THE SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE by Rosemary Lord

Happy Birthday America

 

I remember my first July 4th in America. I’d only been in L.A. a few months and was still marveling at the endless sunshine. I was in Beverly Hills that day and saw a red English double-decker bus being driven slowly along Wilshire Boulevard. Along both sides were large white banners with “Happy Birthday America – love, Mum” written in bold print. It was an image I have never forgotten.

American flag 1That first July 4th was spent with an international group in an Australian friend’s back garden (or yard, to use the local term) where we all celebrated the start of our new lives in California – the land of such promise, excitement and new ideas.

As the years progressed I won the coveted Green Card, so I was working as an actress and enjoying a thoroughly Americanized summer. On location in Colorado, we had the day off from filming, and had a big barbecue with the crew. (The little English kid in me thought, “Wow! Mum – look at me, in America, celebrating with a Hollywood film crew!”)

HotdogI also found myself a wonderful, gorgeous American husband, Rick! And so Independence Days were filled with our own new traditions of hot-dogs, baked-beans and hamburgers with friends and neighbors. Some years we had picnics in the park or by our favorite lake, creating lovely memories. And always the fireworks burst forth over the nearby Hollywood Bowl.

FireworksSome of the July 4ths we spent in Kentucky at my late mother-in-law’s farm. What a wonderful slice of Americana: the local town congregated together and roasted a wild hog over coals in a huge, rusty brazier thingy. A local country and western group performed on a flat-bed truck and American flags flew everywhere. It was a ‘pot-luck’ affair, so there were tables groaning with an assortment of pies, savory things and desserts. A delicious chicken-like dish that one of the neighbors had brought turned out to be frogs’ legs! “Frog Gigging” was a local past-time, I learned. “Ya just have to remember to cut the tendons before ya cook it, or the darned leg will hop right out of the pan before ya can catch it!” As Hardin County was a ‘dry’ county, I am not sure what they were all drinking from an assortment of bottles. “It’ll put hair on yer chest…” I heard. I decided to pass on that one.

Sometimes, Rick and I were back in England where Rick observed that July 4th went strangely unnoticed – save for a few American ex-pats who had their own barbecues and flag-waving.

Trip of a Lifetime 2009 240One memorable Independence Day we spent at sea. Rick’s boss, Oprah Winfrey, had rented a luxury cruise ship (as you do!) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her television show and to thank her entire staff for all their hard work over the years. Rick and I were tickled pink when we were invited to join this Mediterranean cruise. After we left the last stop on the island of Malta, we headed back to Barcelona and we were at sea on July 4th – of course, not an occasion celebrated in Europe. The organization for that day was mind-boggling! The huge swimming-pool deck was covered and, after a ‘group photo’ of all the Harpo staff with their ‘plus-one’ and guests like Rick and me, the festivities began with a live band and several long tables filled with every sort of food imaginable and a large barbeque. The music and dancing went on until the small hours, long after we had retired. It was a good thing we were in the middle of the ocean with no neighbors to disturb – except the fishes and the dolphins.

PatriotsI grew up watching American movies with July 4th   Independence Day celebrations. They always appeared such a fun gathering for families and friends where everyone prepared their special dishes and decorated whole neighborhoods with red, white and blue. I loved being able to share this tradition.

But then I get the best of both worlds, as I can also celebrate Bonfire Night with fellow Brits or my family – as well as Boxing Day, which is just another workday in America.

When, as a young girl, I first heard about July 4th – Independence Day – when all that British tea was thrown into the bay, my selfish reaction was – how many delicious cups of tea were lost? But lo these many years later, and now as an American Citizen, it’s a different matter.

I think about the meaning of Independence Day: America’s independence from Great Britain, free to make its own decisions and rules. These days we enjoy our individual sense of independence. Today, more than ever, most people are free to create their own lives, go their own direction. As writers I feel we are privileged to have each created our own literary world, writing about whatever takes our fancy – even following our own schedules and timetables – except for those pesky publisher deadlines.

Happy Independence Day, one and all!

