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Day 22: 2012 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway: Natalie Serber

I love the name of this book.


Shout Her Lovely Name

Isn’t that a great title?

I want to read this book just because of the title. And that does not happen very frequently.

I also adore this cover design, which is why I’m putting it at the top instead of the author’s headshot.

Love poppies. Love them! (At least I think they are poppies.) And I am just crazy about the movement in this photograph.

Bravo to the book cover designer who created this design! (I would love to know the story on this cover, as well. Maybe Natalie will come and tell us after her book winner drawing takes place.)

The book is a debut, a collection of short stories written by author mama Natalie Serber. I’m so glad that her publicist dropped me a note.

Once I read the bio on Natalie’s website, I knew she was a perfect match for this giveaway. Please help me welcome her.

About Natalie Serber

I grew up in California, six blocks from the ocean. I spent my youth riding my bike, reading incessantly, and sun tanning at the beach, always with friends, and never with the benefit of sunscreen. My undergrad days were spent at University of California at Irvine where I studied English with a writing emphasis and then I studied at UC Santa Cruz taking a degree in education. I imagined I would be a teacher like my mother, or maybe I would write for magazines, but, as an only child of a single, hard working mom, what I really wanted to do was to stay at home with my children, and that worked out for our family.

I gardened, cooked, volunteered at their school. When my youngest entered preschool, I took a writing class and then I took another. Soon I gave up gardening and took up early rising until my morning shufflings–making coffee, letting the dog out, writing at my desk–woke the household at five. With my kids in elementary school I wrote in coffeehouses and at the library, in the parking lot where I waited for them after school. I published in literary journals, The Bellingham Review, Inkwell Magazine, Third Coast, Fourth Genre, Hunger Mountain, to name a few, and the publications sustained me. They allowed me to continue believing in my work and led me to pursue an MFA in fiction at Warren Wilson College.

I was lucky enough to win some prizes, John Steinbeck Award, Tobias Wolff Award, H.E. Francis Award, I was short listed in Best American Short Stories.  I received a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for Women Artists.  I was also invited several times to attend Ragdale, an artists colony, where I was able to spend weeks focused on my work. Through the raising of my family I continued writing. Now as my youngest enters college and I teeter on the cusp of an empty nest and a new decade of my life, my collection, SHOUT HER LOVELY NAME is forthcoming with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. There’s a lovely symmetry to my timeline and if I wrote it in a story, no one would believe it. Learn more at www.natalieserber.com.

About Shout Her Lovely Name

Mothers and daughters ride the familial tide of joy, pride, regret, loathing, and love in these stories of resilient and flawed women. In a battle between a teenage daughter and her mother, wheat bread and plain yogurt become weapons. An aimless college student, married to her much older professor, sneaks cigarettes while caring for their newborn son. On the eve of her husband’s fiftieth birthday, a pilfered fifth of rum, an unexpected tattoo, and rogue teenagers leave a woman questioning her place. And in a suite of stories, we follow capricious, ambitious single mother Ruby and her cautious, steadfast daughter Nora through their tumultuous life — stray men, stray cats, and psychedelic drugs — in 1970s California. Gimlet-eyed and emotionally generous, achingly real and beautifully written, these unforgettable stories lay bare the connection and conflict in families. Shout Her Lovely Name heralds the arrival of a powerful new writer.

The Very Short Interview

When did you know for sure that you were a writer and that writing would be a major energy focus in your life?

It wasn’t until I was enrolled in a creative writing class in Jr. College that I felt like writing was something I could do.  My professor, Kirby Wilkins, was an incredibly generous and positive reader. He really encouraged me and gave us all a sense of safety and community.  It was completely okay to write really bad, rough, raw pieces in his workshop.  You have to have that freedom in order to grow as a writer.  From then on, I knew I wanted to write.  Fast forward through college, marriage and children to when my youngest child began preschool, I read Ellen Gilchrist and was so inspired by her humor, her sass, her characters that I again enrolled in a creative writing class at my old Jr. College with, yes you guessed it, Kirby Wilkins.  From that workshop forward I wrote hard.  I wrote early in the mornings.  I wrote in the parking lot outside their preschool.  Writing began to define me.  Because I came from such a tiny family (single mom, only child), having a family of my own was paramount to my life plans.  I feel that once I was married and had my children I could finally turn my attention and energy to this other part of me, the writer.

