Okay, I get it. The whole stage name, pen name thing can seem really . . . what? Self-indulgent. Silly. Strange. Eclectic. Just plain unnecessary. Yeah. All the things. I get it! Those freakin' artists! And yet, here I am at the 20-some-odd year in my career (22? 23? Even more? something like that) adding a SECOND pen name. So, what's the deal?
This is just my little "MEET ME" blog.
For those who don't know, Reji Laberje was "sort of" a pen name. Honestly, I'd been going by Reji since childhood, but my first traditional publisher mentioned to me that it would look good in print if I simply changed the "g" in my last name for a "j." So, I went with it. No other reason than that. The thing is, he was right. As odd as it may seem, that tiny little thing made a difference and made me stand out, which is--after all--what we are always trying to do as artists and entrepreneurs. And I was both. I lost track of the comments I got on my name over the years. (While I repeatedly apologized to teachers and professionals who weren't sure if they had my name right, or my children's names, or my dear husband who got the occasional message to Mr. Laberje instead of Laberge.)
I don't for a second regret the choice.
As Reji Laberje, I had an incredible writing career for which I am proud. I was both traditionally and independently published; I wrote for children and youth bringing programs to schools around the country; I helped launch and build multiple publishing imprints; I taught with two different colleges and created numerous writer's classes and resources; I had the honor of writing with incredible people in my biography and co-writing years; I edited hall-of-famers and award winners, as well as first-time authors, with some of those books going to #1; I had nominations in prestigious book-writing categories; I managed 80-some book projects, and used my marketing plans to send just as many authors (many of them first-time writers) up to #1. And, out of my own 60-some publications on which I was the author or co-author, I sent even more to #1 across various Amazon categories and other bestseller lists. In all, my pen as author or editor touched 29 #1 bestsellers all before Jeri Shepherd was "born." Most importantly, I helped people tell and know the value of their own stories and so many of those people have become lifelong friends.
So, why Jeri Shepherd?
Simply put, as I make a very major shift from the many genres I worked in, and from the world of co-writing, to ADULT SCIENCE FICTION, this new voice needs a new name. I've written for many different audiences in the past: sports, ministry, leadership, biography, youth, children, and more; but, those books and plays were for a general audience for the most part. If you'd look up Reji Laberje after falling in love with the upcoming Fault Lines series, though (because you will fall in love!), you'd end up surprised at running across the likes of Max Explores Chicago, A Few Words Of Comfort For The Grieving, The Confidence Quadrant, or Getting A W In The Game Of Life. They're all perfectly good books, mind you, along with others you may find out there from the career of Reji Laberje, but your science-fiction-loving self would be confused at best.
So, enter Jeri (not too hard to see that flipped from Reji) Shepherd (the translation of my last name from French).
Jeri Shepherd is the author who will be leading this new movement and I hope you'll join her...join me, all of my adult-genre-fiction-loving friends. I'm still me. I'll be bringing my same writing spirit to a new audience; my same belief that humans are made to connect through story; my same full-sensory, non-linear approach to the written word; and my same enduring passion for the ever-elusive literary perfection. I'll also be bringing cool new features such as The Writers' Press, Martini Moments, and more.
I would never be here at all if not for the wisdom and experiences from those decades of writing as Reji and she is still with me as I begin my new books. But, this voice is a different one. I am so excited, full of joyful anticipation, after the honor of creating for others for many years, to be developing new and unique stories with the purposes of entertaining you, making you think, and helping you to see and appreciate the best in humanity.
I hope you'll join me for this next chapter in which I'll share many more chapters with you.
Be gloriously human!