Scaring the Kids

They'll Probably Need Therapy Anyway


Pen Names and a Gift From the Afterlife

A New Orleans cemetery

Coming up with a good pen name

You may be shocked to know that Sarah Cormier is not my actual name.

Ok, so it’s not all that shocking. I imagine that some of you have gone through so many pen names that you have forgotten your real name by now. I’m talking to you, Stephanie King-Eleven-Shelley-Lovecraft. So how does one come up with the right pen name? A pen name that is meaningful and that will stick?

When I first started publishing online, I gave a lot of thought (ok, overthought) to a pen name. I wrote down many overly-serous or overly-silly options, including Anastasia Beaverhausen (still love it), trying to come up with the perfect balance of cleverness and professionalism.

I was trying way too hard.

Then one morning, I saw an article that featured a chef something-or-other Cormier. The lightbulb went off. That’s it! Cormier!

A pen name that is meaningful, personal…

Cormier was my maternal grandfather’s middle name. I didn’t have a lot of grandparent time growing up–most of them passed away when I was young–but I have some lovely memories of my time with my Grandpa.

One of my favorite things to do at Grandpa’s house was to read his Reader’s Digest. My favorite feature was “Drama in Real Life”. I was very young, in elementary school, and absolutely riveted by the accounts of failed brakes, angry bears, and volatile hostage situations. Those little magazines were always laid out on the oval coffee table, near the candy dish with the gum drops and butterscotch discs. Yeah, I like old people candy. So what?

and, of course, spooky

I don’t remember the year my Grandpa died. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade. I remember my mom taking us to Thrifty’s for ice cream after school and then telling us in the car. What I felt was complex and hard to articulate. I was sad, but also curious about what it meant to have someone close to me die.

It was a couple of months after the funeral that a Reader’s Digest showed up in our mailbox with my name on it. It was my very own! Grandpa knew how much I loved to read and re-read those dramas, so he ordered a gift subscription for my birthday. That must have been only a few days before he died.

Remember when magazines used to take 8-10 weeks for the first issue to be delivered? I bet you do, because unbelievably, this is still the case. What in the world takes so long?

It’s ok, though. The inexplicably slow delivery time is what allowed Grandpa to give me a birthday gift after he died. “Drama in Real Life” hooked me as a very young reader, and I’m sure that the type of thrill I got from reading about a farmer who survived thousands of angry bee stings translated easily into the type of thrill I now get from reading horror. My pen name is a small way to honor that gift.

So I while I don’t have the answer to the pen name conundrum, I can share that when I stopped being a try-hard, the right name just appeared before me. It connects me to someone special who fostered an early love of reading the scary stuff. It’s the perfect pen name.

Until next time!

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