Of Fountain Pens and Pen Names

The summer of my twentieth high school reunion, I took a few hours to visit my favorite teacher, Mrs. Rinard. She was that one teacher, the one who forever changed my life. It had taken me years to find her as she retired the year I graduated and had changed her name.

Mrs. Rinard taught English and Humanities. The fact that my husband had to endure a Shakespearian Sonnet on our wedding invitation can be attributed directly to her teaching. She encouraged me, lifted me and supported me.

As a high school junior, I could not spell the same word twice the same way in a single paragraph. Instead of having me write each misspelled word 200 times like my seventh-grade teacher, she allowed me to use a spelling dictionary for every writing assignment, even essay tests. When other students complained about the little red book on my desk, she explained if they felt they need a spelling dictionary they could get one too. Of course, no one did. This simple act saved my aching hand; I still have the indention from the seventh-grade blister. It also left me free to write using the words I desired too rather than just words I could usually spell. I am sure that reading my essays would have been impossible without the dictionary, there may have been some self-preservation that motivated her to allow me to use my little red book.

Freed of the burden of misspelling, I could focus on writing style and technique. She encouraged me to find and write in a concise style. Sadly this style did earn me a ‘B’ in my college English 101 class a when the grad student grading our papers insisted my paper “was too technical for a freshman.”

fountain pen

We spent a couple of enjoyable hours catching up and reminiscing. Before I left, she presented me with a fountain pen that had been a gift from her late husband. She said that of all the students she had taught over the years, she believed I would be the one to be published. I told her I would sign my first book with it.

She confided that she was getting ready to publish her first novel. Twenty years after retirement, she continued to start new adventures, with a pen name.

When I first envisioned publishing a book, more years ago than I will ever admit, I assumed I would use my name. Silly me, my too common name had given me problems for years.

In high school, another girl had my name and a name mix-up nearly got me expelled. In college, fourteen other women shared my name on the university rolls. One of them was a year behind me in my major, for a year we shared several professors and one class. Another taught aerobics; she had a lot of guys ask her on dates, I know because I was listed first in the phone directory.

When I got married, I exchanged the second most common surname in the United States for number forty-seven. I still have the fifteenth most common first name for my birth decade. Needless to say, there are already authors out there with my name. Even if I use my maiden name as a middle name, I find other authors with the same name. In my defense, I did my best to date men with odd last names, according to the 2000 census two of them had less than 500 people with the same last name. Alas marriage for a surname is not a good foundation for a lasting relationship.

So I have a pen name. It is a variation of my given name and a college nickname that stuck with me for many years. Best of all, there is no published author I can find using the name.

I filled the fountain pen with Ink for the first time today as I prepare to publish my first book under my nom de plume Lorin Grace.

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3 comments on “Of Fountain Pens and Pen Names

  1. I enjoyed your story about your pen name and how you acquired your fountain pen. I love your pen name.

  2. Beautiful,heartwarming story! I hope everyone who finds your site takes the time to read it!

  3. Loved the story and it brought back so many memories of high school with you. As a teacher, it is so inspiring to see the impact that one person can have on a life. You give me hope as an educator that I too can influence the future of others. Best wishes for this new adventure in your life.

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