My words do not come from anyone but myself. If I have an alter-ego who creates words, she is content to let her name be private and kindly allows me to claim the credit.
This has not always been true. The first time I tried to change my unwanted name, I was not-quite-five, and and had just learned the history of Crater Lake. I declared for a whole week that I wanted to be known as Mazama. No common, wilting, road-side flower, I, but an exploding, three-foot mountain. Eventually, though, I settled for answering to the name my parents gave me.
I signed my grade school fiction “Crystal Key,” combining my middle name with a name chosen at random from the phone book. I chose my characters names from the phone book, too, but all from separate pages, for fear that someone would catch on. I wrote mopey teenage love poems as “Paula Craycroft,” an amalgam of names from both sides of the family I refused to acknowledge in public. In college, though, once interesting things started happening to me instead of to people I only read about, I claimed my own name again for a few brief years before I stopped writing altogether.
I grew up a Poppy in a generation of Jennifer and Christy, and my name was just one more thing that made me different. And yet, it is an indelible part of me, now, like my teeth or my hair, and my entire history is attached to it. To lose it now would be amnesic, and I do not want to start over, rebuilding a past that belongs to someone else.