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.
Image via WikipediaUsing 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