Am I Unmasking If No One Even Knows Me?
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
I've got a conundrum that I legitimately need your feedback on. I spent some time last week updating this site. I'm kind of at the point in my writing career where I have to dig a little deep for content as I don't have any books to sell, reviews to post, or merch to hock. So I worked on making the overall look more cohesive, I added a page with a contact form, and then I got to a point where I realized that I'd been spending a lifetime trying to push out creative work under another name and didn't know how to address all of the photos, videos, and more from that side of my life.
So here's the conundrum...I have over 25 years of professional experience in acting, writing, teaching, and directing. I've worked with tons of amazing people and have amassed a body of work that I'm pretty proud of. In any other new creative endeavor, it would seem to be a no brainer that I'd link my two personas together, regardless of writing under a pen name (especially since the book I'd like to launch with features a woman improviser/actor). Let's be honest, one of the MAIN reasons I have a pen name (sorry to break the fourth wall here, but I do) is that I have an unwieldy Polish last name that I got from my husband. Eliot is a much more sellable name and also is a nice tribute to one of my heroes Cass Elliot.
But I digress...the other part of why I took a pen name is the fact that (get your pearls ready to be clutched) there's SEX in my books. It's not erotica by any stretch of the imagination. (Though that's a totally legit genre with some great writers in it.) It's just rom coms where they don't close the door and fade to black when it's time to get down. And since I work with youth and the community during the day, I shouldn't publicize these writings under my own name. Makes sense. (Kinda.) I really want to get on a major soap box here about our country's puritanical awkwardness around sex and how romance gets a bad rap because it's women embracing reading and writing about fulfilling sex, but I'll leave that for either another day or writers that are more skilled than I am at making those points.
Anyway, I get why I shouldn't say "HERE'S A BOOK WITH SEX IN IT BY [MY REAL NAME]!" But what about the other way around? Do I avoid letting any of my future readers know who I am once they've found me as Maggie Eliot? And does saying who I really am ruin the mystery?
It reminds me of an audition I went on a couple of years ago. I'd been out of the film/tv audition circuit for a couple of decades. And in the meanwhile, everything had changed. Everyone walked in and accessed their profile on a tablet. (I had to CREATE one, ugh). And when you went in, they didn't want a headshot and resume. I, being the pleaser I am, brought one anyway. "How will they know who I am?" Umm...digital photography/video, genius! Anyway, when I went to hand it to the casting agent, she put her hand up, didn't take it, and said, "honestly, nobody cares what you've done before." GULP! I'm sorry, what? (Snapping fingers by ears to check hearing). All I have is what I've done before. I'm the veteran. I don't have a hot body or skills in a foreign language or fight choreography or anything. I just have experience.
So...should I include my other life? What I decided to go with was posting photos without any major description and linking them to the FB, Twitter, website, and YouTube pages of the troupes and theatres I'd been involved with. Then people can see my past work if they want and maybe even feel like a bit of a sleuth that they figured out to click on the pictures and find out more.
I dunno. Maybe once the SEX books come out, I'll have to hide my true self away again. But for now, I don't even have a book to sell, so I'm not sweating it.
Drop me a comment if you want to help me figure it out.