Vroman's Bookstore presents: Author Robin Puelma
(Wait, what? That's ME.)
In August 2016, I had the privilege of speaking at my very own book signing at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. The evening was magical. It was a pinch-me moment that I've never fully recovered from. Below, I'm sharing my very personal talk from that night. I hope you enjoy!
I cannot believe I’m here — this is such a full circle experience happening right now.
I grew up coming to Vroman’s. My parents would bring my brother and me on Friday nights.
I would peruse the pen section and the kid’s section, looking for coloring books and paper doll books.
Then years later I graduated from college with a creative writing degree, and all I wanted was to work at Vroman’s and write books.
I finally landed a job in their POS department.
Which is where I met my now husband.
Today, I have two books being sold here. And I’m standing here talking to you at a book signing.
I am beyond thankful for all of you for coming. For Vroman’s for having me. For Allison Hill for being so supportive of my journey here. And of course to my biggest cheerleader, my husband, Alejandro.
* * *
So let’s get started!
I want to talk to you about two things about The Naming of Colton Black:
The first is about the process behind writing this book.
And the second is about the theme of this book.
The idea of this book came to me at a day spa. I was lying down with cucumbers on my face. And when I sat up, I saw both Breslin and Colton. Sitting together under the stars in a giant field.
Ideas come and go but the ideas that stick leave me almost breathless. They leave me feeling overwhelmed with a desire to write that very story.
So, I journaled. And I wrote. And I began drafting a manuscript.
But what I didn’t expect was having to stop everything I was doing to deal with a sever OCD and anxiety disorder.
I have lived my entire life with these disorders. And just never knew it. I always knew I was an anxious and sensitive person. But it wasn’t until I began having panic attacks did a therapist uncover so much more.
When I was told I had this OCD and anxiety disorder, I spent the next year in intensive therapy, working hard to better my life. To find relief.
I would leave my sessions completely exhausted. My brain felt drained. And whatever energy I had throughout the week was focused on getting by.
When I thought about writing or doing anything creative, it overwhelmed me.
My therapist told me to try and take my experiences and put them in my story. To try and blend the two.
At first, I couldn’t even think about writing what I was feeling. I didn’t want to think about it a second longer than I had to.
But when he suggested using my experiences to enhance or deepen a character in my book, I took a step back and thought it through.
I could do that.
They always say write what you know. Well, I knew anxiety, fear, and depression like the back of my hand.
So I wrote. I used my pain to describe Breslin’s pain. I used my anxiety to describe Breslin’s anxiety.
And in a weird way, it was therapeutic. (Funny how a therapist knew that!)
After I finished my therapy sessions and my book, I was able to look back on that experience as one that helped me write one of the most authentic characters I’ve ever written.
Breslin is a lot of me on the page.
I like to think that back at the spa, when those characters presented themselves to me, God knew just what he was doing. He knew I would need this story at just the right time in my life.
The first passage I’m going to read comes at a point in the book when Breslin is breaking down. Everything around her that she thought she had control over is going haywire. The result is this.
PASSAGE 159 - 162
So, the second thing I wanted to talk about is the book’s theme.
The Naming of Colton Black is all about labels. A quick recap of what a Naming Ceremony is—when someone turns 13, a mystical person called a Reader comes to your house and defines what your name means. This definition ultimately determines what you will do with the rest of your life.
Let’s say your name’s definition is healer — you’d probably go into medicine. If you received the meaning defender — you’d probably go into armed forces. If you received the meaning wordy — you might go into writing or teaching. Etc.
The Namings are therefore a huge deal in this book. And particularly, they’re a huge deal for the royal family. Everyone who’s a part of the royal line has received definitions that are stately—like ruler, victor, queenly, etc.
So when Breslin received her Naming and received the definition of strife you can only imagine how shocked she and her family and the kingdom were.
Here’s the passage of Breslin inside the castle’s Naming Room, where the Names of the royal families are kept.
PASSAGE - 14-16
This then becomes Breslin’s character journey. To learn how not to let this definition define who she is. To not let anyone but herself define who she is.
I was always labeled the good girl. Not a bad label at all. I was agreeable. I was obedient. I always did what I was told. And for a long while, this worked for me.
But when I got older, and I realized I had opinions of my own, ones that might ruffle some feathers, I was afraid to speak up. I was the good girl. I was the agreeable one.
What would happen if I said something someone didn’t like?
That label, however, kept me trapped for a period of my life. When I finally got brave enough to challenge it, and start being who I wanted to be, unafraid of what people thought, I felt free.
And ultimately, the people who loved me stayed by me.
This is exactly what Breslin learns. And this is what I hope those who read my book learn.
Q & A
Thank you! I’d be happy to take any questions!