word craft


Common Questions

I’ve long lost count of how many class­rooms I have vis­it­ed, either in-per­son or via Skype. These days a major­i­ty of my vis­its are with Skype, which saves time and mon­ey for all con­cerned. Regard­less, down the years it has always fas­ci­nat­ed me that the core ques­tions I’m asked are often the same. It doesn’t mat­ter as to the geo­graph­ic loca­tion, or the kind of school; pub­lic, reli­gious or char­ter. Doesn’t mat­ter if I am in the school or on the internet.

True, now and again an unusu­al ques­tion is asked. “What do you think of adjec­tives?” I was once asked. “Do you like weasels?” was anoth­er ques­tion. “Which fin­gers do you use most when you type on your com­put­er?” “If you could be one of the char­ac­ters from one of your books, which would it be?”

On the oth­er hand per­haps the most com­mon ques­tion asked of all authors is, “Where do you get your ideas?” “What’s your own favorite book?” is anoth­er. “Are you rich?” “Does your fam­i­ly help you write?” And inevitable, for me, “Where does that name ‘Avi,’ come from?”

In any case, I’m going to embark upon a series of blog posts that answer the ques­tions I’m most usu­al­ly asked. That said, if you, the read­er, have a ques­tion you’d like me to answer, do let me know (in the com­ments), and some­where down the road, I’ll try to pro­vide an answer.

Let’s begin by answer­ing that most stan­dard of ques­tions asked of me: Where do I get the name, “Avi?”

In fact, the name is used in a vari­ety of cul­tures. It appears in Hin­du cul­ture, Ice­landic, in the state of Israel, just to men­tion a few societies.

My name derives from a quirk. My full name is Edward Irv­ing Wor­tis. The “Edward” and “Irv­ing,” are tra­di­tion­al old Eng­lish names, e.g. Edward the Con­fes­sor. My par­ents being anglophiles were no doubt com­fort­able with such names. In fact, Edward was cho­sen (I was told) because it uses the let­ter E, in recog­ni­tion of the name of a (at the time) recent­ly deceased Great Grand­fa­ther. “Irv­ing” was my father’s brother’s name, who died sud­den­ly when a young man. I nev­er knew either of these namesakes.

But it was my twin sis­ter, Emi­ly, who, as we start­ed to talk, called me some­thing that sound­ed like “Avi.” There appears to be nei­ther log­ic nor rea­son for this. And as often hap­pens in fam­i­lies, one child’s name for a sib­ling becomes the norm. (My son Jack called his old­er brother—named Robert—Ra, and it stuck.)

I did see a let­ter that my pater­nal grand­moth­er wrote when I was quite young, and she asked about “Ovie,” which is to say me. When the spelling A v i was set­tled upon, I have no idea.

As for the drop­ping of the last name from my books, my par­ents were very much opposed to my becom­ing a writer. That was not because they thought the writ­ing pro­fes­sion was bad (as young peo­ple they both want­ed to be writ­ers) but because they thought my writ­ing was bad.

So drop­ping my last name, and tak­ing on my sister’s nam­ing, was you might say, claim­ing my own identity.

So there it is, just: Avi.

4 thoughts on “Common Questions”

  1. I love what your name stands for Avi. Great sto­ry. My nom de plume is Jeanne Pas­cale. I switched around my first and mid­dle name. Didn’t want my last name for sim­i­lar rea­sons. Plus, though most peo­ple “love” my first name, Pas­cale, I nev­er liked it. Also think it makes a bet­ter last name. “Yes, I know for cer­tain it’s a female name, the lit­tle “e” on the end makes it feminine.”

  2. Why is “A Christ­mas Car­ol” by Charles Dick­ens one of your favorite books? How did it impact or move you?


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