“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
(Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2)
Last summer we had the great pleasure of seeing Romeo and Juliet on stage at the Stratford Festival here in Ontario. I sat in the audience, enjoying the creative and energetic staging, the first-rate acting, the immortal words. Not once did I think about how Juliet’s famous speech from her balcony would resonate with my life just a few short weeks later.
I’ve had this book bubbling away for a year now. I wrote it last November for NaNoWriMo, and with the encouragement of some authors I really respect, decided to publish it. I’ve been editing and revising and proofreading like a madwoman, not giving the first bit of thought to the title. My Fair Lizzy seemed perfect, and that was that.
Then earlier this week I discovered something that seemed to bode of disaster. Another author – and an excellent and much admired one at that – had a book with a similar theme and the exact same title ready for publication. Shock and horror! My heart stopped for about three seconds.
I took a deep breath and wrote what might have been the scariest Facebook message of my life. I had to confirm what I’d read, but was desperately hoping not to sound angry or nasty in any way. Well, to make a short story shorter, yes it’s true. Barbara Silkstone was indeed publishing her own My Fair Lizzy within days (today, in fact. Link below.) But the shock and horror ended right there. There was no recrimination, no anger, a bit of “oops” and “uh oh,” perhaps, but my fears were allayed.
Ms. Silkstone is lovely. If you’ve read anything by her, you will have the image of a smart, funny and genuinely decent lady, and from my experience, this is all completely accurate. We talked a bit about options and how to proceed, all in the spirit of friendly cooperation.
Eventually I decided to change my title. This choice gives her book the breathing space it deserves (did I say funny and smart and really well-written yet? Let me do that right now.), and eliminates any snags and confusion that might lie ahead. Finding a new title was really quite easy. I went to the text of Shaw’s Pygmalion, and there it was: Teaching Eliza. It said everything I needed a title to say.
The logistics went smoothly as well. Mae Phillips, my amazing cover artist, quickly did up a new cover with the new title, and changing the information for the ISBNs was as simple as editing the entry on the website.
So what is in a name, you ask? So much, and yet so little. It’s what inside that counts. Romeo and Juliet discovered that about each other (even if they didn’t learn to count to ten before acting), and I discovered that my novel is no worse off for having a different title.
And so, as a reward for reading through my saga, I present to you my cover for Teaching Eliza.