Just Rosie 2

LEADING MYSELF ASTRAY…by Rosemary Lord

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“How come you know all that?” people sometimes ask, after reading my history-based books. I’m not sure. I mean, at school I didn’t find history that interesting: reciting dates of dead kings and assorted battles.  Instead, I’d gazed out of the window as the rain drizzled down, recalling some old Hollywood movie I’d seen on television – trying to figure out how I could possibly ever live in Tinsel Town.

 

 

 

Hollywood

 

So I certainly didn’t catch the history bug in school. Although, once I left school and started travelling, I became fascinated by the history of the old buildings in London that Charles Dickens wrote about, or Paris and Victor Hugo’s world. I’d caught the bug.

Travel

And when, after more travelling, I was finally living in Hollywood, California, I became captivated by the history of this movie town, where I found myself working at Warner Brothers, Paramount Studios, and Universal Studios. I drive by Charlie Chaplin’s old studio often and think about his early days there.

 

LipstickThe Magic of Hollywood had been in my blood all my life. I recall my mum’s stories of when she was little and she would pore over the Hollywood movie magazines. She remembered the adverts for ‘eye black’ and the little round tubs of Bourjois rouge, and other cosmetics that movie stars Clara Bow or Jean Harlow bought – allegedly. I used a lot of this information in my Lottie Topaz novels about Hollywood in the 1920s.

 

Funnily enough, only last year, I met Jean Harlow’s hairdresser. At a Jean Harlow Celebration at the Woman’s Club of Hollywood, I had invited Alfred Pagano to speak to the enthralled audience. Alfred was 100 years old – still charming and dapper.  He had turned the young Jean Harlow’s hair that legendary peroxide blond, helping to create the first Blond Bombshell. He explained that he had experimented and used household bleach mixed with Lux soap flakes to create that color!  So I filed that tidbit, and many other things he shared with me, away for my writing research.

 

I realized that this is how I know all this ‘stuff.’ Not from sitting in a classroom, but by being ‘out-and-about’ and talking with people. Listening to older people’s stories is a great source of inspiration for me. We get clues and ideas from asking family members. The older generations are a font of information and memories for us to mine.  Family storytelling is becoming a lost art that we really must encourage and revive.

Mind you, I have spent hours in various libraries, looking at archive records and especially photos. They tell us so much. A picture really is worth a thousand words when you study the background, what people are wearing, how they were living.

 

Computer Devils

I do, of course, “Google” people, places and things. It’s so easy to do. Although I learned that Google tracks and follows every key stroke you make. Then I get those annoying adverts all over the place from prior searches of mine. I feel like I’m being followed. I am. Bing.com is a good alternative – and a newer search engine called DuckDuckGo.com that was started by Gabriel Weinberg in 2008. These two search engines say they value your privacy and  don’t sell you information, so your search gets you the information you’re looking for, not what the top payers want you to see.

 

ResearchOld magazines and newspapers are a great source of ideas and research. I look for old magazines in Thrift Shops. It’s amazing what people get rid of. Skimming through articles in 1940s magazines can result in some nugget of information that triggers my imagination for a new story. Then I follow the clues; names of old organizations that have archive libraries, old department stores that have long been razed and replaced by anonymous concrete towers. Going back into their history, one finds odd little stories of people that lived or worked there. Bits of information that most would consider irrelevant, but that spark a story idea.

 

Theatre PosterThere are so many specialist magazines that have an eclectic assortment of articles or adverts. I never know where I will find something curious or interesting. Family Tree Magazine is a great source of genealogy, with articles on so many professions of yesterday, town histories, and letters from readers trying to trace their great-great grandparents and long-lost relatives.

I sometimes envy writer friends working on contemporary stories. They don’t have to research, unless there is some special skill involved.  It’s much easier to write things set in present day, because we write about our every day life without even thinking about it.Typewriter and desk

But the journeys I am taken on, once I start researching something, are true adventures. It’s easy to get side-tracked by a notice in the paper or an old advert. Obituaries are wonderful sources for inspiration, when you read of a life encapsulated.  I could spend my entire day doing research, without ever writing a word. It takes discipline not to get led astray and back on that yak-shaving train…….

