Originally, Away Away was just a poor lonely story without a name. At first, I wanted there to be something about Galveston in the title, since the book started out in Galveston. I had a shortlist of titles like Operation Galveston, and The Galveston Objective, but none of them fit quite right. Then I got to thinking about my students.
A girl in my 6th period Algebra 2 class had decided at the beginning of the year that I needed a rapper name. She decided that I needed to be called ‘Lil Spill from the South. We all had fun with it. One of the kids drew it in pretty letters across my smaller white board. The next day, my third period class asked about it, and I informed them that it was my rapper name. They decided that I needed to drop a mix tape and proceeded to ask me about every day after that. I told them my mix tape wasn’t going very well on account of my lack of talent as a rapper.
At the same time that this was going on, there was a constant battle going on with me trying to get the kids to put their phones away so that they could pay attention in class. I would tell them to put the phones away. Inevitably, one (or sometimes more) would put the phone in their lap instead of putting it into their pocket or bag. So then I would say, “No. I mean away away. Not just in your lap.” I started joking with them that the first song on my mix tape was going to be called ‘Away Away.’
So then, I finished writing my book (that they didn’t know about), and I was puzzling and puzzling- ’til my puzzler was sore (to quote the Grinch) over what to name it. Finally it hit me. The title of my first book really couldn’t be anything else. It had to be Away Away.