It’s true that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but we wouldn’t really see it that way, would we? If it was called Stinkweed, for instance, it might smell the same but we’d begin to notice a slight garbage odor.
I called my book The Rooms Are Filled because it speaks to one of the main themes, recognizing the riches in your life, and it matches the tone of the novel. If I had called it Minnesota Michael Moves Away, which holds true to the plot, you might have thought it was a book for grade school students.
One reason Google caught on, I think, is because it has an interesting name that you can also make a verb. People love to verbify nouns.
Names do matter. We call our children Slade because we think it’s cool. Or Declan because it’s interesting and Irish. Or, in my case, Henry because it’s solid and traditional. I wouldn’t have named my child Slade and his parents wouldn’t have named their child Henry. Names matter to us.
I first understood this as my wedding date drew near. Until then, I hadn’t given much thought to whether or not I would take my husband’s last name. I suppose I just assumed I would.
I surprised myself when I felt strong resistance to the idea. For a year after our wedding, I remained Jessica Null. I didn’t want to drop my maiden name completely; I didn’t want a hyphenated last name; I didn’t want to be the only Null in my family; my husband didn’t want to take my name; I didn’t want to use Null as my children’s middle names. Finally, I decided to drop my middle name, Ann, and become Jessica Null Vealitzek.
When it came time to consider the name that would be on my book, I chose Jessica Vealitzek. I like how it looks, I like how it sounds. I didn’t want readers to have (more of) a mouthful to say.
But it has never felt right. I was Jessica Null more than half my life. I was a Null when I learned to write, holding a No. 2 pencil in my chubby hand. I was Jessica Null when I won a national high school writing award, when I got my first newspaper job, and when I earned my master’s in creative writing. I was a Null when I first thought of the idea for this book.
I was also a Null when I cried my first night at camp. I was a Null when my parents divorced, when I made the softball All-Star team, when I swam all the way to the buoy, when I made the decision to marry the man named Vealitzek. Of all things, I am a Null. More, even, than I am a Vealitzek. And if names can be living things, it felt like a betrayal of an old friend to leave it off the book.
That old friend has been riding along all these years, faithful and constant. It has helped define me. Without it, I am different, changed.
Yesterday, I emailed the publisher. The Rooms Are Filled is now written by Jessica Null Vealitzek. That’s the truth of it, and the heart of it.
Whether or not anyone will be able to say it in one breath remains to be seen.