Friday, January 05, 2007

Artists Changing Names

This week's topic at Studio Friday is Changing Names

"I've been reading Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit and here's an idea from her book - " the ancient masters of Japanese art were allowed to change their name once in their lifetime. They had to be very selective about the moment in their career when they did so. They would stick with their given name until they felt they had become the artist they aspired to; at that point, they were allowed to change their name. For the rest of their life, they would work under the new name at the height of their powers." So let's presume we are at the height of our careers - what name would you choose and why? "

As an undergrad in college, taking a creative writing course, we were required to take a pen name so that others could critique our writing authentically without each other knowing whose work we were reading. I loved the idea and named myself, Sunny Ellis. It sounded like a writer's name to me - especially the Ellis part. Ellis also seems too "sophisticated" to me - like the name of someone important. As I look at it now when I write it, I am struck by my fascination of Ellis Island - I was absolutely intrigued with Ellis Island when I visited New York as I knew that my Italian grandparents came through Ellis Island when they came to the United States. To know that I was walking on the same ground as my Grandpa when he was a young man just gave me the chills.

I've continued to use this name and still do when I submit writing to places where people would know me and I would rather be incognito.I don't really remember why I chose the Sunny in my creative name - maybe because it speaks to brightness, to newness to beginning anew each day.

When waiting for our first child, I even thought about naming her (if it would be a girl) Sunny. Glad my husband didn't like it. I guess he associated the name with me too much as my pen name. I'm glad I didn't share it with my daughter, because in a way, after 20 years or so, Sunny Ellis IS me. I have become her. She is me.


susan said...

I so agree with you about Ellis Island - I got the chills too standing in the Great Hall. Thanks for playing with 'my topic' - at least four of us have chosen names about light. Interesting huh? I wonder if it's just a coincidence or maybe something about art and light....

Anonymous said...

I love your pen name! My pen name isn't that bright (in more ways than one!) but it was me at the time I choose it, not sure if it still is I have shyed away from my writings more and more in fear of rejection and fear of writer's block! Goofy I know but that's me in true fashion!

Sunny Ellis said...

I googled my name and found this. What a funny thing. I am a writer and my name really is Sunny Ellis. Thanks for the little dose of encouragement.