#AtoZChallenge: K is for Kimono

Day 10 of the A to Z Challenge is the letter “K”:

K is for Kimono

My Mom

My Mom

I’ll let you in on a secret. The Red Kimono was not the original title of the story of Sachi, Nobu and Terrence.  During the three years it took me to write it, and the additional three years it took me to get it published, its title was Broken Dolls.

Though my writing mentors always warned me not to get attached to the title of my novel–explaining that rarely does the publisher keep it–Broken Dolls became the name of my child. And though I listened to their warnings, when that dreaded time came for Larry Malley, Director at the University of Arkansas Press, to suggest the title The Red Kimono, the hair on the back of my neck bristled. Kind and gentle as he was in his suggestion, changing the title was tantamount to changing my daughter’s name from Andrea to Sally. Or my son’s name from Adam to Dirk.

My mother's red kimono

My mother’s red kimono is on the cover of the Spring 2013 Catalog

Then, he explained why. “It’s because of what the kimono symbolizes in your story,” he said.

What it symbolizes? I still remember the calm that settled over me as I pondered his reasoning. In cautious silence I watched him, awaiting his explanation of what he thought the red kimono symbolized.

“Yes.” Larry continued. “At the end of the story, when sorry, I’m leaving this part out–don’t want to be a spoiler.

He got it! He really got it!

Do you know what it feels like to have your whole body fill with a smile? That was a moment I’ll always remember–when the director of the press that would publish my first novel so “got” my book, that he suggested the perfect title–yes, even better than my own name for the book.

Though I won’t tell you the end of the story of Sachi, Nobu and Terrence, I will share another secret:

red kimono = acceptance

My mother and grandmother

My mother and grandmother

This entry was posted in Family History, History, The Red Kimono, University of Arkansas Press and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to #AtoZChallenge: K is for Kimono

  1. jesstopper says:

    I love hearing the stories behind a story, and hearing a story behind a title is even better! It is hard to let go of your “title-babies”. I had given my first novel the title SUN KINK, which is a term for a buckle in the railroad tracks (usually due to excessive heat) that can cause a derailment. I chose it not so much because my main character lost her husband to this type of train accident, but more because it represented her life being thrown off track. But the word ‘kink’, in this day and age of 50 Shades, sadly didn’t sit right with many of the editors who saw the book. I am happy with my new title but I will always remember the book’s ‘birthname’.
    I didn’t realize different colored kimonos represented different things – how cool!
    best of luck with your book, and enjoy your A to Z journey!
    Jess/ Blogging on the Brink

  2. mel says:

    It’s nice to hear that your publisher “got” your work 🙂 (and I really do love the title)

  3. Jen HaHA says:

    I like your original title! Now I’m even more intrigued to read your book.

    My friend who is 1/4 Japanese and whose husband is 1/2 Japanese wore a kimono to her wedding. I was just about to say a red one, but the dress she changed into for the reception (easier to boogie in) was red. Any time I asked about her wedding dress she avoided it or was sly about it. “The dress I’m going to wear is from such-and-such place.” meaning the dress she was going to change into. She didn’t call it her wedding dress which came from Japan.

    Come check out my A to Z! Jen Hemming and Hawing Again

  4. Dear Jan,
    I’m happy that your publisher understood your novel and that you’re happy with the title. Mine has had the same working title for nearly 8 years. I’m pretty realistic (at least I think so) about titles and publishers. Still I understood the part of someone else renaming your child.
    Very encouraging article and lovely pictures of your mother. Thank you.

  5. Ann says:

    What a rewarding feeling to know that the publisher understood what you were writing about, and came up with a title to reflect that!

  6. I did love your first title, but immediately the new title “took” and I loved it too. So wonderful that your publisher “got” your book 🙂

  7. Joyce says:

    I like the title “The Red Kimono,” and it works well for the K post, too.


  8. Beth Carter says:

    Loved hearing these secrets and I adore your title. That’s so cool that he “got” the significance and that the red kimono will be featured in the spring catalog! Love the pic of your mom. Beautiful.

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