My real name is not Gabi Coatsworth

It’s my husband, Jay. He keeps asking me why I don’t use my proper name when I’m writing. According to him (and the US Passport office, and Social Security), my name is Gabi Coatsworth Wilson. And he could do without the Coatsworth part. That’s because Coatsworth is the name of my first husband.
Here’s the thing. When I divorced my first husband, I kept the name Coatsworth, because my maiden name (was I ever a maiden…?) was Grajnert. It was a German name that had been Polonised over the years from Greinert to Grajnert – same pronunciation, different spelling. No-one in England could pronounce it when I was growing up, and Coatsworth was such a relief – it sounded so British, and people knew how to say it.
Then I moved to the US and married Jay – sorry, William J. Wilson, and the world became more complicated. At first I was thrilled to be Mrs W.J. Wilson. But my kids’ teachers insisted on calling me Mrs. Coatsworth whenever they called me to report some new piece of erratic behavior. I think Jay was quite glad that the Wilson name wasn’t being tarnished as a result.
Then I got a job at British Airways. I’d applied as Gabi Coatsworth because that was the name on my resume, and I had a reputation of sorts. Jay complained:
“You’ve got the job – why don’t you tell them your real name is Wilson?” he said.
I checked the British Airways telephone book for the USA. There were 12 Wilsons in it already. And no Coatsworth. So that decision was easy.
When I started writing, Jay was thrilled. No more resumes, he figured.
“Now you can be Gabi Wilson,” he pointed out.
I had something to point out to him.
“Wilson,” I explained, “is near the end of the alphabet. I don’t want my bestselling novels to be shelved so low that people will have to crouch to find them. It’s so…undignified.”
“On the other hand,” I continued, “Coatsworth comes near the beginning of the alphabet, and will be shelved higher up. Besides,” I said and this clinched it for me – “I’m only competing with Elizabeth Coatsworth. She wrote children’s books and died in 1986, so essentially I’ll have Coatsworth to myself.”
Since then, my husband has continued to remind me, rather sadly, that I am his wife, and should be proud to have his name. I am proud. Honestly. But have you googled Gabi Wilson recently?
Here she is – multi-talented, piano, guitar and a great bluesy voice. And she’s about 14….  She’s fabulous too. But I could never hope to compete with her….Listen to this:
And Holy Cow – now I hear she published a book of poems when she was 8. You can buy it here:
So, a veritable child prodigy. But I don’t despair. People will have to crouch down to find that book…

Recent Comments

  • Jane Sherman
    August 16, 2011 - 4:13 am · Reply

    You should tell your husband to relax. It’s your name and your choice. No one is asking him to change his name to yours.
    Perhaps you can tell I have strong opinions on this. I have my own name, the one I was born with. I would say no thank you to any other name.
    There are good reasons why you kept Coastsworth. It sounds good and is easier than your own name.

  • Valerie Austyn
    August 16, 2011 - 1:28 pm · Reply

    Oh, Gabi, this made me laugh! As you know I am Valerie Austyn to most who know me, but I do use my married name once a year – on March 17th. On that day, I am Mrs. Patrick, doncha know.

  • Jay Wilson
    August 17, 2011 - 12:40 am · Reply

    Darling, you’ve convinced me. I’ll change my name to Coatsworth and then you can be Mrs. William J. Coatsworth. That way, when I write my memoir, readers won’t have to stoop to find it. It will stand side by side with all of those sexy novels you’ve been writing for the last twenty years.

  • A.J. O'Connell
    August 18, 2011 - 5:39 pm · Reply

    I love this post! When I got married I kept my name, O’Connell, because my husband’s name is Davis, and while it’s a lovely name, there are already too many authors named Davis out there. Besides, then I would have been Ann Davis, and do you know who Ann Davis is? Alice on the Brady Bunch.

  • Sandi Kahn Shelton
    September 8, 2011 - 6:30 pm · Reply

    Oh, names! I was Sandi Myers while growing up, and then when I married Mr. Kahn at the ripe old age of 18, I was delighted to change my name to his. What a lark–a new name! Then, 10 years later, when we divorced after two children, I realized that changing my name back was fraught with all kinds of complications, not the least of which I was at the time a reporter for a small weekly paper–the kind of paper that had only an editor and a reporter. And the editor was a handsome young man whose last name was–you guessed it–Myers. It seemed wrong to change my last name to my boss’s last name! So I kept Kahn, used it as a byline for years, and then remarried, to Mr. Shelton, and became Sandi Kahn Shelton. (Same as you–two men’s names strung together, men who should never have had to be linked to each other so personally.) So I’m still Sandi Kahn Shelton when I write (my book publisher wouldn’t hear of me just being Sandi Shelton, because she said the “Kahn provided a nice ballast between two S names.” Mr. Kahn and I are long done with each other, and yet I drag around his name to this day. (Oddly enough, his new wife uses her maiden name.) So confusing!

  • Kana Tyler
    December 3, 2011 - 8:39 pm · Reply

    I’m forever grateful that I deferred to my (then) seven-year-old son on the topic of my last name when I remarried… I, too, had a reputation and resume associated with my first married name, but in my case that actually didn’t outweigh my desire to shake OFF every vestige of “that man’s” claims to me… The complicating factor, of course, was the fact that my children also have THAT MAN’s name–so I ultimately chose to let the decision hinge on how my SON felt about it. He’s a serious little guy, and I laid the options out for him without expressing my own preference: Did he think I should go with “Tyler-Vega” so we’d still share a surname? He thought for just a moment before making his pronouncement: “That would be unnecessarily complicated, Mommy. You should just take Keoni’s name.” So Kana Tyler it is. Thank Goodness. 😉
    But isn’t it a marvelous thing that we can each make the decision that suits us? I have a girlfriend who legally changed her name, after a divorce, to one she just chose out of the blue! Not a family name or ex’s name, purely HER name. Gotta love that freedom. 😉

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