Twelve years ago, I enrolled in my first online writing class.  I was terribly nervous about exposing myself to a faceless audience.  Like all newbies, I was petrified of anyone reading my work. The idea of someone not liking one of my stories sent me into a panic mode. Somehow, I thought that if I wrote under a pen name it would be easier to share my writing.  My alter ego would bear the brunt of criticism. I could separate myself from the writer and take an objective approach to working with a critique group.

Over a decade later, I know better.  Criticism hurts no matter what name happens to be on the story.

You would think that it would be easy to adopt a pen name and never look back. It took years for me to get to the point where I am comfortable in my feathered guise. This is mostly because of the reception I’ve gotten from other writers in various forums. Not everybody is a free spirit. Not all writers or readers are as playful as I like to be. The Raven is an image, forged from a combination of darkness and light that exists in my soul. It is a reflection of how I perceive the world.  It is the subtext floating through my stories.

Over the years, I’ve been accused of being unprofessional, of not being a serious writer and of clinging to a childish habit.  “Grow up!” Anonymous shouts from a comment box. “What are you hiding?” posts a fellow writer who signs a name I can’t begin to pronounce, let alone spell.

At which point I’ve asked myself, am I trying to mislead someone? Is it a crime to wrap my ego in a flight suit and take off for that white, hot center that gives birth to such wonderful imaginings?

A few years ago, under pressure from “professional” advisors, I tried to drop the pen name.  I signed my true name to the posts in my writing forums.  I wrote my critiques, posted my work and published stories with “Laurel Wilczek” in the byline.  I even used my real name in email to my fellow writers.

And the strangest thing happened.

Nobody wanted Laurel Wilczek.  I received replies to my emails addressed to “Raven.”  In my writings forums, answers to my posts were written to “Raven” even though I posted under “Laurel.”   Every time I held a class in the library, the kids would introduce me to their parents as “Raven” and consequently whenever I crossed paths with students and their parents outside, I was always greeted as “Raven” and  not “Laurel Wilczek.”

Somewhere along the way, my pseudonym took on a life of its own.

Kicker number one came when I realized that my own nieces and nephew liked my alter ego a hell of a lot better than their aunt.  Apparently, Aunt Laurel is a stick in the mud who thinks of consequences first, and fun, second.  Raven, on the other hand, is cool and “darky” and dripping with mystique.  She’s the ego the teen writers in my writing group want sitting at the table once a month at our local Borders.

Kicker number two came when I was messaged by writers from my writing sites. They complained that they hadn’t realized it was me on the forum when I posted an opinion under “Laurel.” I went back to the post, changed the name to “Raven,” Three days later I had twenty replies to the post.  Poor Laurel. She got the complaints. Raven got a cartload of “Howdy dos?” and many invitations to link up on FB and Twitter.

So, why Raven?

No brainer there.  I like Raven too. I like her dark musings. I like the way she thinks and the way she sees the world. I like that students and parents remember her name and that friends she hasn’t heard from for years hop back into her life with the cry, “What’s up, Raven?”

Laurel works fine for the serious stuff. She handles the master plan, takes the brunt of the tedious stuff, like revision and editing. Basically, boring Laurel does all the worrying. She’s a great gal when it comes to deadlines, bills, and schedules.

But Raven?

I’m a firm believer that people respond to images. A mystical bird tempered with darkness has its own allure.  Each time I sit down to write, I am inspired and entranced by the flight into my creative self. There’s something about a great alter ego that makes for great writing.

We are Raven.

We rock the world with our dreams.

6 Responses to “WHY RAVEN?”
  1. joni says:

    ’bout time Missy Raven!!! *waving my finger*

    It’s funny you should mention those alter ego things. When I first met you, many years ago, you were Ravenne! I always responded to you as Raven, not only for Poe’s Raven but also because I’m from Baltimore and of course there are the Baltimore Ravens. (their mascot – Edgar, Allen, and Poe)

    I read your words and Raven was alive and kicking in there. But when I Facebook friended you, you were Laurel.

    Who? What have you done to my Raven!!!! I still found myself responding to you, in your Laurel persona, as Raven.

    When I meet someone, and I call them by nickname, it is hard as crap to switch! Think….calling Benning…Jeffrey! Who? He’s ben to me. lol And you my friend are our Raven! We like you that way! (sorry to your mom, Laurel is a lovely name, but it is not as mysterious as, RAVEN!) 🙂 Raven has punch! Pizzazz…Laurel has a housecoat and bandanna tied in her hair. lol

    • ravenlaw says:

      LOL! I can’t believe you visited so quickly. I’ve been working on a series of blog posts. This one comes at a good time as I have my Raven costume up top. I’m wearing it to the Teen Writer’s Group this Friday. After months of trying to get them NOT to name their group “The Ravenators,”the teen authors have decided to call their group THE RAVE. Seems like they prefer the alter ego too.
      It’s cool that the image appeals to people from all walks of life. I’m so pleased to hear from you!


  2. joni says:

    And also note that I am a poet so I have a certain yen for Poe. 😉 Tell them kids The Rave is much better than the Ravenator. Think about that a second…say it slow… The Raven-ate-her ewww! lol

    Keep writing and forge ahead woman…I mean bird…I mean Mistress of the Dark. lol 😉

    • ravenlaw says:

      lol! I have so got to tell them this. They are a terrific bunch. We are getting ready for the Nano Challenge this week.

  3. Grumps (John Hamshare) says:

    Hi, Ravenne.

    I empathise fully. ‘Grumps’ is what my grandkids and great-grandkids have always called me, so it seemed natural to use the name that I hear most. (My wife calls me Darling, Sweetheart, or Angel–you can see why they would not be appropriate as an alter ego.)

    Only this week I’ve joined a WVU Sci-Fi based workshop and started out as Grumps–however, after the first lesson, I’ve reverted to John so as to write a story about Grumps. I have to say that even after being John for most of my life, it feels very strange to be posting as such.

    Being Grumps gives me a lot more freedom to play and also access those deeper parts of my mind for the darker stuff. If I’m hiding anything by being Grumps, it’s my feelings of inadequacy as a writer, and the serious aspects of Life from which writing is a relief. I have yet to find out who I’ll be if publication becomes a reality. John Grumps might be a possible solution.

    Great site, Ravenne–and fantastic Hallowe’en costume.
    Good luck with NaNo. (I can’t fit it in this year.) I know you’ll do just fine.
    Wishes and vibes,
    Grumps. 😉

  4. benning says:

    Yup! I adopted my Nom de’Internet when my own name seemed to be a bit extroverted for me. I found, once I’d joined WVU, and F2K, that my alter-ego seemed to be much more free than old me. My Internet persona lives on M&Ms and ‘Whoo-Hoos’, plays around, and has more fun than I ever have. benning is me (as is Pine Marten!). Am I benning? 😉

    Whoo-Hoo! 😀

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