 

Hollywood Then and Nowa4305-la2bthen2band2bnow

Starting the Year with a Blank Page by Rosemary Lord

just-rosie-3Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

 

* * *

 

Don’t know about you, but I am still easing myself into this New Year. We relaxed through Madeline’s ‘betwixt and between’ week and suddenly there it is: a New Year. And, as if running down hill, you gather speed as life takes over once again.

But to get back to the beginning, less than three weeks ago:

At the start of each year, I look forward to the blank page.

Firstly, the clean, empty blank page of a new diary – or appointment book – as I anticipate writing that first entry. The first appointment. What’s it going to be? Something dire or something fun?

This year, it was the dentist, hairdresser, doctor check-ups. Finally taking care of me – so that was a good, healthy start. Then I set meetings about work, about writing: what new people will I meet? What adventures will I start this year?  And in the margins of the new diary page I start to note new ideas, new goals for the year as ‘A Plan’ begins to emerge. “This year, it really will be different, better,” is my theme song.

I determined to get a control of my pathway for the year, before life’s little jokes and challenges intercede.

My favorite blank pages are in my writing books. I have a series of brightly-colored leather-bound note books – a big clue I used in the first Lottie Topaz Hollywood Mystery, by the way… The different colors are for different stories I am working on.

I’ve not been one to dread the empty page, or the stuck-ness (did I just make up a word?!) of no ideas. Quite the reverse. Instead of a frozen, blank mind, my fingers can’t write fast enough. I have an annoying habit of starting a word in such a rush that I finish the next word on top of it, jamming two half words together, missing the middle letters, in my haste to finish the sentence. Then later I attempt to figure out what I was saying! I am trying to slow my thoughts down as they tumble onto the blank page, not always making sense, in speedy disarray. Fortunately, this first draft is always in pencil – there is a lot of erasing later on.

And so I fill up page after page, stopping only to sharpen pencils and grab a fresh cuppa (cup of tea) with no time to eat – just back to convert blank pages into the start of an amazing story.

I also have a collection of tiny, pocket-size notebooks that I carry with me. On those blank pages I make lists of names, lines of dialogue, clues, storyline notes that come to me as I wait in the check-out line, parking the car or waiting at appointments. Mind you, it’s not always neat blank pages of note-books that I scribble thoughts on. How often can you NOT find the note-pad when you need it? So backs of envelopes, register- receipts, shopping lists, coupons suffice. Whatever is handy. The trick is not to lose that scrap of paper! Later that day those bits get transferred to a proper blank page.

So these are part of my arsenal for the start of a new year. First, I have to remember to breathe. Slow my racing mind down. Then take it step by step into my writing world so that I finally finish another book.

Last year, amidst the very productive chaos, I did manage to write the revised, updated version of my first published book: Los Angeles Then and Now. Sadly, so much of historic Los Angeles has disappeared since I wrote the original book. The landscape is so very changed, the sky-line filled with towering apartment and luxury condominium blocks, many still empty.

I updated those original sites that are still standing, and discovered future plans, new focuses in the city. I researched all the new sites I have added, explored fresh archive photographs to mirror the new ‘now’ images. It was a fun challenge.

I also wrote a piece on the Hollywood School for Girls and the Woman’s Club of Hollywood for the Fall issue of Discover Hollywood magazine along the way.

And now my new Los Angeles Then and Now is coming out next month, so I will get busy promoting that. And guess what? A new notebook and new blank pages to fill as I travel that road.

 

Life is full of blank pages for us all to fill. What would you fill yours with?

 

 

Remember, Remember with Rosemary Lord

 

just-rosie-3

Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!  She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

* * *

Goodness – November already! November is the month we have an abundance of remembrances.

