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.
I knew this would be the day thanks to Amazon’s tracking devices. While meeting with my writer’s group, I kept my phone next to me, in silent mode, glancing at the tiny screen with each vibration, stalking the texts. “Your package has left the facility.” A while later, “Your package is out for delivery.” And then, “Your package is two stops away.” I tried to listen to everyone read but the distractions kept coming. Buzz, buzz, buzz.
I would be a useless critique today, my head following the path of the Amazon delivery truck, but I tried to be a good listener. The phone was silent for a bit. I looked back at the last message. Two stops. They should have delivered it by now. Maybe they got lost. Maybe they lied.
It was my turn to read. “I didn’t bring anything,” I apologized. “You see, I thought I would have my proof copies to share.” I held up my phone. “They’re two stops away.” I used my allotted time to talk about keywords, back of the book blurbs and the benefits of self-publishing.
Buzzzzzz. I looked down at the phone. “Delivered.” Suddenly it was real. I could run home, rip open the box, and hold the proof of my efforts. And so I did.
I ran my fingers across the shiny cover. I flipped to the back side, read the blurb. It needs some editing. I checked the interior. It needs some editing. My job is not done. But even scarier, as I hold this piece of work in my hands, I think, is this something I truly want to release out into the world?
E-Books could be a modern day concept of the 19th century Yellowback. These cheap paperback books, once sold in railway stations, were usually reprints of popular fiction. These days we often work the opposite way – we publish affordable E-Books. We are discovered. One of the big five publishes our hard cover book. It hits the best seller list and becomes a mass-marketed paperback. Yes, I am dreaming.