A Treesong By Any Other Name
Hi! My name is Treesong. If you’re reading this, you probably already know something about me. I’m a father, husband, author, talk radio host, and Real-Life Superhero. I write fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, mostly about the climate.
I also have a “nonstandard” name.
My full legal name is Treesong. It’s a single-word first name with no last name. I had my name legally changed to Treesong in 2002. If you want the short version of the story behind this name, check out my Origin Story page. It’s a Real-Life Superhero origin story, so be prepared for some cheesy framing.
This “nonstandard” name has led to a lot of strange experiences that make for interesting stories. I’m writing this post about my name because I have a new story to tell, but first allow me to share some of the classic name-related tales from the Adventures of Treesong.
The first name-related story was the name change procedure itself. How did I change my name legally to Treesong? I did some searching online, found a digital self-help handbook (PDF) to guide me through the steps, filed the paperwork, got a court date, and asked a judge to sign my name change order.
I actually had to appear before the judge in an empty courtroom, which was a strange experience to say the least. Thankfully, the judge was very accommodating. He explained that the assumption was in my favor for a name change case, so he was going to grant the name change order. However, he asked out of curiosity why I was changing my name. I told him briefly that it was for spiritual reasons. He also asked me if I was aware that my new name might lead to some difficulties with paperwork. I told him that I was aware of that possibility and that I was willing to accept the consequences.
He was definitely right that I would encounter some difficulties.
Once I sent my name change paperwork to a few places, I received my updated Social Security card and state ID. After that, most official forms became easy. I just entered my name on the first name line, or the last name line, or both. If necessary, I showed them my documentation.
This worked for most forms, but not all. And it also didn’t stop me from having a wide variety of strange experiences related to my name.
The two funniest name stories I’ve had so far have to be the airport story and the voter registration story.
When I meet new people, they often respond to my name with varying degrees of curiosity, amusement, and confusion. One of the funniest responses I’ve ever gotten, though, was from an airport worker who was trying to play it cool. He printed my tickets, handed them to me, and then said something along the lines of “Here are your tickets, Mister Noh-nay.”
For a moment, I was confused. When I looked down at the ticket in my hand, I understood. He had seen the word “None” in the last name field and pronounced it “Noh-nay!” I didn’t want to correct him for fear of calling too much attention to it and losing my ticket. So I just chuckled, said thank you, and went on my merry way.
The other funny story was one that I heard secondhand. A friend of mine was attending a voter registration training in another town when my name came up. The trainer was explaining how to record the voter’s name, and they mentioned what to do if the voter had a single name like me. But they didn’t just mention the idea of a single name in the abstract. They mentioned me specifically by name! My name was used as an example of how to register a voter in the state of Illinois who only has a single name.
Unfortunately, not all of the stories have been so funny. My first tax refund after the name change was delayed due to the additional step of verifying my new name. Also, at least three times now, I’ve had to send documentation to a certain social media network proving that Treesong is, in fact, my real name. I’m assuming that at least one of those times, someone who objected to my politics maliciously reported my name, and an admin carelessly acted on that report. The last time the social network fixed the problem, they assured me that there’s a note on my account now that will ensure that this mistake doesn’t happen again in the future.
That was all resolved a few years ago. Since then, I haven’t had any major problems with my “nonstandard” name. That is, of course, until a few days ago.
My latest name story involves my effort to expand my book distribution beyond Amazon. After a few personal delays — including that whole pesky pandemic thing — I finally got around to reformatting my novel and publishing it on Draft2Digital. After pressing that big, shiny “PUBLISH” button, I wrote an update about how my book was making its way through all of those lovely new distribution channels, and all my readers had to do was wait a couple of days for it to show up in all of those new places.
But of course, there was a problem.
My heart sank when I saw the “NEEDS REVIEW” message on my Draft2Digital dashboard. For a moment, it didn’t even occur to me why my book was being denied. The formatting looked perfect and had been generated by Draft2Digital’s own excellent automatic formatting process. It had seemed like such a smooth and straightforward process. Why was the publishing process suddenly on hold?
When I reviewed the message, I felt silly for not knowing immediately what the problem was. Of course, it was because of my “nonstandard” author name.
The message informed me that the formatting guidelines provided by their vendors require “standard” author name spelling (first and last name). I should have known to expect a delay like this when I noticed that Draft2Digital’s forms didn’t contain specific instructions for authors with a single name. I’ve actually seen one or two forms, like the ones used by my ISBN registrar (Bowker), that do have instructions for how to fill out the form for an author with a single name. Draft2Digital did not have any such instructions. But since their form allowed me to include a single author first name with no last name, I thought that was the most obvious and accurate choice. So I went with it.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go through, and I found myself talking to customer service to sort out the issue.
This leaves me with yet another semi-amusing story to tell about my name. “My escape from Amazon exclusivity was delayed by my nonstandard name!” It’s not as exciting as some of the other stories, but it’s definitely an interesting one.
The good news is that now that I’ve talked with the helpful support staff at Draft2Digital, and two of the vendors they distribute to, it should all be worked out shortly. The book is already publishing now to the other vendors. The two that are currently experiencing delays should have the problem resolved soon.
Is this the last of my quirky name change stories? Maybe. Maybe not. Honestly, probably not. Either way, I definitely still feel like it was worth it to choose my own name and make it legal.
There been a few hiccups along the way. But so far, they’ve all worked out in the end. Some of them have even left me with interesting stories to tell, making them well worth any temporary delays or disruptions.
All of these stories are reminders of the environmental values that led me to change my name in the first place. I’m dedicated to following my own quirky path in pursuit of environmental justice, even if it doesn’t quite fit into the boxes and forms that society has provided.