Writers are by definition obsessed with words. And when it comes down to it, unless you’re really plucky, there are two or three words you’re stuck with for life: your name. Every other week I’ll ask a different writer five or so questions on the subject. This week I talked with Myfanwy Collins. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son. Her work has been published in The Kenyon Review, AGNI, Cream City Review, Quick Fiction, and Potomac Review. Echolocation (Engine Books 2012) is her debut novel. A collection of her short fiction, I Am Holding Your Hand, is forthcoming from [PANK] Books in January 2013. Please visit her at: http//www.myfanwycollins.com.
Myfanwy. What an awesome and singular name. Have you ever met another?
Here’s what happened: At the time I worked at store in busy Boston, which no longer exists. I made $5 a hour which isn’t really relevant to the story but may let on to why I was feeling bitchy than I normally would be. Anyway, I was on the floor probably shelving some magazines when some woman cornered me and said, “Are you Myfanwy? I’m Myfanwy, too.” I didn’t know what to say, honestly. I think I said something like, “Great.” We then proceeded to stare awkwardly at each other until she started babbling about how she met a friend of mine in a bathroom in a club and that friend told her where I worked.
As far as I can tell, the only other contemporary Myfanwy was a pteranodon or pterodactyl on some British TV show called Torchwood. Does that ring a bell? Do you ever wish there were more of you?
But there are! Dylan Thomas has Myfanwy in Under Milk Wood, and there’s John Betjeman poem, and then, of course, there is Myfanwy in Little Britain.
What was it like to have your name when you were young? Did you always love it or was it a mixed blessing to have such a unique name? There were nicknames, I presume.
It was torture when I was young. I hated the first day of school, having to stand up and pronounce my name and, shudder, spell it. As a young adult, I learned to appreciate it but it comes with a lot of baggage, mainly the jokes people like to tell me about my name when they meet me: “Oh, I thought it was ______ (fill in the blank with something stupid I’ve heard ten millions times before). As such, I shy away from meeting new people. And talking on the phone! Having to say my name on the phone! Don’t even get me started. This is the singular torture for anyone whose name is even vaguely different from the norm. At one of my jobs, I had to spend a lot of time on the phone with people who already had a very basic grasp on how to spell. I would receive mail and packages with so many variations on my name that we all made a joke of it. One of the favorites was: My-Fenway (again, this was in Boston). I once had a dog tag made up for myself that said: “M as in Mary. Y. F as in Frank. N as in Nancy. W. Y.” There were nicknames but they belong to my family and childhood friends. Now I mostly let people call me Myf (Miff) because it’s just easier. With all that said, I do love my name and am grateful for it. My parents gave it to me out of love and it is a term of affection.
I read via a very scholarly source that may or may not begin with “Wiki” that it was made popular in the late 1800s in a Welsh song. Do you know it? Was there another source of inspiration?
It is a song that is still popular with Welsh boy choirs. I do know it (that one anyway). The inspiration was a friend of my parents who was Welsh and loved the name (my maternal great grandparents were Welsh) and my father’s love of all things Dylan Thomas.
Have you always felt fated to become a writer or artist with a supremely poetic name like yours, or were there other paths?
I don’t know that my name contributed to me wanting to be a writing. I think it’s more my brooding Celtic/Scorpio nature. Speaking of Dylan Thomas I also share his birthday… and Sylvia Plath’s birthday. I’d love to have a fraction of either of their talent, but I hope I don’t go out the way either of them did.
So, is Collins a great name or what? Has it ever saved your life or anything? At least stopped a bar fight or gotten you a free order of nachos? (Full disclosure: it’s my middle name.)
Ah ha! A fellow Collins! Sláinte! My son’s middle name is also “Collins.”
Speaking of which, what’s your middle name? Just wondering.
My middle name is Christie, which was a family name on my father’s side.