Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What's in a Name?

For those of you confused to suddenly see me posting as ‘Merry Monteleone’, wondering where the Jelinek went, and unsure why I would do such an odd thing... I figured I’d explain... For those of you who couldn’t care less, just ignore this post and come back tomorrow.

Jelinek is my married name. When I first started this blog I was still freelance writing and I decided to use my legal name in order to link it later as I built my business, etc. etc. As time went on, I found that the freelance writing was taking so much time away from my fiction writing that I had to make a choice between the two. I decided, obviously, to run full steam with the fiction for as long as I could feasibly go without an income... (I can’t do it much longer, but that’s another story)

The name Jelinek remained as my signature for two reasons:
1) I had already met a number of bloggers and made a few contacts who were visiting my blog on a regular basis and it seemed like a hassle to change it and confuse people.
2) I’m lazy.

The time had come for change... well, mostly I’ve been seeing over and over that if you’re using a pseudonym then you should use it everywhere so as not to confuse perspective agents and editors.

I always wanted Monteleone to be my byline for fiction. I still, even after eleven years of marriage, identify with my maiden name more fully. It’s mine. It’s where I came from and therefore a part of who I am. Besides, Monteleone translates to Mountain Lion – how cool is that? My full name means, Happy Mountain Lion, and I didn’t even have to make it up!!! Does anyone else get a picture of a cartoon mountain lion in a top hat doing a little dance? Maybe it’s just me...

Jelinek means ‘Little Deer’ in Czech, which is fine and good... Mountain Lion’s better, but ya know, Little Deer beats ‘light bulb’ or something...

So there ya go. It was a decision I had written in stone in my head anyway... I wanted to see my work in print long before I ever met my husband, and he’s not exactly supportive of my writing, so I don’t think his name should go on the side of something that’s mine... after all, Jelinek was already given to my three greatest creations and I think that’s pretty fabulous...

January Check In and other Odds and Ends

Book Club Blog
The book club blog is ready to get underway at Shelly Bryant’s blog – you can find the first post announcing the book right there (it’s The Man Who Walked Through Time for those of you who hesitate to follow linkage).

The first discussion will kick off in mid February, so if you have some time and like to discuss literature, I hope you’ll check it out.

Submission Progress

After careful consideration, I decided to suspend all queries and submission until early February. Many of the agents and editors I’ve been reading have talked about the landslide of submissions in January, both due to the time off and Resolution writers... I just thought it was counter-productive to send anything out when I knew they’d likely be overwhelmed already.

I did submit one piece, but kicked myself later for it... we’ll see what happens there.

Novel Progress

Yay, me!!! I’m speeding along and really, really enjoying these revisions... well, better than when I was banging my head off the keyboard trying to find my lost voice... Anyhoo... If I keep it in high gear, I think I’ll make my end of the month deadline on it. Beta Readers beware, this is such a heavy revision that there will probably be typos and things in the copy I send you... I’ll try my best to get them out, but it’ll probably take a few weeks away before I’m really focusing on the nitpicky things again.

Well, there you go... Comments a plenty, voice away... What do you think of the name – was it a good choice to change it here or do you think I should have just opened a new blog for that? What are your choices for writing names? Is it your birth name, pen name, married name? Is it something you thought much about or not really at all? And how’s the writing going?


WordVixen said...

I definitely see your point, but how cute is "happy little deer"?

Actually, google searches for Merry Monteleone were showing up on my blog, and I was wondering if it was you. Good to know!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Wordvixen,

how can you check what google searches show up on your blog? And does that mean someone is searching for my name or does that just mean if you did google my name it would point to your blog... huh, I don't get it, I never signed my maiden name there and just changed my name here today... though my myspace account in in my maiden name... interesting.

moonrat said...

merry would, were she not merry called, maintain that dear perfection she so sweetly owes without that title. etc.


Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Moonrat,

Thanks, it feels rather nice to have my name back... even if it's only in the blog-o-sphere... will say it's a preview of things to come...

And the Shakespeare is lovely.


I google searched... I had mentioned changing it back to my maiden name in comments at your place, and used my full name, that's why it's coming up in google searches. Otherwise I think there's only four entries for my name, three of which are here.

jjdebenedictis said...

Both last names are pretty cool, but yes, choose the one that resonates best with you.

I actually identify more with my married name. My full maiden name consist of my name (Goblin ;-p), followed by my mother's name, followed by my father's (family) name.

To my mind, only my first name is really mine. However, my husband is my choice, so I'm happy happy to adopt his name. (And it's such a cool name--it means "of the blessings" in Latin.)

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi JJ,

I love your last name - I actually kind of guessed the meaning because it's so similiar to benediction, which is a common term in Catholicism and probably a lot of other religions...

And yes, Jelinek is a good name - my husband's rather proud of it and my kids are too, so I wouldn't have that any other way...

I know people that look at it both ways - and I agree with you, it's whatever is most fitting for you is what will resonate.

Ello said...

I love Monteleone! It's a beautiful name and perfect for publishing under. I approve!

