How I got my name

Is Janks your real name?

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame;

Each to his passion; what’s in a name?

— Helen Hunt Jackson.

How did I get my name? Well, that’s not the name I was born with. You see, in my other life I’m a psychiatrist and it felt a bit confusing having the “doctor me” and the “children’s fantasy writer me” share the same name. (Maybe not so confusing for me, but plenty confusing for my patients and my colleagues).

I thought long and hard about what name to choose. Charlie, Sam, and Alfie were the big contenders (especially Alfie!). When I settled on a name, I excitedly put it in the header section of my book and then, whenever I opened the word document to start writing, I took notice of how I felt when that name leaped to the top of the page.  That’s when something strange and unexpected happened…

Resentment. It didn’t take long for me to despise the name staring at me on the page. That name was NOT me. Who was this person putting their name on something that was so personal and meaningful to me? So, feeling disappointed, I deleted it and went back to brainstorming.

And then everything changed. One evening, I was walking to dinner with my family and we passed a construction sign that said “Janks Construction.” I didn’t think much about it, but the name stuck out to the kids and they made up a little song and dance. It went something like this:

“You can’t janks the jankster. You can’t prank the prankster…” and on and on and on to an accompanying jig that involved a lot of arm waving and fancy foot tapping.

That song became indelibly stamped into our family’s subconscious. Before long everybody was humming the Janks the jankster song…while doing homework, scratching the dog’s belly, making spaghetti.

A few weeks (and twelve new stanzas) later of Janks the jankster, my husband said, “Well, obviously that’s your name!”

And I instantly loved it. I slapped it on my header and held my breath. Would I hate it when I went to write tomorrow? The next day? In two weeks? But no. I loved it more and more. I beamed every time I saw it…and I had to hum a few bars every time (Sorry folks next to me at Starbucks!). The name became me.

Of course, it didn’t dawn on me for months and months and months (and after I had fully embraced the name with all my heart and soul) to actually google it to see if anything came up…

Jank: (noun) bootleg, poor quality, useless

Aw man.

Well, what’s in a name, anyway?


Are you thinking of a pen name? Or do you already have one? How did you decide? I’d love to know. Drop me a line in the comments below!

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