Within my writing circles, discussions about pen names have come up frequently of late. I guess it's because many of my writing buddies are turning their attention to self-publishing, and many of them have one reason or another to not want to use their real name.
In fact, if I think about it—I mean really think about it—none of my writing buddies publish under their real names. For one writer, it's because she wants to separate her publishing from her real life (so her students can't find her online). Another wants to protect her children from what could become negative backlash if other parents work out the connection between the two names. For another, it's because she wants to separate her fiction from her nonfiction. And for another, it's because their day job would be at risk if their employer ever worked out the truth about the nature of their fictional writing.
Regardless of the reason, it's always interesting to see how others come to the conclusion about what name they want to publish under.
And for me… I laughed at myself when I discovered that I had made the decision about my pen name back when I was just starting high school.
The dilemma of the name choice
When I first started publishing my research, back when I was studying for my Masters of Engineering, I needed to make a decision as to what name I would publish under. Back then, I chose to publish under J.L. Mohr.
By publishing under my initials, I removed any stigma that could be associated with gender. A female engineer living in the 21st century, and I was still plagued with the glass ceiling.
When I published as a PhD researcher and post-doctoral fellow, I continued the J.L. Mohr trend—and became a huge stickler about it too. The one time that someone tried to drop the L. from my name resulted in massive growls from me.
But in 2014, when I became serious about publishing fiction, I was faced with the decision about a pen name all over again. I toyed with the idea of using my married name or a completely different name that had a loose connection to me. But in the end, I chose to stick with Mohr (my real name).
The only reason I could think of to use a different name was to separate the connection between my scientific research and my fiction. But I couldn't really see why I would want to hide that. I'm not an active researcher any more, but I'm immensely proud of what I had achieved while I was there. I worked my ass off to earn my PhD, and it was my time as a post-doctoral research fellow that helped me to see that my true path was writing and editing. (Research was not for me.)
After a significant amount of playing around with Google searches and other crazy searches, I finally settled on Judy L Mohr, instead of the initials that I had been using while I was a researcher.
However, it was a recent discovery that has made me beam with glee at the choice that was made seven years ago.
Discoveries from high school
When I was cleaning out some old files not long ago, I encountered some English high school assignments. One was from 1990 (the year I started high school) (shown on the left below), and the other was from 1993 (shown on the right). Both were books that we had to create, complete with covers for fiction titles.
There, on both covers, was the name Judy L. Mohr.
And the stories found inside… Well, they're certainly not up to my current standard, but those ideas… Some of them are brilliant. I might pull one of them out and see what I can do with it.
It was a little discovery that feels like a message from my past. It's like I always knew that I would one day head down this writing journey, and I always knew what name I would assume while heading down that path.
It's the power of a name. And the name Judy L Mohr is mine!