Good for you on the query and revising. I stopped querying because I realized I had a major problem structurally in my book and so I stopped querying until I could figure out how to fix it. And am feverishly working on my next WIP.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Ello,

Yay! Glad you like it - I do, too, though I'm wondering if my future agent/editor might suggest using initials - as my main character is male... gee, am I getting a bit ahead of myself?

I haven't queried yet on the novel, I'll finish the revisions this month, wait for feedback from my beta readers, and give myself some time away before a final read through/tweak... and then off they go.

The submission was actually the short you read for me... it's a hard one to find a market for because it doesn't exactly fit in with a market - thriller kinda but more psychological... all of which makes me even more annoyed with myself for submitting at the dreaded New Year window, because my list of possibles on this one was rather small.

I'm glad you're getting so much writing in on your current wip - is that the world war II novel? Hopefully when you're done with this one you'll have nice fresh eyes to re-tool the first. Let me know if you'd like an extra beta reader - I'd love to take a look for you.

Stephen Parrish said...

"Merry Monteleone" is exotic and catchy. I've made the change in my sidebar.

I went to school with the actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. She refused to change her name despite industry requests (especially to shorten it) and her stance may have actually helped her career; how many other names contain eleven syllables?

Sun Singer said...

Great! Plus, with your name, maybe you'll get to use one of the wonderful suites at the Monteleone in the French Quarter when you're doing the big book tour. Congrats on working your way closer to the completion of your novel.


Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for stopping in, and changing me on your blogroll.

I think Mastrantonio has a beautiful name, but it is interesting how quick people are to advise changing a name that's different or longer for movies and media. I'm more likely to remember ethnic or interesting names than I am to remember common ones.

Hi Malcolm,

I'd love to stay there sometime, everyone I know who's been to New Orleans has stopped there to pick me up little things with the name on it or just to pick up brochures... my family also settled in New Orleans and my Papa (grandfather) was born there around 1900, before his father took them back to Sicily. Not that any of that's going to get me a free room, but I think it's interesting.

I am starting to get to the excited stage on the novel... very productive and all of the chapters are coming together... of course, tomorrow I might hate it and the next day think it's brilliant... you know how it is when you're in the thick of it... hopefully I find that it's lived up to my vision on the final read through after clearing my head from revisions.

Mary Witzl said...

Though I like 'Jelink' -- it reminds me of both Jelly and sausages! -- I would definitely go with Monteleone. This not only sounds like a mountain lion, it sounds like a mountain lion with interesting roots.

Witzl is how my legal name is pronounced (I kept my maiden name after I got married) and also how it was probably originally spelled, back before it was Anglicized. Someone told me that it meant something like 'little joke' in German, but what I like about it is the fact that it is compact and has a Z in it and is thus far cooler than my (sort of) original name.

Precie said...

Both your names are excellent! But I think Merry Monteleone has such a wonderful resonance.

Josephine Damian said...

Merry, since your blog URL is not either name, and your blogger tagline is Mom and more, I don't think you need to consider another blog.

I do suggest you don't change your avatar any time soon, since it helps people (like me) get that MT = MJ).

I've said this before: Jeremiah Healy said all us gals should use a pen name because of stalkers and weirdos. I also think having a different name/persona as a writer helps keep success or failure as a writer in perspective with other aspects of life, the other hats we all wear.

Also, I think you can send out queries right after MLK Day. Good luck!

Merry Monteleone said...


My brother in law's friends all call him Jelly - he's a musician and on his music page his quote is, "They call me jelly cause jam don't shake".. which I find rather humorous, but I'm easily amused.

I like your name, too. I often wish I'd kept mine, but I thought it would get too confusing for the kids to have a different last name from me.

Hi Precie,

Thanks. Actually, there are rather highly esteemed authors out there already with both names. But mine has that double 'M' thing going on :-)

Hi Josephine,

I remember reading that about MLK day, I think from you - putting off til February works out for me, though, because I won't get distracted from the novel and I can start working more on the short stuff when I'm not allowing myself to read through the wip for a little while... otherwise I'd just keep revising infinitum.

And, yeah, that's another thought to consider: the weirdo factor. I think, a persistent enough stalker could probably find you either way, but it's a heck of a lot harder if the name doesn't exist in a legal sense.

The Anti-Wife said...

Ooooh! Now your MM. I love M&M's. Especially the green ones. I'll change your link on my blog. Good luck with your novel.

Travis Erwin said...

I'll change the link on my site soon to reflect the new old you. And yes mountain lions are cooler than little deer but not nearly as tasty.

Sorry I realize that sounds like the dialogue of a serial killer but really I'm a nice guy. Trust me;)

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Anti-wife,

Thanks so much... and you'll be happy to know I haven't forgotten your ode - It's off of Stairway to Heaven, which is a bit more difficult to parody than I thought, but it's about halfway done now.

Hi Travis,

Oh, Great, I knew you looked a little shifty in that santa suit.

Hey, weren't you supposed to be sending me some texas tunes and your wip?

Shelly said...

I think the name change on your blog is the way to go, Merry, since it is the name you will be published under. And Merry Monteleone sounds great for a fiction writer.

Thanks for linking to the book club discussion. I've tagged you for a meme I think you might enjoy.

