Lost without a title

Trying to write a novel without a title overwhelmed me. I was in the process of writing and preparing to publish a novel based on events in the life of my father, W. Lon Hutchison, from his birth in 1907 in Indian Territory, soon to become the state of Oklahoma, to his death in 1971 in Kansas City, Missouri, when the title of my book  Life Expectancy abandoned me.

What had I done so far?

And writing is  always far… in time, in work, in travel, in research… very far.

I researched on location and in libraries in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, the National Archives, Kansas City, Missouri, Oakland, and San Francisco, California.

I wrote and rewrote chapter by chapter with feedback from a monthly writers’ group. I researched small independent publishers of fiction in the USA who accept queries. I was ready to start my blog and send the queries.

When I lost the title Life Expectancy (because it had already been used by best-selling author Dean Koontz), I came to a full stop.

Stuck.

I had to change the title and lost confidence in the book project. The project no longer a part of me and what I was doing. The book felt removed, intellectualized. The writing not good enough for me to continue so better to drop it. The blogs I had drafted were in disarray and out of sequence. My life and thoughts moved on but I had not brought the book and the blogs along with me.

Stuck.

Has this happened to you?

How did you get unstuck?

How will I find a title and the energy to restart this book project?

Did you have difficulty with a title?

How important is a title to a book project?

Your comments are most welcome.

Book Title Woes

Abandoned. That’s how I felt. My title for the novel I am writing about events in my father’s life abandoned me after two years of traveling and living together.

Someone else had grabbed the book title, Life Expectancy, that I thought belonged to me. None other than the best-selling author Dean Koontz.

No choice. I had to start over, searching for a title.

For every possible title for the novel about my father, I did an online search. Those that were recent book titles and/or by well-known authors, I listed as TAKEN, even though it’s not possible to copyright a book title.

Here’s a partial list of possibilities I considered.

(I researched each and every one):

• Large as Life

• Double take: TAKEN

• Double Down

• Round the Bend: TAKEN

• From Here on In

• Hard Travelin’: TAKEN

• Hustlin’ Man

• Somewhere Man: Taken

• A Man of the Time

• Hustling Life

• Living Large

• Down to the Wire: TAKEN

• Body and Soul: TAKEN

• Piece of the Action: TAKEN

• Beyond and Back

• Dead Heading

• Ride This Train

What did I choose?

A Man of the Time

Then

Large as Life

Then

. . . Still not satisfied… without the “right” title, I couldn’t grasp that this writing project continued to exist and belonged to me.

What next? How was I going to find a title? How was I going to reconnect with this research/writing project about events in my father’s life?

How did you find a title for your novel, short story, poem, creative non fiction?

How important are titles to the writing process?

Your thoughts are most welcome.

Searching for Significance

I thought I had it. A clever evocative title with a double meaning. During two years of research and writing for a novel based on events in the life of my father W. Lon Hutchison, I used the title: Life Expectancy.

The term Life Expectancy could refer to what people expect from life or to a statistical average of how long someone might expect to live.

Two years after I chose the title, I decided to do a web search to find out more about the definitions of life expectancy.

WHOOPS!

In 2004, Dean Koontz, a well-known USA suspense/horror writer wrote a bestseller titled Life Expectancy. The book by Koontz, has a listing on Wikipedia. Rolling Stone hailed Koontz as “America’s most popular suspense novelist.”

Why didn’t any of the writers and bloggers’ tips that I’d read advise me to check if there already was a book with the title I wanted to use?

I’d written a draft of the book with the title Life Expectancy, had prepared queries to send to several publishers, purchased the domain name lifeexpectancy.info and was ready to launch a blog about writing the book.

Everything came to a dead stop. Better late than never.

I had to find another title. Meanwhile I felt as if my writing project no longer existed, had disappeared, becoming a vague memory of something never completed.

Where to get inspiration for another title?

Online, I read

  • all of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics,
  • phrases from Shakespeare and
  • a list of songs recorded by Johnny Cash.

