If you haven’t checked out the latest issue of the online literary nonfiction magazine Brevity do so. It features MSU’s very own Dick Terrill and North Dakota native Debra Marquart

It also features a piece by Judith Kitchen. No disrespect for Ms. Kitchen, but I am intrigued by her name. Kitchen. What kind of last name is kitchen? It makes me wonder if it’s her real name or a pen name. I wonder the origins, what her grandfather told her about their family name, or the story behind why she chose that particular name, that particular room. Either way, the name is memorable and catchy, and it’s got me thinking about names and naming things.

In junior high, I hated my first name. I didn’t know any other Bronsons and that name seemed so foreign and unusual. I was an unusual boy with an unusual name, but once, during a summer camp, I asked my friends to give me a new name, a nickname of sorts. One of my friends threw out the name Neon, which was one of Deon Sanders’ nicknames, and I snatched it up. After that, everyone at camp called me Neon. I turned my name tag around and printed my new name on the other side. I introduced myself as Neon to everyone. I dropped my real name in favor of one used by a former athlete. Looking back now, I feel so ashamed.

But that nickname changed who I was. Everyone at camp new my name. I got on stage and they chanted my name. I had a new group of friends, and we formed the most popular group at camp. We even had a tree, which we would sit under. At the end of camp, I took a piece of that tree – as a memory of that time, that place, and my new nickname.

When I returned to school that following fall, I went right back to being Bronson. I was again the misfit, the outcast, the geek who sat in corners and read Goosebumps books by himself. Without my nickname, I was nothing.

I’ve had other nicknames. In the military, some people called me Frenchy because my last name is French and I always had to tell people how to pronounce it. On a road trip from Fargo, North Dakota, all the way across the state to Medora, my friend Amy and I starting attaching nicknames to all our friends. The nicknames were based on cities we’d see during our trip – Amy Absaracka, Ashley Ayr, Bronson Bismarck.

The other day, when I mentioned the latest issue of Brevity to Jessica, and told her about Judith Kitchen (we both remember her because she’s edited three short nonfiction anthologies), Jessica dubbed me Bronson Bathroom. I called her Jessica Closet.

In a couple years, look for our novels at your local Barnes & Noble.

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