Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Pen Names and the Grandma theory.

Written By: Tracy - May• 29•09

Received two big paychecks the other day. One was from the online writing day job. The other was from the part-time fiction hobby. Sometimes it’s good to feel validated as a writer. Particularly when it’s 10:00 and I’m still in my robe and not feeling glamorous in the least.

The other day, one my IRL (In Real Life) acquaintances contacted me to ask about getting started as a writer. (Name is hidden to protect the innocent) In the process of the conversation he wondered about my pen name and if it was my way of hiding what I do from people. 

Which segues nicely into my topic: You really cannot hide. 

Boy, doesn’t that sound alarming?

Authors take pen names for all kinds of reasons. They may be trying to make a name for themselves in a field where their own name might be an unfortunate liability. (John Smith might not be able to sell romance novels well under his own name. But if he changes it to Sue Taylor, he has a better shot.) Established authors in one field may take another name to sell novels in a different genre. Stephen King sold novels under the name Richard Bachman because his publisher wouldn’t let him produce more than one a year under his own name.

I use more than one name because I wear a lot of hats. On one hand, I’ve been a freelance writer and photographer in some capacity or other (not always official) for around fifteen years. I’ve been paid to write about religion, gardening, prescription drugs, writing, Bigfoot and how to put together various projects using PVC pipe. I’ve been dragged from the back of a speeding boat in freezing weather with sleet raining down on me (worst experience of my career, and believe me, the story grows in the telling), and I’ve shot two Presidents (with a camera).

And then again . . . I happen to write about zombies, werewolves, murder and high adventure for fun. 

When I write about things that involve PVC Pipe, I use the “Tracy Godsey, freelance writer” hat. But when it’s time to write about fun things like haunted hotels with swiftly cooling murder victims, I bring out my “Tracy S. Morris” hat.

And that’s not touching on my SCA experience where I had a completely different identity.

But I don’t try to hide what I do. The reason why is that compartmentalizing my life is pointless. If someone is determined enough to track down information (on me, you or anyone else) they can do it. Just ask Supreme Court Justice Scalia

I learned this lesson the hard way when I was in college, when the brother of my ex tracked down a fictional  story that I had placed online under a pen name  and thought it would be great material to ridicule in front of me.

The basic lesson learned?

1.       The internet is the bathroom wall of the world.

2.       If you don’t want something to become public knowledge, don’t put it up on the internet.

3.       Don’t write (do or be) somethingin private that  you can’t be proud of in front of your grandma. 


 If I can’t be proud of it in front of my grandma, it doesn’t get written. Period. End of story.   No matter how much market potential it might have, I don’t want to have to explain it to her, or possibly a prospective employer.    (Especially considering that there are people out there who have been fired over things that they’ve written in their blogs.)

In a couple months, my second book will be out. My grandma is already asking if I can get her copies for her cousins, friends and ladies at her church. She doesn’t care if the name on the book is Tracy Godsey or Tracy S. Morris. To her, I’m just her granddaughter.

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  1. Ya. Sad state this country is in when someone can be fired for what they write on a private blog. I dearly hope someone tries it with me some day. I’d love to retire on the lawsuit. 🙂

  2. muses_circle says:

    I’m so excited about your book coming out!

    • Tracy says:

      Thanks! I know you read the rough draft, but I”m kind of excited to see what you think of the finished product, since it’s very different.

  3. astein142 says:

    Great post. I’ve always approached my Internet life with the assumption that anything I post to the Internet will probably been seen by my current or future employers, and my mother. Some folks just don’t “get” it.