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The Name Game

Often, when I’m speaking at a school or library, I’ll be asked about character names in my stories. Specifically, where they came from. Were they named after people I know? People I love? People I hate? How’d I first come up with “Emmie?” “Izzy?” And so on.

I have so, so, SO many characters that sometimes I can’t even remember the origins of their names. Therefore, I thought it might be fun to compile a list of them; if anything, maybe it’ll help jog my memory.

So here you go, dear readers: the semi-complete (I’m know I’m missing some*) list of main characters, secondary and minor characters, and all their name origins. Buckle up, it’s a long one. Note: strangely, most of the main characters’ names are totally made up while many of the minor characters’ have special meaning!

Emmie: Ah, where it all began. Admittedly, like many of the other names, “Emmie” was used for title purposes only. I knew I wanted the adjective “Invisible,” and “Emmie” just flowed well with it. But I truly think her name fits her; it’s sweet, youthful, and unassuming.

Izzy: Echoing “Emmie,” “Izzy” flowed well with “Positively,” an adjective I had in mind for the title. I love that it’s a little retro, which – if you’ve read the book – works perfectly.

Brianna, Tyler, Maya, Mia, and Leo: these were just names I selected arbitrarily. I was searching for contemporary, youthful, tween-ish names online, and they met the criteria. Funny, though: much like with real kids, I think the characters have grown into their names. I can’t imagine them having any other names than their own.

Jaime: This was a very strategic name. Originally it was supposed to be “Jasmine,” but JUST JASMINE was already taken (by a website or a show or something), and I didn’t want to compete. I wanted to keep “Just” in the title (so perfect), and nothing combined with it as well as a “J” name. So, “Jaime” was chosen.

Ruby: Ruby was the first character whose name I especially chose for her personality. Previously, she was just known for her moniker, “Baked Bean Girl,” and I thought she deserved a real name that complimented her. She seemed like a “Ruby” from the start. In this case, “Ruby” came before the title adjective, “Remarkably.”

Sarah: I chose her name waaay back while writing INVISIBLE EMMIE, and I’m pretty sure I named her for my niece.

Anthony: He is named after a nephew. By the way, I don’t actively seek out special characters to name after relatives, it’s very random (whoever comes to mind at the time I’m writing).

Now here’s where it gets fun. These are all the secondary and background characters I’ve named after loved ones:

INVISIBLE EMMIE:

  • Trina and Brandon (Emmie’s older siblings): these are close to my own siblings’ names, Tina and Brad
  • Ms. Regas (librarian): friend’s maiden name; she also happens to be a librarian

POSITIVELY IZZY:

  • Mrs. Wodaski: friend’s last name
  • Ben: named for my dad, who passed away long ago
  • Hannah: my niece
  • Ava, Quinn, Bill, Carrie: family friends
  • Miss Gelb (teacher): friend’s maiden name
  • Mr. Reukauf (teacher): friend’s last name

JUST JAIME:

  • Madam Zukosky (French teacher): friend’s maiden name

BECOMING BRIANNA:

  • Cantor Jordana Caruso-Sager: named for three clergy members at my synagogue
  • Rabbi Nosanchuk: named for the rabbi who conducted my daughters’ bat mitzvahs (looks like him, too, but in real life, he’s much younger)
  • Ashley (Bri’s aunt): my niece
  • Tina (Bri’s aunt’s wife): my sister
  • Brad (Bri’s cousin): my brother
  • Molly (Bri’s cousin): my daughter (different spelling)
  • Gabriella (Bri’s cousin): my niece

TRULY TYLER:

  • Jonathan and Eli (Tyler’s brother Zach’s friends): my nephews

REMARKABLY RUBY:

  • Gabi: my niece (yes, I have many nieces and nephews!)
  • Trevor: admittedly, after Trevor Noah, one of my favorite comedians (and low-key crush)
  • Mrs. Mayer: a friend (last name)
  • Rutter Elementary: not a person, but named after the elementary school I went to, Rutter Ave (since torn down, boo)

SURPRISINGLY SARAH:

  • Ben Friedman: also named for my dad (first name). I had forgotten that I’d used the name “Ben” previously; yep, my memory isn’t the greatest.

