On Sunday after church, a woman came up and introduced herself to me. Her name was Ellen, which, she said, means light.

“You’re kidding!” I exclaimed, my hands flying to my cheeks. “Ellen means light?”

She looked confused (and who can blame her?). Yes, she said, her name means light.

“That is so cool!” I practically jumped up and down.

She was a very gracious woman. She simply said thank you and then continued the conversation without commenting on what a weirdo I am.

The reason I was so excited about Ellen meaning light is that my novel’s main character has a secret name, given her by her grandmother, because the grandmother sees that this girl will be full of light. The secret name?

Ellewyck. Which looks a whole lot like Ellen.

Only I didn’t know when I named Ellewyck that her name was related to one that meant light. The novel takes place in 3rd century Wales, so when I was trying to create this girl’s name, I looked up the Welsh word for light. It’s llewych, which looks in English like the sound you make when snarfing snot into your throat. Not exactly what I was going for. Of course, in Welsh it’s pronounced something like thloo-wick, but that’s still not a very attractive sound. Besides, what American reader would know that’s how to pronounce it? So I fiddled with it until I came up with a word that sounded sort of similar, but looked like it could be a girl’s name.

And now I find out that this name really does mean light. Go figure.

I wanted to close this post with some words from Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water, something to the effect of our work being smarter than we are, but I couldn’t find that quote. What I found instead was this, which feels like a big hug from God, an affirmation of my writing: “When the words mean even more than the writer knew they meant, then the writer has been listening. And sometimes when we listen, we are led into places we do not expect, into adventures we do not always understand.”

Bring on the adventure! And should this book ever come into print, I will take a copy to Ellen and explain why I was such a weirdo that Sunday she met me.

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