Thank goodness for a name like Voula. I have changed my surname so many times, that having such a distinctive first name is a real advantage. Though even that can lead to misunderstandings. When I moved to a different county a few years ago, and met new people I was twice asked: “Are you THE Voula?” “Maybe,” I replied, preening. It turns out I’m not: THE Voula is a sex therapist living in the vicinity. I wish I could find her. I’d like to know if she is ever asked: “Are you THE Voula? You know, the writer?” #dreaming.
When I married for the third time, eleven years ago, I changed my surname from Grand to Greenfield. In my professional field, I was known as Voula Grand, my previous married name. Emailing a client one day, I accidentally sent the note from my Voula Greenfield email. My client’s PA said to her: “How amazing is this? Voula Grand has got a new assistant and guess what her name is? Voula Greenfield! Unbelievable!” As my client pointed out, prophetically, Voula is the brand name, so it really doesn’t matter what my surname is. Though there is a Twitter group called “Voulas;” there are ten of us, all of whom (apart from me) tweet in Greek.
I hope my client was right, as I am now reverting back to my original maiden name, Voula Tsoflias, for my writing projects. I remain Voula Grand professionally, and Voula Greenfield personally. (I know. Madness.) Yet even Voula is not my original name. My Christian name is Paraskevi, which means Friday. My parents actually planned to call me Olympia: “after the typewriter,” my sisters jeered, when we were teenagers: “we would have called you Lympy.” My Godfather spared me this fate by asking for me to be named after his sister. Many Greek names have a diminutive form that adds -oula to the end. Paraskevi becomes Paraskevoula, becomes Voula. Even that is too long for my immediate family. They call me Vou.
Earlier this year, I began cutting back on my professional work, to spend more time on my writing projects. Over time, I had slipped into the habit of writing in the same way as I do my professional work: driven, goal focussed, slightly obsessive. Although this works well professionally, it isn’t conducive to the reflective space I need for my creative work, so I wanted to work differently, by switching from touch typing very fast on my computer to writing slowly using pen and ink. This was quite a revelation. I felt as though I was six years old again. I felt, in fact, as though I was Voula Tsoflias….