What's In a Name?

Many years ago (26 to be exact) my mentor, Maestro Frank A. Salazar, the founder, director and conductor of the Ventura County Symphony (where I served for six years as his assistant) told me he’d reached a place where he wanted to de-clutter his life. It’s hard for me to imagine, but he was the age I am now. Well, I’ve found myself at the same place. To this end, I feel the need to de-clutter even on the most personal level, that is, with my name...

In 2000, when looking to publish a first-first novel of Mozart’s memoirs, I ran into a lot of flack from publishers, agents, and critics. "What can a woman know about being a man?" "How can you speak for Mozart? You’re a woman!" That kind of thing. I decided to adopt a nom de plume, a pen name. Lots of writers have done and still do this, both men and women, so I thought it was a good idea. Using the name my parents had picked out for me if I’d been born a boy, I took on Stephan Karl Waller. Then, as I began to make friends online, I began to be called Steph, because it was androgynous. Well, Stephan Karl hasn’t existed for many years, but Steph stuck.

I was named Sheila Kathryn Waller at my christening, but only the US government and creditors have ever called me Sheila (when I lived in England in the late 70’s my friends over there called me Kate, which I really liked). But, except for Maestro Salazar who happened to like Sheila, since childhood I was always just Kaye (I added the E when I was 15, thinking it was cool). Personally, I don’t like Sheila at all, it just isn’t me.

Anyway, with all the de-clutter I’m going through, I’ve decided to stop introducing myself to new people as Steph. Instead, I’m returning to Kaye. Those of you who have only known me as Steph, don’t worry, you can call me that, but all of you who have known me for umpteen years can feel free to address me as Kaye. Most of you already do. Most people in Facebook call me SK because that’s what I’ve used in an attempt to make things less complicated.

What I’m saying, basically, is this: call me by whatever name you like, but please, PLEASE, no new nicknames—I have too many as it is now!

Are you totally confused? You should try living with all this in one lifetime!