Hi! I’m Anita.
If you already know me as Anita, that’s swell! Hi new friends!
If you mainly know me by my real name—hi old friends! Hope this newsletter isn’t too weird for you!
This newsletter is about that, really. The transition from Old Me to Anita Kelly, who both feels like a different person, at the same time that she’s still exactly me, which is confusing.
Anita Kelly was birthed because of Pitch Wars, a writing/publishing mentorship program. I had been contemplating a pen name ever since I started writing fiction again a couple years ago, but the thing about getting into Pitch Wars is that suddenly you have to take yourself seriously.
Some writers find great success with Pitch Wars. Like both of my mentors, Rosie & Meryl, who were mentees last year and got agents and book deals soon thereafter; both of their debuts are coming out with a major publisher THIS YEAR! Which is lightning speed for publishing. (Ugh they are the best!) Of course, not everyone has such quick success, but having Pitch Wars on your writing resume is still a Big Deal. It means that established writers in the field saw your work and took you seriously. You are…a writer.
Very honestly, Pitch Wars is a lot of (amazing) work, taking you through an intensive editing of your book and a crash course in getting an agent. But it’s also a bit of a mindfuck, especially when you decide to take a pen name like me. In addition to having to understand, like, story structure and how to actually make Good Words, you have to create an author website, craft an author social media presence, know how to pitch yourself in addition to your work. It’s all very cool, really! But it’s also a bit all encompassing. I already worried that writing took up too much of my brain space, but now it absolutely does.
The best part about PW, though, is that you have this community with your fellow mentees, and almost every time you’re worried that you’re the only one having an illogical emotional breakdown over something (What if I am actually making my manuscript worse? What if I don’t get a single request in the showcase? Why can’t I manage my writing life and personal life flawlessly?), ten other hands pop up and say YES, ME TOO. You know in school when you had either a really amazing class (like my AP US History class, or my writing classes with Richard Hoffman at Emerson) or a really awful class (like my high school psychology class where the teacher locked us in the pitch black basement and threw a live chicken at a student’s face) and it really brings you and your classmates together in this strange, special way, even though you aren’t necessarily all friends? It’s like that. I love it.
Except outside of Facebook and Twitter and Slack channels, I’m still just Old Me in the real world. And…I have tried talking about Pitch Wars, and my books, in Real Life. Sometimes I make a conscious decision before hanging out with people: I’m going to talk about this, because it’s important to me, and I can talk about things that are important to me.
It feels like a spectacular failure every time.
Even if people act interested, I always end up overanalyzing myself later. Did I sound like an asshole? Is everyone tired of this? God, I should have just shut up.
The fact is this: it is very hard to talk about the book you’re writing without sounding like an asshole.
I don’t know exactly why this is, why it’s perfectly socially acceptable to talk about my day job, but not what actually occupies my mind for 95% of my days. Maybe it’s imposter syndrome. Maybe it’s something about being a woman and wanting to talk about my accomplishments, which we’re programmed not to do. Maybe it is just that I am bad at talking about it (writing is a solitary pursuit; my characters only exist in my head; what is there to say?), and the only fault lies with my own awkwardness. Maybe it’s because a lot of famous writers frankly are arrogant assholes (I’m looking at you, white male canon) and have ruined it for the rest of us.
So other times I make the opposite conscious decision: I am not going to talk about this. It’s annoying and I don’t want my friends to think I’m an asshole. So I don’t, and I converse about other things, and honestly it’s fine, friendship isn’t all about me anyway.
But sometimes, I feel this little twinge of loneliness.
It is possible that I am simply very bad at leading two lives, even though that’s what I’ve signed up for.
(Friends and loved ones who know Old Me, do not feel bad or like this is about you—you are not responsible for my neuroses.)
And that is a really long winded explanation of this newsletter. I have bigger plans for it in the future, including sharing more actual excerpts of my writing; I might charge a small monthly fee if I do more with it, like Substack is set up to do. But for now, I want to help out that twinge of loneliness. I want to talk about my writing, and fangirl about books I love, and contemplate this funny journey, and be fully Old Me and Writing Me, in a space that is just mine, without guilt.
If you’re wondering, by the way, why I decided to take a pen name, it’s because I work with young people at my day job, and in my Anita Kelly world, I like to write, and read, about sex. I’m going to try not to apologize for that either in this newsletter, but students, if you find me, well, you’ve been warned.
I chose the name Anita after a beloved aunt who loved books, life, and people with ferocious passion and kindness. Answering to her name has been both stranger and lovelier than I anticipated. I wouldn’t want her to read my sex scenes either, but I think she would have been proud of me. Cancer is the worst, but she was the best. She made the world infinitely better, and in the end, that’s what stories should do, too. Thanks for listening to mine.