Memoirists: Can You Remain Anonymous?

Memorists: Can You Remain Anonymous?
Lately at Write My Memoirs we’ve had customers wanting to publish their memoir with some level of anonymity. On the surface, this seems like a simple request—just publish under a pen name and, if you really want to hide, choose a pen name of the opposite sex.
But that takes you to the next decision. There seems to be no point in changing your name if all of the other people you talk about in your book have their real names. You can’t trace your parents’ heritage and then claim to be a stranger. Who else would write about your ancestry? Only you. So that means you’ll have to change all of the names in your book. If you think people might recognize the situations you’re describing, you’ll need to disguise your work further by changing the location and some of the details of what happened. After all of that, what have you accomplished? You’ve created a work of fiction.
As I see it, there’s no such thing as an anonymous memoir. You’re either telling your life story, or you’re writing a novel based on some events that actually took place. I don’t see much gray area between the two. People have lots of good reasons for wanting to publish an autobiography anonymously—usually because others involved in the story will be hurt or feel betrayed to see themselves in print. Sometimes authors even put their safety at risk when they publish. But the whole reason you want to write your memoir is to get your story told. There’s no way to do that honestly without attaching your name to your work.

Lately at Write My Memoirs we’ve had customers wanting to publish their memoir with some level of anonymity. On the surface, this seems like a simple request—just publish under a pen name and, if you really want to hide, choose a pen name of the opposite sex.

But that takes you to the next decision. There seems to be no point in changing your name if all of the other people you talk about in your book have their real names. You can’t trace your parents’ heritage and then claim to be a stranger. Who else would write about your ancestry? Only you. So that means you’ll have to change all of the names in your book. If you think people might recognize the situations you’re describing, you’ll need to disguise your work further by changing the location and some of the details of what happened. After all of that, what have you accomplished? You’ve created a work of fiction.

As I see it, there’s no such thing as an anonymous memoir. You’re either telling your life story, or you’re writing a novel based on some events that actually took place. I don’t see much gray area between the two. People have lots of good reasons for wanting to publish an autobiography anonymously—usually because others involved in the story will be hurt or feel betrayed to see themselves in print. Sometimes authors even put their safety at risk when they publish. But the whole reason you want to write your memoir is to get your story told. There’s no way to do that honestly without attaching your name to your work.