Tuesday 10 January 2017

How Our Book Came to Be: The Title

This is the first in an occasional series—originally suggested by Aimee Wilson who blogs at I’m NOT Disordered—looking at how our book, High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder, came into being. We start by looking at how we arrived at our book’s title.

From the beginning, it was important to me and Fran to have a strong working title for our book. In January 2013, the month we started on it in earnest, we worked through the exercises in a book called Writing Successful Self-help and How-to Books, by Jean Marie Stine. Here are a few of the many brainstormed ideas we came up with:

Dancing on the Ragged Edge: A Bipolar Relationship
Dancing the Ragged Edge: My Bipolar Friend and Me
Gum on My Shoe: Life, Learning and Laughter with My Bipolar Friend
Gum on My Shoe: My Bipolar Bestfriend and Me
My Best Friend Is Bipolar and I'm Not Afraid!
Growing Together with My Bipolar Friend
Be Who You Are, Do What You Can
Along the Ragged Edge: Journeying Joyfully with My Bipolar Friend
Waves of Joy: Life, Laughter and Learning with My Bipolar Friend

As this conversation shows, at the time we were still developing the concept for the book, as well as looking for a title.

“The emphasis of our book, Fran, needs to be that people living with bipolar disorder are capable of relationships that are deeply rewarding for both people involved. That message was always there but the piece I posted on Facebook last night really brought that home to me. The one about the guy who said his girlfriend has bipolar and broke up with him because her therapist told her she would never be able to have a real relationship. Today I added a comment to my post:
‘My bestfriend is bipolar and I have never known anyone with as great a capacity for deep, heart wide open, honest, caring and mutually supportive friendship. Our relationship is far from being one way, lean-on-me, dependency and I am blessed to have her in my life. It breaks my heart that such ignorant advice is given out. I can scarcely imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end.’
“It was then that I realised our book is about JUST that message, and it is a message that needs to be heard. What do you think about ‘Waves of Joy: Life, Laughter and Learning with My Bipolar Friend’ as a title? It came to me from thinking about the sine waves of your illnesses, how they ebb and flow.”
“It’s good to have a title, Marty, but be flexible about it changing.. Remember bipolar is a life threatening illness..”
“I am flexible to it changing, but the working title sets or reflects the whole nature of the book. Are you thinking the new title sounds too lightweight? That it does not reflect how serious bipolar disorder can be?”
“Yes. I’m thinking who would pick the book up if it’s just joy and laughter.”
“But it needs to counter the idea that ‘your life will be shit if you are friends/partner with someone with bipolar’ because that is NOT how I experience it.”
“Not only does it need to capture the concept, it needs to capture the audience.”

After a good deal more brainstorming and discussion we settled on “Gum on My Shoe: One Step at a Time with My Bipolar Best Friend.” This remained our working title for the next three years. The title has its origins in a conversation from early in our friendship.

“You’re stuck with me now, Frannie. I hope you realise that.”
“Like gum on my shoe.”

We liked the title, because it captured several important aspects of our friendship. First, that Fran is “stuck with me.” I am not going anywhere. I am here for her no matter what; through good times (there are many) and not so good (there are many). I am the “gum on her shoe” that keeps her grounded, and helps hold her here in this life even—especially—when she wants to leave. It also turns on its head the notion that ill ones are a burden to those around them. I am not locked into a relationship of servitude: we are equals in a mutually supportive friendship.

As a title, “Gum on My Shoe” was understood and liked by many, but it confused others. More significantly, it was dismissed by people in the publishing world whose experience and judgement we respected. We resumed the search for a title early in 2015. By April, we had settled on “High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder.” As we describe in chapter 6:

The title of this book—High Tide, Low Tide—is an apt one. Fran lived on an island for many years, including the first eighteen months of our friendship. The stretch of water that separated her from the mainland, and the rhythm of the tides and ferry crossings, influenced almost every aspect of her life and our relationship. The title also suggests the Atlantic Ocean, which lies between us. Most significantly, it conveys the periodic nature of Fran’s illnesses.

The new title felt right, and lent itself to a wider range of treatments for the cover art. Of which, more next time.


High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder is available at: Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.jp | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.es | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Barnes & Noble


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