Australian writer of books for younger readers, young adults, verse novels and poetry.

A rose by any other name…

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A couple of weekends ago, a large black sketchbook lay open on my kitchen table. Across a double page spread were scrawled all sorts of potential titles. Everyone who came into the house was invited to have a go at suggesting a title for my latest novel which will be released January 2017 by Allen & Unwin.

For me, titles nearly always arrive almost before, or at the same time, as the book I’m writing. If they don’t, I know I’m in for a laborious search for the right one with lots of brainstorming, hair-tugging and crossing-of-eyes. This novel produced the latter.

The quest? A title that suggested France, Paris, romance and growing-up. My first effort (& indeed, what the manuscript I submitted was called initially) was Skull Skirts and Cowboy Boots. I’m still quite fond of this. However, the publishers decided it didn’t really give the potential reader any idea what was going on in the book. I guess that’s quite true – I liked the alliteration of Skull Skirts and the swaggery quality of the cowboy boots but even I had to admit that it didn’t even hint at Paris or romance although I felt it may have covered growing up.

Hence the book on my kitchen table. Brainstormed titles veered from the banal to the meaningless. But that’s the great thing about brainstorming. No suggestion can be disqualified. Everything can be written down without censure.

It all reminded me of an exercise I used to set my creative writing students – take a few minutes to write down titles for stories or poems you’d like to write. In about five or ten minutes brainstorming you should end up with a number of fabulous titles. The joy of this exercise is that you now have a repository of titles begging for content. Your brain has started spinning with wonderful possibilities. It’s a great warm-up exercise for any creative activity.

The title that was finally chosen? Lisette’s Paris Notebook. A long way from Skull Skirts and Cowboy Boots!

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