27 June 2011

Oh, Google, My Name Is ...

            Back when I was a young lass, just getting’ me feet wet, testing the waters of art and writing, an aunt sent me mother an article from Ballet News or some such magazine. The article was a review of a book about ballet, written by Valerie Brooks. Mum thought it had to be me because 1) that was me name, and 2) I love ballet and had taken ballet lessons from the time I was four. ‘Tis a sad day when ye ha’ to disappoint a mother.
            No, ‘twas not me, I had to tell her. ‘Twas not me article.
            I thought no more about it until years later when I began to call meself a writer. “You have the perfect name for a writer,” many said. Aye, I thought so, too.
            I thought no more of it. ‘Twas me name. A good hearty name. Valerie, French for valorous, strong. Brooks, traced back in our ancestry to the Normans when they conquered England in 1066. Thanks, mum! Thanks, Dad!
            I wrote for ten years without losing a sail. I had published and illustrated the first textbook for women in non-traditional careers. I’d been editor of a literary magazine. Then I began seriously writing fiction.

            Ah-har, I’d get to use me name soon!
            So I sailed to the internet to claim it on a URL.
            What? Bloody hell! Some dirty thieving pirate stole me name! Me heart sunk. I was forced to use me middle initial. Valerie J. Brooks.
            Who would know that?
            Then a fishbait troublemaker took it on Twitter, only this time, the name Valerie Brooks was followed by “freak” and some cartoonish #$%&. Wait ‘till I get me hands on that …
            Ah, but ‘twasn’t enough of a floggin’.
            Me son was tellin’ a friend o’ his about me writin’. His friend wants to be a writer, too, so he gives her my name and says to look me up for a chat. Blimey! She stops by me son’s house and says, “I ordered your mom’s book.”  Me? I ha’ no bloody books yet. What infernal nonsense be this? She shows him the book.
            Tantric Awakening: a Woman’s Initiation into the Path of Ecstasy
            And no mistake. Was written by Valerie Brooks.
            Well, I can’t say I wouldn’t mind writin’ a book like that, but …
            another one by me name?
             So I be thinkin’, okay, you’re not the only one. No need to sink your ship and be done wi’ it. When your novel comes out, maybe you should be V. J. Brooks, you know, like those who try to cover their gender?
            I be no lily-livered female, and you know it. I’m a pirate, for Neptune’s sake! I’m proud to be female.
            But, alas, it not be done there.
            Another curst pirate moves into me territory with me name. She even goes to my dentist and wanted to meet me! Harkee me, the rogue!
            Nay, I say. Be enough of a curse I be asked now whenever buying boots, or books, or paper, “Which one are you?”
            ‘Tis enough to make me blood boil.
            Then one day, a call comes. “Hello, this is Springfield Cleaners. We have your wedding dress and want to know if you’re coming to pick it up.”
            Be this a jest?
            Nay. Seems the dress has been there for months and “Valerie Brooks” has not claimed it. I say, “Look, lad, I’m not the Valerie Brooks you’re lookin’ for.” I give ‘im me dentist’s number to find her.
            And if this doesn’t make me yell, “Enough!” a recent Google alert for me name (oh, yes, we writers do that) pops up with this:

Find valerie brooks on WhitePages. There are 223 people named valerie brooks through regions like Baltimore, MD, Chicago, IL, Dallas, TX, Detroit, MI, ...

            ‘Tis a sad thing not to be able to own me own name. A writer needs their name to be recognized. Hemingway. Margaret Atwood. Virginia Woolfe. Herman Melville. What chance there be they ha’ me troubles. Ah, well, someday I be publishin’ and maybe I be using me full name. I dare some dung-souled imposter to show up with that!

Until next time, when I be interviewing the fair and lovely Jessica Maxwell, fair winds and followin’ seas to ye,
Captain Valerie Joy Brooks

To find out what your Pirate Name is click here!

NEW! To listen to an audio excerpt of my memoir "Liberté" from France, a Love Story, click on the mp3 player to the right!

Coming Up!
Finally, my interview with the fair and lovely Jessica Maxwell
Residency Adventures: Photos and Inside Tales from a Writer's Residency
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