I live in an area that is still fortunate to have a few independent bookstores – and, as I’ve written before, my favorite has to be Boswells on Downer Avenue (unfortunate name) in Milwaukee. It’s a bit of a haul for me and parking can be challenging, so I don’t get to all the author events they host that I wish I could. On Tuesday , this week, due to a little car shuffle in my house – one car out of commission and three drivers needing to go in three different directions, I had to miss an event I really wanted to attend. Occasionally, when an author is touring and there is a local author working on something in a similar vein, the local author is invited to be an opening act. So, Tuesday night, I had to miss my hilarious friend, Mel Miskimen, reading from her forthcoming memoir, The Seamus Sessions: Dog Training for the Bereaved. I have had the good fortune of hearing some of the chapters of that book in progress, and cannot wait to buy the book once it’s out! Mel was opening for June Melby, author of My Family and Other Hazards: A Memoir. Once you know this memoir is about growing up helping to run a family mini-golf business in northern Wisconsin, you appreciate the title even more!
Obviously, titles have been on my mind. They can be tricky and troublesome. In case you need a sound-break, might I suggest Cat Stevens singing Trouble?
Last night, I was able to attend another reading at Boswells. This time by the lovely Rebecca Rasmussen, who was graciously a guest author on this blog during her first book tour for The Bird Sisters. In that post, Rebecca shared some thoughts on her first book tour, as well as participating in a flash prompt write. Check it out here. Rebecca’s latest work, Evergreen, has received strong reviews, but my favorite has to be this one:
“Reminiscent of Bonnie Jo Campbell and Marilynne Robinson, “Evergreen” is grounded firmly in place. Rasmussen’s characters, rather than mourn or pursue acceptance, crash through the narrative, noisily trying to make sense of their severed bonds and broken hearts. Evergreen is a sensitive exploration of love, a novel that proves that Rasmussen’s literary star continues to rise in a way that is anything but quiet.”
Rebecca shared that the title for Evergreen came late in the process for the book. The working title before that was not “right,” but the proper title took its time bubbling up. Her comments reminded me of something I heard Amber Dermont say once, which I recall in this way, but can’t say for sure I’ve got her words right. The gist was, “Don’t get married to your title. Whatever you love, your editor will likely change anyway.” That statement was helpful for me, because at the time I was “married” to my working title, which was then, “Katya’s Song.” In 2005, a book came out called A Song For Katya. Too close? Too soon? The title I have now was suggested to me by an editor at Henry Holt Publishing and I like it better, though I won’t share it yet.
I have found in searching for titles for short stories and essays that I don’t usually zero in on the best one until I’ve reworked the piece a few times. I come up with something to call it as I’m working on it, but the best, most evocative title isn’t usually the first one. Sometimes I’ll even ask my writer group for suggestions.
Like writing, coming up with titles is its own elusive process. It requires time, patience, sometimes bouncing ideas around with others, but when the right one appears, you know it and you’ll think, “Nailed it.”
#happywriting (and title creating )