Revisiting the question of titles

I recently joined a women’s writing network called Shewrites, and have been following a discussion on titles. People post their working titles, and the community reacts. On the one hand, it’s a great opportunity to get a lot of quick feedback. But on the other, it’s made me realize that we’re not all on the page when thinking about what makes a good title. So I wanted to raise the question here again.

There have been objections to titles put forth on the Shewrites list on the grounds that they don’t tell exactly what a book is about. It’s an objection I struggle with a lot, especially since I write non-fiction. But, as I look around my study and at some of my favorite books of non-fiction, here’s what I see:

The Year of Magical Thinking
Algerian White
Autobiography of Red

I, for one, like titles that hint rather than baldly declare what the book is about. I like titles that are evocative and a bit poetic. I like titles that reveal their meanings fully once you’re part-way through a text. But I may be in the minority in this respect.

I’m interested to hear what you think is important in a title. How much does a title have to tell you? How tolerant of the abstract are we when it comes to titles? What are your favorites, and why?

[Photo: sleeping sun]

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Internet resources for writers: publicity, grants, submitting


I’m not expert on this, but my friend Jill Murray ( is. She’s a Montreal author of young adult fiction, and is super-tech-savvy. She recently gave a talk on how to build a web presence through social networking, and posted her slides on her website. I found the advice there really good. Check it out here. You can find a link to Jill Murray’s website at the right margin as well.


If you could use some tips on grant writing, check out Mira’s List. It’s a great blog where Mira Bartok gathers and disseminates grant announcements. I’ve subscribed to her email list, and have received a grant as a result of a listing I found there. You can also get to Mira’s List via the link under Grants at the right margin.


Though she doesn’t update very often any more, Sarah Wagner Yost’s blog archives give some good ideas as to where to submit personal essays and travel writing. She recommends trying The Smart Set and Modern Love (NYT) for starters. She provides editors’ email addresses and submission guidelines.

[Photo: austinevan]

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