Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful social media handle...
It was late 2007 when I started thinking that a blog might be just the thing to give me a creative outlet while still adjusting to living in a new city with newborn twins, which now had our kid tally at 8. Eight children, new town, few friends, lots of laundry, lots of adjustment.
I had sent out a weekly news email for quite a while to all the extended family so the idea of collecting our little life stories throughout the week and making them electronically available to friends and family through the platform of a blog sounded like something right up my alley. My dad helped set me up with my own new shiny laptop, I made myself a blogspot account and got ready to write.
Twenty years before, in my pre-kid radio and television days, some level of privacy had been important to me. Several of the deejays and anchors I worked with all had pseudonyms. I liked the idea that using a different name could afford me some space and so I went by Julie Michaels on air. It was a cutesy little nod to this guy that I was seriously dating at the time. The guy I went on to marry.
Fast forward to this new blog thing and I figured that I would follow the same precept. I hunted around for a cute moniker that would encompass our family life but wanted it to be something a bit pithy.
'Octamom' was born.
Many of the blog friends I met in that early blogging season also went by created names that were handles to their interests and season of life. Octamom fit me just fine and I opened my Twitter account, email and a slew of other things under that name.
A gal out in California gave birth to octuplets. And the media pretty much highjacked my cute little name. No matter that the addition of this gal's octuplets combined with her other children made has a mother of 14. The media latched on to the Octamom/Octomom name with determination.
At that time, I was contacted frequently about selling my octamom domain, about giving over the rights of the name on a variety of social media platforms. I really figured all the hubbub about the California mom, Nadya Suleman, would soon die down, and I would go back to enjoying my clever little blog name without the interference of pretenders or interlopers.
The media frenzy only became more intense. I had people coming to the blog and to my social media accounts mistaking me for the other gal and freely giving their opinion about her lifestyle and parenting choices. I had all kinds of identity confusion occur in the two or three years after she made her appearance on the national scene. On the plus side, I had people come to the blog looking for the other gal who stayed and became dedicated readers and web friends. On the minus side, it was a little messy having my blog and social media identity wrapped up in another person. But I really liked my Octamom name. I really wanted to keep it. And I'd had to fight for it. And by rights it was mine.
So I stayed the course.
When my agent and I first starting getting my first iteration of a formalized book proposal out there almost four years ago, there was certainly conversation, concern and fascination with the Octamom name. One publisher bluntly told my agent that the Octamom would have to change, based on all the negative press that was swirling at the time. Time passed, we reworked the proposal a couple of times, the Nadya Suleman story began to die down.
My Octamom name remained in place.
Now that my book has found a publishing home, now that I'm thinking through what I hope to communicate to people, seeing that the Octamom name still has baggage and assumption and nuance tied to it, well...sigh.
When you've got smart people around you like Rusty Shelton at the Re:write Conference telling authors to use their names and when you find yourself explaining again for the umpteenth time that you're not 'that octomom' and when your agent lovingly, gently and firmly tells you to lose it, well, then you know.
So you'll notice a few changes around my web world. My Twitter handle is now JulieLylesCarr. And with some patience and multiple phone calls to my domain name providers and some interesting little coding changes, Octamom.com is now JulieLylesCarr.com ~~even if you type in the old name. My author page on Facebook will be changing as well...things like name changes take a little longer in the FB world.
And for all you writers out there, take a page from this gal; awesome, catchy blog and website names are awesome, but the moral to the story is you never know when someone might have octuplets and highjack your name. Just sayin'.