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Question
Can I write a book and use real names or do I need to use false names? Is it Ok to write a book and write about experiences I had and not use the names of the people who were evolved?

Answer
I am not an attorney, and an attorney may say people have a right to sue for any reason, and only the court can decide whether the case has merit or not. However, as an editor, not an attorney, I would say that it is okay to use real names if you are telling the truth. If you tell a lie or stretch the truth, you create a situation where a court may find you guilty of libel--that is, writing something about someone that is not true and hurts the person's reputation. If you can prove it's true, then you at least have the truth on your side if someone says you have told a lie.

The answer, then, depends on how you tell that story and whether it hurts other people to tell that story.

I change the names of people who might feel hurt, insulted, or otherwise unhappy to be named, but if the incident does not reflect poorly on a person, I use the real name. That's what I do; you can do what you want to do. If you are worried about being sued, though, your best bet is to clear it with an attorney familiar with entertainment law. Check with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in your state for an entertainment attorney.

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Bobbie Christmas

Expertise

Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.

Experience

Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Organizations
Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Publications
Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Education/Credentials
Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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