The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Friday, December 23, 2011

What's In A Name?: The Story of a Pseudonym

      A recent post by Lisa Kramer at Woman Wielding Words pondered the topic of real names versus pseudonyms.  I've mentioned before that I use a phony name--like anyone might not have guessed it. This is as good as time as ever to explain the name.  In deference to Stephen T. McCarthy, who asked me about this many blogging months ago, I give you the origins of the Arlee Bird name.

      It was long before Google was around, so search engine status had nothing to do with the pen name.  I was in college and trying to become established as an author.  It was obvious even without the benefit of Google that I had a very common name.

        I've never made a point of trying to hide my real name on my blog.  Actually it can be found in several places, but most readers have probably never noticed that I was born with the name Robert Lee Jackson.  It's a name that perhaps is a few Google notches short of John Smith, but my real name is shared with a lot of people living now and who have lived in the past.   Check your phone book and I'm sure you'll find at least a few of them listed in your town.

         So trying to break in as an author I felt like I needed a name that would not be shared by thousands of other people and would be somewhat unique.  At first I submitted stories as Lee Jackson, but the name just didn't work for me despite being the name I'd gone by all of my life.

          Then I began to experiment with names.  I began to sign my writing as Ohio Franklin Jackson--after all it was the early 70s and people were experimenting with unusual names.  Having been born in Ohio I adopted that as my first name and Benjamin Franklin was one of my heroes at the time so I paid tribute to him.  I decided this name was maybe too quirky.

Benjamin FranklinImage via Wikipedia
           Using just my first initial I went back to my real name as R. Lee Jackson.  There was a very brief period when I got the idea that it might be easier to have a short story accepted if I were female and I tried writing under the name of Mary Tipton.  Where'd that come from?  That didn't last long and I returned to the R. Lee Jackson tag.

           Feeling that starting a moniker with an initial didn't sound quite right, in early 1975 I went from R. Lee to Arlee, since it sounded the same when spoken.  For the next several years I wavered between those two opening names attached to the Jackson surname.

           In mid-1975 I joined a magic show and decided to focus my career on juggling and show business and basically put writing for submission purposes on the back burner.  My business card and all promotional material used R. Lee and I dispensed with actually using Arlee for a while.  I also used the alias of "Jack Clark" when I was acting in behalf of my alter ego of promoter for R. Lee Jackson and his professional activities.  Hey--I felt like I had to wear different hats sometimes in order to make people think I had representation.

          When I decided to get off the road in order to start my kids in school and lead a more normal life, I started an entertainment business in Tennessee.  When I was putting the business together I began thinking of a name.  I don't recall exactly how it came to me but I envisioned a logo of a bird tugging at a worm in a hole which  would resemble a music note.  This made me think of the expression, "the early bird gets the worm."  Bingo!  Early, Arlee--Arlee Bird Entertainment.

           Nearly twenty years later when I started Tossing It Out, I decided not to use my real name.  The name that immediately came to me was my old entertainment business name.  I figured there couldn't be many people with that name and it would be unique.  I googled the name and found one guy with that name in Florida, but that was it.   I took it.

           It's kind of an odd name, but it is different.  Now I've taken over Google with the name.  I don't know what happened to the guy in Florida.  It's my writing name now and silly though it may sound I am now Arlee Bird in my literary and blogging life.  I guess I might as well keep the name now.


       While I'm at it I might as well acknowledge an award given to me by The Word Nerd.  Since I'm telling you stuff anyway I'll play along with this one.  I know I'd said a while back that I wasn't going to do these award things, but what the heck--it's Christmas and I'm being nice.

        And I'm spilling beans.  So in keeping with the rules of the award here are seven things about me that I intend to blog about someday:

1.  I used to be an avid stamp collector.  I still save stamps and have my stamp collection, but I'm not active with it like I was when I was younger.

2. I also have a postcard collection that mostly consists of cards I bought when I was young, but if any of you ever send me a postcard it will go into my collection.

3.  At one time I had a fairly decent pencil collection, but I used all of the pencils back when I was still in school.  Gosh, does anyone use pencils anymore?

4.  Another collection that I once had that was rather sizable was matchbooks.   I won't go into detail about what happened to that--let's just say it went up in smoke.

5.  I joined my first book club when I was about thirteen--Doubleday.  I joined several other book clubs over the years which accounts for my extensive collection of books.

