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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Debating titles



Martin and I went to see The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams on Friday at the Octagon in Bolton. It was a very good production, incidentally. And The Glass Menagerie is a very good title for it. A central character owns and is obsessed with a collection of glass animals. The working title for the play was The Gentleman Caller. I also like this title. The “gentlemen caller” is central to the story.
I have difficulty with titles and very often the final one doesn’t settle until I’ve completed several edits. Now I’m agonizing over the titles of my two Holocaust stories. Potatoes in Spring is so called because the girls who sent letters to each other 1938 to 1944 were more fascinated by the fact that the potato crop came early one year than by the fact that they were at war and were living under the Nazi regime.
The House on Schellberg Street is currently the title for Clara Lehrs’ biography because she and her son built the house on Schellberg Street and later hid some severely disabled children there.                
However, I’m thinking of renaming Potatoes in Spring and calling it The House on Schellberg Street. Renate thought she was going to Schellberg Street permanently when she was whisked away on the Kindertransport. One third of the story takes place at the house and is an interesting bridge between the other two strands linking ordinary Germans with the girl who had to go to England because she was Jewish.Antony Rowland, one of my beta readers, recently told me he preferred this title – he had been under the impression that The House on Schellberg Street was indeed the new name for Potatoes in Spring. As I was writing at one point I decided that I did want to rename Potatoes. However, I came back to it because another beta reader said she liked the title and because The House on Schellberg Street seemed such a good title for Clara’s biography.
I’ve now started Clara’s biography. I’m 14,000 words in and we’ve not got to Schellberg Street yet. Her biography lasts from 1918 – 1942 – though there are a few earlier scenes – and she only lives in Schellberg Street from 1928 – 1942. She actually had to sell the house in 1939. She carried on living there for a while as a lodger. If I do call the earlier story The House on Schellberg Street, I can call Clara’s story simply Clara’s Story. The first novel may ask the questions anyway “Who was this extraordinary woman?” and “What happened to Clara?”              
I really am wondering and I’d like everybody’s help with this. Let me know what you think.   

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