A Pen Name.
I spent a lot time thinking and praying over this idea before I created my website. I researched why Authors use pen names and why they don’t. In today’s world if you use a pen name, I believe most people are aware of it. So why use one? Or better yet, why not? It’s fun!
I use one.
There are a lot of different reasons for choosing a pen name as well as pros and cons. I personally, have nothing against my first name, Tonya. Although, it is regularly misspelled. I hated my maiden name; West. No matter what there were jokes about which direction I was going. Ironically, I am very skilled at getting lost.
My married name, VanWinkle leads to a lot of “like Rip VanWinkle” remarks. Many people call my husband and son both, Rip. Not something I want to be called.
I wanted something that was mostly, all mine.
When I set out in search of a name, I asked myself these questions:
- Will it look pretty on a cover?
- Does anyone else have it/use it? I needed to make sure I could use it as my website.
- Is it hard to pronounce?
Pretty simple. I typed it up in several different fonts to see how it would look and eventually settled on:
My middle name is Renea – although most people I know spell it Renee – I guess my Mom liked to be unique. I like it spelled this way though. Then I wondered what I could make work with my maiden name as it would be easier to adjust than VanWinkle. I lost my precious mother-in-law June of 2014 and her name was Marilyn. In her memory, I took the “lyn” and added to my maiden name.
And there you have it. The how and the why of my pen name – a name that is all mine.
However, until this year I have written as Tonya VanWinkle or Tonya West. In February of 1999 – I received this after submitting a poem into a contest my Librarian Mrs. Russell had suggested.
When I received this along with a letter in the mail about it I was through the roof excited. I mean I felt like I was flying and then I realized I had to purchase said book. That deflated me a bit. I didn’t expect to be paid but if I wanted the book that contained a piece of my work in it, I had to buy it? Weird.
But have the book, I do and my poem is on the bottom of page 56. Today, I can’t find that book online anywhere. The furtherest back I can find is 2001.
The company however is still around and still providing the contest to students all around the world and they can be found here: Creative Communications
The copyright inside the book says that the writing may not be shared without permission of both Author and Publisher. I have contacted them about it and as soon as I receive approval I will share it with you.
My life changed drastically that very month as I learned I would be a Momma. I graduated that May, married that August and was blessed with a beautiful baby girl that October. Life got busy. My writing journey took all kinds of twists and turns. I attempted writing Children’s books for a while – so not my thing. I found a folder with my work from that time – I’ll have to share some of that mess later.
I continued to write poetry and other things – which is why I should have stock in journals.
I took a few writing classes here and there, but mostly I continued to dream. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year, when my son said to me…
well what did you want to do before kids
that I realized I was doing what I wanted to do before children. I was just keeping it all to myself and not pursuing the dream. With the empty nest fast approaching, I have a lot of time to myself and my goal this year is to make it happen, which means I have to stay focused!