A Real Book
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept . . .
You may recognize these words lifted from Margery Williams Bianco’s The Velveteen Rabbit.
Published in 1922, the book is an enduring story, the tale of a stuffed rabbit’s desire to become real through the love of his owner.
Most readers aren’t aware of the author’s daughter, Pamela Bianco, a child prodigy, whose fame as an artist once eclipsed that of her mother, the writer. In The Velveteen Daughter, a work of historical fiction, the author Laurel Davis Huber fashions a story of complex family dynamics told in alternating chapters through the voices of both mother Margery and daughter Pamela.
A Real Title
If you’ve read my posts recently, you are aware of my struggle for a memoir title. I even blogged about it here: Memoir Progress Peaks and Valleys. A title has evolved, just as the book has, and like Huber’s book, it contains the word “daughter.”
Criteria for my title choice:
- Does the title reflect what the story is about?
- Are the title and subtitle broad enough to encompass the entire story?
Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl
(Runner Up) Mennonite Daughter: A Plain Girl Finds Love
* * *
Did your title appear to you in a flash, or evolve slowly over time?
Does all or part of your title appear somewhere in your story?
Have you ever chosen to read a book because of its title?
My titles were quite easy because of the way the books were written (in Diary format).
The titles don’t appear in the stories,
Many times I’ve chosen to read a book because it has an intriguing title.
Personally I prefer your runner up title.What I wonder is whether the reference to Mennonite could be put in a subtitle as so many people won’t know what a Mennonite is.
I don’t believe this is your memoir if you refer to yourself as plain.
xxx Massive Hugs xxx
Thank you, Sir David, for letting me know exactly what you think. Early in the book, Iave provided a page of Mennonite history, knowing that many of my readers want to have some context.
Believe it or not, I was dressed very plain in the first 23 years of my life, before I let loose with bright colors and jewelry!
I have subscribed to your blog, but I haven’t gotten any notifications recently. Perhaps you haven’t posted lately, but I’ll be on the lookout. Thanks again for being the first responder today. ((( )))
Wow, a title reveal! Exciting. I LOVE the title, it works very well. But you say you want to hear responses and gave the link to your other post where you discussed titles. I’m wondering about a tweak to the sub here, using something from your other titles in that earlier post. Maybe: The Coming of Age of a Plain Girl. That might add a bit of intrigue? My first gut reaction. Exciting to be at this place, Marian, congrats!
Thank you, Melodie, for cheering me on. I’m like the turtle, moving along steadily but getting there. As it happens, “Coming of Age” is a chapter title, which may or may not have been in place when you read my manuscript. I appreciate your suggestion about the title. Thanks again!
I think your title is perfect, Marian. I’m so excited for you! Is this all becoming more real to you?
My titles come about from a lot of back and forth with my editor.
Is this all becoming more real to me? I believe so. You know all about the long gestation period to “birth” a book. I wonder if it gets easier (or quicker) on the 2nd or 3rd manuscript. My editor was very firm about what she did and did not like.
Your titles fit the books perfectly and “flow,” in a sense, from one book to another. Thanks, Jill!
Good morning, Marian. Your title is perfect! I really like it–and I like it better than the runner up.
Yes, I’ve chosen to read a book because of its title. Many times probably. 🙂
I’ve had some titles come to me in a flash, but mostly I’ve thought of them after writing. Most of the reference books titles are already decided upon, but Tuba Inal and I came up with the final title for our Rape Cultures book. I came up with Breaking the Bonds, my first book, while I was still writing it as my Ph.D. dissertation.
Wow, what a long history you have had as writer and author, beginning with your Ph.D dissertation. Thanks for your validation of my title choice, especially since you’ve read a draft earlier this year. Thank you, Merril!
You are quite welcome, Marian! I’m excited to read it.
Marian, I like your title. Job well done. The titles for my books seemed to come with a feeling that they expressed the theme of the story…the takeaway, so to speak. Best wishes moving forward with the memoir.