Lynnette Labelle said...

I am doing the same thing with my maiden name. I want people who knew me while I was growing up to see I really was able to get published. Okay, so I haven't reached that goal yet. But I'm close!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Shelly,

I drop by to see what I got tagged for a little later today, thanks for thinking of me.

And no problem at all linking the book club - I'm hoping we have lots of participation and it keeps going in the months to come.

I'm also participating in the Mother Talk book club, which just started this month... I'll probably put up a post about that one, too - it's a whole message board community and it looks like it will be a lot of fun.

Hi Lynette,

So nice to see you. I actually do know what you mean - it would be nice for some of the people that I grew up with to know that my 'pipe dream' actually went somewhere... it didn't have alot to do with my decision to keep my maiden name, but most of the people I grew up with know both names anyway.

I think that's fairly common though - most people don't really understand writing - it's like movie stars, they think it's just daydreaming to try doing it unless they, too, share the creative bug. When I transferred to an arts college and announced a fiction writing major, the general response was, "What are you going to do with that?" usually with rolled eyes.

Ello said...

I'll be your beta if you want to be mine. Sounds like grade school - I'll be your friend if you'll be mine!

My current WIP is my YA novel on ancient Korea. But time warped and in fantasy mode. Should be interesting.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey Ello,

Absolutely, I'd love to read for you - and I can defintely use another set of impartial eyes on mine... Shall I make you a friendship bracelett too?

I'll email when I'm ready for readers, or you can email me if your ready for critique before me!

ventiseitre said...

Hi Merry!
Look this:

That's an italian web-site showing the distribution of surnames in Italy. (you just have to write "monteleone" under the writing "cognome" and click on Go)
It seems your surname is very popular here..

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Ventiseitre,

Welcome to my little blog! I did know Monteleone is a pretty popular name - my father was born in Sambuca di Sicilia, and then came here - Some of his cousins and their families still live in the same town.

Someday I hope to make it there, and visit my great grandparents' graves and see everything. My grandmother told me it was beautiful... probably much different now than when she remembers it...

I have two neighbors who came from Sicily and go back to visit their families sometimes - they are the nicest people. One likes to share opera with me outside in the summer and the other makes sure to bring me homemade wine and cookies for Christmas... We have a lot of Sicilian Americans where I am, which is nice for me, I get to hear a bit more about Sicily.

Have you ever thought of visiting America?

Colleen_Katana said...

Ho-Ly Crap-o-la. How does one GET 25 comments on their blog? This is insanity!

Anyway, I meant to comment on this before, but I caught a cold and then of course in the height of my being sick, work became supers busy. Go figure. So, anyway, here I am now.

I totally hear you on the maiden name thing. Monteleone is kickass! Sounds like you should be living in New Orleans a hundred years ago or something. I've always loved my last name, Katana...the thought of changing it to ANYTHING else makes me pout. KATANA! It's like a superhero name....my family will be like the Incredibles....only we're the KATANA'S! And we'll carry swords on our backs...

Ok, I went a little far. But it's way better than Murphy...the boyfriend!'s last name.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Colleen,

First, I love your name - great name for publishing, too... second, I thought the same thing about Jelinek as you're thinking about the boyfriend's name... nothing really replaced my own.

As far as the comments, half of them are mine, so it's not really as impressive as it looks... have you seen ello's blog - she can hit 30 without one repeat commenter.

ventiseitre said...

Merry, visiting U.S.A. is my biggest dream! Since I was a child and I watched all the american moovie and listen all the american songs, I wanted to go to America!
In fact I'm organising with two friends of mine to come here after we graduate. We wish to make the "coast to coast" with a car, from New York to San Francisco or Los Angeles. One day I'll come here, that's sure!

I didn't know Sambuca (I knew only the drink named Sambuca)...it's a very small town near Agrigento and I don't know those places very well..

Merry Monteleone said...


Oh, that sounds like a wonderful trip. What a great way to see the country!!! And you'll get to meet so many people along the way. Most Americans don't even get to see everything, because we fly when we go to another state and don't savor it... I hope you and your friends have a wonderful time.

And, yeah, I know the drink Sambuca, too! Most people don't know the town because it's so small.

Jerseygirl89 said...

I'd go with the mountain lion too. I pretty much live by jerseygirl in blogland and use my married name for freelance writing. However, if I should ever pull myself together and finish a novel, I would use my full maiden name - that's how I envisioned it when I was young. Actually, if the freelance thing were to turn into something big, I would probably use my maiden name too. The only reason I have a married name is that I took my first husband's name (due to emotional blackmail, really) and I wanted to give Hubby the same due as my first husband.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Jersey,

I used the married name for freelancing, too, but when I started submitting fiction I realized how confusing it is with two different last names - my email address comes up under my married name. So I'm opening up a new account just for fiction submissions... obviously, if I sign with an agent they'll need both, but why confuse them ahead of time...

I didn't particularly want to change mine, either, but then I didn't want the kids to have different last names than I do because that's confusing as well...

Ah, the joys of being female... I wonder how many men would change their names if the shoes were on the other foot... I bet none.