View Full Version : Privacy Question

04-15-2008, 01:09 AM
Hi guys,

I just received word today that I am a finalist for the anthology "My Dad is my Hero." (yay!)

Here's my question: One of the terms of the contract is that I am not infringing on anyone's privacy. Although the essay is (naturally) mostly about my father, who is deceased, I mention my stepmother by her first name and she is a part of the story. To make a long story short, she and I don't speak. I can't change her name because part of the point of the story is how we all had nicknames during this particular time, and her nickname is derived from her real name.

So...am I infringing on her privacy by mentioning her name and including her in the story? I'm guessing yes.

ETA: Actually, the terms are "invade the privacy of..." Don't know if that makes a difference.

04-15-2008, 01:43 AM
Seaaircarol, it's best that you ask the publisher directly. All we can do hear is provide an opinion which doesn't mean jack.

But since you asked, here's my opinion: yes, you are infringing on your stepmother's privacy.

I'm interested in knowing what the publisher has to say. Please provide an update.

04-15-2008, 01:47 AM
Thanks, escritora. I have an email in to the woman who is putting the anthology together. Perhaps she'll ask me to ask the publisher directly.

I've been reading a bit about invasion of privacy, and what I've read seems to indicate that what I've said would have to be objectionable to a reasonable person. I certainly say nothing negative about her.

04-15-2008, 04:52 AM
It's interesting to know what the defination of "reasonable" is in a situation like this. Is it like porn, "you know it when you see it."

Considering the topic - your praising your old man - I would hope your story gets published. What a wonderful way to pay tribute to your dad.

04-15-2008, 11:22 AM
A lot of places don't let you use fake names in personal essays (like NYT). I think it depends on what you said about her. I wrote an essay about an ex once and did not say the nicest things, but the pub never thought I was stepping over any legal lines. I did mention it to my ex to cover all my bases, but no one ever asked me if the ex was going to say OK. And I don't think the ex ever read it even knowing where it would run.
I also have an essay about my father that I will be sending out soon. The funny thing was that my dad said he did not want me to use his name. It is not anything bad. My father is a private person. I told him I did not need his name, but I was using mine. Calling him dad people would know who I am talking about. He said he was fine with that. But again, I don't think the publication is going to even question it based on my topic.

04-19-2008, 05:09 AM
So...am I infringing on her privacy by mentioning her name and including her in the story? I'm guessing yes.

Congratulations on being a finalist.

As for invasion of privacy, see the second and fourth items down in this list:
It looks like either or both of those could be an issue with your stepmother.

You say you can't change her name--yes you can. Be a writer. Come up with another nickname. Get creative.