Thank you, Susan. You have the advantage of knowing about my book from the inside out as the first developmental editor of my book. I appreciate your support throughout this whole process. 🙂
I am so excited for you! I love the title and it makes me feel I want to read it as, other than you and another blogger, I don’t know any Mennonites, but I don’t think you are plain at all.
I often choose books because of their titles. One that remains very vivid from my last year’s choices is A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman, as we were on our year sabbatical. The story was magical and most enchanting and my instinct proved me right yet again!
Great news Marian. Perfect title. We are waiting expectantly for your memoir to be published & released. Know it will be a hit.
See you soon.
You see me climbing the memoir mountain up close and personal. Thank you for your support and your friendship along the way. 🙂
I’m not plain now, but I used to be. The book is the story of my transformation. Also, I do provide some context about Mennonites early in the book, so my culture will make more sense as you read the story.
Thanks for the tip about the book, Fatima! I will check to see if our library has Sarah Winman’s book. I’m ready for magical and enchanting!
I am very interested to read about your culture, so different to my own upbringing: it is bound to be an eye opener.
I hope you’ll find the book: we should always be ready for some magic! I got mine on Kindle, as we don’t have room for real books in motorhome. Enjoy! I am sure you won’t be disappointed. ❤
I checked our library and the book by Sarah Winman they have available is Tin Man. I’ll have to order the title you suggested for my Kindle. Thanks for the suggestion, Fatima!
I haven’t read Tin Man yet , but I think I’ll put it on my list too. 👍
I have downloaded it on my Kindle now. Will let you know how I get on.👍
I finished reading Tin Man last night. It is a very good, but profoundly sad story, beautifully written, but not as magical as as A Year Of Marvellous Ways. I enjoyed its raw sincerity and underlying humanity, with al its flaws and kindness, and the characters seem very real indeed. 👍
I’m now reading Tin Man, just because A Year of Marvelous Ways was not available at the library. Winman is a marvelous writer but I usually prefer heartwarming over heartbreaking stories. Anyway, we are sharing a book, our own mini-book club. Thanks for the followup comment, Fatima!
I wonder if is is called Tin Man after The Wizard of Oz or because Ellis works in a car factory fixing bodyworks.
I think the author is smart enough to see the double meaning when she titled the book; I hadn’t thought about that. Great observation, Fatima!
Yes, a bit of both, referring to his work and to his broken heart.
An intriguing title will always lead me to look inside the cover of a book. You will know in your heart which title is the best one for you and your endeavor. As to the title of my book in progress, it is something that came to me in the middle of a sleepless night.
Even asleep, our minds are always working. The “aha” moment for your own book title is proof of that. Thank you, Ginger.
Yay! I love that you have a title reveal! Like Jill said, it’s perfect!
Some titles were hard to come by. But most came after prayer. They’re usually theme based like Susan G. Weidener mentioned. Others were suggested by the publisher.
There’s more than one way to arrive at a title. And it can’t be forced. I’m so happy you have a history of success with titles. Yes, I agree, prayer helps. Thank you, Marie!
Titles are so important, Marian. They are what catch my interest. Pique my curiosity. When I was coming up with mine I had a list of 8 or 9 and sent them around for feedback. Just got me more confused. I did read that the title and subtitle should resonate with the different sides of the brain. One creative, mysterious, and provocative. The other, rational, clear, and direct. And yes, my main title did appear about half way through the book. It’s an exciting tine, isn’t it?
Like having too many beta readers (Is there such a thing?) having too many title suggesters could lead to confusion. I like the idea that the title and subtitle should complementary, resonating with different sides of the brain. Aha!
This is an exciting time, yes, but tiring too. However, I’m feeling a little bit more momentum these days with copyediting and book layout in view. Thanks for being part of this long journey, Janet!
