw

    (stupid computer–try this again) Can I tell you how many times I’ve been asked in a forum if I would kindly send something on my my “uncle” Tom? Yikes! Not related! But it is my name. I tried on the hats of many names for myself over the years. I finally decided I like my name. Uncles aside. I think you should like your name, too. You have worked hard for your rep.

  16. EM

    I just about cried when, last year, an adult debut novel by Emily Mitchell — a woman not I, but YOUNGER than I — was published to great acclaim. There went my pipe dreams of authorial success (although it was flattering when my colleagues at the library thought perhaps I had written it). I like “A. L. Morris” myself. It has an “M. T. Anderson” ring about it, and then people who call you Alison can feel all cool and in the know.

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