The first time I ever had a byline was in the local newspaper, The Huntsville Times. It's actually a fairly prestigious paper in the Southeast, and I wrote an entire blurb of my own in order to get that byline. I was a teenager doing an internship at the newspaper, and I was unsure whether I was even going to get a byline for the ridiculous thing that I did. It was the 90's and I wore rayon all the time because it flowed and I thought it made me look thinner. After spending days in the library and the courthouse with various reporters, I put on a pair of black rayon pants with HUGE white polka dots and a blue rayon shirt that didn't match but that flowed. I looked like a low-rent clown with acne and big hair.
So, instead of going to the courthouse to go through records, I was told that I was going to a meet-and-greet with the prince of Belgium. No lie. The prince was super hot and single and gave a short speech, after which he shook my hand. I then shook the hand of the Belgian ambassador of the United States and had zero answer when he asked me who I was. But, I had furiously taken notes throughout the whole affair and was able to put together an entire article. The result was a weird clown with her first actual byline.
Since then I have had hundreds of newspaper articles published, most with bylines. I even had columns in two different papers, complete with my gross picture, big hair and all. It ceased to be a big deal. I stopped caring much whether my name was on something. My happiness was seeing what I had done and knowing that it was awesome.
Enter Web writing. I hate having my name on anything. The only sites that I have my name on are ones that expressly require that your actual name has to be on the articles. I hate that and wish I never had to use my actual name on anything. That's been my reality for the last three or four years, ducking bylines and trying to enjoy a few things that I've done without anyone actually reading it or knowing that I did it.
Again, that is changing. I'm writing a print book and got my first check from the publisher this week. It's an actual payment from an actual publisher, and it is changing a lot of things for me. Every time I send something in to my editor I expect her to send it back with SCREAMING ALL CAPS!!!!! telling me how much it sucks. Apparently, it doesn't. It's tough, it's hard work and I've thought seriously about throwing in the towel, but I really, really want to see my name on a print book. The contract is terrible and the pay is low, but that will be my name right there when people pick up the book. If it sucks, they will know who sucks. I will not hide and I will not pretend that it was all just some crap that I threw together and didn't put any effort into. I tried at something. I put myself into it and it's going to be out there. With my name. For anyone to see.