I re-read some of my favorite poetry books by Kenneth Patchen, Gary Snyder, Eleanor Lerman…

A month of searching, hoping that a title would find me. No luck.

How did you choose the title for you book or books?

What is the significance of a title?

Your comments and feedback are most welcome.

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Reading while camping, snorkeling, hiking

So very fortunate to be able to camp at Booderee National Park, Jervis Bay, South Coast of Australia https://parksaustralia.gov.au/booderee/ during the Christmas holidays.

The campground is so beloved that those interested in camping during the holiday season (December-January) have to make a booking in August. THEN wait until September to find out if they have gotten a space.

Every day I went snorkeling (highlights included seeing a giant ray, wobbegong sharks, squid, and an octopus), hiking, and swimming in the crystal clear waters of Jervis Bay.

Reminder: December is summer in Australia

While camping, I  managed to read three books in five days

  • Small Wrongs, How we really say sorry in love, life and law by Kate Rossmanith
  • Sarah Thornhill, sequel to The Secret River by Kate Grenville
  • The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk

Small Wrongs was also about big wrongs…that is, major crimes, including murder. The book wrestled with the idea of remorse, what it is and when it happens. According to a New South Wales Judicial Commission official, “Remorse is very important for prisoners because, if they feel genuine remorse, they’re more likely to address their offending behavior and produce positive results during the various prison rehabilitation programs” ( p. 119). But what is “genuine” remorse? And who decides if it is genuine?

Sarah Thornhill is a novel about colonial Australia. The novel reveals how settlers’ massacre of Aboriginal Australians threatened the integrity of their own families despite cover-ups and lies.

The Red Haired Woman is an intriguing story of contradictions and similarities between mythical stories of Europe (Oedipus) and Iran (Shahnameh), both of which focus on violence between father and son. “There were in fact surprising parallels between Oedipus’s life and Sohrab’s. But there was one fundamental difference, too: Oedipus murdered his father while Sohrab was murdered by his father. One is a story of patricide, the other a story of filicide”. p. 141

Thanks to book reviews on Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the public library of the Australian Capital Territory for sharing these books with me.

Enjoy your reading in the coming year and forever!                    Comments most welcome.

Why blog?

Is it to write away sorrow and share joys?

Is it a living memoir?

Is it only for yourself? And maybe a few friends?

Is it to encourage people to continue their own writing or start writing?

Is it to exchange ideas and encourage other writers?

Is it to encourage people to buy and read my book, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time when it’s published.

All of the above

Here are some of the people I hope will read my blog and share their comments with me.

  • People who like to read, who learn through reading,
  • People who use the public library regularly.
  • People who are curious about other peoples’ lives and families.
  • People interested in the early to mid twentieth century in the mid West of the United States.
  • People interested in riding the rails, hobo culture, mental hospitals, and Christian Science.
  • People who are writers and write in order to know the world and themselves.

Here are some interesting people that might read my blog:

All of the above people were found on a shelf in our front bedroom. All are from an extensive collection of dolls that I inherited from my mother. Everywhere she went, my mother bought a handmade doll.

This person is particularly special:

Can you read what it says at the bottom of her apron?

Rebecca, who longs to travel. 

Rebecca would be my ideal reader… a person who longs to travel, who is curious, who wants to meet new people and exchange ideas.

Welcome to all those Rebeccas (and Robertos) out there.

Enjoy reading family and fiction.

Why do you blog?

Send in your comments.

Thanks!

 

Who is a Writer?

Rediscovered: 8 Books about Writing

Why I am (not) a writer?   Or am I?

While reading the blog http://howtoplanwriteanddevelopabook.blogspot.com I noticed a list of My Favorite Writing Books by the author of the blog, Mary Carroll Moore.

One book on the list jumped out at me, shouting, Remember me? The title of the book is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, subtitle: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

Yes, I do remember you. At least I remember the title. I wondered if I still had that book.

Searching through my bookshelves, I found it. Paperback. Pages yellowed. Purchased in Berkeley, California, 1995.

