One of the biggest shifts in the career-type side of my writing in the last year has been deciding to start using my own name. Granted, it’s been my name right along, just a slightly different iteration.
In high school, I decided to use M. J. King as my pseudonym because I wasn’t a big fan of my first name and it worked for J. K. Rowling, right? Rowling had just become big (and at the time I barely knew what trans meant, let alone transphobia, and TERF had yet to be coined) and I’d never thought about reader bias before finding out about the use of her initials to avoid alienating potential male readers.
Time passed. I married and changed my last name, so hanging onto my maiden name in some form felt like hanging onto a part of myself I didn’t want to lose. My dad died a couple years later. I can’t now remember if I’d considered using my legal name before then, but suddenly that idea felt like a giant betrayal of him and a severing of some of the few remaining ties his death hadn’t snapped.
In the past decade, I’ve had a few short stories come out under M. J. King. Most of them now make me cringe. I started moving social media away from that name two or three years ago as I realized my writing might not package neatly (read: marketably) under one umbrella and could require multiple writer names, while also acknowledging that my limited capacity for social media would prevent me from maintaining multiple accounts.
But I’ve also realized that while M. J. King has been a good name for experimenting and growing as a writer, I’ve outgrown it. It may still make an occasional appearance in certain, limited situations, but Melissa Burkart is who I am. Who I’ve been for a while.
Using my actual name has been a relief in unexpected ways that I’m still not sure how to articulate. It feels more professional, which is perhaps a side effect of my associations and experiences. Perhaps it’s just coincidence that my first non-form rejection came shortly after I finally committed to making that change in my writer name. (Yet perhaps not…)
Whatever it is, moving this blog over to some sort of actual site is now more of a priority than ever.