“If you really want to find your voice, your goal is to journey toward inner wholeness–which is what life is about anyway. It involves self-acceptance and genuine self-respect.” ― Cecil Murphey, Unleash the Writer Within
My name is Christy Lorraine Hall, but I go by my middle name of Lorraine. My nickname is Nina. Perhaps having three names is unusual; it becomes even more convoluted when one considers I also have three pen-names: Amarine Rose Ravenwood for my preteen, teen, and young adult heroic fantasy fiction, as well as for much of my poetry; Mina Marial Nicoli for my children’s literature writing; and Phoebe Grant for my horror writing (which, admittedly, isn’t really very scary, since it’s mostly projects like silly but dark fairy tales such as Mary Jo Peep and her Vampire Sheep). I confess, I have always had a fascination with names – as much as I have always had a fascination with words. I think it really comes down to the concept of identity, character, and what it means to be who and what we are as individuals. From an early age, I was convinced that the names we give ourselves and each other have some force of influence on our identities in the sense of who we see ourselves to be, and who others see us to be.
Like many other people, I hated my first name as a child. Unlike some other people, I hated it so much I refused to use it, and that refusal lasted into adulthood and continues to this day. Yes, I suppose I could have changed my name, legally, but it seemed to be too much trouble when I could just ask people to call me something else. Of course, what I wanted to be called changed as I aged. When I was nine, it was Crystal. When I was seventeen, it was Christiana. By the time I was twenty-five, I had abandoned Chris-names altogether and decided to go by my middle name, which was also my grandmother’s. In one of my articles for this publication, you will find out why I truly am honored to carry that name, and I have happily stuck with it for many years, now. Nina was just a funny happenstance – a sort of shortened version of Lorraine, but it stuck, and I still use it, today.
I begin with names because they are a defining part of who I am: my lack of commitment to one single name; my past need to start over with a new name for each major phase of my life – an evolution of self-discovery; and my fascination for role-playing. Even as a child, I used different names to give myself different character traits in my own mind, evolving my persona in steps, and now I see that that was an early indication that I was destined to write. Character creation and development, on a conscious level, is something that is a root function of writing in fiction, and I was consciously doing this sort of character development in myself. I loved stories and I was addicted to reading books as as soon as I learned how. Works of fiction were always my go-to, because they fed my imagination. I constructed imaginary worlds in my head as a child and had a reputation, especially with my teachers, for being a daydreamer.
I was constantly stepping out of reality and into my own head – I much preferred it there. I could create whatever I wanted; I could imagine myself in any role, make people I knew into heroes and villains, and magical creatures always lived there. My fantasy daydreaming was part of my reality: in my hands might have been my cousin’s pet turtle, but in my mind, I was petting my very own dragon. For me, my daydream world was as real – if not more real – than reality.
Even from an early age, I talked too much. I loved to argue to glean information from people in debate. I learned early that people say entirely different things in an argument than when asked a straightforward question, and that if I wanted honesty, that was one way that offered a higher likelihood of gaining it. Arguing somehow pushed people into accidental truth-telling, or had the unexpected, but delicious result of them telling me more about the facets of the topic being argued about than I had previously suspected were there.
I loved words; but my first outlet was not writing, it was art. I would draw, paint, or use my grandmother’s pastel chalks to render, in as life-like detail as I could, the visions in my mind. When I was eleven, most of that art consisted of magical creatures such as unicorns, Pegasus, and dragons, but especially anything equine-related. My drawings were not limited to art paper, but pranced along on my book covers and in the margins of my textbooks. The first time I had to cover a textbook in brown paper, I was in heaven. All I could think was how much space I had to draw on, and that I could change the paper and draw all over it, all over again.
It wasn’t until I was twelve and had just finished reading my fourth or fifth book by Madeleine L’Engle, that it struck me that I could write. She made it look easy and natural, and her writing seemed to demonstrate how to include the fantastical and magical into the written-word. I do not recall attempting to write any stories that young (although I might have), but that revelation from reading L’Engle’s books caused me to attempt writing poetry, in short order. Poetry seemed ideal to me because it seemed less challenging: I didn’t have to try to write a whole story – I could just try to write down the essence of the idea I was entertaining in my head. I greatly enjoyed this pastime, and I wrote plenty of poetry. I had dozens of little poems stashed in with my school papers and textbooks by the time I was thirteen – this was the year 1989.
In that year, I was living with my grandparents, and I had no idea that my grandmother had discovered some of my poems in my bedroom. She copied three of them down and submitted them to a poetry contest in which any accepted poems would be published in a large anthology. On my fourteenth birthday, she handed me a present. When I tore the paper off, I found my own hard-bound copy of Great Poems of the Western World. It had a red cover with gold lettering and was enormous – bigger than most books I had seen, and very heavy. I was awestruck. While I sat there with my jaw dropping, my grandmother opened the book and found the page where my three poems were in hard print. She told me the whole world would now be reading my poetry.
I was completely flabbergasted, moved, and filled with intense love for my grandmother. It was the best present I had ever received. I had never thought that my writing was good enough to be published. I had never even considered showing my poems to anyone. I cannot recall the poems, now, and the book is out of print. I no longer have my copy, either; it was lost in one of the many moves during my later teenage years. I only remember that one of them was about a cat in a cozy room near a fireplace, while it snowed a blizzard outside. I think I actually used the phrase, “Snug as a bug in a rug,” in it, and recalling that now makes me laugh.
Thinking back on those poems, I am amazed that they were accepted. I don’t think they were very good. I was a fledgling: still finding my wings with the poetry form, and stumbling around with rhyme and meter. Still, that first very unexpected publication was an encouraging boost that really got me committed to writing. I wrote poetry for fun, from then on out, and grew and got better at it. Later, I kept journals, along with writing my poetry, which kept me in the practice of writing and helped me to develop a sense of narrative – and even later than that, I began writing whimsical little stories for children and young people.
I do this because it makes me happy, not because I want to become famous. Even if I was never able to show my writing to another living soul, I now need to write as much as I need to breathe, and I will be doing it until my dying day. I am fully convinced that writing is an essential part of who a writer is. It is not one dependent on recognition, readership, fame, or outside considerations; it is merely the drive to play with words. I may have many names, and they may each reflect some varied part of my personality, but underneath, they all represent the same core essence: that of Writer. Inside, there is only one, deeply resonating name, for me. I may still paint, I may still sew and play my piano by ear, but I don’t think of myself in terms of artist, seamstress, or musician. “Writer” is the name that is etched on my soul.
© Lorraine Hall 2018
Photos by Robert Tavernier, Annette Thornton, and Pixabay.