Rediscovered: 23 years later in Canberra, Australia.

Finding Bird by Bird was like finding a photo of a member of my family that I had forgotten about or pushed aside. Rediscovering this slim paperback book uncovered layers of myself, buried under years of life, of travel, of work, of family.

Just before I moved back to Canberra, Australia, after living in various countries for 20 years, I gave away 12 cartons of books. I slimmed down considerably. International living does that. Books are bulky and heavy.

Looking through my bookshelves in Canberra, I found more books about writing. There must be a reason why I had not discarded these books.

Here they are, listed in no particular order, with the place and year I acquired them.

  • The Writing Book, Kate Grenville, subtitle: A Workbook for Fiction Writers, Canberra, Australia, 1991.
  • Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg, subtitle: Freeing the Writer Within,  acquired in Berkeley California, 1989.
  • If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, subtitle: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, originally published in 1938, republished in paperback in 1987. Not sure where I got it.
  • Dear Writer, Carmel Bird, acquired in Canberra, Australia, 1992.
  • Letters to Alice, by Fay Weldon, subtitle: On First Reading Jane Austen, not sure when I acquired this book, published 1986.
  • Writers Inc: A Guide to Writing, Thinking & Learning, several authors, acquired in New York, 1989.
  • Several Short Sentences about Writing, by Verlyn Klinkenborg, acquired in Canberra Australia, 2015.

If I don’t think I am a writer, why for over 20 years, have I carried around to all the continents where I’ve lived so many books about writing?

What have I written during the years of wandering?

  • Features for The Daily Journal (Caracas, Venezuela) and The Chronicle of Higher Education (USA)
  • A book of poetry and sketches, Silence Spoken
  • Numerous letters to the editor of various publications, including The Canberra Times.
  • Edited three books: Bold Plum, with the Guerrillas in China’s War against Japan by Hsiao Li Lindsay; Peace and Milk: Scenes of Northern Somalia by James Lindsay and Fatima Jibrell and Solo vale si piensas rápido by Mehedy Lopez, a book of poetry in Spanish
  • A blog started in memory of my mother, wordpress.com.
  • Currently working on a novel based on events in the life of my father, Tracking the Human, nobody’s a long time

Writing has been embedded throughout my life and my work as an educator.  Yet I struggle to consider myself a “writer”.

How do you define being a writer?

Do you think someone can learn more about writing from a book?

What are your favorite books about writing?  

Are you inspired by books about writing?

 

 

 

 

 

Brutal honesty: One Hundred Years of Dirt

Response after reading: One Hundred Years of Dirt By Rick Morton

I am not born in Australia.

I am not gay.

I am not male.

I am not a journo.

I did not grow up on a property in western Queensland, Australia.

I have mild anxiety attacks but usually keep going.

When depressed, I get into bed and cry.

I am trying to renew my extended family through writing a novel about my father.

I am trying to be a steadfast supportive mother.

 

My reaction to this book?

No words.

This book is so courageous.

How can anyone write about his inner self with such honesty and power?

 

100 Years of DirtI heard something about One Hundred Years of Dirt on ABC Radio National. I don’t remember what. I picked up a copy at my public library. I put it on my stack of to-be-read books on the floor in a corner of my bedroom.

Whoops. An email reminder from the public library. I had only four days to read One Hundred Years of Dirt. I read it in three. The power of this book with all its exposed pain, lifted me out of a depression and back into writing. Thanks Rick.

Spoiler alert:

This book is NOT about living on a property in Western Queensland.

Dear Reader,

What books have had a powerful emotional impact on you?

Have you ever been amazed that someone could write with brutal honesty?

 

 

 

 

 

The Truth of Fiction

In my previous post, I said that the posts on this blog would be about the process of researching, writing and rewriting a novel that is and is not the story of my father’s life.

Change of plan.

Instead of presenting myself as a writer, for the next few blogs, let me share some thoughts as a reader.

