THE FIRST ONE came to me when I was doing research about Thailand’s beginnings. The book–Facets of Thai Cultural Life–was black and painted with the faces of ancient Thais paddling oars into the night. Inside, I was drawn to the story of a man called King Ramkhamhaeng, a man who drew the Thai alphabet and, in 1238, declared his kingdom’s first capital Sukothai: The Dawn of Happiness.

I am convinced that a) all of the good titles are gone, and b) if there are any left, I won’t be able to think one of them up.

My book is a memoir about a young Alberta woman who leaves everything behind for Bangkok, a city that introduces her to a new way of life and the love of her life–a man from her hometown. To me, The Dawn of Happiness just fit. It was Thai and it was true of my story.

My husband, the man from Medicine Hat, grimaced when I told him my first title idea.

“Sounds like a self-help book,” he said.

Right. And there were also a lot of books/films that had just come out with the word ‘happy’ or ‘happiness’ in them. The Pursuit of Happyness, and another, called The Happiness Project. How naive I was, staring at a poster of the latter at a London tube station, to think my book would even be published in the same decade.

Anyway, I started trying on other titles:

  • How to Meet A Nice Man from Medicine Hat (too obscure, too Canadian, I’ve been told; also only captures the love story, not the quest side, of my memoir);
  • Magic Roosters (a long but short, almost irrelevant story)
  • Lullabies for Elephants (ditto, but also on the heels of the film Water for Elephants and the novel Lullabies for Little Criminals.
  • Duang.

For about an hour, I thought this was a keeper. It means `destiny`in Thai, a pivotal theme in the book, which also includes a scene of a Thai woman showing how important the phrase is to Thai culture.

Then I turned to my husband, trying to watch an NHL playoff game, New York I think. “What do you think about Duang?”

He paused the game. “Du-wang?”

“Yeah,” I said. “You know, the story. About the boy? Drowning?”

“Oh, right,” he said, glancing back at the screen. “I think they pronounce it Doo-wong. I don’t remember any ‘wang’ sounds in Thai. And if that’s the case, then it just sounds like ‘wang.'”

I rolled my eyes. He was right. So, I returned to my title-hunting.

  • Follow. (As in your intuition, another key theme of the book; too vague, apparently).
  • The Odds (Just taken, by a novel about a couple about to lose their house).
  • The Long Way/Taking the Long Way (too much and too little like the Dixie Chicks song; there is also a recently published memoir entitled Let’s Take the Long Way Home).
  • Village of the Wild Plum, the meaning of Bangkok. Too…not…I don’t know. It’s just not right.
  • Home. Too many reasons to list.
  • Serendipity. Oh, it would be perfect, if it weren’t for that movie that only a few million people saw.
  • City of Angels. This is actually the first line of Bangkok’s ceremonial name, Krung Thep…… Again, I have blockbusters to blame.
  • Perfect Strangers. I love this too. Again, a movie, and a sit-com. And the title isn’t quite perfect — it only captures the love story side.
  • Conquerer of Two Directions. Don’t ask. I know.
  • Along the River Chao Phraya. Bangkok’s river. Blah.
(And these aren’t even the crappiest ones I’ve come up with).

I am convinced that a) all of the good titles are gone, and b) if there are any left, I won’t be able to think one of them up.

Am I the only writer who is absolutely incapable of writing the title of my book? Don’t most people dream about their first book and see its spine– the bold letters of a title and their own name–before they even begin the first chapter?

Can anyone share in my title agony? Or offer any advice?

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