6.  When I was on the road I accumulated hundreds of cassette tapes, most which I still have and are playable.

7.  There is a real possibility that I am a hoarder.

          And I guess Word Nerd knows I that I'm not passing this on to anyone else.  This branch of the chain ends here, but I'm sure it continues through several of the other recipients.  But I will wish everyone

Merry Christmas!

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  1. Interesting process towards getting your name. Great reading as well. Merry Christmas to you Arlee Bird.

  2. Arlee Bird is a name no one would forget. I wonder if I could use Crazy Chick, for my writer name?

  3. I never knew that story. The Arlee part certainly made sense. I take it on top of all that, you've gone by your middle name most of your life as well?

  4. Most interesting story Lee, I did think in the beginning it was your real name, I used to write under the name of EnglishRose because I am English and thought Rose is as good as name as any. Since writing on the blog I used my real name.
    Congrats on the award.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and an equally good New Year.

    The other evening I was watching TV when the commercial came on , imagine my surprise when they said
    "Try the A to Z challenge" it wasn't to do with blogging but either KFC or MacDonalds.


  5. Congratulations on the award.
    Up in smoke!! hahaha
    I like your real name.
    Merry Christmas Arlee....have a wonderful Christmas and all the best in the new year to come.

  6. I like hearing how people come up with their pseudonyms! Yours is a good name, memorable and no one else has it (except for that guy in Florida, haha).

    I still use pencils!! I have a thousand of them. Ok, not quite that many, but see this post:

    I journal with a pen, but I write stories with pencil in notebooks first before transferring it on the computer. :)

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Lee!!

  7. A student gave me the idea for my name. At the end of class one day, I was sharing some info with them, and mentioned that I was valedictorian of my class. A ninth grade girl thought I was claiming to be "Val, the Victorian".

    The only people I know who still use pencils are carpenters, and high school math students.

  8. Your name sure has an awesome origin Lee, that's a pretty cool story indeed. I'm not sure about not using my real name, I don't want my writing to come up on a whim but at the the same time I don't try my best to keep my real name hidden so I'm not sure. Maybe I'll make a pseudonym in the near future though.

  9. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    My mom was a postmaster for 30 years so she has a huge stamp collection.

    Merry Christmas!


  10. Fascinating story, Lee. This pseudonym had to pop in and see how you came up with your name.

    You've done quite well, I might add, in establishing this "name" for yourself.

    Wishing you the very best that the season has to offer, and hoping your new year brings you new journeys and new treasures!

  11. A fun post, Lee. My name change was a lot simple. Everyone told me I shouldn't try getting published as Leszczuk - some nonsense about it being hard to spell/pronounce/whatever - so I just reverted back to my maiden name. After all, I was Masterson for 20 years before I became Leszczuk (we won't discuss how many years ago that was.)

    Have a wonderful holiday.

  12. Enjoyed the history of your name. Is that you in the picture in the corner juggling, then?

  13. McARLEE BOID ~
    Dang, it's about time you finally answered that question for me. I know I asked it of you more than once. And at times I have even entertained the idea of asking again... and again...

    But I finally just gave up, figuring I would probably NEVER learn the real meaning of that name.

    So, thanks! I'll consider this a long overdue Christmas present to me.

    By the way, not that it matters, but I think of all the names you mentioned, my favorite would be Arlee Jackson. Arlee is quite unique in itself, and Jackson is a good, powerful, American name with lots of patriotic history (Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson from Tennessee being my favorite president).

    I can't imagine any reasonably intelligent person would ever believe that Arlee Bird is anything other than a pseudonym, but Arlee Bird it is! It's well established on the Internet now and there would be no going back even if ya wanted to.

    Hey, for years I have collected matchbooks too - even though I've never been a smoker - and I still use mechanical pencils, primarily for writing notes in the margins of my Bible pages, and for the occasional times when I jot something down in that old diary where I once poured out my love for "Ulanda" in the fifth grade.

    Have the merriest of Christmases, Arlee Boid McBrotherman! ...and thanks again for finally getting around to "spilling the beans 'bout what it means".

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  14. So it's like an old stage name? Good choice. "Bird" gets you higher up in the alphabet, too. I like my last name, but it places me at the end, which is a bummer sometimes.

    Merry Christmas, Arlee Bird!

  15. I'm so very happy for this post! Ever since I met you, I've wondered about your name. In fact, for the first two weeks of the 2011 AZ challenge, I thought you were a female. "Arlee" sounded like "Arlene" and your wallpaper was pink. I know lots of men wear pink, it's not that, it's just that as you're getting to know bloggy friends, a lot of first impression made come from what our blogs look like.
    As to the list of 7 revelations, I was very surprised how many of those we share!