ALWAYS ANTHONY (coming soon!):

  • Nikki Lourde: my younger daughter’s (first) name
  • Mollie (Leah’s great aunt): my older daughter’s name
  • Michael Ruben: my husband’s (first) name
  • Jesse: my nephew

And here’s a list of arbitrary ones (those I made up or looked up for culturally appropriate names):

INVISIBLE EMMIE: Katie, Joe Lungo, Lindsay Donsky, Kyle Duncan, Mrs. Winn

POSITIVELY IZZY: Danielle, Becca, Dev Devar

JUST JAIME: Celia, Grace

BECOMING BRIANNA: Zoe Torres, Olivia Frank

TRULY TYLER: Zachary Ross, Ms. Laurie, Malik, Ethan, Coach Durdle

REMARKABLY RUBY: Juan, Leah Ruben, Josh Bentz, Keya Devar

SURPRISINGLY SARAH: Adam Weller, Laney, Sophia Friedman

ALWAYS ANTHONY (coming soon!): Lulu and Jada, Lucas & Eddie

After writing this, I realize (gasp) I still have many relatives and friends unaccounted for. Hmm, I think we know what that means…

…I’ll have to write more books!

*I’ve come to realize:

  1. there are peoples’ names I KNOW I used that for the life of me I cannot find. But I swear they’re there.
  2. some of the names I’ve used have been lost in discarded first drafts. But I’ve made note and will bring them back!

Sephardic Stories

So excited to announce my participation in PJ Library‘s two-year authors’ program: Sephardic Stories. Also thrilled to be among such a notable group of writers and artists.

My mother’s family was originally from Spain. They were booted during the 1492 Spanish Inquisition and fled first to Italy, then eventually settled in Turkey. My mother and her entire family were born and raised there. So of course I’m excited to dig more into my roots for some inspired writing as well as participate in a great mentorship program. Fingers crossed for those creative juices to flow!

“As part of PJ Library’s mission to represent the diversity of North American Jewish communities through the books we send to families, and following extensive research and recommendations from a specially formed advisory committee, the Author Stewardship Team invited seven experienced and published authors of Sephardic and Mizrahi backgrounds to create stories inspired by their own experiences over a two year period.

These authors will be granted the opportunity to dig deeper into stories with the support of experts in the field, customized virtual meet-ups, and an Israel experience. They will also act as mentors to emerging Sephardic and Mizrahi authors from spring 2024 through winter 2025.”

Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books Podcast!

So great to be invited back on the popular podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books with Zibby Owens! This was a particularly fun one, as Zibby’s two kids (and Emmie & Friends fans) took charge of the interview. They asked great questions and were a total blast. I hope you’ll check it out. Here’s the synapsis:

Terri discusses the book’s unique format, which explores two “what-if” scenarios from the perspectives of characters Sarah and Leo, involving a school dance and a love triangle. She shares how she blends personal experiences with imagination and explains her writing process, which involves drafting in a Word document, indicating artwork in red type, and then adding sketches and final artwork. Zibby’s children, who are fans of the series, ask Terri about character names, book titles, and potential future books. Terri shares personal details, like her Turkish heritage, and then reveals the possibility of her series being adapted into a movie or TV show.

Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics Interview!

This summer, I was interviewed for the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, which takes a scholarly, in-depth (and really fun) approach to comics. I really loved talking shop with them, and here’s the result.

Print copy comes out next year. Same issue as Raina Telgemeier, so be sure to check out both articles!

Book 8 cover reveal!

Introducing the eighth (omg, eighth) book in the New York Times best-selling Emmie & Friends series, ALWAYS ANTHONY, which will be out in stores on May 7, 2024! The book is told from the alternating POVs of popular Anthony and timid Leah as they grapple with a bullying incident at school. This is a story about unexpected friendship and everyday bravery.

This book is a departure for me and one I’m so proud of. I hope it helps provide awareness of the awful realities and complexities of bullying while — yes — making readers smile and even laugh along the way.

Synopsis:

Anthony is TPFW (Too Popular For Words), loves science, hates writing.

Leah is a super-shy nerd who’s finally making friends of her own.

What could they have in common?

A lot more than they thought, as it turns out!

But then one day they witness Anthony’s teammates bullying a sixth grader. What happens next could cement their new friendship—or blow it up forever.

For ages 8-12.

To pre-order ALWAYS ANTHONY, click here.

P.S. To everyone who has mailed (and emailed) me main character suggestions, THANK YOU! I have taken them to heart. There will definitely be more books starring more of your favorite characters!!

JewCE Convention & Awards!

I’m so excited to be participating in the all new JewCE (Jewish Comics Experience) convention in NYC on November 12, 2023 at the Center for Jewish History. This event celebrates Jewish comics of all types and features a big exhibit.

I’m also thrilled to be nominated for Artist Honoree of the Year — woo! The line-up of guests and nominees is pretty spectacular, so I’m very excited to schmooze among them as well as participate in a kids’ panel (below).

For details and registration, click here. Hope you can make it!