Who has always been behind your writing career and who helped pull you up the ladder of success?

There have been a couple people who encouraged me as a writer.  I already mentioned Kirby Wilkins.  Another writer, Debra Spark, really supported me.  She was the one who suggested I apply to graduate school.  Before that it hadn’t occurred to me.  She wrote letters and advised.  I am ever grateful for her belief in my work.  But the person who has been most behind my writing career is my husband, Joel.  He worked as a partner with me, making it easier for me to go away for chunks of time to my low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College.  He always shows great pride in my work. In the face of yet another rejection he listens to me rail about how I suck and then he leaves me alone to write.

What is the most frequent comment you hear about your book (or books) from readers? Tell us a little story about the response to your work.

Because my book is not yet out, this question is difficult to answer.  But I will tell you that I have received many heartfelt responses to my story, “Shout Her Lovely Name.”  The story is from the point of view of a mother struggling to help her daughter who suffers with an eating disorder.  I have had many personal notes from moms explaining to me that the story made them feel less alone and from daughters who tell me that for the first time they understood their mother’s pain.  Feeling less alone is why I read and why I write.  If I can make others feel that they are not alone in their experiences, both joyful and sorrowful, than I have the best work in the world.

And Now, Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. You remember how this works right?

I ask you a question. You answer in the comments for your chance to win a book each day.

Please just respond once, even if you make a typo. ;)

Answer in the comments in 50-200 words (no less and no more to qualify to win one of today’s books). Please read the complete rules at least once!

Thanks for participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway! I hope to see you here every day this month. Bring your friends!

Children ask where babies come from, but writer mamas should ask, “Where do awesome titles come from?” Where do you think awesome titles come from? How do you find yours? If you are unsure, share some titles you think are brilliant. (Don’t forget: 50 words is the minimum comment length).

Ready, set, comment!

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  • Chris Ciolli May 21, 2012, 6:24 pm

    Hmmm. In my opinion good titles come from that magical mental place when you’re in the zone. They pop-up, unannounced and uninvited when you’re perhaps doing some mundane task like washing dishes, or cleaning house, and allowing your mind to wander about your story, your projects, your goals and your life. The worst part is though, if you don’t stop a moment, and take a minute to write them down, they disappear to wherever it is they came from in the first place. 

  • Linda Hofke May 21, 2012, 8:54 pm

    Awesome titles can come from a variety of ways. Sometimes titles come first, the words inspiring the story itself. However, I tend to chose my titles after the piece is written, searching for some tiny part of the story/plot that captures the essence of the piece.  Of course, it isn’t an easy task. Many titles out there aren’t as attention-catching as Shout Her Lovely Name. Some other titles I like are: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and How to Eat Fried Worms. They all peek my interest right away.

    A silly website you might want to check out is Better Book Titles. I takes real books and gives them new, more interesting titles.

  • Beth Fornauf May 21, 2012, 9:47 pm

    Titles have always baffled me. From my days as a reporter to my weekly struggles to create blog post headlines. It’s a hard craft to master – how do you hook a reader in a few catchy words, while at the same time capturing the main idea of your writing? I usually have to let my work settle for a few hours…or sometimes days. When I come back later and read the piece with fresh eyes, I often find that a title jumps out at me, or I at least have some new thoughts to start brainstorming.

  • Kristeen Moore May 21, 2012, 10:56 pm

    Titles are the part of fiction writing that I struggle with the most. I can come up with a snazzy non-fiction title in no time, but I am stumped when it comes to fiction. From what I have seen in other writers, great titles just come when least expected. A great work might already be written, or still in the works, and a writer will have that “a-ha” moment. The moment seems to come in least expected places–the grocery store, the playground, at church.  I guess the lesson here is to be patient and let those titles come to you, instead of getting frustrated and waste hours trying to figure it out.

  • Trisha May 21, 2012, 11:19 pm

    Good book titles aren’t obvious. I like book titles that come from a special line or phrase in the story. The title of the last book I read, “A Grown Up Kind of Pretty” by Joshilyn Jackson came from the relationship between an older, male teacher and one of the main characters, his female student. He told her she was “a grown up kind of pretty.” It’s like poetry. The best part is that it makes sense after you read the entire story.

