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.