The decision to change my name didn’t arrive as a whim! Here’s the real story in my latest blog post, On the Eve of Change. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to receive updates about my whereabouts and adventures in your e-mail.
When I hear the name Linda, I often think of what T.S. Eliot said about cats: We don’t know their true names. Peering out from behind “Linda” has always felt like a false front, as if, as outlandish as it sounds, I were lying.
Years ago, I mentioned my discomfort to my sister, Lana, whose name is spot on. I have nothing against the name in and of itself. I know plenty of Linda’s who belong in it. But Lana agreed. There was something wrong with it for me. She suggested Eve. I recognized myself in it immediately. It felt true. But I was already working and publishing under the name Linda. However small my audience, would a name change seem silly? Even to my friends? What would a name change say about me?
When my novel Connected Underneath came out, I liked the cover design very much but cringed at the Linda on it. When I was announced at readings, I cringed. When I introduced myself to people as Linda, I cringed. I cringed at my website, not the design, but that name in the banner. I was presented with a cover design for my second novel, Vanishing Point, and there it was again: Linda.
Here’s something else: It’s well known that J.K. Rowlings was told no boy would read her book if she used her own name. As with all the arts, women’s work is often given short shrift. As Jennifer Weiner points out in her essay “Twitter, Reconsidered,” (Hungry Heart, Atria Books, 2016), of the 545 books reviewed by the New York Times between June 2008 and August 2010, 338 were written by men, leaving only 207 by women. Of the 101 receiving two reviews in a single week, one in the daily edition, and one in the Sunday Review, 72 were by men, with only 29 by women. During the same time period, similar disproportions can be found in the number of published pieces written by men versus women in the New Yorker (449 to 163), the New York Review of Books (88% versus 22%), and other periodicals that we trust as fair, balanced, and unbiased. More recent research indicates a slight improvement, but a substantial shift in the short term seems unlikely.
While I’m far from this echelon of the publishing world, in terms of getting a book title noticed, why bother exchanging a Linda for an Eve?
A few days ago, my sister and I were in, of all places, adjoining bathroom stalls in the Naples, Florida shopping area Tin City, waiting to board a boat for a cruise around the bay. In a flash, the solution rose up through the center of my brain.
“I’ve got it!” I exclaimed. “I know what it should be!”
Lana couldn’t figure out what on earth was happening. The room was small and crowded. Toilets were flushing. She couldn’t decipher my words, only that they were emphatic. While gleefully sudsing my hands, nearly dancing, other women, alarmed, backed away. But I was jubilant.
I would be Eve. I would publish under E.V. Legters.
From the boat’s top deck, I IM’d my publisher, Steve Berman: I’m changing my name.
Are you transitioning?
No. Well, yes, in a way.
Can I ask why?
What’s in a name? For years I’d told myself the concern was superficial, even silly, but now that the solution’s been found and the decision made, I feel completely myself for the first time. Compared to a gender transition, this is a mere filament, but I suspect the sensations are similar. Presenting myself with an appropriate label, instead of one that has always felt off-kilter? Priceless.
And, this: A friend shared with me that it is a Judaic tradition to change a name after a traumatic or life-changing event in order to fool chasing demons. I hadn’t noticed any demons, but now I see that they are gone.