We recently published Sarah R. Clayville’s lovely “Blank Page.”

Here, we ask her two questions about her story:

1) I love how you hook the reader with this powerful opening sentence: “The girl’s mother named her Cousin, so people would love her from the start.”How important, do you think, is a name for something like that?

I think our names are both a blessing and a curse. At times they can define us, identify us to others, and even reveal backgrounds we might have chosen instead to reveal in our own time. Our names can make us vulnerable. I also think a name can be something we feel bound to live up to, particularly if the name belongs to family tradition or there is a ‘story’ behind it.

2) At the end, Cousin reclaims her name for herself, by writing it “in a space neither her mother or the man owned.” Such a great moment, realizing you don’t
have to be what others think you are. And then the girl realizes it is time for a new name. Do you think she will someday outgrow the name she has chosen for herself? Or do you think she will choose a name that grows with her?

I believe that for Cousin, this is only the first step in understanding who she is and slowly untying the expectations her mother wrapped around her with the name. In early drafts I kept choosing a name for her to use at the end but realized I didn’t want to set anything in stone, either. I wrote this story as a nod to the cool new reality we are experiencing where identity is no longer something set in stone for us in childhood but instead can be flexible and allow us to authentically grow as humans.