Death of a Pen Name

I’ve been on the internet since the early 90s. I remember dial-up modems on my family’s Macintosh Performa, the Geocities revolution and MIDI music formats. And I remember accessing all of those sites with made-up usernames. It was simply the thing to do. From “rapturous_heart” in my early teens to “tokyoshorty” in my early twenties, monikers were simply the name of the game.

And then I started writing.

I have a confession to make. I gave a lot of excuses for using the androgynous “Alex Hurst.” I was worried about my personal security. I was worried about what friends and family might think of my writing, and if they would extrapolate every little defect of personality of the characters in my stories as some sort of deliberate condemnation (for the record, I do not write people I know into my works.) Another reason I went with a unisex name was the trends suggested that in SFF, female authors simply weren’t taken as seriously, and initialed or male-sounding names provided a passive opportunity to get rid of that bias. That’s not really true anymore. Diversity in fiction still has a long way to go, but there is so much support and celebration now that it would be silly to continue using a unisex name just for that reason.

This month (as most of you know), I started a masters course in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. At a social put on by the faculty the first week, John Maxwell and others talked about how they’d had a hard time trying to find “Alex Hurst” in the auditorium during orientation. I’d been blogging about MPub for months, but not under my real name. They were able to figure out that the initials were the same as my real name (AH). But then John asked me something else that solidified a feeling I’d been having for months:

When you start doing your academic writing, what name will you go by?

It was a simple question with a difficult answer. For a few years now my use of Alex Hurst was eroding within my design business (as I met most of my clients through Facebook friends), and then as a volunteer for Kyoto Journal. But that question made me realize something crucial: I want to be able to put my name on my work.

It’s as simple as that. I love my name. I always have. It’s unique, it carries with it a history that I treasure, and it’s me. And I’m tired of juggling the online persona that is really just me hiding, and my real life, where I am confident, free to express myself how I please, and not confuse people to death with a double-sided business card.

So, without further ado, let me introduce myself to you all officially.

Hello, my name is Ariel Hudnall.

It’s pronounced R•E•L Hud•NALL, though I don’t get angry when people say Airy•elle. 

Everything in my bio is true. I was born in Louisiana and lived near a golden river for most of my young childhood until my family packed up and moved to California. I have a ton of siblings, though the count changes depending on who I decide to count (complicated family histories will not be discussed at this point in time, haha).

I’ve lived on the road for a year, in Kyoto for six years, and am now puttering about in Vancouver as an academic.

So, no more Alex Hurst. Forgive me while all of my social media slowly goes through the motions necessary to reflect this massive change.

Thank you!

Episode 1: Orientation Week #MPub

1. Orientation Week

Week One of the Masters in Publishing is now behind me, and tomorrow starts Week Two! Last week was a whirlwind of an experience, but I stepped away feeling more energetic than ever. This year, the MPub faculty has many new faces, and of the classes I’ve been able to attend so far, they’re all going to lead excellent classes and seminars.

What They Don’t Tell You

TUITION DEPOSIT: Because the #MPub program is such a small part of the overall SFU campus, there isn’t a lot of information before the start of term. If you are planning to apply, make sure you budget about $1,000CAD for additional tuition deposits to the Publishing department before the start of term. For me, this was a huge wrench in my summer savings, and as a foreigner with a student visa, I actually wasn’t allowed to legally work before the start of school (they recommend you don’t work at all, for reasons I’ll explain), seriously hampering my ability to settle down in Canada. It may be best to work and save money in your home country, and arrive only a month before (to give yourself time to find an apartment).

CLASS SCHEDULE: The classes run on a liquid schedule that changes a lot. Any schedule you receive through the Registrar will be wrong. Expect classes to shift around a lot, as many of the classes have industry speakers who can only make certain days. Some classes even end earlier in the term to make space for the Book Project, so for the first couple months, you’ll have Fridays free, but then the project will start, and your schedule will shift again. You can see why working any job with set hours would be troublesome.

TEXTBOOKS: Textbooks will arrive in the bookstore. Don’t buy any of them. Unless you want to for your own benefit. Then feel free! If you want to do some reading over the summer before the start of term, check out Publishing for Profit‘s 5th edition. It’s cross-referenced in a few classes and is quite a solid introduction to the publishing industry.

INDESIGN: The design course jumps right into it the first day. Make sure you spend enough time exploring the program to know general layout practices. I suggest picking up a 5-6 hour course on Lynda.com with your free student access to get familiar with the software. From experience, I stress this: InDesign’s learning curve is a monster.

REPUTATION: The Publishing department has a pretty awesome reputation on campus. The advisor for the students is considered one of the nicest in the entire university, and she is a whirling dervish of information. The faculty are good speakers and personable, with varied and fascinating backgrounds. I find myself eager to dive into the coursework for all of my classes.

My First Week, in Instagram Photos

The week started on Tuesday, as Monday was Labo(u)r Day. This means that technically, tomorrow is my first time going to the Technology seminar! Orientation was a little over two hours, and was the only thing planned for the day. I walked around campus for a bit, and dropped my name in the hat for Publishing caucus representative for the Grad Council. (eeeek!)


I have to mention that Simon Fraser has some amazing facilities for graduate students. The Publishing cohort get three shared offices to split between 18 people, and they’re key-code protected. In addition, there is free coffee on the Burnaby campus, a student lounge with microwaves and kettles, access to a fridge for your lunch, a massive amount of study space (if you need a quiet place besides home), tons of workshops and services for writing and bookable conference rooms for larger study groups. Also, the Publishing cohort gets free printing in the Publishing wing of Harbour Centre. The facilities are amazingly well-funded.


