Pennames, pseudonyms…they’re common among writers. I’ve used plenty of them. This, however, has not been limited to my writing.
Let’s start with the very first announcement of my existence in this world. They didn’t have ultrasounds back then. You didn’t know what you were getting until the kid popped out, started screaming, and the doctor told you it’s this or that.
Somehow the announcement of my birth went something like this: The calls went out to all the family members, “It’s a boy named Kevin. Mother and child are doing well.”
Yup, there I was, a boy named Kevin.
I’ll clarify here. There was absolutely no confusion over my sex at birth. I was clearly a cis girl. No doubts about that.
Next came the birth certificate. My parents choose a name for both a boy and a girl. Kevin if it’s a boy. Kristin, with tin, not ten, if it’s a girl. They wrote the names down. Not hard to spell, but my mother was dyslexic and essentially illiterate. She really needed it written down.
Of course, she forgot to bring the paper with how to spell Kristin to the hospital. Only the name Kevin went to the hospital with her.
Then comes the nurse wanting the name for the birth certificate. My mother didn’t have the paper with Kristin on it. All she could remember was that they decided to spell it tin, not ten. Here comes the dyslexia (which I, of course, inherited). She couldn’t figure out if it was kris or kirs. She went with the wrong one. Kirstin.
The actual pronunciation took a few years to nail down and various names were employed early on. I vaguely remember my father giving up on it and just calling me Mishalyn for a while. But somewhere around the age of three, they eventually decided to pronounce Kirstin as curse-tin.
But back at the hospital and now to the second round of phone calls. Announcement number two went like this, “It’s not a boy. It’s a girl. We’re not sure what the name is.”
To this day, I’m convinced that no one knows what my name is. I’m still a bit befuddled by it.
As a result, I’ve spent my life going by whatever remotely sounded like my name:
Kristen, Kiersten, Christine, Christina, Christian, etc.
The total misunderstandings of my name:
Urstin (my mother swears that’s a real name) and Thurston.
Then there’s my middle:
Ann, and its variants Annie and Anna.
A pleasant relief to my classmates in Spanish class was:
Isabel (we had to use a Spanish name in class).
Plus, the nicknames close friends came up with when we were teens:
Kay Kay and Nitsrik (Kirstin spelled backwards).
Ah, and now to the three decades of pennames. At this point, you should understand why there have been so many of them. Here’s the list, vaguely in order, as best as I can remember:
Kirstin Kestner, Kirstin A Kestner, K.A. Kestner, K. Kestner, Isabel Kestner, Isabel Sylvan, and Ann Kestner.
Oh, yes, there’s more. Somewhere around 2014, I came up with the idea to divide my poetry into various characters and created a fictional group of poets, who, through their writings interacted with each other. A poet friend of mine thought the idea was either genius or insanity. Turns out, it was insanity.
That group of poets, The Odd-Bound Group, included:
Anna Lyn, April Lyn, Daniel Ward, RJ Stuart, Joan Marie George, and Maggie Pfeiffer.
After all of that, it was time to simplify my personal and writing life. I finally decided to take half of the nickname my closest and most beloved friend called me: Kay. Short for Kay Kay. Although April (or Lirpa) hasn’t called me Kay Kay since she passed in 1996, I like the thought of keeping a little bit of her with me by keeping a little bit of the name she called me. If there was anyone in my life who truly had the right to name me, April (Lirpa) was the one.
So, now, it’s Kay. Okay?