Marian, congratulations on this milestone! I love your title. I want to know more about this “plain girl” who I know is anything but plain😊 Yes, a title will intrigue me to read a book. My titles have come in “aha” moments when a phrase resonates with the main theme of my story. Such an exciting part of your journey. Best wishes as you move forward!
I remember the story of how another writer, Susan maybe, helped identify one of your titles. By the way, I adapted some of the wording in your “disclaimer” to my own memoir. Thank you for this, and for your kindly presence and support along the way. May you be blessed in all ways as you complete your second volume. Woo Hoo!
The title is perfect, Marian! The title of my first memoir, Two Hearts: An Adoptees Journey Theough Grief to Gratitude changed and evolved over time, though it always had the Two Hearts component. Serendipitously the title of my current WIP is derived from The Velveteen Rabbit quote you shared here.
You have really piqued my interest, Linda. I wonder if “real” is in the title. Thanks for adding your validation here, so appreciated!
Yes, love your memoir title!
Thank you, Jack. It just occurred to me, you can relate to some of the characters and events during our shared high school years. Thanks for following my journey here, and providing a voice from a time that in retrospect seems much simpler now. 🙂
This will stand out and look good on the Barnes & Noble bookshelf.
Thanks for your vote of confidence here. So appreciated, Sister Jean! 🙂
Yes, your title “Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl” fits perfectly. Since I know how your real life of plain and fancy is woven together as you grew up, it sums up nicely. Much better than the twenty or so titles I suggested that never quite worked.
Too bad I can’t show your readers the draft book cover of your memoir I designed for you. They would read your book before it’s even put in print!
Cliff — You carrot dangler, you! I can hardly wait to see what you created for the book’s cover.
Very nice. The title is perfect. I just read The Velveteen Rabbit to my granddaughter a couple of nights ago. She loved it.
Hey, Susan. It’s good to see your smile here. I’m proud of you for your re-invention as artist: nurse, writer, artist, and who knows what’s next! (By the way, your art is wonderful.)
Thank you for adding your affirmative vote here. How lovely you can read The Velveteen Rabbit to your granddaughter. I’m sure you loved reading it and observing her reaction! 🙂
This is exciting! I’m sure your title is going to help sell about a gazillion of your memoirs because it’s so right.
In answer to your question, oddly enough I’ve known the title of my memoir for years. The thing is I have no interest in writing it…
You have REALLY piqued my curiosity. I believe you’ll be interested in writing your story when the time is right. It must not be the right time – yet! Believe me, I’ll be reading whatever you eventually publish. Thanks for the validation here, Ally! 🙂
I love your title, Marian! It works and yes, I can see it displayed at Barnes and Noble. Great to be at this point! Does that mean you also have an agent and publisher? I’m working at those things myself. A time of perseverance and patience. 😂. Best wishes to you. I’m looking forward to reading it! 💕
Ever since that 6-month memoir course years ago we’ve been on each other’s radar. Who knew the 6 months would expand into years and years. Right now, I’m working with someone on the book design. Yes, a time of perseverance and patience, testing the limits of our strength, Right? Best wishes to you too! We’ll have to swap memoirs!
Thanks, Beverly! 🙂
Love the title, Marian, and I can’t wait to read it! And I have read “The Velveteen Daughter,” and loved it.
I just read your blog update and left a comment, Joan. Thank you for sharing this journey with me and for your advice about editing. The title is AT approved! I’ll be thinking of you and Bill in the coming weeks. 🙂
I think your title is great, Marian! And the illustration from the daughter of the author of The Velveteen Rabbit is intriguing.
I also thought about one of my favorite movies: Coal-Miner’s Daughter.
We probably considered many similar titles. My working title was Rosy Cheeks. I knew it wasn’t the final one when I chose it, but it did help me get to Blush!
So excited for you that you are getting close to publication!
Thanks for the reminder about Loretta Lynn’s story. I didn’t come from poverty and I don’t expect worldwide fame, but I was and still am my father’s daughter. I read a line in Tara Westover’s Educated that really resonated: “I am not the child my father raised, but he is the father who raised her.”