As part of the first week, the Publishing faculty invited us out to Mahony & Sons pub near the Waterfront. It is a gorgeous area, and those of us that attended spent the better part of two hours just getting to know our professors in a very candid and welcoming way. I felt so supported, and could really sense the faculty’s investment in our being in the program. This year has seen some new changes to the curriculum, with students being able to choose between interning, doing a research project, or building a start-up company from the ground up, and I literally can’t decide which one sounds most awesome. Knowing me, I’ll try to do all three, haha!

…Oh, and at the pub, I was unanimously voted in as caucus rep! 😳✊


Thursday we finally got to take the Publishing management course and I am SO IN LOVE. Everything about the syllabus is exciting me, and I just can’t wait to gets hands on with our book and magazine projects later in the year. Woohoo!

Also, I happened to meet an upperclassman by chance a couple weeks ago, and he treated me to lunch since Financial Aid was taking its sweet time disbursing. Thankfully, now I have my money!

#TodayinMPub an upperclassman treated me to lunch because I'm still waiting for FinAid to come through. #rescued

A photo posted by Ariel Hudnall (@arielhudnall) on


Now, on to Week Two! Follow me on Instagram for all the stories I post about #MPub.🙂

Dust Bowl Girls: A Review

Dust Bowl Girls: A Team's Quest for Basketball GloryDust Bowl Girls: A Team’s Quest for Basketball Glory
Author: Lydia Reeder
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Nonfiction

5.0 Stars

Oklahoma. The Dust Bowl. Women’s basketball. The season that made history. The 1930s were a hard time for many, but none so much as the farmers of Oklahoma. At the time, poor families made dresses out of grain sacks, basketball players owned one pair of shoes, and college (especially for girls) was a distant dream. Coach Babb had different ideas. He toured the state, recruiting the strongest players he could find in the high school circuit; endowing those he found with skill, and more importantly, purpose. He coached the Cardinals in the city of Durant, and things were about to change, irreversibly, forever.

Dust Bowl Girls, ten years in the making, is bursting at the margins with the intimate details of the Cardinal team members’ lives, providing genuine heart to a narrative only half-recorded in the newspapers of the time. Taking advantage of the scrapbooks and oral stories from the personalities so lovingly portrayed in the text, Lydia Reeder paints the story of a team of hard-on-their-luck teenagers rising up out of the dust of poverty and the Great Depression, bringing hope and honor to their small city of Durant in Oklahoma.

As a sports story and as a memoir, Dust Bowl Girls recreates the atmosphere of the early 1900s, as politics and traditionalism threatened the game that brought Oklahoma Presbyterian College and its basketball team such pride. Throughout the novel, the reader is given ample context, so that she can understand what the team was truly up against. From First Lady Hoover’s mission to remove all women from competitive sports, to a run-down team bus that nearly careened off a mountain when its brakes failed. The human moments come from the shy, yet naked windows into the minds of the players and their coach Babb, as personal conflicts and daily drama propel them towards their eventual, highly-unanticipated games at the AAU National Finals.

Reeder writes with hungry excitement, rallying the reader to root for the Cardinals, and doesn’t disappoint, with energetic retellings of the key games of the team’s most important season. Lovers of sports fiction would find it hard to be disappointed by this delightful and enlightening window into a history that very nearly never was.

Algonquin Books provided me with an advanced copy for an honest review. Dust Bowl Girls releases on January 17, 2017. Preorder your copy here.

#MPub Episode 0: Prep Work & Goals

0. Prep Work & Goals

Welcome to the inaugural post for my attempt to chronicle my journey through Simon Fraser University’s Masters in Publishing program. My goal with this series is twofold: to catalog modern publishing education while I toy around with various ideas for my thesis, and to journal my progress through a graduate program. With the exception of interesting, special topics, I’ll just be doing these once a month. I hope you enjoy the journey with me!

Week 0: Preparing for the program

Because I didn’t take any business courses in my undergrad, I was required to complete a few marketing and accounting textbooks before the term. Luckily, I planned ahead for this, and despite the accounting textbook being extremely boring, I finished the prereq’s with enough time to spare for other things.

I read a few books about the publishing industry as well, including one of the textbooks for the first term, Book Publishing I by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing. I also read Thomas Woll’s Publishing for Profit (highly recommend!) and Claudia Suzanne’s This Business of Books (outdated, but very good).

At the end of last week, professors in the MPub program also sent cohorts two mini assignments focusing on poster design and CSS coding. The poster was no trouble, as I’ve had significant exposure to InDesign over the last few years, but the CSS was a bit daunting, especially since I mostly learned it passively to correct export coding out of InDesign. Nonetheless, the CSS classes were extremely fun, so I’ve spent some more time this week compiling a bunch of ePub coding data to go through and experiment with. (As you may have noticed, this post has a dropcap… fancy stuff I’m learning!😉 )

The one thing I still feel my skills are lacking in is graphic design. I can put together images, of course, but I really want to start designing. Altering existing fonts for unique book cover typography, and also actual illustration. Unfortunately, digital illustration is a skill that requires years of practice and study, but hopefully in the next few weeks, I can get some groundwork done.

My Goals

I have some pretty concrete things that I want to accomplish with this program.

I want to:

  1. Network with industry professionals as much as possible.
  2. Learn marketing in a real-world setting (not from a book).
  3. Explore my career options through Project Management, Acquisitions, and Account Management.
  4. Fill the gaps in my InDesign knowledge.
  5. Intern at a company focused in the SFF section of the market.
  6. Research and write papers useful to the industry as a whole.

Classes start September 6th!