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November: gunpowder, treason and plot…” – so begins the children’s rhyme about the failed gunpowder plot of 1605 by Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. Traditionally, on chilly November 5th evenings, we celebrated with bonfires in the garden where, as kids, we burned effigies of Guy Fawkes (simply known as ‘guys’), roasted jacket potatoes in the fire and drank steaming mugs of hot cocoa in the dark, as the grown-ups set off fire-works. For days prior to this, young children would parade their ‘guys’ around the streets on carts, asking for “a penny for the guy” – to earn money to buy the fireworks. Somehow, I don’t think this happens today… but it was fun while it lasted.

Every third Thursday of the eleventh month, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, when we remember how thankful we are for living in America. We recall the many people and things we have to be thankful for and remember those brave pioneers, the Pilgrims and the early settlers who paved the way for us. In America, this is the biggest family holiday when we celebrate with turkey, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings.

And there is Remembrance Day: at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Great Britain and allied and Commonwealth countries observe two minutes silence to honor those fallen in combat. November 11th marked the end of World War One in 1918 and November eleventh is still honored to this day. Also known as ‘Poppy Day,’ The British Legion sells red poppies that are worn in the days preceding November 11th, as a mark of respect, and wreaths of poppies are placed on public monuments.

In the United States, November 11th is Veterans’ Day – formerly called Armistice Day – and honors all those who served in the military in various conflicts. (In America, Memorial Day at the end of May, honors all those who lost their lives in these conflicts.)

This Remembrance, or Veterans’ Day, I was in London, viewing the seas of red poppies wherever I looked. So forgive me if I share once again, the comments I had written a couple of years ago, on the occasion of this solemn, yet so very proud, moving, tradition:

We honor all those ordinary – yet extraordinary – folk who have stood between us and harm’s way throughout the ages. They sacrificed their lives so that we could have the freedom to live on.

In England we call November 11th Remembrance Day, when we remember all those who lost their lives in various conflicts. The Remembrance Poppy was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Field” written in May 1915 by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, after he noticed all the red poppies that had grown over the graves where so many soldiers, nurses and others were buried in that far off Belgian field in the first World War.

Since 1919, our fallen ones have been commemorated in England with two minutes silence at the 11th hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. This marks the end of World War One, known as The Great War, in 1918.

Since then, time stands still in Britain for these two minutes. In London, as Big Ben rings the last stroke, traffic comes to a stand-still. Red London buses, black taxi-cabs and delivery vans come to a halt in central London and throughout the country. Pedestrians stop, many bow their heads as a sign of respect for all those who have fallen in conflicts since then. So much is said in that two minutes silence.

In their honor we wear artificial red poppies in the days leading up to Remembrance or Armistice Day – known as Veterans Day in America – as we all unite in paying our respects to those who sacrificed so much to give us our freedom.

And I am truly humbled and embarrassed that I had been moaning about my too-busy life and not having enough time to write. Those we remember on this day would love to have lived long enough to have such simple problems.

We remember and honor the fallen today, as the tradition says, LEST WE FORGET.

……………………

Rosemary Lord 2017

 

 

 

HIDING UNDER THE DUVET….. by Rosemary Lord

just-rosie-3Rosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

*  *  *

When it all comes plummeting down – what do you do?  When there seem so many small fires to be put out. And all around you people are having dramas – then turning to you for help. What do you do?

I just want to hide under the warm, plump duvet (a European eiderdown) and never come out. But I don’t have that luxury.

How do you keep your head – “when all around you seem to be losing theirs and blaming it on you.” As Kipling put it so well. “… if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting too. If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…”

But I digress.

So, how do you write when you’re snowed under?

How come other writers seem to have it all organized? Able to write at the same time each day, without distraction. Able to churn out book after book…..  I know that writer-mothers of young children seem to find the time to write their books – while the kids are napping or at school, waiting at soccer practice or for the laundry cycle to finish. My writer friends with full time jobs find a way. Sue Ann Jaffarian is a paralegal, Pamela Samuels Young an attorney. They write before going to work, in their lunch hour and at weekends.

Before I ever get to the office, the phone calls and urgent emails start early in the morning. And I can’t remember when I last stopped for lunch. For the last couple of years, I often work 6 or 7 days a week. So where am I going wrong?

