Using a Pen Name

14 Apr

Someone recently asked why I’d put so much effort into writing a novel and then not put my real name on it. The short answer is that my legal surname has ten letters, eight of which are consonants. Readers would almost certainly mispronounce it, probably not remember it, and definitely not be able to spell it.

My name once sent a college professor into a rant about how careless students were when bubbling in their names on an exam score sheet. It culminated with him throwing my paper onto the floor. I’ve gotten used to such things. I’ve also gotten used to answering to the last name of Sch…hmm…umm...

I always thought if I were to marry my last name would get better somehow. Perhaps the new name would be phonetic. Maybe it would have fifty percent fewer letters. If I were really lucky, it would be easy to spell. But alas, it is not to be. My fiance is not a Smith nor a Jones. In fact, the Sch…hmm…umm… family is trying to learn how to pronounce his name. Most phone conversations now begin with, “Is this how you say it…?”

For these reasons, I decided to choose a pen name. I scoured the contribution pages of magazines. The phone book was too daunting. I liked the names Stone, Lyon, and Blackmore. They have a certain panache, but they felt too fictitious. They weren’t me. So I checked my genealogy, hoping to find a name I’d connect with. I found one. It had three letters and would move me to the front of the alphabet—something I longed for in grade school. For my first name, I stole my heroine’s and gave her a different one.

I checked the internet to make sure there weren’t any notorious murderers with the name Carley Ash. Ditto for porn stars – any stars for that matter (so many behave badly these days).

So, now I’m Carley Ash—for literary purposes only. Most of the time I’m still Sch…hmm…umm…


Posted by on April 14, 2011 in writing


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35 responses to “Using a Pen Name

  1. Kyrsten

    April 14, 2011 at 5:54 AM

    I, too, have thought about using a pen name for many of the same reasons. Crystal, Kristen, Tristan … yep, I’ve heard them all. I like the one you’ve chosen.

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 7:02 AM

      I’ve always thought Kyrsten was such a beautiful name, but I can see where there’s potential for confusion. Thanks for stopping today.

      • Scott

        April 14, 2011 at 11:04 AM

        Hi Carley, I can’t wait to see what you write tomorrow.

        Thanks for the info. -Scott Schm…

  2. johannaharness

    April 14, 2011 at 6:25 AM

    I love the Sch. . .hmm. . .umm. . . family trying to learn to pronounce the new name. This is great.

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 7:09 AM

      My fiance thinks I should hyphenate my name when we get married, which would give me 21 letters and sound something like Sch…hmm…umm–Schl..db.(groan)

  3. Liz Fredericks

    April 14, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    I like Carley Ash – both the pen name and the blogger!

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 7:14 AM

      Thank you Liz, and thank you for letting me join you talented ladies. This is great fun.

  4. Bobi

    April 14, 2011 at 7:14 AM

    Great blog – and wonderful storyteller, I can tell Carley Ash will be one of my favorite new authors!! Actually she already is.

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 5:35 PM

      Thank you Bobi.

  5. Janis

    April 14, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    Funny article but very true. Hard to pronounce names are problematic. Love your pen name. Very easy to say. 🙂

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 5:36 PM

      Thank you Janis.

  6. Clarissa Southwick

    April 14, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    You just told the story of my life. 🙂 I have the kind of last name that gets people pulled off airplanes two minutes before take-off. So Clarissa is a pen name, the name of an ancestor who lived long ago. If I had it to do over again, I would probably choose something shorter and closer to the front of the alphabet. But I’ve used Clarissa so long now that my real name sounds funny. I’m always afraid I’ll mess up and use it to sign in at the DMV or doctor’s office.

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 5:38 PM

      I’m just now getting used to answering my new name. I thought about using my middle name but that would have made me Rae Ash = say it fast and it sounds like RASH.

  7. Meredith Conner

    April 14, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    Love the post Carley. You’ve got a great sense of humor and it really comes through! Sch .. hmm…umm – love it!!

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 5:41 PM

      Thanks Meredith. This has been a fun 2 weeks, reading everyone’s posts.

  8. Tracy Burns

    April 14, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    Love your choice of pen name! Can’t wait to see it on a cover!!

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 5:42 PM

      Thanks Tracy. I can hardly wait to see it too. Thanks for checking out the web site.

  9. maryvine

    April 14, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Well, it turned out that my first book titled, Maya’s Gold happened to also be a porn star’s name. I’ve had a lot of hits on my trailer because of it.
    I shortened my last name to Vine for my pen as no one can remember how to spell, say it, either.

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 5:40 PM

      So, maybe I should have picked a porn star pen name – to increase hits on my web site…….hmmmm……didn’t think that through.

  10. Ruth Ard

    April 14, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Great name! However, I like the original too! Can’t wait to get your autograph!

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 5:44 PM

      Thanks Ruth.

  11. Shelley

    April 14, 2011 at 9:26 PM

    LOL! Your humor sparkles through–can’t wait to read more… Wish I could write evena smidgen as interestingly as you!!! Keep going! BTW, I can’t remember how to say your new last name, either!

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 9:32 PM

      Thanks for stopping by the new blog site, Shelley, and thank you for the nice remarks.

  12. Jeannine

    April 14, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    Looking forward to reading your new book Carley.

    • Carley Ash

      April 14, 2011 at 10:32 PM

      Just polishing up the final version now. Thanks Jeannine.

  13. Maureen O'

    April 15, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    Loved it,

    • Carley Ash

      April 15, 2011 at 6:13 PM

      Thanks Maureen.

  14. Anne Hamilton

    April 15, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    Love your humor and storytelling – I look forward to the publication of your novel.

    • Carley Ash

      April 15, 2011 at 6:14 PM

      Thank you Anne. Thanks for stopping by the new site. It’s been a lot of fun.

  15. lynn mapp

    April 15, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Carley, Carley, Carley,
    A diamond is…a diamond. That’s you. Loved your post.

    • Carley Ash

      April 17, 2011 at 10:59 AM

      Thank you Lynn. You’re the most sparkling diamond of us all.

  16. Gerald

    April 16, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Carley, you sure have a lot going on in that mind of yours! I myself usually go by “Jerry” because of my family and it is easier although people spell Jerry wrong all the time too. Go figure! Good luck on the novel and of course your upcoming alphabet soup name. Oh my God, what if you decide to “hyphenate” your maiden and new names!!??? 🙂 Have fun!

  17. Carley Ash

    April 17, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    Thanks for checking out the blog Jerry. No hyphenating, but that’s a great description – alphabet soup name.

  18. Jane McClaran

    April 25, 2011 at 8:32 PM

    The way you recount life’s events; you always make me smile. The world is waiting to hear from you, Carley Ash!

    • Carley Ash

      April 28, 2011 at 12:41 AM

      Thank you Jane. You’re always so encouraging.


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