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The Story Behind ‘Grace’

My name is Jeyna Lim Sue Chen. It’s the name on my birth certificate and my identity card. And, as you may have noticed, there’s no ‘Grace’ anywhere in it. So, where did ‘Grace’ come from? Why is my name Jeyna Grace on most of my social media platforms? And why the word ‘Grace’? What’s the story? As I’ve been asked quite a number of times, I’ve decided to tell its tale. And it starts… in the beginning.

In the beginning, there was science.

At the start of my authoring career, I learned that names aren’t just names – that names have the power to make or break. They can paint images without adjectives and explanations. And they should be chosen wisely. This is especially so on the cover of a book.

As I’ve discovered, there seems to be an unintentional stereotype on non-English names. There’s this subconscious preconceived notion that people without English names aren’t from English speaking countries. Thus, an English book by a non-English named author isn’t up to par with English books by English named authors. It led me to believe that English names sold better. And having a pen name to distance oneself from a certain background was considered ‘wise’. Hence why I now have one.

However, times have changed. I now hear that publishers are looking for more diversity in their author pool, and having a foreign name increases one’s chances of getting published. But, I don’t know how true that is. And I don’t think it changes anything with existing stereotypes. Still, I believe readers have a varying approach to foreign names – whether positive or negative, it is individual. But back then, I wasn’t taking the risk.

So, how did I come about ‘Grace’?

Before I continue, I need to say that I’m not a fan of The Heroes of Olympus. I’ve heard of the books, and I’ve watched that one Percy Jackson movie, but it’s not something I plan on diving into. It’s just not my genre (anymore). Therefore, my pen name being Jeyna Grace – mirroring a fan pairing of the characters – is completely coincidental. I had no idea it was a ship name. And I only learned about it when readers asked if I were a fan. If you’re wondering the same, I hope this clears things up. Jeyna is my real name after all, and I chose Grace because of faith. Yes, you read correctly.

I chose ‘Grace’ because of faith.

I believe in God. I’m sure some of you don’t, and I’m not here to preach anything to you. However, God is the reason why I chose ‘Grace’. Personally, I don’t believe I can accomplish anything without Him. What I have today – my skill, talent (?), and passion – is because of Him. Many of my stories – on this blog and as books – are inspired by Him. And the novels I have in-store are made possible because of Him (not excluding all those who have supported me – I couldn’t have done it without you too).

Putting ‘Grace’ into my pen name is a reminder to myself that I’m nobody without Him. It keeps me humble. Whenever I look upon the covers of my books, I’m instantly reminded that it is all by His grace. Pride has no place when I reflect on His guidance and blessing in my life. And it is through my belief in grace that I rest in His good and perfect plans.

I guess, the story behind ‘Grace’ is pretty uneventful. I simply wanted to make a good first impression with readers, and I needed to remind myself to stay grounded.

If you’re considering on a non de plume, I suggest finding a reason and a meaning to the name. Your name shouldn’t only appeal to your audience, but should hold value to you. You want a name that speaks to you directly and drives you to keep pursuing your passion. Don’t pick a name just because it sounds cool – you can do that with your characters – but pick a name that paints an image you want to see. Let it empower you in your darkest times. And let it break any stereotypes the world might have upon you.

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Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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The Emotional Evolution of Editing

Editing mimics the making of a blade. It is a test of endurance forged in fire. It reflects a heated steel cooling in flames. And it produces a refined weapon ready to face resistance. But unlike the art of blacksmithing, we’re not made of steel. So it’s impossible, I dare say, for the makings of a book to be without emotion. For more often than not, a book is an extension of its author. And an author is made of flesh and bone.

I believe that all authors go through a similar emotional evolution when it comes to professional editing. Though not everyone has the same response, most of us experience a facet of a particular emotion. So if you’ve undergone any of these stages, know you’re not alone. And if you’ve yet to experience them, know they’re not something you should be ashamed about. After all, we’re only human.

Stage 1: Taking Offense

“Dear editor,

Did you even read my book? How dare you call him irrational? And what do you mean ‘it sounds weird’? No, you’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Similar thoughts have ran through my head upon reading my editor’s comments. I won’t deny it. I take offense almost immediately. Come on, after all my hard work, how can I humbly accept an outsider brutally criticising my art? Yes, yes, I know it’s for my own good. But don’t expect me to read those blunt statements unfazed. I am angry! Calm down? You must be kidding me. Fortunately, despite the desire to explode in pride – with a letter of detest toward my editor – I know to take my words elsewhere. I go to someone I trust – someone who understands me – and vent.

I have an author BFF (or better put, best author friend forever). Her name is Erin. She wrote the super awesome, would-be-so-cool-as-a-movie novel, The Pirates of Montana. We come from the same author community and clicked almost instantly. And as much as she’s my confidant, I am hers. We share our frustrations, voice our concerns, and celebrate our accomplishments together. We support and encourage – pushing each other to be better authors.

Now, I believe it makes a lot of difference when you have someone like Erin. People who understand your predicament can help you rationalise before you act. In a stage where you’re offended by the truth, they can realign your focus and bring to light what matters most. Thankfully for all parties, stage one isn’t long standing. And having a friend as such will help you get through it objectively.

Stage 2: Explaining Our Flaws

“Dear editor,

I explained that issue in chapter seven. It’s a metaphor about life and death. And I was trying to be creative with my words. Maybe… I should’ve been clearer with my descriptions.”

I usually sleep on the blatant truth for a couple of days. It helps me get over my initial offense, allowing me to tackle the issues with minimal emotions. Then again, who am I kidding? The fact that I’m explaining my flaws instead of fixing them is an act of emotion. However, it is during this stage that I understand and grasp the problems in my book.

As I explain a character’s actions, I understand the character better. As I unravel my metaphors, I develop a better grasp of its notion. As I cover the holes of my story, I discover new ideas to improve it. And as I question my own use of words, I find even more creative ways to express myself.

By explaining my flaws, I acknowledge those flaws. And acknowledging my shortcomings, whether in my art or in my own being, drives me toward improvement. So if you have to explain yourself, do it! You might be right about some things, but you’ll also find that you’re not perfect. And when you acknowledge imperfection, you allow yourself to imagine again.

Stage 3: Recognising An Editor’s Gift

“Dear editor,

Thank you.”

You don’t have to – and possibly won’t – take everything an editor throws at you. If you strongly feel that an editor’s change pulls your work away from your initial direction, goal, and expression, you can make a stand. You’re the author. It’s your book. But oddly enough, while we wrestle with our editors, we’ll come to realise that being an editor isn’t easy. And that having the skill to improve someone else’s work is a gift.

I’m not an editor. I have done some editing work, but not where I work with authors. I can only imagine what it’s like for editors who face authors in the first two stages above. I’m sure they’ve encountered authors who respond immediately with hate. I believe they’ve met authors who think their books are without a single flaw. Yet I’m amazed at how editors remain patient.

Of course, not all editors are on the same playing field – some less professional than others. But I know it’s their job to help. So if you have an editor who has assisted you in bettering your work, do say ‘thank you’ – a simple show of gratitude goes a long way.

Without a doubt, editing is an emotional roller-coaster. And it is through this emotional ride that an author becomes a better author, not just in skill but in personality. Editing teaches us to be humble, to acknowledge imperfections, and to embrace change. It helps us be more creative, to challenge our abilities, and to try new things. The goal of editing may be to mature a book, but it also matures us – the soul between the pages.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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