When my life skills book Managing the Worry Circle was released, I wasn’t totally surprised to receive global radio and coast-to-coast TV requests to talk about it. Worry is a universal subject; we all do it and people tend to be curious about learning why. Far more surprising than interest in the book was the widespread fascination with my pen name.
My legal name is Theodore John Simendinger III. If not for Theodore James three TJs back, I’d be Theodore John VII. In Germany and Austria, everyone pronounces Simendinger properly (Simm-en-ding-ur). In America, no one gets it right. Few even bother to study the letters and try. Clearly they are not hooked on phonics. Texters get fatigued trying to type it.
I have heard every butchered iteration imaginable. My personal favorite is “Ed Slingenhoffer,” announced loudly from the foot of a staircase by the martini-clutching mother of a high school date.
I first noodled around with a fake name when telling jokes in comedy clubs. I kept my first name, Ted, but substituted Chaplin for Simendinger. I grew up worshipping silent films and borrowing The Little Tramp’s last name seemed appropriate. But the name didn’t stick, nor did the career. I gave up performing when it came time to hit the road. Jeff Foxworthy was working for IBM in Atlanta back then and tossed his corporate career to run with the coyotes. I was with Xerox in Florida and decided to stay put. I would have crashed and burned on the road and knew it. I am thrilled for Fox and his great success. Nice guys can, indeed, win the game. He is a shining example in a tough business where ten years is an overnight success.
Ocean Palmer came to me during the writing of my surf-themed dramatic novella, The Rise and Fall of Piggy Church. I knew a stoner would never remember my legal name and pondered something simpler. Ocean Palmer popped into my head immediately, so I used it. I’m glad I did. People seem to like and remember it, which is half a writer’s challenge. The other half is turning out good work. Writing is easy but writing well is hard. Regardless what name you use (ex. Stephen King or Richard Bachman), every writer owes his or her readers their absolute best. Deliver that and they’ll stick with you. Without the blood they’ll read someone else.
I’ve written under the Ocean Palmer pen name since Piggy Church, much to the amusement of business friends and connections who’ve known me for decades as Ted, Theo, Dinger, Ted from Xerox, and heaven knows what else. Among those connections is a woman who used a fake name long before me.
I met her while teaching a corporate sales class in Houston. During morning introductions she mentioned she socialized under an assumed name.
I asked why.
“In case I meet a creep.”
I was taken aback by her disclosure, which surprised her.
“A lot of girls do it,” she said. “We do it all the time.”
This was a shocking revelation. I had no idea women across America dupe men via fake identifies. It made me wonder how many people I have come to know by one name who live by another. What if only four of 10,000 truly is who he or she claims to be? Could the chicanery be so widespread that every relationship is an illusion?
It’s fun to have a pen name and Ocean Palmer outsells Ted Simendinger three to one so I will keep using mine. Everyone should have a pen name of his or her choosing; an alter ego that frees them to talk freely about themselves in the third person, like baseball legend Rickey Henderson when he talks about “Rickey.”
One method for creating a name is to match your first pet’s name with the street you grew up on. Given that formula I’m Vickie Bayberry. A friend of mine is Twinkie Los Altos.
Invent a good name that suits you and your personality, and have fun with it.
But don’t pick Ocean. That one’s taken.
Tom Sewell saysJanuary 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm
now if you would just explain the nickname Rise. LOL
Gloria Richey saysFebruary 16, 2010 at 5:12 pm
Hi Ted, or Ocean, or whoever you are. . .
I guess my name would be “Puffy Main”. How are you? Glad to see your writing career has been so successful. I really enjoyed reading a couple of your books several years ago. I will have to look for the rest and read them also. Let’s catch up!
Gloria (Ex-xeroid in Sacramento)