Some years ago, when I knew I was headed to Pakistan, I tried to read everything about Partition* through novels. Novels written by Muslims, Christians, Hindus, non-believers. Novels written from the Pakistan side, from the Indian side, from the time just before, during and after Partition.

* Note on Partition: the division of the Asian Sub-Continent by the British in 1947, which created India and Pakistan. Partition forcibly displaced over 14 million people on religious lines. The violence of Partition created hostility between India and Pakistan that continues today as an ongoing deeply felt trauma.

To find out about history, culture, values, peoples, heroes and villains of the different countries where I’ve lived and worked, I go to novels.

Why fiction? Because a different truth lies in stories where point of view is acknowledged. Readers can draw their own conclusions and think about what happened or might have happened.

Novels bring us into a different reality. That was always true for me. As a girl growing up in a rather boring Midwestern town in the USA, I read novels constantly. Even after bedtime, under the bed covers, with the aid of a flashlight. Was I trying to escape or to learn? Probably both.

Currently my reading is dominated by the place where I live, that is, Australia. I hear about books and authors interviewed on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National.

Pamela Collett RN 2

                                 This is me with my Radio National umbrella.                  Kangaroos in the background so you know this is Australia.

The next blogs will be about my reaction to books I heard about on the radio and then requested online at my local public library.

Do you think novels have more profound truth that non-fiction?

Where do you go for information about a country or culture where you may be visiting or living?

How do you find out about books you might want to read?

A Giant Step Back

natl-mus-pamela-mirror-848

Here it is and here I am. Or am I? I thought I knew who I am as much as anyone can. Yet I finally understood that to know myself I must go back, not through ancestry.com to construct a family tree, but just one giant step back – to my father.

I never knew the man. Not really anyway. I didn’t want to know him while he was alive. I wanted to escape. I was already halfway out the door when he rejected me. I wanted a life that was not confined to making money in Kansas City Missouri USA where I grew up. I felt stunted by the environment – the limited ways of thinking of the time and place.

Post World War II, many families like ours were rising up and out of poverty and the working class into the middle class even into upper middle class affluence. At what cost? Who was paying for this? Who benefited and who did not?

This blog is about taking one step back and then jumping in to find my father. I am writing a novel, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, based on events in his life.

Come with me as I try to learn about this man to write a fictional story that both is and is not his story.

Share with me your stories of research and writing for family reconciliation.   You can comment here or email me at pamela@tucacas.info.

Thanks!
Continue reading “A Giant Step Back”

Search for Significance

I thought I had it. A clever evocative title with a double meaning. During two years of research and writing for a novel based on events in the life of my father, W. Lon Hutchison, I used the title: Life Expectancy.

The term Life Expectancy could refer to what people expect from life or to a statistical average of how long someone might expect to live.

Two years after I chose the title, I decided to do a web search to find out more about the definitions of life expectancy.

WHOOPS!

In 2004, Dean Koontz, a well-known USA suspense/horror writer wrote a bestseller titled Life Expectancy. The book by Koontz, has a listing on Wikipedia. Rolling Stone hailed Koontz as “America’s most popular suspense novelist.”

Why didn’t any of the writers and bloggers’ tips that I’d read advise me to check if there already was a book with the title I wanted to use?

I’d written a draft of the book with the title Life Expectancy, had prepared queries to send to several publishers, purchased the domain name lifeexpectancy.info and was ready to launch a blog about writing the book.

Everything came to a dead stop. Better late than never.

I had to find another title. Meanwhile I felt as if my writing project no longer existed, had disappeared, becoming a vague memory of something never completed.

Where to get inspiration for another title?P1150955 Pamela Reeds copy

Online, I read

  • all of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics,
  • phrases from Shakespeare and
  • a list of songs recorded by Johnny Cash.

I re-read some of my favorite poetry books by Kenneth Patchen, Gary Snyder, Eleanor Lerman…

A month of searching, hoping that a title would find me. No luck.

How did you choose a title for your writing?

Have you checked to make sure no one else is using that title?

 

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