I am a big believer in lists. Grocery lists. To-do lists. Lists on phones and bits of envelopes and bills. Lists are satisfying to write, and even more satisfying to work through. But best-of lists, the kind of lists which flood journals and newspapers towards the end of each year, summarising “The 10 Best Books of 2019” or “The 100 Best Books of the 21st Century”—even though we’re only a fifth of the way through that century—are a pet peeve of mine.
The first year after I had a concussion was a blur. I was dead to the world for three months, going in and out of sleep, exhausted. I had vertigo and difficulties with light, sound, and language. No reading. No computers. No writing. Definitely no multitasking. I had to rest for far more hours than seemed viable and consequently had to suddenly quit a few organizations I led, with no succession plan in place. I closed my small press, or as it turned out, put it on hiatus. I simply had no choice.
As with a stroke or cancer, a traumatic brain injury can be an opportunity to reexamine one’s life and priorities.
“What do we call you?” is a question I’ve gotten used to hearing, especially in the writing world. I write now as K.B. Thors, but up until the end of 2017 I was publishing poetry, translations, and essays under the name K.T. Billey. My legal name is Kara Billey Thordarson. If I meet you, I’ll introduce myself as Kara.
That might seem all over the place, but the evolution of my nom de plume mirrors the development not just of my writing but of my self. I’d encourage any writer to experiment with their own creative license, no matter what a brand expert might say.