04 Nov Agony and Delight: Are You Feeling the Rollercoaster?
Agony and delight: Life is made of contrasts. Contrasts that live beside and inside each other and refuse to get neatly digested.
Coming back from a five-day writers’ retreat last week, I was happy to see my family one moment, and frustrated and worried the next when faced with my teenager’s troubles. Ah! If I could only live forever surrounded by writers, talking about books and our pieces in a beautiful ranch, never having to cook another meal… Of course, after another week of heavenly isolation I might be fed up and ready to go back home.
Almost three months ago we sold our beautiful house and moved ten minutes away into a rental. The process was horrendous and exhausting. It was also thrilling to complete a task that we’d been talking about for over a year before having the guts to do it. We now have some money in the bank and are ready for the next stretch of our journey: travel around and find a destination to buy a home in a place less ridiculously expensive than the Bay Area—but it’s scary to think about leaving a region we’ve loved for decades. Anxiety and fear plait our days in a tight, indivisible braid.
A month ago, my publisher wrecked me when she requested that I change the title of my book. I’d had my title before I’d even written a page—for almost six years— but she felt it didn’t reflect my journey accurately. I was game to find another title, but it wasn’t easy. It’s as if someone demanded that you change your child’s name when she entered kindergarten. Even if there were good reasons for it, it would be hard! (Incidentally, that happened in Spain after the civil war, when the Catholic church imposed that kids needed to have a certificate of baptism to enter school, and a Christian name that you could find in the Bible).
My publisher and I went back and forth, brainstorming dozens of titles in long email chains. I recruited an editor who knew my book and writer friends to help; I spent hours reading poems for inspiration, re-reading my memoir for ideas, and consulting synonyms in the dictionary. In the end, with the looming deadline of a cover design, my publisher chose a title that I didn’t love. Oh… the agony.
Then last week, during the writers’ retreat, my roommate helped me find a new title that I loved. I wrote an email to my publisher making the case. Fortunately, she loved it too. My agony transformed into delight.
My new title expresses how Spanish youth felt after the end of a forty-year dictatorship: drunk on freedom, we wanted to try it all, to risk it all. It also alludes to las Ramblas, the long promenade that is the heart of Barcelona—very present in my memoir. It includes a subtitle with the name of my city, which my publisher really wanted to have on the cover. And it makes me feel confident: if I saw a book with this title on a bookstore display, I’d reach out for it, and look at the back cover and the first lines.
Here is my new title:
Promenade of Desire
A Barcelona Memoir
I hope you like it as much as I do. Let me know!
With the rollercoaster of our messy life, which mixes misery and elation multiple times a day, there’s nothing else to do but ride it. Feel the lows, and feel the highs, and know that after a difficult plunge, a time will come when your car will ascend again into the next peak.