    I used to collect stamps. Still have them.

    I used to collect postcards. I don't have those. I've sent them.

    I have a rather pronounced pen and pencil addiction. I pretty much love any office supply, but having just the right writing utensil for the particular task is very important to me.

    I tried collecting match books. Started with one from each of the Vegas casinos, but lost interest after that.

    My first bookclub was in my native Sweden, and it was all about horses AND books. Books ABOUT horses. I was a happy girl.

    I still have my vinyl records, and a record player. Only had a handful of cassettes. The Engineer has an 8-track player, and some serious classics for it.

    Yesterday I wrote about hoarding in this post.
    Tina @ Life is Good

  16. "Mary Tipton"
    oh, that's just precious, Lee :)

    " There is a real possibility that I am a hoarder"
    well, we've seen you hoarding e-mails in your inbox :)

    I hope you like my own pseudonym, I don't think any of the American readers would know how to pronunce my real name even though it's phonetic :)

  17. It was interesting to read the story behind your name!

    Congratulations on the award. :)

    I still use pencils . . . I don't like sharpening them, but you can't erase pen and I never had much luck with mechanical pencils.

  18. Fascinating story of the Arlee Bird creation. One of the best posts I have read in a while. Sounds like a widely varied life you have led...BTW, I grew up in Ohio, living several years in Canton and along Lake Erie in a town called Vermilion.

    Merry Christmas Lee!

  19. That is a really interesting story Lee! I love hearing how other people have chosen their names. :)

    We did a pretty big house cleanout 2 summers ago and I finally threw out all of those old cassette tapes. Felt a bit guilty, but out they went!

  20. Fascinating post and a great story. Thanks!

  21. Lee,
    I enjoyed this post and often wondered how you came up with your pen name! So glad you shared~
    I'm a Jackson, too...maybe we are related ;D
    I love you self representation, very clever and cool!

    My blog name has become my name, funny how it all comes about~

    Happy Holidays to you n' yours!

  22. My thanks to all of you who stopped by with you wonderful comments. I didn't expect such a great response here at the Christmas busy season. And, yes, Stephen McC, I was thinking in terms of a Christmas present of sorts when I offered this post.

    Have a great Christmas everyone!


  23. Well, it is a memorable name :-)) And a collector only becomes a hoarder when the piles are over your head!! (Or so I was told.)
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!!!

  24. I used to collect stamps. Joined stamp clubs and bought stamps from around the world. I think they're still in my parents basement packed away somehwere. Merry Christmas!

  25. I love learning how people come by the names they use. I'm a very nosy person :-)

    Merry Christmas.

  26. Mr Jackson, just a quick comment to let you know that I'm thinking of you this Christmas day and pray that you are blessed today. God bless you my friend, Geoff.

  27. I feel privileged that I already knew the origin of the name. Didn't even question it when I first read your blog. ("Oh, like Arlee Bird Entertainment," I thought.)

  28. Thanks for the additional comments. And yes, Kelly, you are one of my few readers who knew me before I began blogging. Most of my old friends would probably never even know the Arlee Bird connection if they ran across it somewhere.


  29. Hi Lee .. glad to have found out about the origins of your name .. interesting .. and all that hoarding .. cheers Hilary

  30. I had to chuckle over your comment about hoarding - I have the same problem. ;-D

    Hope you had a lovely holiday!

  31. Hilary and Paula-- Thanks for stopping by. I am definitely a hoarder--it's kind of fun, but it takes up too much space.


  32. I enjoyed reading about the pen name. I'm using one also, mostly out of concerns about privacy. One of these days though I'll have to drop it and "come out".

    I was looking for your contact info; the E-mail link on blogger doesn't work when you only use Yahoo for mail.

    I wasn't quite sure how guest bloggers were in contact with you for the A to Z Challenge, but I was interested in guest blogging. I did not do the A to Z Challenge last year, but I did a random word challenge daily in 2011.

    Under the tab "Finding Ideas", I discuss how I did the challenge. I think it's very applicable to what you are doing. After doing the random word challenge, I'm up for the A to Z!

    Thanks for reading my note! Enjoy the New Year!


  33. Cool twisting and turning roller coaster learning about your name! Even wrote as a woman? Cool. Plus I'm shocked there is another Arlee Bird! One day I should explain my name, sounds like fun. I used to collect coins and stamps, but it never stuck past childhood. Was into comics and shot glasses, too. Happy New Year!


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