Branding for writers

IMG_1540Helga’s Post #109: April 10 has turned out to be a rather interesting day. This year – more on that later – as well as ninety years ago. That’s the day F. Scott Fitzgerald published “The Great Gatsby”. A few notes below in honor of the book’s anniversary.

Fitzgerald struggled mightily with the book’s title. The one he was last documented to have desired was “Under the Red, White, and Blue” (A good thing his publisher won out). The novel is widely considered to be a literary classic and a close contender for the 20th century’s best American novel. (It’s neck to neck with To Kill a Mockingbird and Grapes of Wrath, depending on who is judging). Not everyone agrees. Regardless, what makes the book a classic is how Fitzgerald educates his readers about the garish society of the Roaring Twenties by placing a timeless, relatable plotline within the historical context of the era. In contrast to the theme of the book, Fitzgerald was not among the highest-paid writers of his time; his novels earned comparatively little, and most of his income came from 160 magazine stories. Scott and his wife Zelda did spend money faster than he earned it; the author who wrote so eloquently about the effects of money on character was unable to manage his own finances.

But this post is not entirely about “The Great Gatsby”. I just found some of the background of Scott Fitzgerald noteworthy. In a roundabout weird connection (that only writers can fabricate and spin), my own April 10 was sort of an experience of the opposite of Fitzgerald’s garish society. Perhaps opposite is too strong a word, too dramatic, but it was at least an extremely toned-down version of American garish society.

And what a great experience my 10th of April was. (Unfortunately though I didn’t get any writing done except for this post).

The day started with discussing that we are going home to Canada in three weeks. We really should pack in some unusual experiences while we are still here in the California desert. My husband’s love for eclectic music and venues combined with my hunger to explore the unknown got us searching how to combine our foibles.

We went about our research independently and agreed to draw straws in the end. I have no idea whether it was serendipity, or being married for more than 30 years, or maybe, just maybe, due to a subconscious desire to please the other, that we both chose the same place. Or perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence at all, considering we both watched an intriguing Anthony Bourdain documentary about the place some time ago. Long before we decided to become snowbirds.IMG_1559

Whatever, karma or logic, we agreed on Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a place high in the Mojave Desert. This unique place was a living movie set once, but today people come for the music and mesquite BBQ. It’s a simple place. Some might call it a run-down shack.Pioneertown_pappys I think it’s romantic. Because of the people who visit and especially those who work there.

It’s got an interesting history. In 1946, a group of Hollywood investors founded Pioneertown with dreams of creating a living movie set — an 1870′s frontier town with facades for filming and interiors open to the public. On the outside were stables, saloons, and jails, and on the inside were ice cream parlors, bowling alleys, and motels. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Russell Hayden, and the Sons of the Pioneers (for whom the town was named) were some of the original investors and personalities who helped build and invent Pioneertown. More than 50 films and several television shows were filmed in Pioneertown throughout the 1940′s and 1950′s. In 1946, where Pappy & Harriet’s stands today, was a facade used as a “cantina” set for numerous western films well into the 1950s.

IMG_1539Should you ever be in the area and want to visit, you can put it into your GPS as 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown, CA. I would urge you to do so if you are a writer in need of visual inspiration or have a penchant for any of the following:

  • A drive through scenery so awesome you’ll forget to breathe
  • Some very, very ‘interesting’ tattoos (all genders)
  • A stage that continues to be graced with some of the most talented and eccentric bands and musicians anywhere to be found
  • The best and biggest ribs you will eat in your life
  • Margaritas and beer served in Mason jars
  • The friendliest, kookiest (in a positive sense) servers on the planet
  • Washroom graffiti that makes you pause long enough for your ribs and Mac and cheese to get cold
  • Did I mention the bar?
  • Totally casual, all ages and walks of life
  • And the people. Especially the people

A writer can ask for little more.IMG_1551

Now I just have to find a way to get a few scenes into my novel where I can use those images that are branded on my mind.

Wishing you rich and colorful images to draw on in your own writing.

9 thoughts on “Branding for writers

  1. What fun Helga! I can relate personally … somewhere in my buried treasure collection of LPs is an old one of the Sons of the Pioneers, which Roy Rogers was a singer in before he became famous as Roy Rogers (maybe he was even still known as Leonard Slye). When my mother was a professional singer back in the 50’s, she met Roy and Dale in the NY recording studio and brought me back an 8×10 glossy black & white photo of them, autographed by both. Meanwhile, on the F. Scott Fitzgerald train of thought, I grew up on Long Island one bay over from the setting of The Great Gatsby. East Egg was the fictional name he gave to Port Washington on the east shore of Manhasset Bay, while West Egg represented the real town of Great Neck on the west shore, where both my parents grew up during the 20’s and 30’s.

    • Very cool, Silk. I had to look up what West Egg referred to, and also Trimalchio, a Roman, but I haven’t looked up what he is known for. I can’t imagine anyone being drawn by that title or the other one. Thanks for sharing your memories. I have The Sons of the Pioneers, love that album. I spent age 9-21 living in Phoenix so it fit that western life, but their harmonies were wonderful. My brother went to the Roy Rogers Museum once (between L.A. and Vegas) and said he saw Trigger–stuffed. OMG. My parents met Dale, not Roy, in NY. Mom grew up in Brooklyn, attended Marble Collegiate Church where Norman Vincent Peale was minister. That was Dale’s church, too. Dad was on furlough in NY, staying at the YMCA, when one Sunday morning, Dale Evans came in an charmed the boys, inviting them to come to church with her. That’s all it took for Dad to say yes–not to church; to pretty Dale. Whereupon after the service he met my mother in the social activities. So my story is that but for Dale Evans, I would not be.

      • What a fascinating history, Elizabeth! Thanks for taking us down memory lane. This could well become part of a great memoir. Thanks for sharing.

    • Oh Silk, what a wonderful story! You must find a way to write that into one of your novels. It’s so rich and full of great detail and it will resonate with lots of people from the era and those familiar with Roy Rogers et al.

    • It was a lot of fun. We really lucked out to find it almost by default. One of life’s serendipitous moments. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Don’t you love places that set your creativity flowing? Even if we can’t write something immediately, the memories of the people and setting can stay with us for such a long time, waiting to be used in just the right story.

    • You are so right, JM. Visual images stored away in the recesses of our brain are some of the most useful tools for us writers. The next best one might be meaningful conversations we have with others, though they are more difficult to remember in detail.

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