This isn’t my real name. It’s not the name I was born with. Not the name people know me by.
I’m not a criminal or anything. I haven’t even got embarrassing videos on the internet that I don’t want people to see. In my real life, I’m a professional. I have a good career. I have nothing to be anything but proud of.
I started writing when I was five. I remember the first story. It was about detectives, two of them. Then they enlisted a third. Somewhere in the story, Godzilla showed up. I don’t know why. But there was Godzilla, working with the kid detectives. I kept writing that story, until it was about a hundred pages of scratchings. My parents didn’t quite understand what I was up to. When we moved to North America, I lost that story. It’s in a landfill somewhere, decomposing.
For many years, I wrote for myself alone. In high school, in English class, that stopped. I had to write stuff that others were going to read. My one English teacher was very complimentary about my stuff. I’ll never forget that encouragement. The one piece he really liked was a horror story about the Salisbury Plains, the home of Stonehenge. In college, I reverted to writing for myself. Tens of thousands of words written down, because I loved it, and I wanted to get better at the craft. I’ve always been a hard worker, and there’s nothing I work at more than writing.
One day, after I was employed and had a career, I realized that I wanted to share my writing. It had always been an impulse in me, but not one I’d done anything about. I entered a writing competition, the CBC fiction contest. That was six years ago, the first time I’d ever tried to push writing outwards. I shortlisted in that competition, one of five stories out of three thousand that were submitted. It was called Saad Steps Out. I’m grateful for Saad, little kid that he is, and I often wonder where he is now. Is he flying? Is he far away? Does he think about me? I don’t know. I won a thousand bucks for that story, something I’d written on a whim, in less than two hours. “Okay, birdman.” That line sticks out to me for some reason.
I submitted under this name. I started a blog under this name. Because back then, my thought was that no one was going to take me seriously under my real name. It’s a bit hard to pronounce. It’s not a common name, even amongst the ethnicity that it comes from. I’m not white. I’m an immigrant. I do remember what it was like to come to North America as a child, especially those first couple of years. The immigrant family that had their house robbed, and smears left on the walls. Had their car stolen. The things that were said to me in school. The feeling that I was out of place, and unwelcome. I felt like that. I honestly did. Soon, it become just a thing you lived with. It became normal, and I became conditioned to it.
When that type of feeling grows in you when you’re young, you see everything through that lens. It becomes your reality. You get resigned to being an outsider, and when things happen to remind you that you’re different, you just shrug. That’s just the way it is.
So when it came time to send my writing outwards, I obfuscated. I created an identify, a new name. Trent Lewin. A very western-sounding name. I don’t know why I picked it. I mean, it’s kind of a dumb name. Who’s called Trent these days? But it is part of me now. It was specifically picked so that I could elude the reality in which I’d lived for so many years, the reality that always had boundaries on it, and limits as to what I could do. I didn’t want my writing in a box. I have a boundless set of things I write about, and I didn’t want to feel like I was pushed down in any way. So a name was born. An identity was born. And I felt free for the first time in my life.
But was this the right thing to do? It’s 2021. People talk about political correctness and chastise it. Go ahead. Chastise all you want. All I want is the ability to not feel bounded. To feel accepted despite my real name, or the colour of my skin. Now I look around me, and there is growing acceptance of people who are different. Growing awareness that we need to change how we think, and that even if we have not felt the chill of racism, that we understand it exists. That others have felt it, and still do. If that’s political correctness, I’m all for it. It drives me crazy when people say they don’t care if I’m this, that or the other thing. Because I do. It’s the reality in which I live.
Should I use my real name in my writing? Should I outwardly declare my name? My sense is that it would help me in my publishing pursuits, because people are trying to level out a playing field that has, in the past, been skewed. I respect that people are doing that. I hope they don’t go too far in the other direction, but a level playing field would be marvellous! In reality, I want to be known for the strength of my writing. For the quality of the stories. That’s what matters to me. This doesn’t mean I should ignore who I am, or where I’ve come from.
My desire… Publish me, world. Publish me because I’m good. Because I tell stories that are strong. Publish me because I’m irreverent, I break boundaries, I snap genres, I talk about tough topics. Publish me because I can be beautiful, although never quite poetic. Publish me because I champion stories about people and situations that don’t get written very often. Publish me because I’m bold. Because I’m funny. Publish me because I’m Trent Lewin. Publish me because that’s not who I am.
The deeply personal, at times, is the deeply bizarre. I don’t regret my decisions. They make me who I am. I do revisit my decision this morning, though. Snowy, cold morning. I’ve been up for hours, revising my novel. It’s a great story, in my view. It’s about people whose stories are never told. There’s parts of me in it. The immigrant. The person who doesn’t have a land anymore. Not welcome there, not welcome here. But like in the story, people make a home. I’ve made a home. It’s right here, in these words. It’s in my stories, if not in the brick and mortar that surrounds me right now and keeps out the cold.
I appreciate anyone who reads these words. My blog is about fiction, and other made-up stories. I think I’m so clever for that tag-line, but it’s true. I don’t like to talk about myself very often – I like to imagine realities and make them real. This is an unusual post for me, as a result. But if you’re reading it, know that I appreciate your attention. I appreciate your time. Trent Lewin – and the other guy, too – both thank you.