AKA: "Figment"

by Camille Minichino

The practice of using a pseudonym has been handled very well on Oh Book Me pages. I enjoyed “Ten Reasons for a New You” (July 12) and found that at least eight of the reasons fit me!

But my pseudonyms also fulfill a childhood dream. I never had a real nickname as a kid. I used to envy my classmates with cool short forms like Jim or Gerry or Lizzie. All the more cool were Buddy and Rusty and Lefty. I had a crush on Boo-ah Louie, mostly due to his name.

The possibilities were there: I might have been called Cammy or Mini, but nothing ever stuck. To make up for this lack in my early life, I’ve changed my name often over the years. I even changed to a number once—a few people still know me as 0.3.

Here’s how that happened.

I was teaching physics and math at a Catholic college and had four or five Mary Margarets and three Margaret Marys in every class. To make things easier—and to raise the status of mathematics in our minds—I suggested we each choose a number. In fact, I reasoned, if we all simply got a number at birth, we’d all be truly unique. It wasn’t too late to start, even though a few billion people preceding us had letter names (from which only a finite number of different combinations can be derived.) So I became 0.3; one of the Mary Margarets chose 29; another creative math major became 0.666666666666 (repeating), and so on.

Eventually, it was back to Camille with the publication of my first series, the Periodic Table Mysteries. The next opportunity for change came with the Miniature Mysteries. (Apparently the one dozen cousins who bought the eight periodic table books weren’t enough to justify another Camille series.)

I embraced Margaret Grace, and now Ada Madison for my latest, an academic series featuring Professor Sophie Knowles, a college math teacher who, I know, would love to be called a number. (Wonder what all those kids with nicknames would think of me now?)

It’s not all cool, however. Once you have that new name, for whatever reason, how do you live with it? What do you tell the barista to write on your latte cup? Which name do you sign at a book event? Do I sign Margaret Grace for “Monster in Miniature,” and then, for the same customer/reader, sign Ada Madison for “The Square Root of Murder?” What if the person is a longtime friend? Do I use Camille no matter which book it is?

I seem to have come full circle. I don’t want a nickname. I don’t want any more pen names. I’m not even sure I need Camille back.

I like Andy Warhol’s idea: I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph, and no name. Well, actually, I’d like it to say “figment.”

Sounds good to me.

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer. She’s on the Board of NorCal Sisters Crime and a member of Mystery Writers of America. The first chapter of “The Square Root of Murder,” (a July 2011 release) is on her website: http://www.minichino.com.

Share on:


  • I’m sorry you didn’t have a nickname in school. I think my small class of 30 probably had the highest percentage of nicknames I’ve heard. Mine was Bat. But alternate names can be benefiucial. I have a friend who neds to change her name when she’s on the Internet because she works with offenders and doesn’t want to be hounded if they catch her identity out there.

    But, I think Camille is a wonderful name and Minichino is so cool.

    Anyway, interesting post.

  • Thanks for hosting me this weekend, Lise! Looking forward to more of your good words here.

  • Jacqueline Seewald

    Camille, this is an important topic for writers. Although I don’t use a pseudonym, there are times when I write under J.P. Seewald rather than Jacqueline. This is when I write short stories that are written strictly from a male perspective. But as I write both YA, children’s books as well as adult novels, I can see that pseudonyms might have been better to differentiate genre. I don’t want teens confusing my adult novels with those I write for YA.

    Jacqueline Seewald

    • I would use a pseudonym if I ever finish my YA for the same reasons as Jacqueline. Camille is such a beautiful name–I named a character that. I think ebooks have taken away much of the need for alphabet placement. I certainly thought of that one–V puts you on the bottom shelf no matter what. Interesting ideas, Camille.

    • You seem to have a good handle on this, Jacqueline. You differentiate, but you don’t make it impossible for someone to find all your work.

Leave your comment