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Pen Names and Memoir

Homeless Bound book cover

Memoirs should never be written under a pen name. At least that is what I have been told. I’ve also been told that we need to “own” our story – therefore, our name must appear as the writer. Otherwise it could be taken as frivolous fiction. But here’s the thing: I plan to publish my memoir Homeless Bound under the pen name M.Z. Bull. Obviously, it’s not for the sake of anonymity. Rather, it comes as a request from the grandson I happen to be raising who was shocked to see my name in large white letters on the proof copy. “You can’t do that,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said.

“What’s embarrassing?” I asked.

He pointed to the author’s name.

I have nothing to hide. If you turn the book over and are surprised to see a familiar face, you may already know I have lived in my northern California home for over fifty years. Marjorie Witt has appeared as herself in Story Circle Journal, Street Spirit (Justice News & Homeless Blues in the Bay Area), talkingsoup.com and here, in this blog. So where does M.Z. Bull come from? I think you might already know.

Memory Triggers Inspiration

Sometimes it takes just a little bit of luck and sometimes you just happen on to something that brings with it a whole flood of memories. Thanks to someone I met two years ago at Silver Lake Sandbox when I visited Michigan, I stumbled on her FaceBook post announcing this new book by Ann Chandler. Terri was kind enough not to just get Ann to sign the book for me but also put us in touch with each other. Two days later I held the book in my hands.

Yesterday I dug through a box of old photos from my dad and found a bunch of shots from the early 50s. Then came the memories. Dunes, dune scooters, swimming, sunburns, bonfires, the lost village, rowboats, speedboats and platoons and my little green toy truck lost under all that sand. Strange sometimes what comes to mind.

Meanwhile, there is a short reference to the Silver Lake dunes in my upcoming memoir. It’s a meditation of sorts that gets me through difficult times:

I was six years old when I first climbed the razor back dune behind the cottages where we spent our summer days. I never once gave up in my climb to reach the top of that shifting sand and that struggle later came to represent the struggles in my life, literally two steps forward and one step back, but  it was that stubborn step forward that counted.

I sit on top of the tallest sand dune between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan and feel as though I have reached the top of the world. To my right is Silver Lake, a mirror shining within a frame of small cottages. To my left is Lake Michigan, big as an ocean stretching into infinity.

I feel the warmth of the midday sun, burying my bare feet under the hot layer of sand. I lie back and sink into the fine white sand, cradled in its soft formations, snug and safe. I close my eyes.

I am quiet as my mind clears, letting go of the daily trials, giving them up to a power greater than myself. I listen patiently, waiting for some guidance. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t. It will happen in God’s time, not mine.

My mind is at peace and my body follows. I am safe, comfortable and everything is good. I know that all will be well.

Gently I return to life, opening my eyes ever so slowly. I roll to my side and push off, tumbling down the dunes, free from my burdens, ready for action.

As I rise to standing, I look up to the top. Then turn and walk away knowing that I can return anytime, anyplace.

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