What's in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Just Like John Proctor questioned- How can I live without my name?

Women's History Month

What’s in a Name?

Happy March! It’s Women’s History Month and I can’t wait to share some of the fun content I’ve got prepared! We’ll start today with some info on female writers and the big question of the day- What’s in a name? Does our name actually define who we are?

Literature nerds like me might remember the anguished scene in The Crucible where John Proctor refuses to give up his name. “Because it is my name! How may I live without my name?” He views his name as his identity. His source of worth.

And yet, as we go into Women’s History Month– we have to examine the irony of this poignant scene, knowing women have been forced to give up their names in many capacities for centuries.

The theme of this year’s Women’s History Month is celebrating women in writing. This one obviously hits close to home for me. One thing it forces me to examine is the sacrifices women had to make to get their work out for public consumption. For years it was considered “unfeminine” or “unseemly” for women to be writers. Therefore, women were either turned away by editors or forced to publish under a man’s name instead of their own.

In a different capacity, the decision regarding my name came up in my own publishing journey. Any of you who know me personally know I publish under my maiden name instead of my married name. This was done for a few reasons- but honestly, the main reason was because as John Proctor said– It is my name! I began my writing journey in childhood. I practiced and got my degree in English, taught and began my MFA program all as Joyana Peters. So, yeah, I wanted to climb to the top of that mountain and fulfill that dream with the name I started with!

I leave you with this other little story to consider-

A girl was born on November 22nd, 1819. As was customary at the time, she was sent to boarding school at just five years old.

When the girl was sixteen, her mother died. Although she was thriving at school and showed great potential, she was forced to return home to work as her father’s housekeeper. The girl settled into a new monotonous existence where each day blended into the next.

At the age of twenty one, an opportunity arose. Her father decided it was time for her to marry. They moved to the city so he could search for a suitable match. But luckily, the girl developed a relationship with her liberal neighbors who hosted salons with great thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over time they took her under their wing and the girl began to consider a different version of the life she was living.

What's in a Name?

Higher education for women was still not an option, but she was able to break into intellectual society by writing book reviews and translations. She eventually moved to London and found work with a publisher. There, she fell in love with a writer, but he was trapped in a horrible marriage and divorce was still not an option. Desperate to be together, they scandalized society by deciding to co-habitate together anyway.

She became an outcast, no longer welcome in society, although he suffered no consequences. But the girl decided to make the most of this time in isolation. If her name was already tarnished– why not assume the required male nom de plume and publish her writing?

The girl’s work took off like wildfire. Even Queen Victoria became a fan!

She continued to publish under the now famous nom de plume for the rest of her life. And her work has transcended time and still stands out as revelatory and brave as the woman who wrote it.

So, who was this amazing female writer? Mary Ann Evans otherwise known as George Eliot the famous writer of Middlemarch.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. What do you think our names say about us? Are they sources of our identity? Please comment on this post to share!

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Why the Amaryllis Flower

Why the Amaryllis Flower?

Why the Amaryllis flower?

Why my affinity for the amaryllis flower?

You may have noticed I have a strong affinity for the amaryllis flower. It’s on my logo, I use it in many of my other graphics and I even named my publishing company Amaryllis Press. What’s the deal with that? Why the amaryllis flower?

Well, there’s a few reasons. One big one is exemplified by something that happened this week.

So, I am horrible with plants. Like my thumb is blacker than black. All you need to do is ask my sister or mother-in-law who try to give my plants some much needed TLC and resuscitation whenever they visit.

And yet, I have this beautiful amaryllis flower that somehow managed to bloom again this week for the third year in a row! Trust me, I thought this thing was deader than dead. I honestly can’t even remember the last time I watered it, and yet you’ll see below– it’s a beauty to behold at the moment.

But that’s the thing about amaryllis plants– they’re the heartiest flowers out there. They’re bred to withstand harsh climates, lack of light, neglect… and still come out better than ever! 

Kind of like my protagonists, or honestly women in general. You can knock us down– but we’re never out!

Even the name amaryllis and symbolism behind it hold special meaning to this analogy. The amaryllis derives its name from the Greek word meaning- “to sparkle.” And the stunning flowers are believed to mean pride, strength and determination as they stand tall over all other winter blooms. Yes, they are one of the few flowers that bloom during the winter!

So, now do you see why I love the amaryllis flower? What better way could I represent strong, empowered women?

This got me thinking. Many of you met me and joined this newsletter list at one of my festival events. And one of my favorite things about those live events is getting to talk with you and hearing some of your stories. So many of you have shared incredible stories about the amazing women in your own families. Women who embody the characteristics of the amaryllis flower. I would love for others to hear your stories!

So, I’m going to add a section into my newsletter called The Amaryllis Women. I’d love for you to send in your family stories to me @ hello@joyanapeters.com. Tell us about the incredible women from your families! I’ll choose one or two to share each week. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Have a great weekend everyone- and remember to sparkle! 😉

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