  • Dee May 22, 2012, 12:09 am

    Although I don’t have an awesome title for my current project (I want to  get the actual writing done), I view a title as a headline and I’ve written plenty of those.  I was on the newspaper staff in high school and college, and have worked for trade and alumni magazines.  I can’t say I have the best headlines, but at least good, workhorse, serviceable headlines.  Hopefully, that will translate into a decent book title!

  • Lorraine Wilde May 22, 2012, 1:39 am

    When it comes to developing a title, whether for a chapter or a book or an article, a catchy, clever word or phrase with a hook doesn’t just pop into my head. I actually have to work at it. Perhaps its my science background that makes me subconsciously want to choose titles that are literal and tell you what the chapter or article is about. I find myself choosing titles like those in the beloved “Winnie the Pooh” series, for example, “Ch. 2 In which Tigger comes to the forest and has breakfast.” So if you figure out where the brilliant ones come from, please do let me know. My guess is that some people are better at it than others and for some, its just hard work. My favorites are those that inspire and/or make me laugh.

  • Brit StClair May 22, 2012, 4:40 am

    Good titles slip out of the ether. There’s no other explanation. One title that caught my attention immediately was My Butt and Other Big, Round Things, a young adult novel I once spotted in a bookstore. Based on the title I could tell the book was going to involve a self-conscious, yet funny girl. That’s what a good title should do, I think – serve as a type of frame, offering a little peek into some aspect of the book itself. 

  • Carol J. Alexander May 22, 2012, 11:54 am

    I can tell you that if I start with a title, like it just popped into my head, the rest of the story flows like honey. But if I have no idea what the title will be, I struggle the entire time getting the story to gel. Another thing I’ve noticed about titles, is that when I’m reading a novel and the title jumps out of the narration at me, I say to myself, “Aha! That’s where the title came from.” So maybe with fiction, the title comes from within the story. I also like to critique headlines from the newspaper. Last week we had “Willows are not the only trees that weep, defy gravity.” I’ve been in turmoil over that headline ever since. Doesn’t “defy gravity” mean that something is going up, not down, like a willow tree?

  • Cara Holman May 22, 2012, 5:08 am

    Titling a piece of writing is
    always my final step, whether writing a poem, a blog post, or a 2000 word
    personal essay. I liken it to getting to the dessert stage, after a
    particularly satisfying repast. Sure I always have a working title, but as I
    like to tell my writing students, I can’t put the finishing touches on the
    title until I know exactly what it is I have just written about!
    A title should
    draw the reader in, and intrigue them enough make them want to read the piece, but
    should also accurately reflect some angle of the writing, so as not to be
    misleading. Some of the favorite blog post titles I’ve come up with from this
    month’s book giveaway are: Stay Tuned, Mission Accomplished, Do
    the Math, Right to Write, No
    Guilt, Way Fun, No Reply, and Total

  • Guest May 22, 2012, 6:21 am

    I don’t know why, but for me titles have always been the last thing to be added to a poem. I usually take a key word or phrase from the poem. This differs from my method of titling articles, which editors usually take it upon themselves to do anyway. For poems, titles serve as a marker for me, to remember quickly what it’s about. It isn’t until I intend to send it out for publication that I put more thought into a better title. Until then, I focus on getting the piece right. My best titles have come from silent brainstorming sessions while swimming laps or sewing.

  • Malia Jacobson May 22, 2012, 6:29 am

    Coming up with titles for articles and subheads is one of my favorite parts of my work. Maybe it’s because I was raised on a steady diet of Redbook and  Glamour, or maybe it’s my advertising degree and background, but catchy hooks and titles come pretty easily to me. I just have to step back and make sure they’re not TOO cheesy. If a title just pops into my head, as they often do, I’ll force myself to come up with 5 alternatives, just to make sure I’m not letting myself off the hook too easily.

  • 9mas May 22, 2012, 1:31 pm

    A line from a poem, the title of a song, an arresting statement overheard in a cafe or a park trail, all can be the source of a title.  Sometimes the title comes first, sometimes it rises up from the writing of the story, sometimes naming is a dry well and a fresh set of ears and eyes are needed.  Last night, someone said it doesn’t matter what title you give your piece, the editor is going to change it.  I hope to find out someday whether there’s any truth to that statement.  In the meantime, finding the right title helps move the work forward.  Some favorites:  Places in the World a Woman Can Walk (Janet Kauffman), If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This (Robin Black), Would It Kill You To Stop Doing That (Henry Alford).  

