Tell Me Your Name. No. Spell It.

As a writer and author, I love people's names. I'm fascinated by the trends in names and the names that are popular in the next generation of kids growing up. People are connected to their name in so many ways.

Isla. Islay. Mia. Maya. Mya. Aden. Aaiden. Aidan. Today there are so many ways to spell names, and if you want to be on someone's good side, you'd better spell their name right. We want to be seen for who we are. And the spelling of our name is part of that.

That's one of reasons I created Eman Personalized Books. (Ha. See what I did there.) 'Cause we can make books with any name at all. Any spelling at all. Custom. Personal. Just like your favorite child's name.

It's true though. Names are important to kids, and I've gotten a small insight into new and popular names, in my latest contract job. For the last several months, in addition to producing lovely personalized books for lovely new customers, I've been working as a school photographer. It's been an interesting learning experience in so many ways.

Confession. I am not very good at taking pictures. Well. I mean, I don't know anything about lighting or fill lighting or back lighting or lenses or all of the very technical aspects of photography. I'm not incredibly visual, my love is more for expressing my creativity in the written word. Like books. Mmm. Books.

Fortunately school photography equipment is much like a paint by number kit. Everything is pre- measured and lit and people can sit or stand in the exact right spot to ensure proper lighting with the equipment I'm provided. The biggest challenge was learning how to set up and take down and pack up and unpack the many (numbered) bags that the equipment is stored in. I had some nightmares about that, but like most things, with practice comes perfection. Or some version of it.

And so, I cart around my kit in my car and drive to schools and take pictures of school kids and their teachers and get some good results. I don't claim to be the best at it. I don't like the school photo angle my company advocates, that tilts heads and turns bodies a certain way. I may not always do that properly. But here's what I do offer. I am kind to the kids I take pictures of. (I am kind to the adults, too don't worry.) I try to make them feel less nervous. Kids act nervous in so many different ways. Some get rambunctious. Some get shy. Kids with sensory issues get overwhelmed.

So, I try and make kids comfortable and make them feel good about the moment in time we are freezing together. I ache for the troubled kids I see. There are a lot of them. And I try and do something small, and my small part is to try and make them feel good about that picture I take of them. No matter what they look like.

Another confession. I like kids. I like how incredibly weird little kids are. I like the things that little kids say when they step up to get a photo taken. I like the kindergarten kids who have their shoes on the wrong feet and can't remember their last name and tell me about their lost teeth. I appreciate the angst and anxiety that riddles kids of all ages, and many adults when they sit down for a picture day portrait. I see a lot of things in the kids faces and what they say or how they say it. Kids of all ages. And teachers too. I see them at work. Doing their job. Teachers have a hard job. Especially now.

But back to names. When I'm doing school photos, the first thing I ask the person who enters my photo booth, is the person's name. Every school has a list of kids with their class and teacher, and it's loaded into the photo kit computer from an external drive. In order to get the picture, I have to enter the name of the person I'm taking a picture of. And that's sometimes one of the most challenging parts of getting the picture. Because did I mention how many different spelling there are of names?

It's been an interesting job. And it's given me a glimpse into a few things, but for this conversation, it's names. It's also shown me that my little world in Canada is expanding and that many different races and cultures have joined our classrooms, with have their own names and spellings. It's nice. Our world is expanding and becoming more diverse. So are the names.

Things change.

My own child is now an adult. His peers are grown and their names are no longer trendy or popular baby names. Kennedy is no longer as common as Britney or Brandon. I love that many names are now gender neutral. Boys and girls named Quinn or Charlie. Girls named Max or Alex or Jaz. Some names continue on, some return to popularity after disappearing. Some are trendy because of pop culture. But make no mistake. Names are important to people. And so is the spelling.

Just ask an adult who gets a Starbuck coffee cup with a butchered version of their name written on it.

Or spell an eight year old's name wrong and see what they have to say about that.

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