Maybe I am, and maybe I’m not. In the olden days, when having more than one landline phone was considered the last word in information technology, and computers existed in movies but not telephones, I was pretty certain that I was the only Joanna Howard in existence. Fairly unique, I thought, and unforgettable, which would work well for me once I left the answering service and made my claim as a famous writer.
And so, years passed in which I did not become famous for writing, but was able to suspend myself in the comforting fiction that I was the only Joanna Howard who existed. Home computers changed all that. Hours spent uprooting my family tree revealed that, back in Ireland, there were several Joanna Howard’s who had lived generations before me. Okay. So I wasn’t the only Joanna Howard to have existed. At least I was the only one alive.
You know where I’m heading with this, right? Technology, which had deposited several ancestral Joanna’s in my family tree, also, by way of search engines, revealed that there were other Joanna Howard’s who were alive and well and published. Oh, well, I thought, reading another excellent poem by my doppleganger. What now? I wondered, looking at the poems I’d yet to send out. It occurred to me that sharing a name with a published writer might work in my favor. On the other hand, there were issues of copyright and good manners that suggested that perhaps I’d better pick a different name. Like “J. Howard.”
J. Howard I became, and given my Dickensonian bent, my works remained largely unpublished. So you can imagine the joy I felt when an editor emailed me, informing of her enthusiastic acceptance of a poem I’d submitted. It wasn’t just good, it was great. The images, the form, the tone–all brilliant and perfect for her publication. The only catch that I could see was that I hadn’t written the poem and had never heard of the publication or the editor (who turned out to be a nice gal with a sense of humor about things).
A few months later, I opened another email from someone in Scotland who was thrilled that my book had finally been published. We needed to get together the next time she was in London, and could we invite along a few mutual friends to help celebrate the good news? Sure, I thought, did we have any mutual friends? The people she was mentioning sounded like a fun bunch, but I’d never heard of them. Gamely, I responded by thanking her for enthusiasm for my book, suggesting that I might be the wrong Joanna H since I hadn’t written a book much less published it. However, if she ever travelled to this side of the Pond, I’d love to have lunch with her.
I haven’t heard from the other Joanna’s–or about them, at least not lately. But I would appreciate it if you, dear reader, would contact one of them and enthuse about this post. It seems only right.