Tuesday, January 19, 2010

hiding out

Everybody feels the need to hide once in a while, even if we aren't quite flexible enough anymore to close ourselves into a suitcase...

Today while I was eating my lunch, a co-worker asked me to speculate what kind of life I would choose if I were to become "a big deal writer like that Stephenie Meyer"--this is a very common question when people find out I'm writing books and hoping to publish them.

"Are you going to want to be a recluse and hide out somewhere?" he asked.

It's kind of a quaint, romantic stereotype--the reclusive writer tapping away at a typewriter, refusing interviews. J. D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon. I can't imagine that would be possible today, where success is dependent on establishing a presence, reaching people on a personal level: where books spread best by word of mouth.

I laughed and told him the same thing I tell my students when they ask this question. No, I'm not going to be Stephenie Meyer (this co-worker's first question was actually, "Does your book have vampires?"), and no, I'm not going to quit teaching.

But the question of hiding has another part to it, and this question was also asked of me today, this time by my father-in-law. If I were to sell a book, would I put my real name on it? This is a more difficult question for me to answer. I don't really make my identity a secret: I use my real name both here and elsewhere on the web. I've thought about using my maiden name or just my first and middle name, but I'm just not sure. In some ways, I think it would be the nicest thing to do for my school, a way to separate the teacher me from the writer me. Especially since I write for young adults, but...not really as young as the young adults I teach. I wouldn't want to make conflict for my job with the content of the books I write. But I can't imagine actually trying to keep it a big secret...so does the name really matter?

I'm not sure. And, well...I've got some time to ponder all of this. Right now I'm busy trying to extract a toddler from this old suitcase. (It's too bad he didn't let me wash the pizza sauce off his face before climbing in, though. Have I mentioned before that kids are disgusting?)

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