(As Anthony Newley’s song “What Kind of Fool Am I?” floats around my head…)

Since my husband died so unexpectedly, I have been working day in and day out to save the Woman’s Club of Hollywood from being turned into an anonymous block of condominiums, instead of the charming Spanish-style historic property where Jean Harlow and Douglas Fairbanks went to school and where Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and a host of Golden Era celebrities helped served the Hollywood community for over 110 years. So I feel it’s worth saving. Worth fighting for. But at what cost – to me.

So here I am – an author, a writer who has so little time to write. One of my publishers has just asked me to do a new version of one of my Hollywood books. “How long do I have,” I asked, trying not to panic.

I’ve stayed up all night to finish a book by the deadline. Getting the copy sent off to London by eight in the morning – that is four o’clock in the afternoon in London time. But I did it. I’ve arisen at 5 am, in the dark, to get a couple of hours writing in before the day starts. But it doesn’t last. I get too tired, then find myself nodding off over the computer keys. And how is it that I seem to gain weight, when I hardly ever have time to eat? That’s just plain unfair!

Goodness! This sounds like whining. Not my intention. More a ‘Dear Abby, How do I get off this hamster wheel?” Or: I’m a writer – get me out of here!

I have so many voices in my head that need to be heard – or read. So many books to write, screenplays to finish. All the characters that float around my imagination, hoping that I will turn them into words on a page for readers to discover. All clamoring, ‘Me too! Don’t forget about me…”  And Lottie Topaz has been so very patient with me, waiting for me to finish her second volume and share her emerging adventures.

The people in my head, my wonderful characters that I can breath life into, they all have a song to sing – a story for me to tell.

So why are there so many things, big and small, going on in life that need my attention at the present? Am I avoiding something? Why can’t I be more disciplined and just focus on my writing. Ignore the pleas for help. Just tell people to get lost. Leave me alone.

Maybe I’m just going through a phase…

Although this week, after what seems like an eternity,  the court trial starts on behalf of the Woman’s Club trying to release itself of heavy financial burdens unfairly foisted on it by nefarious beings. So that will settle one long chapter in its saga. And hopefully offer me some respite.

Looking back, I could have taken a different path. Would it have been easier? Probably. But look how much I have learned, people I have met – characters and stories I have discovered.

But still, right now, what I’d really like to do is dive back under the warmth of my duvet – for a while.

Know what I mean?

 

A QUICK ESCAPE…

just-rosie-3 Where do you escape to when it all gets too much? When that sleep that you really, really need alludes you? For those stressed with over-work, with family or money worries or health problems – a respite is definitely needed.  Other than flying away from it all and off to an exotic desert island, what are we ordinary mortals supposed to do?  I have discovered my best escape is found between the pages of a book.

I guess I have always escaped into the magical world of stories. I have been reading all my life. My brother, Phil, reminded me that I started my own library – ‘The Leafy Way Public Library’ – in my bedroom as a small child. I had a little rubber stamp that imprinted the logo in my books. Phil remembers my issuing him with a library ticket that I date-stamped to take out books! My ‘library’ included the different Enid Blyton mystery series, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and the Mary Mouse tales. Phil was not interested in the more girlie books that I loved:  the Pamela Brown adventures about theatre life: The Swish of the Curtain, Blue Door Ventures and Golden Pavements – or Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes and the  Dancing Shoes series.  the-secret-seven

Even at that very young age I found an escape into these magical books. I even wrote my own first book, Make Believe Mondays, when I was ten – carefully handwritten, with an orange, pencil- illustrated cover. I wrote it for my brother Phil, I recall! The love of books clearly stayed with me throughout my growing up. I know I have written before about these books that colored my life.  Books have always been a wonderful escape for me.

