What's in a Name?

All my life, I've had a surname that the average English Language speaker finds horribly difficult: Czerkawska. The trouble started when everyone else at school was learning to spell Smith and Jones, whereas I was wrestling with that difficult juxtaposition of ten letters.
To be fair, I eventually married a man with a very simple surname, but by that stage, I had been writing professionally under my own name for so long that changing it seemed like madness. (Or that's what my agent at the time told me.) Besides, I like my name. It has a long and interesting history. And I learned to spell it years ago. But the problem is that although people remember it, kind of, they don't remember exactly what it is. So they say "you know, that Polish writer. The one with the funny name."
In late 2004, having written for BBC radio, television and theatre for many years I learned that my novel The Curiosity Cabinet had been shortlisted for the Dundee Book Prize, and was to be published by Polygon in 2005. My (new) agent and I agreed that a name change might be in order at last, and I was prepared to go along with anything reasonable. But Polygon were dismayed. We've done the publicity, they said. And we've done it under your own name. So there I was, stuck with it. I could almost hear my dear late dad chuckling. He wouldn't have approved of the change anyway.
Now, with a new year on the way, and the novel published to a certain amount of success, I've finally decided to stay with Czerkawska for the time being - although I'm well aware that there are many writers who publish under a string of different "identities". I sometimes feel like the original europerson. My father was Polish with a little bit of Hungarian thrown in, my mother was half English and half Irish. I was born in England but moved to Scotland when I was twelve. Now I'm married to a Scottish Liverpudlian, and - having travelled about a bit - still live and work in Scotland. As a full time freelance writer, I've tried my hand at all kinds of work from poems to plays and novels, always pursuing that elusive thing "my own voice". I've won the odd prize along the way. I've done quite a lot of commercial writing, working to a company brief. And of course I've taught creative writing as well. One thing I've learned, over the years, is that in searching for your own unique voice, you also have to want to communicate - and to have something reasonably interesting to say...
So all this is by way of an introduction. I'll often be writing about writing: sometimes my own and sometimes offering a bit of advice for other aspiring writers from the depths of my experience (I almost wrote "despair".)
I make no apology for the fact that my writing often has a Scottish flavour. After all, I've lived in deepest rural Scotland for many years now. But struggling to make a living in this wonderful, difficult, frustrating profession, has also given me a certain cynical perspective on all kinds of things. So I make no apology for being opinionated, and occasionally provocative. And if I can entertain a handful of people, and start a debate or two, so much the better. More later!

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