Your title is perfect, with Blush even suggesting the color choices for your cover. Thank you for ringing bells of memory and for your constant support, Shirley. 🙂
I much prefer the first title! Though I also like the 2nd one 🙂 Yes, it should reflect the contents! Both my book titles reflect their content so maybe I’m biased. If you’re still not happy, let it go – it will come to you. All best Marian 🙂
If the response here is any gauge, most readers prefer the first title. I’m happy about that because it is the title my editor approves as well. Thank you, Susan!
Marian — love, Love, LOVE the title: “Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl”
Thank you for the thumbs up and for replying to Cliff also. He has gotten very involved in recent days, here and behind the scene. 🙂
Well done! Coming up with a title can be difficult. I like your final decision. The second choice is OK but I prefer the first as you were loved by your family so you knew what love was and didn’t need to find it. My titles are easy as I just use Amanda in and the place she is visiting. The subtitles can be tricky sometimes but it usually comes to me as I write. I often chose a book by it’s title. Can’t wait to see the cover Cliff has designed for you. xo
You think like an editor, Darlene, and with good reason because of your expanding Amanda series. I like that you capitalize on the place/setting, with a catchy theme involving exploration or mystery. Thanks so much!
Marian, reaching this milestone must be a grand feeling! My title is evolving slowly over time, but as I draw closer to submitting my manuscript, I need to begin zeroing in on the final. It isn’t easy, is it? Yes, I’ve selected many books because of their titles and am seldom disappointed. Personally, I’m trying hard to find the plain in you!
Getting to this point is gratifying, but I wouldn’t describe it as grand. I’m just tired! Haha
I was a plain Mennonite for the first 23 years of my life, the scope of my memoir. After that, fancy all the way! Best wishes as you persevere with your writing in that lovely studio of yours. Thanks for keeping in touch, Sherrey!
Marian, this is exciting news. You have it down to the title! You are fortunate to have your husband as illustrator of your cover. That is so awesome! My husband was a copy editor, but sometimes that is a mixed blessing for me!
I like your second title but I would leave out the reference to “Mennonite” and would just entitle it “A Plain Girl Finds Love.”
I’m just now reading a mystery thriller entitled “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins, and I was attracted to it because of the title. I saw a painting in England of two girls on a train (can’t remember the artist) and was so intrigued by it. The book is a page turner!
Thanks for the suggestions here, Elfrieda. I have already placed “The Girl on the Train” on reserve in the library. If you say it is a page turner, I believe you. Our library carries 38 copies, so it is in high demand.
About the title: The editors I checked with said “Mennonite” should appear in the title because of SEO. I don’t know much about Search Engine Optimization, but I probably should defer to their advice on this.
About Hardy’s copyediting contribution: I can see that it may be a mixed blessing. Cliff and I sometimes differ on this & that about the appearance of the book. Blessings as you persevere with your blog and other writing!
I like your title. It fits beautifully. You are anything but plain though – you are extraordinary.
Aw, Jenn. Thank you!
I have let all the stops out now, but the first two decades of my life (the scope of my memoir) were plain. There seems to be consensus on the title here, a relief because I’ve agonized over it so long. Thanks for visiting here again and for the compliment.
How exciting Marian. I like the first title. 🙂 I have never had a problem titling a book, maybe I missed my calling. Lol 🙂 Good luck with the publish!
Sometimes your writing life seems so effortless, but I may be wrong. I know you have a strong writing ethic, and devotion to other writers. Thanks always for your support here. 🙂
Far from effortless Marian. It just gets easier after every book. You’ll see! 🙂
I’ll take your word for it, Debby! 🙂
I promise it does. 🙂
I love your title and can’t wait for you to get it out there for us to read! You have always fascinated me with your writing and your interesting pictures, both photographs and drawings by your talented husband! I can’t wait for your book to come out!
