It’s All in the Names by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The second I saw him I knew who he was. Through the eyes of my main character, Delsie in Shouting at the Rain, I watched him. He wore black jeans and a black, long-sleeved shirt on a hot July day. And, he stood on the edge of the ocean in the middle of a lightning storm.
But knowing him didn’t make things easier. Quite the contrary. I knew he was me. At eleven and twelve and thirteen. Those were rough times.
So I initially named him Dylan because D-y-l-a-n are the same letters found in L-y-n-d-a. An acknowledgement to myself as to who he really was. I knew I needed to sit down with him. Really talk to him. But, to be honest, I didn’t want to. It was my young readers who made me pull up a chair and get serious. I thought that kids would like to meet him and I also thought he could help them with some things in their lives. Important things.
So, I waded in. But it didn’t go well. I couldn’t go deep enough until I realized that giving him “my name” hindered my ability to get honest. So, his name changed to Ronan, a Celtic word meaning “young seal.” If you get around to reading SHOUTING AT THE RAIN, you’ll understand why.
But my creating the Dylan/Lynda anagram upfront did make sense in terms of delving into my young life. When I found myself in the middle of chaos as a kid…when I knew that I had to keep my wits about me so I could think and plan…I played with letters to calm myself. In fact, I still play with letters. (Whenever I see a jar that reads, “TIPS” I can’t help but read it backwards.) So…when my editor had the book, I played with the characters’ names. After all, it ties into the important theme in the book, “It’s not what you look at that matters but what you see.” So…
When SATR readers see,
“Katrinka Schofield” (the director of the musical, Annie, in SATR)
“It’s a Hard Knock Life.”
The characters’ names make anagrams that expose secrets, give descriptions, explain odd behavior, and all kinds of other things. There’s even an anagram for Fish in a Tree fans.
Another anagram – and one of my favorite characters – is Saucepan Lynn. She is a volunteer fire fighter who also owns her own diner which is popular with the local fishermen. She argues with them about who has the harder job – she, who spends hours perfecting her fine sauce, or the fishermen who simply pull a fish out of the ocean, taking credit for something God has made.
When SATR readers see
Nancy Paulsen is my editor. Overall, she and Saucepan don’t have a whole lot in common. But Saucepan’s description of the time it takes to make her sauce is my description of what this book took for me. Time. A lot of time. And Nancy gave it to me.
But, unlike Nancy, Saucepan is gruff and a bit argumentative at times. She has a tattoo of an anchor with a saucepan hanging off the end. When she flexes her arm muscles, the pan swings back and forth. To my knowledge, Nancy does not share this tattoo. But both women are whip smart and have huge hearts. I am extraordinarily grateful to know them both.
There is no hint that these anagrams exist in the ARC (advanced reader copy) because I had never told Nancy that I was working on them. When I added details that would later “explain” the character’s anagram, I wanted those additions to stand on their own and feel a natural part of the narrative. After the ARCs were printed, I finally got to NYC to tell Nancy about them.
I brought her a small copper pan with “Nancy Paulsen” engraved on one side and “Saucepan Lynn” engraved on the other. The bottom is engraved with Saucepan’s entire, “fine sauce paragraph.” I also gave Nancy a Strong Shoulder jar which is a big part of the book as well. It even appears on the cover. Nancy embodies what it means to have strong shoulders.
If you would like more information re: strong shoulders in Shouting at the Rain, please take a look at this national contest for teachers/students/other humans. (Feel free to use the certificate for a class activity or to just acknowledge students if you’d rather not “officially enter.”)
The final copy of SHOUTING AT THE RAIN will have an Author’s Note where I delve into looking versus seeing and introduce the anagrams to young readers. I also provide a list of all the characters’ names in the book. Upon release, I will post a blog giving hints to help readers solve them.
Thank you. I remain ever grateful for your support. I so, so love this community. I talk a lot about how you all change kids’ lives. But I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked you for changing mine.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the author of New York Times bestseller Fish in a Tree and Bank Street Best Book One for the Murphys. She’s a former teacher, and holds writers retreats for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, impetuous beagle, and beagle-loathing cat.