But I think this is true for most of us writers. I know that with my fellow bloggers we often talk about the books that we lose ourselves in. Reading is truly a wonderful way of retreating from the woes that life sometimes presents. Even if it is a snatched fifteen minutes on a train or bus ride to work, or a quick read on a short coffee-break. What a relief to vanish from today’s world, for a glimpse into someone else’s fictional world.

the-shell-seekers  And in the middle of the night, instead of tossing and turning and sheep-counting – reach for a book. I do. I currently have a favorite Rhys Bowen novel about Molly Murphy in the turn-of-the-century New York mystery series. In a different mood, I will re-read Rosamund Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers, a Maeve Binchy novel, a Marcia Willet story, one of Carol Drinkwater’s books set in the South of France, or Victoria Hislop’s The Island and her other Mediterranean-set novels. I just love anything set in the sunny Mediterranean. No rush-hour traffic jams, no screaming police sirens, angry crowds pushing and shoving. Just gentle walks though olive grows, planning delicious simple meals, folk watching the tides come in and go out again under breath-taking sunsets. What’s not to like?

heidi         Although my all-time favorite remains the childhood classic, Heidi, by Johanna Spyri, about the little girl who goes to live with her grandfather in the Swiss mountains. Some years ago I learned to refocus my mind while in the dentist’s dreaded chair – and would whisk myself off to that Swiss mountain side with Heidi and her goat-herd friend Peter.

As a writer, I love to think that someone else might lose themselves in a story that I have created. I write about another world I like to lose myself in: Lottie Topaz’s discovery of Hollywood in the 1920s. It’s quite exhilarating to inhabit this other reality.

As we lose ourselves in someone else’s stories, one forgets – for a while – the troubles and stresses that surround us.

So the next time that bedroom clock relentlessly blinks 3:30 am at you, and you find yourself start back at number one with your counting sheep, reach for a book instead – a gentle, charming story. Nothing too violent or thought-provoking. Just a beautiful, exotic island of words, with a gentle breeze blowing across the pages and the scent of tropical flowers to lull you into that other realm that will take you out of yourself for a while. Sleep then comes more easily when you leave reality behind. To sleep – perchance to dream – of inhabiting the world of your favorite books… written by your favorite authors….

…………………………………

ROSEMARY LORD BIOGRAPHY

c19f5-hlwdtandnThe author of Best Selling non-fiction Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now, English born ROSEMARY LORD has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. As an actress, her credits include Monty Python, Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, Days of Our Lives, L.A. Heat and more. She did voice-work on Titanic, Star Trek, Shakespeare In Love, The Holiday and Pirates of the Caribbean amongst many others. A former journalist,  she is published in many magazines such as Woman’s Journal, Atlantic Review, Woman, Films & Filming, Jackie, Field newspapers and more in the UK, USA and Australia, where she wrote about Hollywood’s Golden Age, interviewing such luminaries as Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston. She was a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures. Rosemary lectures on Hollywood history and is the Historian of the Woman’s Club of Hollywood. She is a member of MWA, Sisters-in-Crime, SAG, BAFTA and contributes to The Writers In Residence Blog.

 

Her first mystery novel Lottie Topaz and the Flicker Murders… is set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

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Rosemary’s Blog posted by…

 

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED on my way to becoming organized …. by Rosemary Lord

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpgRosemary wrote her first book when she was ten years old – for her little brother. She also illustrated it herself. It was later rejected by Random House!

She has been writing ever since.

The author of Best Sellers Hollywood Then and Now and Los Angeles Then and Now,  English born Rosemary Lord has lived in Hollywood for over 25 years. An actress, a former journalist (interviewing Cary Grant, James Stewart, Tony Hopkins, John Huston amongst others) and a Senior Publicist at Columbia Pictures, she lectures on Hollywood history. Rosemary is currently writing the second in a series of murder mysteries set in the 1920s Jazz Age Hollywood featuring Lottie Topaz, an extra in silent movies.

 

  #  #  #

What I was trying to do was organize my life. Organize my life better – as I had so much writing to do, as well as a life to live.  I had – still have – several books, short stories and some magazine articles I wanted to write. I actually managed to finish a couple of mystery novels and started another. I wrote a magazine article and revised and updated two of my published non fiction books, Hollywood Then & Now and Los Angeles Then & Now. But this was not enough. I decided I really must get properly organized, so that I can increase my literary output.

