Sunday, December 29, 2013


One of the best parts of the holiday season is spending time with friends. (I'm lucky––I consider my family members to be friends.) We exchange gifts. We share delicious food. We do our best to light up the long evenings.

I have other friends who have done a great deal to keep the darkness at bay. They've been such an important part of my life. I love them dearly––but sometimes I ignore them for years. They don't mind. They wait patiently on the shelf. Then my daughter needs something to read, and I run to the bookcase, eager to introduce her to one of my literary friends.

 My publisher has a motto.

I love that sentiment. I'm so proud that they considered Zeno & Alya to be that kind of book.

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the books who have given me wonderful companions.

Wilbur the pig.  I know, Charlotte the spider gets that lovely bit of praise at the end. But  Wilbur is the one with enthusiasms. You have to love a pig who tries to spin a web!

Mary Lennox.  She’s so disagreeable, I had to love her. She works so hard to bring the garden back to life.

Jo March. I suppose I identified most strongly with her – but not because she wanted to be a writer. I was every bit as clumsy as she was. And my older sister was as perfect as Meg.
My list could go on and on. But I think I'll go spend some time with dear old friends.

I hope that you all found time this holiday season to spend time with yours – and make new ones.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Just Name It

My nephew Alex recently started a job with a company called Catchword. It's a naming agency. Their clients are corporations who are launching new products or rethinking their existence, but I think they could start a whole division to help people like me. 

Writers have to name things all the time. Characters, cities, streets, pets, just to mention a few. In historical fiction, names must be changed to protect the innocent. If you’re writing a book that involves any world building, you’ll have to name all the creatures, the clothing, the food, the transportation, and whatever screen device they watch or watches them. No wonder I stick to my version of realistic fiction. I know I could never come up with all those names!
I haven’t even mentioned the most important thing that needs a name––the book itself . 

I don’t remember having a Eureka moment when I thought of this title. It seems pretty straightforward. Half of it is comprised of the names of the two main characters––Zeno (the African grey parrot) and Alya (the girl). The squiggle of an ampersand that links them promises a closer connection than an ordinary "and."

 I’ve already blogged about how the parrot was named after the Greek philosopher Zeno who was one of the early Stoics. The parrot Zeno is a curmudgeon, so it makes sense that his name ends in “no.” 
The girl's name had to start with the letter A. I liked how "Alya" sounds strong, without being harsh. The syllable at the end is kind of like a cheer or the noise tennis players make when they smash the ball cross-court. “Yah!” Sounds in words are like a little bit of hidden music.
But what about the rest? What about Desperate Adventures? Why not reckless quests? Serious escapades? Overwhelming exploits?   

Desperate has despair. Overcoming despair is often what I write about––even though most of my readers are years from being adults. If you want to observe true courage, watch a kid walk down the hall of her middle school. 

Adventure has advent––the start, the beginning, the arrival of something important, like a brand new story.

Aren’t words wonderful?