Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Z is for Zander (or What's In A Name?)

My maiden name is Zander. Growing up, I hated being at the end of the alphabet because school classes were always set up alphabetically, students were lined up alphabetically and teams were often chosen the same way. I was always last, or close to it. Luckily, when I was in elementary school, my principal, whose last name began with a W, used to use reverse ABC order whenever he chose people for anything.

At my wedding, my dad’s toast to my husband and me included “disappointment” that I’d only managed to move up a few places in the alphabet.

When I started writing, one of the things I had to consider was what name to use as my author name. Since my name is Wilck, the difference alphabetically isn’t huge. It used to be that you wanted an author name that worked well on the shelves in the bookstore. Ideally, you wanted to be at eye level. With the advent of electronic publishing, I wonder how important an author’s actual name is.

I’d contemplated using my middle name and going by “Jennifer Alison,” but that seemed too contrived to me. I thought of just using my maiden name, “Jennifer Zander,” but that seemed to discount everything I’ve become. Ultimately, I decided on using “Jennifer Wilck.” I don’t want to forget where I came from, but I do want to acknowledge who I am now. And you never know; being a few shelves higher than the ground in a bricks and mortar bookstore might help!


  1. What an experienc growing up, Jen! I was an H last name. Your principal was thoughtful.
    When I drove school bus, I used to drive the route backwards on Fridays, just so the last offs could be first offs. The kids loved it.
    I read ages ago that a Julia Quinn picked her author name so it would be shelved near an already famous author. She hoped browing readers would spy it better.

  2. I was a W at school, and hated being near the end of the alphabet. As you say, Jen, last in line for everything!
    I always said I was going to marry someone with surname starting with A or B, but what happened? I married someone with a W surname and have kept the name (even though I hated it) even when we were divorced because it was how everyone knew me by then.
    I didn't choose my pen-(sur)name with any thought of bookshelves though! You all already know why I chose it!

  3. Ana, that's great about the school bus--I bet the parents liked it too! And Julia Quinn's idea is clever.

    Yes, Paula, I know how you chose your last name. You should send him a copy of your books with an explanation.

  4. I went from a B to an R when I got married, so I went toward the bottom of the list.

    At school now sometimes we line up forwards alphabetical, sometimes backwards. Now I guess those middle people are the ones always in the same spot!

    Intersting thoughts on author names and shelf placement. With bricks and mortar stores going by the wayside, it might not matter at all soon.