  • ML May 22, 2012, 6:48 am

    This first book takes its title from the heart of the story- beginning middle and end. I have chosen That Man is Not Your Daddy to describe my journey, my struggle to learn the truth from the day I heard that man was not my Daddy. It still continues today.

  • Krystyann Krywko May 22, 2012, 7:45 am

    I usually find titles about half way through a piece; the best titles just pop into my head – the ones that I have to work on a little longer aren’t as succinct. I like it when a title describes something in the story, but then also puts a play on words – or is an old phrase or saying with a twist: Marriage and other acts of charity (Braestrup); How Philosophy can save your life (McCarty) or A Mountain of Crumbs (Gorokhova)

  • Monette Pangan May 22, 2012, 9:07 am

    Deciding on a title is like naming a baby or a pet. Sometimes the name comes ahead (when I have a son, I’ll name him Caleb–which is what I did). Other times, the name comes after one sees the baby or the pet. When I got my Jug (Jack Russell/pug mix), her eyes and expression reminded me of Maggie Smith (who happens to be a favorite actress of mine) and so I named her Maggie.

    I love titles like Cry the Beloved Country and She’s Come Undone. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is also a favorite.

  • MaribethPGraham May 22, 2012, 10:21 am

    I love to come up with titles. I think titles are whispers from our subconscious. After spending hours, days, months or years writing a piece we get a feel for what it is we want the title to convey. One of my favorite titles is The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. There is so much mystery behind that title and it immediately makes the reader ask what can all three of those have in common. A title is the entry to the places we create. It has to be inviting.

  • Mandy Hartley May 22, 2012, 11:33 am

    I wish I knew where awesome titles come from. At this point I only admire title-writing ability in others. Some titles that I think are brilliant are Written on the Body, Love Invents Us, We Were the Mulvaneys, and The Law of Similars. I love a great title that really resonates.

  • Lizzieprior2 May 22, 2012, 11:57 am

    I find it extremely difficult to come up with titles and as a result I am in awe of those incredible titles that manage to convey mystery, whimsy and beauty all in a few words. In the past I have mainly had to come up with title for academic style work, trying (and failing) to come up with something that fits the ‘pithy wisecrack: actual content of study’ format. Maybe I’ll have more luck with fiction titles. I agree, ‘Shout her lovely name’ is a beautiful title and gives me just the right catch in the throat. Other titles that do the same for me are: The Master and Margarita, A Song of Ice and Fire, 100 years of Solitude, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, God of Small Things, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Remains of the day. I realise now though that it’s almost impossible to separate one’s opinion of the title from one’s experience of reading the book. All the books above can carry off their rich and complex titles with ease.

  • Mar Junge May 22, 2012, 1:16 pm

    At a Young Adult Fiction workshop we spent half a day just on titles. Every published author had a unique story of how they discovered theirs. For many, it just “appeared” to them when they stopping trying to write one.
    I was hired to write a biography of a belly dancer that went through seven title changes: “Gypsy Blood,” “The Secret Gypsy,” “Gypsy Secrets,” Heart of Fire,” “Drummer, Dancer, Princess,” “Jasmine” and “The Child Bride.” The client couldn’t decide which she liked best and the manuscript still languishes on her shelf.
    I’ll probably go through just as many iterations trying to name my historical novel. So far I’ve come up with “The Flyer and the Owl,” “I.I.O.O.,” and “Twisted Steel” – none of which feels right.

    A great title (“Jaws,” “Twister”) can be so pervasive it becomes part of the culture. I came across a name today that I think would make a great title. It’s the name of a society founded at the turn of the century called the “Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo.”  It reminds me of “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” or “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood” – two great titles. 

  • Barb May 23, 2012, 4:18 am

    I love Natalie’s writing.  I was fortunate enough to take a writing class from her and we plumbed the depths of making characters walk off the page in situations that reverberate long in the reader’s mind.  Best of all, she has a great story about her writing experience as a learner, author and teacher that inspires the struggling writer.  It’s amazing how vibrant and revealing her stories are with so few words. Thanks for choosing Natalie as one of your super give-aways.  

  • christinakatz May 23, 2012, 5:28 am

     Unreal! Mary Lou wins again! You guys must know this means that I do not mess with the results. Because this is Mary Lou’s fourth win. 😉