Tuesday, August 31, 2010

marrying my way through europe - or, what the hell are you calling yourself these days, anyway?

Some of my old friends complain that I've used up half of the space in their address books. "It would be okay if it were only in the f's or the g's or the v's or the s's, but, hey, you're all over the book."

Sadly, my nomadic, restless ways are not confined to addresses (let's see, since reaching adulthood, I've lived in four states and, um, 15, no, wait, make that 16 dwellings), but to husbands as well. I'm on my third. (She says soberly, not wanting to give the impression that it's going to go any further than that). And with each new husband, a trip to the social security office ensued.

In the old days (pre-911), you could skip on down there with nothing more than a marriage certificate and a driver's license, but those days, as we all know, are gone. Pretty much, if one wishes to change one's name in today's climate, be prepared to deliver a tome of paper trail.

According to the IRS, my name is Suzanne Vitello Soule (there's an accent on the "e" of Soule, but technology renders that invisible in most legal documentation). But every day, my latest husband extracts the mail from the box out front and delivers the ream of missives to my writing desk for a rousing game of "Guess who lives here now!" Suzy K Vitello, Suzanne Graham, Susie V Soule. The New Yorker thinks I'm Suzy Gram. Most creditors still go by Suzanne Vitello. In-laws from a couple marriages back put all the names down, just to be on the safe side. Only Syracuse University and their savvy development staff have been able to keep up with my name-changing hijinks, and for that they deserve to be rewarded by occasional donations.

For the uninitiated, my formal pedigree is as follows: Suzanne Kathleen Freisinger Vitello Graham Soule. "You change names as often as I change my underwear," said my friend Kelly, once. And when my writer friends acknowledge me in their books, they've been known to ask: "So just what is your name these days?"

Alas, I know I should care more about my name than I do. Perhaps I'm so aloof that I really don't think it makes that much difference? It certainly doesn't keep me up at night. But this morning I followed the Twitter trail, and slapped up against this provocative post by Alison Winn Scotch on the very subject of writers and names.

In establishing the all-important platform, does it undermine readership, credibility, brand, to change your name? In marketing, when we advise clients to "rebrand" e.g. new logo, new web site, new, look & feel, it's very externally focused. "Keep up with the times," we insist. "Make a connection with your audience."

In art, though, the idea is to be visible on the strength of one's essence. Name it. Be it. Live it.

I decided, with this latest marriage, that in the writing world I really haven't been anything but Vitello. Occasionally, as a journalist, I've scabbed a name before or after the Vitello, but really, my writerly identity is commensurate with that name. Though--I don't have one Italian molecule in my DNA.

Here's my dilemma. I'm now working on a book that is an organic outgrowth of my heritage and passion, and a good part of the book is set in Austria, where I was born, whence my paternal lineage hails, and where the name I used as a maiden, the first 24 years of my life, comes from. That my née name is Freisinger might be very helpful if the book I'm now writing becomes my first published book. I mean, if Amy Tan got married to a "Smith" and she tried to publish under that name, would Joy Luck Club even have a platform?

Monday, August 30, 2010

clarity part two

If you missed part 1, catch up with part 2. Erin Reel interviews Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Diana Jordan and yours truly in her ongoing blogshop. This month's topic? Clarity. Are we clear, or just plain Evil at Heart? You be the judge!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

reading (or tweeting) on the throne

So at workshop the other night, one of our members had a scene involving a female, a book and a toilet, which prompted one of our many tangential topics: do women read on the toilet?

If our merry band is a sample, then I would say more than half do. Let's face it, modesty aside, we're a culture of multitaskers, and women have always excelled at doing more than one thing at a time, so wouldn't it be natural to assume that taking care of two things with one, er, stone, would follow?

Anyone brave enough to be part of a poll involving reading, gender and the throne? And, taking it a step further, any of you take your digital devices to the bathroom with you? (iPhones, laptops, etc)?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Using technology as a note-taking device

I'm hot on the trail of my new project, and as I hunker down and press forward, I've discovered that I can use blogging as a sort of repository to develop voice, plot point, dialogue.

The danger is, of course, that my writing time may become fragmented and fraught with time-sucking labors that derail my daily page count goals. So, here's a little experiment I'm trying. At the end of my writing day, I take some bits of prose (deemed at the time as successful, but in the light of day, who knows), and plop them down in my character blog. In this case, my Empress Elisabeth blog.

If you visit the blog, take note the posting date! And, please don't tell Blogger I'm cheating on it with Wordpress!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

the empress

This blog post by Erin Reel, "The Lit Coach," couldn't have come at a better time.

I've been stymied as to where to go next (or first, with regard to a book deal). My latest manuscript, STAIRWAY OF LOVE, has reached its conclusion, and I feel it's at a stage where it could be picked up, albeit some revisions and tweaking here and there. But while waiting for feedback from those considering it, I reengaged with a project that I've been flirting with for five years: a novel (or series of novels) about the notorious Austrian Empress, Elisabeth.

Her story has always fascinated me, ever since I was a tiny girl, living, literally, down the street from the Hofburg. On a trip back to Vienna a few years ago, I absorbed myself in everything Sisi. Her childhood, her obsessions, her anxiety, her hair!

It wasn't until recently that I realized the Empress story has a very marketable and fascinating position as a YA historical novel --really, a series of novels, so, while STAIRWAY gets juggled about with lukewarm agent interest, I've set to work, burning through my first draft of THE EMPRESS CHRONICLES.

I'd actually never considered writing for this audience before, but I'm finding that I'm exploding with ideas and ways to dramatize her compelling story. Stay tuned for more, but with any luck, I should have this draft completed by mid October.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

the walking in the woods cure

Is it true that as you get older transitions become harder? Man, getting back into my routine after two weeks away from it is proving difficult.

Maybe it's because I've set up my life in this multi-component, pastiche that the "running as fast as I can to stay only one step behind" truism persists, though on the heels of a 12-hour sleepathon, it should not.

My creative drive is more robust than ever, I'm happy to report, but clarity is coming in small bursts instead of large, sustainable waves. Today though, I went back to one of my favorite cures for fatiguing and disappointing bouts of ADD: a long overdue power walk loop through Forest Park. Extra points due to the misting shower that semi-soaked me.

For a while I lived at the edge of that great park, and more recently I leased an office down the street from it. Now that I'm over the hill from the Lower Macleay it takes a more forethought and planning to traipse along its majestic trails. But like all welcome habits, halfway through my walk today, my spirit and sense of actualness returned to me, and things I'd been mulling over dutifully aligned with the blessed sense of order I'd been seeking.

I returned to my desk energized and focused. And rested, even. But more than anything, grateful--which is, for me, most important of all.