Archive for January 6th, 2016


What’s in a (Pen) Name?

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Writing

Like most of the other members of the Shared Words writer’s group, I have had aspirations for many years to be a published author. And, in fact, I am – did you know our group published a book in 2014? You can learn more about it by visiting the following link – Shared Words: Volume One

I’ve worked on several writing projects on my own, with encouragement from the rest of the group, and even have one completed book. Well, okay, it’s in draft form, but it’s still a complete story. And one of these days I’ll get around to editing the dialogue and polishing up the text. And then maybe I’ll see about getting it published.


…one of the things I’ve gone back and forth with is whether publishing something under my real name is a good idea. I decided to do a little research into this to get a feel for what other published and want-to-be-published writers are doing. After checking with several sources and reading through some interesting discussions on the topic, I found the opinions about evenly split and the reasons fairly consistent. These two stood out the most to me:

Avoiding conflicts. Many writers who decided not to use their real names did so to avoid creating conflicts with family, friends, and even their employers. Their concern was the subject matter of their writings might not sit well with family or friends, or could cause unacceptable disruptions in their place of work (and from what I’ve seen so far, most writers need those non-writing jobs to keep food on the table until they can get established).

Protecting privacy. When you stick your name out in front of the world, and people start to notice your work and you get more popular, eventually someone’s going to want to learn more about you and/or your family. And in today’s age of instant access to information, it’s not difficult for someone who is determined enough to find out where you live, the kind of car you drive, or the names of your children. There were more than a few women in these discussions that said they chose not to use their real names in order to avoid having an abusive ex-boyfriend or ex-husband hunt them down, which I found very disturbing.

There was one more thing I looked into, and that was to see if there were any other published authors out there that share my name. Now you might think with a last name like Bernier that we’d be few and far between in the literary world, but it’s not the case. In fact, I found published works under the names Mike Bernier, Michael Bernier, M. Bernier, and M.J. Bernier, which are the only versions of my name that I would have considered using (there are two other variations but I use those mostly when signing official/legal/contractual documents).

With my “rare” name not being so rare after all, that pretty much ended my deliberations — a pen name it will be.

But now, what name do I choose?