When I started submitting work for publication, I had a dilemma to face, one that I’d never considered until that moment. There I was, final-checking my manuscript for proper formatting and double-checking the submission guidelines. The editors asked me to include in my email: my name (check), story title and genre (check), my email address (check), and my byline (?).
It dawned on me that I could be anyone I chose. Mildred Smith. Sanji Dalwallah. Chris Anygender. Chen Anyrace. I’ll admit my mind ran wild as I considered the possibilities. In the end, I wanted my name on my stories. Not in order to brag, but, well, to mark them as mine; my attempts, my failures and yes, my successes.
But what me?
My given name is Mary. I’ve never been fond of it, especially since I became an aunt at age three. In my mind, “Aunt Mary” is plump and wears red or blue gingham, has round cheeks, short gray hair of no style, and cools apple pies on her windowsill while a properly-attired scarecrow looks on from the meticulous vegetable garden, and warns away crows and larcenous cats. Ugh! That’s not me. (Well, other than loving pie-baking. And lusting after a proper vegetable garden.) “Mary Garber” as my byline was out.
I’ve never been a fan of folk using their first initial and middle name. It seems to contrived and mysterious to me. Add to that the facts that a) I don’t particularly care for my middle name much more than my first name, and b) I don’t identify with myself with my middle name.
Great. What’s left? My initials.
My oldest brother is named Mike. He’s M. Garber, too — as we both learned when we emailed one another the first time from out separate internet providers. We were both “m.garber@” which was a little creepy until we realized it was just us, not some strange ghost/other “me” in the machine.
So, that left M. E. It’s gender-neutral, but not really. I tend to see any author using two initials as a byline as female, harking back to “the good old days” when women had to hide their identities to write, since men knew they couldn’t. So I’m not trying to hide my gender, but I think gender is irrelevant, and hope most readers now do, too.
The cursor was blinking, waiting for my decision. I chose. M. E. Garber I am. Anything else seemed way too complicated.
Why did you choose your byline?