 But hey – this is me. Remember all my notes on little bits of paper? And my “…I know it was blue – and I was eating something when I last saw it..”?   What chance do I have?

chartThen someone told me about “Org. Charts”… Online Organizational Charts that are supposed to make your life easier. Some of the versions can be very expensive, I was told. I was excited. Perhaps this is the magical cure I had been seeking?

But when I went online and perused various Org Charts, I realized that – uh – this is kind of how I always map out my writing. I just didn’t have a name for it.

 I have a large notice board and cover it with post-its. Each post-it has a chapter number and a brief outline. On a different colored post-it, characters in that chapter are listed underneath. Another sticky note has specific plot details for that chapter. I add to this ‘organizational chart’ of sticky post-its as I finish each chapter.

Towards the end, I review the arc of the story and how I got to this point. Then I sometimes move the post-its around to an earlier or later chapter, as I realize what needs to be revealed at certain times. On a read-through of my first draft, I might decide to cut a whole scene or even a chapter. If it is sounding too busy, I may chose to cut a lesser character out.  So I go back to my board and remove the relevant sticky-note or two and put them at the very bottom of the board, so I can see what I have taken out. I might be able to use those pages elsewhere – or even in another book. I find this method very helpful.

 Now along the way I get many interruptions from my writing time.

A major interruption was when an elderly lady rang me a few years ago and, with a shaky voice, said “…they’ve taken our club, changed the locks – can you help us get it back?” So began my long journey into saving the Woman’s Club of Hollywood from a real-estate grab and  from being turned into a luxury condominium resort.

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Women’s Club of Hollywood;picture from their website

Founded in 1905, this club is where Mary Pickford attended events and handed-out award-cups for various flower shows. It is where Charlie Chaplin entertained and later on Gloria Swanson lectured on nutrition. Joan Crawford, Gary Cooper and other Hollywood legends attended fundraising luncheons. Big Bands used to play there. The property is on the site of the old Hollywood School for Girls, where Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joel McRae, (boys were allowed in kindergarten there) and daughters of the early film pioneers Cecil B. DeMille and Louis B. Mayer and even David Selznick’s mom attended school. Oscar winning costume designer Edith Head was one of the teachers. Actor Charles Laughton came in to teach Shakespeare. The old 1903 school house still stands in the rear of the Spanish-style clubhouse. Property developers salivate at the thought of replacing this historic landmark with gleaming towers of condominiums and apartments.

But it’s not over yet. With huge legal fees accrued, there is a Federal judge and a Federal Trustee overseeing and scrutinizing how it is run. But at least we got the building back for the older ladies to do their charitable works and to save a piece of Hollywood history. Many younger women – and men – now enjoy the social hours and the philanthropic events at this historic club. And this is where I heard ‘The Org Chart’ again.  As a charitable, non-profit business I was told that an Org Chart is essential. Archive materials abound, historic documents, boxes of photos juxtaposed with legal documents, IRS papers and current documents.  So lately my head has been buried in setting up an Org Chart for the Woman’s Club, delegating committee work and assigning volunteers who offer to share the responsibility to keep this Hollywood legend flourishing. Those are the serious, grown-up Org Charts.

 But the Org charts of my own making, to do with my writing, are the real fun ones.  When I was revising and updating Hollywood Then & Now, my board was covered with thumbnail pictures of the various Hollywood landmarks I was writing about, as I attempted to weave the story of the origins of legendary places – and what they look like now.  Of course, throughout all of that writing, my desk, my floor and any other available surface was covered in sheets of paper and many hand-scribbled notes on scraps of envelopes and such. But I knew where everything was and could find the relevant note easily. I was organized. Honest!

 I think (I hope) there are other writers who  operate in this ‘organized chaos’ fashion.  I realize that I am perfectly, creatively organized when I am actually writing. I have to be – so much I write about has historical data and information in it. I can’t fudge that.

 It is my life that is not organized – and my time. Which is why I am often writing so late into the night… and I haven’t managed an Org Chart for that yet.

Any ideas?