I can’t wait either. Even though marketing a book is hard work, at least getting it published will be behind me. Thanks for your support over all these years, so appreciated! 🙂
I like your first choice title!
That seems to be the consensus here. Thanks for adding your voice to the vote, Fiona. It will be easier to make the decision now. 🙂
Sorry I’m so late Marian . I’m so glad you have come to a decision about the title of your memoir. Some people can search and never find , others find it in a flash , which ever way it has to be right for you .
I have found amazing authors with endless work, that I have happily ploughed though, just from a title of a book or the artwork on the front of the book . .
Red is a poignant colour at the moment with it being 100 years since the First World War that my grandads both fought in …so I’m reading ‘The girl in the red coat ‘ by Kate Hammer …a really good read .
Cherry, you are always on time here; I never close comments! Thanks for your thoughts about titles and covers. You get advance notice here: I predict that there will definitely be red on my memoir cover. RED!
Thanks you for the book recommendation. I’m collecting suggestions on my Facebook page today. Hint Hint! xoxo
Hi Marian. I didn’t have a final title until my book was accepted by a publisher. I had words and phrases all over the house–on cards, on counters, on the floor, in various groups. And then it fell into place and I didn’t look back.
Does your book stop when you meet Cliff? Maybe I should know that, but I don’t. If so, maybe:
Mennonite Daughter: Plain Girl Falls for Fancy Boy
Of course, that doesn’t work if Cliff was from a Mennonite family I like it because it gives a sense of the huge transition you must have made at some point.
I haven’t shared with blog readers where my book ends, so you haven’t missed anything. As a matter of fact, it does end with my meeting Cliff and did require a huge transition. One of the questions I pose at the end is this: Do you view the author’s choice to break free from her culture as an act of bravery or one of survival?
Your writing always seems so effortless, so I recognize how hard you work at it: cards with words all over your house, multiple drafts until words “fall into place” at just as they should.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments as always, Elaine.
To add the obvious, Congratulations. I can’t wait to see the final title and book.
And for the follow up too, Elaine. You’re welcome! <3
Aha! The oh-so important title. Well done for choosing one, Marian, and it’s a good one! I like the first combination best, and am especially fond of the first part. I often wondered whether I couldn’t just call my memoir “My Story”. 🙂 It sounds like you’re making good progress towards completion, these weeks. You go, girl! 🙂
Your vote tips the scale more and more with the majority here, which solidifies my decision to go forward with it. Thank you! 🙂
I have an inkling what your own story is about, and putting the word “My Story” in there sets it about as a unique narrative. The title will come in due time, and maybe not till you finish your story, as happened to me. “You go, girl!” Right back to you!
Lois just sent some of us your cover reveal. Love the picture and the title. Marian you were always beautiful, inside and out! I will never forget the EaHS 1959 reunion when you csme with your parents! When will your book be available and will it be on Amazon? I am currently in FL and wondering if you are still living down here?
How wonderful to hear from you, Carol, editor-in-chief of our yearbook. Wow! I wonder if you had a career in journalism. And you mentioned Lois; I wonder if you mean Lois Herr, who follows me on Facebook
About your questions. I queried the book designers about launch date, and she said, “Wait until the book is ready to be typeset; so much can happen between now and then, delays and such.” She’s right, I think. I still have to do a final proofreading, but I’m anxious too.
It is WONDERFUL to hear from you, Carol. Yes, we are still in Jacksonville, and I wonder where in Florida you live. Thanks for much, Carol! Let’s stay in touch. 🙂
Yes, it will be available on Amazon. However, I plan to do a mini book tour which will probably include Lancaster County. No firm plans yet, but it’s in the works. (I write a chapter or two about my experience in high school – ha!)
Carol, if you go to my home page (click Welcome) on my website you could subscribe free of charge to my blog. On that page on the right panel you see the word Invitation. If you fill in your email address, I will send you a scene from my memoir. Only I see your address. It is private and NEVER shared. It’s up to you though. It’s so good to connect with you again!