I’m now back from 5 days of bouncing around between lots of time zones.  It does something to your brain — at least it does to mine.  I get lost inside my head and start obsessing about all sorts of things.  This time I found myself obsessively focussing on the title for my new novel.  It’s set in Cambodia (that’s all I’ll tell you for now), and although I’m about a third of the way through my first draft, it’s so far been without a title.  That wouldn’t bother some writers, but it’s been driving me crazy.  It feels like I’m carrying my favourite doll around, but without a head.  So I’ve been playing with words and I think I’ve come up with something — for now.  But it’s made me realize that I definitely do have this thing about names, and I have had for a long time.  

My first novel, Tangled Roots, had two other names before finally settling into the one that will appear on the book cover this May.  And each of the other names had pride of place for months and months on end.  Yet, in the end, the name changed.  That’s not so unusual though, I suppose.  But during all those hours hovering above the earth this past weekend, I realized that I did the same thing with myself, and maybe that’s a bit weirder.  I was born Susan.  For most of my childhood, I was called Susie.  And that’s who I believed I was, for about 15 years.  Then I stamped my adolescent foot and said, “Absolutely not.  I am not Susie.  I am Sue.”  My family thought I was being dramatic, but they mostly went along with it (although to this day some of my sisters’ friends still call me Susie).  But then, somewhere in the childbearing years of my 30’s, I veered off in another direction and became Susan again.  It was as if I was metaphorically picking up a briefcase every time I dropped another dirty nappy into the bin.  I was asserting myself as a serious individual, “not just a mom”  (now 20 years later, I gag at the thought that I had felt that way, as if there could ever be a more important job than being a parent.  But I promised myself always to be truthful here, so there you go).  I was even signing my earliest attempts at writing with “Susan R. Guiney” — sounds more like an accountant than an artist, doesn’t it?  When I went back to being “Sue” then it was very big statement.  It was a real moment of announcing to the world who I was and what my intentions were going to be.  So I’ve learned that it is important — vitally important — what something is called.  But it’s just as important to remember that everything changes, nothing remains forever the same.  Not even a name.  Though it will still smell as sweet.