Thursday, June 19, 2008

Work in Progress: At Long Last, a Title!

I’m trying to work with my new computer, but it is not making things easy…it doesn’t seem to like my printer, refusing to play with it despite the fact that I actually managed to find the original installation CD, and it’s already kicked me off the internet once. I won’t even get into the strange formatting that it seems to favor in this peculiar new version of Word. So, this will be an adventure...

I had a dream/nightmare about my book last night, in which my agent sent out my book and told she would wait up all night to let me know who bought it and get back to me…of course in the dream I was waiting and waiting, but she never contacted me and wouldn’t take my calls.

On a more positive note, I thought I’d share the title I selected. (You may recall that finding a title became the source of a fair bit of obsession.)~~
The Arrival

Which I’ve taken from the following quotation which I’m using as an epigraph:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

These lines are from Four Quartets by poet T.S. Eliot.

Here’s the interesting part of the story: I have loved these lines for ages (though I had never actually read Four Quartets). In fact, these exact lines were pinned to my bulletin board in my old house for, oh, 10 years or so. When I first started thinking about titles, back when my book was just a little baby, I looked at those lines and came up with exactly nothing. So it was off on my quest to accumulate 300 title options.

Many people offered suggestions for titles and comments along the way—hoping for my $25 reward?—and I am exceedingly grateful to them. Richard Goodman, author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France and The Soul of Creative Writing, who wrote about titling here, came up with a wonderful list of ideas, and in general, checked in every week or so. At one point he suggested reading Four Quartets. I’ve always like Eliot and Richard is a smart guy and since I’d googled about every other odd and random option (Scottish poetry, architectural terms, Civil War terms, Lincoln quotes, etc.), I thought, Why not?

So I read the long series of poems online here, scribbling down ideas, overwhelmed by the wonderful language, and was startled to come across “my” four lines. I liked that they were about seeing something familiar from a different point of view, about a journey in which one arrived at a familiar place but saw it for the first time…sort of like my estranged family. But I didn’t see how they could work as a title: “The End of All Our Exploring” sounded like a bad MFA workshop story.

The poem was so intense, with such evocative religious undertones, that I turned to the best source for understanding complex works of literature…yes, Wikipedia. Hopefully their interpretation was somewhat based on scholarship…because when these lines came up, it was noted that they referred to the story of the Prodigal Son! Which my book was originally based on! At that exact second, The Arrival, with its simplicity and metaphorical possibilities jumped out at me.

So, thank you, Richard Goodman, for leading me to a place I had been and helping me to see it for the very first time. I guess a title is like love, you know it when you feel it.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.