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Welcome to my third entry in a row to begin with the letters R and E. R! E! It’s a whole big thing. I am using those letters to begin my titles with a dogged, almost Sesame Street-like devotion. Maybe I should show a bunch of cleavage and sing about prefixes, re: Katie Perry.

See what I did there?

In case you do not read the comments, I have to pause, pre-title-talk, and share this one from Kaye, who chimed in on the whole burning EARS! To pierce or not to pierce? question with the following story:

Many years ago I was an assistant buyer in fashion jewelry for a department store chain. My wonderful and lovely boss did not have pierced ears and made sure we had lots of fashionable clip earrings in our stores.

On one store visit, we were helping a woman find earrings for her mother. We asked if she wanted clip or pierced. She wanted clip. After much time spent looking for the perfect earring in clip, the customer said ‘Oh heck. She is dead. I am sure they can pierce her ears when they do her makeup.’ And she took the pierced earrings.

In horror, my boss grabbed my arm, pulled me into an office and said ‘DO NOT PIERCE MY EARS WHEN I AM DEAD.’

What she said. And let me just get it down now, in public, in writing: Please do not pierce my ANYTHING when I am dead. Thank you.

I am currently on retreat at Myrtle Beach, but I did want to tell you that many happy things have come to pass with the book.

I had taken Heather Cook’s advise in the comments, and I was calling it “TFWIP” which she pronounced like tif-whip and I pronounce as tuh-FWIP, as in get tuh-Fwip out of here! Either way, it means “Title Free Work In Progress.” I can’t call it that anymore. For a couple of reasons. One is, it is not IN PROGRESS. I finished the book.

You have to imagine those words being trumpeted by a host of jubilant angels to understand how they ring in my head. It is the novelist’s most favorite sentence. I. Finished. The. Book. SO it is no longer in PROGRESS. It is in REVISIONS, a MUCH more delightful place to be, according to my draft-hating, revision-loving sensibilities, at least.

Also? It is no longer TITLE FREE. I,of course, did not title it. I have a long history of not titling my works. A brief retrospective.

gods in Alabama

Titled by: My agent, Jacques de Spoelberch

Source: Phrase appears several times in the book.

My Working Title: Gone to Bones

Rejected because: Just as we went to shop it, a little book—-you may have heard of it—called THE LOVELY BONES was dominating the NYT bestseller list. So.

Between, Georgia

Titled by: My then editor, Caryn Karmatz Rudy (Who is now an agent.)

Source: My invented version of a real Georgia town is the book’s main setting and a character in itself.

My Working Title: The Refrigerator Border Wars

Rejected because: In the first draft, the book opened when a pack of junkward dogs chased poor, dear, gentle Ginny into an old fridge, and she suffocated, reigniting a dormant feud between two families. But, as the book progressed, I came to realize this OCD lady she would never go into that junkyard anyway, even if she was on FIRE, and more importantly, I needed her ALIVE for the book to work. Also, fictionally rendered suffocating is very dull. You mostly sit in a fridge, in the dark, bored, wondering how much air is left. I liked the title SO much I tried to keep it by wedging a host of looming, hyper-symbolic fridges into various scenes, but it was stupid, and I had to have a Great Refrigerator Cleansing Revision and give up the title.

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

Titled by: Me.

No, really, who titled it: ME, I said. Seriously. Me.

Source: Literally refers to the ghost of a drowned girl who drives the narrative, but I mostly meant for it to refer figuratively to my main character, Laurel.

Working title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. It was always this title. From before I wrote the first word. TGWISS without end, amen.

Backseat Saints

Titled by: You guys, O My Best Beloveds, particularly Superman’s Mommy.

Source: Since Saints is a companion book for gods in Alabama, and since the main character in Saints is Catholic, I asked my best beloveds to come up with a sexy but not porn-y word to go with Saints, with the same structure as gods in Alabama. As in “Saints in _______.” Superman’s Mommy came up with Saints in the Backseat, which…the cadence was off, but everyone at my pub house agreed that Backseat Saints was perfect.

My Working Title: Texas Rose Red

Rejected because: “I thought you got done with that state name thing two books ago?”

And now TFWIP, my multi-voiced new Southern Gothic tale about sexuality, identity, and redemption set on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is no longer IN PROGRESS (Did I mention? I. Finished. The. Book.) and it has a title.

I FREAKING love it. Here tis:

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty

Fondly known as Agukop, pronounced a-GOO-cop, which sounds like a toddler saying someone is a good cop. And one of the main characters, Lawrence, IS a very, very good cop, so. Perfect.

Titled by: Helen Atsma, my new editor

Source: The phrase appears twice in the book. Once in a slightly raunchy, funny scene in chapter one, and then later with darker implications.

My Working Title: In Season

Rejected because: Anne Rivers Siddons had OFF SEASON a couple of seasons ago. Too close.

My Other Working Title: The Other Mosey Slocumb

Rejected because: Half the readers who first saw it didn’t get that Mosey Slocumb is a NAME. It would have worked if her name was Jane Jones. The Other Jane Jones. Like that. So I could either change her NAME or the title, and this girl? She is named Mosey Slocumb and I love her and her name can’t change and that’s all.

The art department is already at work on the cover and me? I am thrilled to have a title I love to go on it and even more thrilled to have a book I am in love with to go inside of it.

35 comments to Retitled

  • Lori Kerce

    Joshilyn, Congratulations!! Now all of us, your loyal readers, begin the countdown… I’m very happy for you, but even happier for us!

  • Beth R

    Whoooo hoooooo!!!!

  • edj

    YAAAAYYYY!!! Can’t wait!

