Fun with Titles: How The Hell To Title a Book

I'm ConfusedThe very title of this post is a lie—titles are not fun. They are torture. I have no idea how to come up with a title for my book, except to imitate other people’s titles and pray for a miracle.

I thought I’d found the perfect title with By the Time I Turn Thirty. A good friend loved it. A writer I admire gave this scintillating review: “I don’t hate it.” But an experienced editor said I should find a more serious title, since I’d written a more serious book.

Over the weekend, I thought of two more titles:

(1)    Healthy Sick Happy Sad Success Failure: A Memoir

(2)    On the Other Side of Bright: A Memoir

Here were the reviews:


“I like the first one a lot.”

“What about the second one?” I asked.

“I don’t get it.”

“I’m not bright sided anymore. I’m not buying into all the self-help crap.”

“I still don’t get it.”


“I like On the Other Side of Bright best,” Friend 2 said. Since the book has something to do with Cystic Fibrosis, Friend 2 suggested I consider titles about breathing. “How about With Bated Breath?” he said. “It’s a nice allusion to The Merchant of Venice, which has that creepy ‘pound of flesh’ scene.”


“I don’t like either of them. And I never liked By the Time I Turn Thirty. I’m a picky bitch.”

Thank God for these people, even if I’m more confused than ever . . .


Is Publishing in Literary Journals Worthwhile?

Yesterday I submitted work to four journals: Word Riot, theNewerYork, Contrary, and Rivet. Submitting work takes time, especially when you’re first starting out. You have to find journals that might like your writing, which means conducting research (there are 4,941 markets listed in Duotrope, an online database and submission tracker service). Then choose, polish, and edit your piece; format your piece in such a way that it meets that particular journal’s requirements; write a cover letter; enter your credit card information (for contests, etc.); submit and track your submission. Rinse and repeat.

The truth is that comparatively few people in the general population read literary magazines, especially printed ones, most literary journals don’t pay anything, and most work that is submitted gets rejected. So why do I bother trying?

Is getting published in these journals about my ego, or is it about connecting with potential readers and fellow writers? Read More »

Fantasies of Acclaim

Tonight a writer I admire and respect is critiquing my book manuscript. Fear and nervousness quickly give way to feedback fantasies:

  • “This is the best book I have ever read in my life.”
  • “Your prose is the best ever written in the English language.”
  • “You didn’t know this about me, but I happen to be a millionaire, and I would like to fund your genius.”
  • “Because your book is such a god damned masterpiece, I went ahead and showed it to my publisher. She wants to publish it immediately. In fact, I showed it to multiple publishers, and they all want to publish it immediately.”
  • I walk into the room (this is more of a writing workshop fantasy), and before class even begins, everyone stands up and starts clapping. The teacher wipes tears from her eyes. Her mouth says “Bravo,” but no sound comes out because she is overwhelmed with emotion.

Read More »