Sugarland- My inspiration & other posts

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message 1: by Martha (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
My Inspiration for Sugarland

One day I was listening to a song called “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (If You See My Mother) played by the great Sidney Bechet. As the song went along, I realized I was imagining a story in the back of my mind: A woman was walking down a cold, winter street—a slushy urban street crowded with buildings—and she was looking for someone. That’s all I knew at first.

The name “Sugarland” comes from the corn sugar that bootleggers used to make hooch. One of the fun things about writing about the 1920s is all the great slang I could use, like hooch. My daughter recently told me that she wished that the phrase "the bees' knees" would come back into style. I agree!

For me, story comes from character. However, sometimes the character I first peg as the main character can’t quite handle the job, and I have to switch perspectives in later drafts. That’s what happened with me in Sugarland — and I’ll speak more about that later on this week.

In Sugarland, two women desperately want something; one wants to find her sister, and the other wants to find out who killed her brother. The two have to pair together, in part because they need to canvas two worlds — both white and African-American in 1920s Chicago—to learn the whole truth. I love the idea of two people from two different parts of society pairing up and bonding. Eve and Lena had to do just that, and it was a real pleasure chronicling their deepening trust in each other.

In the coming week, I will write more about the character of Eve, and the real-life musician who inspired her. I’ll also share some of my thoughts about writing this story, and my own process in general. I’ll also be on hand to answer any specific questions you have.

message 2: by Rebecca, Champagne Widows, 2021 (new)

Rebecca Rosenberg (rebeccarosenberg) | 270 comments Mod
You inspired me to look up some fun 1920 slang!!!
1. Ankle: to walk
2. “Applesauce!”: “Horsefeathers!”
3. “Bank’s closed!”: what you tell someone to stop making out
4. Bearcat: a lively, spirited woman, possibly with a fiery streak
5. Berries: like “bee’s knees,” denotes that something is good, desirable or pleasing. “That sounds like berries to me!”

6. Bimbo: refers to a macho man
7. Bluenose: term for a prude or individual deemed to be a killjoy
8. Bubs: a woman’s boobs
9. “Bushwa!”: “Bullshit!”
10. “Butt me!”: “I would like a cigarette.”

11. Cancelled stamp: a shy, lonely female, the type one would describe as a “wallflower”
12. Cash: a smooch
13. Cake-eater: in the 1920’s refers to a “ladies’ man”; later, slang for homosexual
14. Cheaters: Glasses or bifocals
15. Choice bit of calico: a desirable woman

16. Darb: something deemed wonderful or splendid, similar to “berries”
17. Dewdropper: like lollygagger, a slacker who sits around all day and does nothing, often unemployed
18. “Don’t take any wooden nickels!”: “Don’t do anything dumb!”

19. Dumb Dora: an unintelligent woman
20. Egg: a person who leads an absurdly wealthy, extravagant lifestyle (see: Gatsby’s “West Egg”)

21. Four-flusher: someone who mooches off the money of others in order to feign wealth
22. Gasper: cigarette, “fag” (also of the 1920s)
23. Giggle water: liquor, alcoholic beverage
24. “Go chase yourself!”: “Get out of here!”
25. Handcuff: engagement ring

26. Half-seas over: shitfaced
27. Hayburner: a car with poor gas-mileage, a guzzler
28. Hotsy-totsy: attractive, pleasing to the eye
29. Icy mitt: rejection from the object of one’s affection, as in: “He got the icy mitt.”
30. Iron one’s shoelaces: to excuse oneself for the restroom

31. Jake: okay, fine, as in “Don’t worry, everything’s jake.”
32. Jorum of skee: a swig of alcohol, particularly hard liquor
33. Know your onions: to know what’s up or what’s going on
34. “Let’s blouse!”: “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”
35. Manacle: Wedding ring

36. Mazuma: Dollar bills, cash, money

37. Mrs. Grundy: an uptight or very straight-laced individual
38. Noodle juice: tea.
39. “Now you’re on the trolley!”: “Now you’ve gotten it right!”
40. Oliver Twist: an extremely good dancer.

41. On a toot: on a bender
42. Ossified: drunk
43. Quilt: an alcoholic beverage that keeps you warm
44. Panther piss: whiskey, particularly homemade whiskey
45. Petting pantry: a cinema or movie theatre

46. “Phonus balonus!”: “That’s nonsense!” or “That’s horseshit!”
47. Pull a Daniel Boone: to upchuck
48. Reuben: a hick or redneck
49. Rub: a dance party for college or high school students
50. Sheba – someone’s girlfriend; or a sexually desirable woman

51. Sinker: a doughnut
52. Sockdollager: an event or action of great importance
53. Spifflicated: inebriated
54. “Tell it to Sweeney!”: what you say when you believe something to be untrue; “Tell it to someone who would buy that!”
55. Tomato: a woman

Flickr/Duke Yearlook
56. Upstage: arrogant, snobby
57. Whoopee: to have a good time, “make whoopee”
58. Wurp: wet blanket or person seen as a buzzkill (see: Debbie Downer)
59. Zozzled: shitfaced

message 3: by Martha (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod
Oh my gosh, I love these!

The spirit of the age was so creative in so many ways. Everything was changing. More (and more innovative) machinery meant that fewer people could do the same amount of work on a farm, so people were moving to the cities. People were circulating out of their usual spheres, and influencing each other. It was the start of the modern age. It only makes sense that language was changing, too—or at least a kind of creativity, innovation, that was applauded rather than stifled. Playing with words.

message 4: by Alice (new)

Alice | 11 comments Wow! Thanks, Rebecca. I loved reading this list and thinking about the ones that still seem familiar. There are quite a few! The slang really does call up the time. An important tool for writers, but one to use sparingly, like jargon. Reading the long list reminded me of that great pages-long section of The Sotweed Factor that is all words for a prostitute.

message 5: by Alice (new)

Alice | 11 comments Martha wrote: "My Inspiration for Sugarland

One day I was listening to a song called “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (If You See My Mother) played by the great Sidney Bechet. As the song went along, I realized I was imagin..."

Enjoyed this post, Martha. Looking forward to more.

message 6: by Martha (new)

Martha Conway | 255 comments Mod

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