  • Janie B

    Wooo Hooo!!! I can NOT wait! I love the title and has fabulous visions of the cover! Congrats Joshilyn!! And yay for us!

  • Love it! And I’m so excited for the book. 😉

  • I cannot wait to get my hands on A Grown Up Kind of Pretty. Please say you will be in Oxford to sign this time.

  • Yeh! It’s a great title. And, I can’t wait to meet Mosey Slocumb. With a name like that, boy, she’s got to have some story to tell.

  • Bridget

    Congratulations on finally getting to the good part as you tell us in your author’s talks. Has the publisher pushed the date up til 2011?

  • I’m quite fond of all your titles, but I definitely like this new one especially!

  • pam

    I’m glad the book is finished but I was hoping this was a giveaway for those earrings <;-)))

  • Therese

    I heard it as “I FINISHED THE BOOK!” all the way over here on the left coast!
    And I threw both arms up in the air like a football referee.

  • Well, congratulations! That’s very awesome and impressive. The book-naming notes are very interesting.

  • jeanette

    I know a very dear sweet lady who spent many years doing hair and make-up at a funeral home……….I simply MUST ask her if she ever had any requests for post-mortem piercing!
    I don’t know which I am more excited about: Looking forward to reading another of your amazing books, or the end of (Please God, then end of) posts about turnips!!
    I am definitely looking forward to meeting your newest characters. You are inspiration!!!

  • jeanette

    Per my previous comment:
    Take your pick….. you are either INSPIRING or AN INSPIRATION!!

  • I love naming things. I quilt, and my quilts have names, and they must be appropriate. My cats are perfectly named. I once searched for a stuffed bunny that had the right crotchety expression so I could name it Dagnabbit the Rabbit. That said, your book title is Perfect. If I didn’t already want to read it because you wrote it, I would want to read it just because of the title.

  • OOOOOOO. . .good one. LOVE IT. And the covers have all been so incredible that I can’t WAIT to see the new one!!!!

  • And I’m glad Scott built that bookcase. . .’cause FIVE lovely novels you now have. F.I.V.E. Amazing.

  • JulieB

    I love the title too. Thanks for discussing the genesis of the titles, I loved “The Old Mosey Slocum,” but I did think it referred to a river. I believe I thought that because you mentioned TOMS in, or very near, a post where you were looking for a river, so I extrapolated from there.
    And, I love the name as a character name, so I’m glad it’s still here. 🙂

  • DebR

    YAY on finishing!!! Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

    I actually love the title “The Other Mosey Slocumb” because even if I didn’t know what a Mosey Slocumb WAS, it sounds so cool I would WANT to know – who/what is the FIRST Mosey Slocumb and then who/what is the other one?! Wouldn’t everyone want to know that?? But I like “A Grown Up Kind Of Pretty” too. I would also want to know what that refers to. I like titles that make me want to know what they mean.

    I can’t wait to see the cover. I think the cover gods love you because your books always seem to get FABOOOOO covers!

    PS….I LOVE those earrings pictured up top. Also, I don’t care what they do to my body after I die because I won’t be in it anymore. Just sayin’. 🙂

  • Amy-Go

    Congratulations Beautiful Tulip! Can’t wait to read it! Even more can’t wait to see you again now that it’s done! 😉

  • Carrie (in MN)

    Congratulations on finishing and yay for those of us who get to read it!

  • Judy in California

    Excellent title for what I know in my bones will be a(nother) excellent book! 😀

  • To Angie up there, you were right the first time. Joshilyn Jackson is inspiration. 😉

    CONGRATULATIONS!! Enjoy Myrtle Beach, the revisions and the artwork coming soon-ish!

  • Love the title, love that you’ve finished, not so crazy about the earrings with which you will not be post-mortemly pierced. 😉

    Congratulations! Good luck in the revision cave.

  • Kathy

    I love, love, love those earrings! And I love, love, love the new title!

  • Pamela L

    Congratulations!! Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  • Kristen

    Oh, dear dear fabulous Joshilyn, I am SO SO excited for you and the title is fanfreakin’tastic and now I have to wait and wait and wait – but in that waiting time, I’m going to be introducing more people to your books, so yea :D!

  • Jill W.

    Like Deb, I really liked the title “The Other Mosey Slocumb” It’s got kind of a syncopated beat to it, and I was very intrigued by what a Mosey Slocumb was, etc. I like the new title just fine, and since you wrote it, it is safe to assume I would read it no matter the title– Are You There God? It’s Me, Mosey; A Tale of Two Moseys: Mosey Lisa Overdrive; Even Moseys Get the Blues; The World According to Mosey; Moseynomicon…

  • I know I’m late to the party, but I’ve been on the GULF COAST (at Seagrove Beach) writing a novel for a month (personal writing retreat) and just now saw this and may I just say that there can never be too many books about the Gulf Coast! Growing up in Mississippi, I love the title, A Grown Up Kind of Pretty. Good luck with this, Joshilyn!

  • I LOVE that title, and I am sure I will LOVE the book! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Les in AZ

    Congrats! I can’t wait to read it. Love the title 🙂

  • Aimee


    I’m so happy for you, I used upside-down punctuation! And I luuuuuuuuurve the title. Although, really, WHO didn’t know that Mosey Slocumb was a name? What else would it be?

  • Lori B.

    Love the new title, but I also loved “The Other Mosey Slocumb.” And of course it’s a name. It’s a perfect small-town, Southern name that I just love, so I’m sure I will love her, too.

  • Kaye

    Love the title. Am anxiously awaiting the book and so hope you come to Jackson this time. I’ll bring my former boss and a few fashionable clip earrings! Perhaps we can trade for the skull and croosbones.