N. K. from Kankakee, Illinois asked, "When you write stories, do you decide on the title before or after you write the story?"

Dear N,

This is the same question as “Which came first, the chicken or the egg!”

As with any creative process, anything is possible. Sometimes the title comes first and sometimes it’s last. Sometimes it comes to me in a moment, and sometimes I work for hours trying out one after another.

A friend of mine asked if I had a suitcase that she could use when traveling to Italy. She wanted a specific type with wheels and one that would fit between the seats so she could carry it on and wheel it down the aisle. I was more than happy to share my suitcase and went on and on about its benefits and how much I liked it. She back peddled in her enthusiasm saying, “Now don’t be upset with me if I don’t use your suitcase, because I’ve asked several friends to see their luggage.” It struck me when she said this, that she thought her rejection of my luggage would be her rejection of me. My response was, “I am not my suitcase.” When I heard myself saying this, I KNEW it was a story waiting to be written…and I wrote it. Hopefully, it will help children see that they are not their gifts. Or artists are not their artwork. It’s a lesson for all of us.

On the other hand, when writing Cat Time, I was stumped as to what the title should be. The struggle was to create a title which gives a little snippet of what’s in the story yet create some curiosity with a catchy phrase that would make people purchase the book. Publishers are told by book buyers that the buyers allow approximately 30 seconds to decide to purchase the book. By just looking at the cover and title, these two things must catch the buyer’s attention. I enlisted some children to give me ideas. I wrote suggestions on paper to see how they looked. I literally spent weeks after the book was written and illustrated before settling on Cat Time. I’m pleased with the title, but it took much more work than I Am Not My Suitcase!

I have more titles waiting for a story and stories waiting for a title. What fun the creative process is.

Thanks for asking!  Lynnette Schuepbach

Lynnette is an author/illustrator who sees creativity in every aspect of life. To find out more about her and creativity, visit her Web site KidsDoRead.com.  Her children’s books create curiosity in children and speak to sibling rivalry and bullying.

Lynnette serves as chair of Art in the Park on the second weekend of October at the Lindendale Park in Highland. Many local artists will be exhibiting there. It’s her pleasure to be a part of this opportunity for you to experience “World Class Art in a Hometown Atmosphere.” More info at www.highlandartscouncil.org.

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