Thursday, September 1, 2011

On Props

JAN BROGAN _ As the Boston Globe noted yesterday, our governor of Massachusetts has taken to props. He wore a black fleece emblazoned with the initials for MEMA "Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency," when he toured the town of Greenfield in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene -- even though he took no real part in the recovery action and surely, it was too hot for a fleece in August.

Apparently, it's the same fleece he wore during snowstorms. And he's also been known to put on firefighter jacket when the publicity moment felt right.

It's nothing new for a politician to try to convey an image. Scott Brown wore his barn jacket and drove a pickup truck when he was campaigning, and I think Ronald Reagan might have started it all with an informal sweater.

Tina Fey in her memoir BossyPants (which I heartily recommend) reveals that she first wore her glasses in the the SNL News segment because forgot to put in her contact lenses, but the glasses were so popular, they became du rigeur.

That got me to thinking about props. They're for everyone really. We already talked Tuesday about the high priced yoga pants I indulge in for yoga (although I hadn't yet told you about the mat, the yoga bag, or the Ugg sandals that complete the experience) and now I'll admit I have certain clothes I only wear when I'm on Martha's Vineyard - all of them longer, looser, and maybe a bit more hippyish. I'll spare you and not go into all my tennis gear - which goes well beyond sneakers and racquets.

But I even have props for writing - and that's outright silly. But yes, I have special typewriter earrings for when I'm doing speaking engagements or book signings, and a Shakespeare coffee mug for when I'm writing at my desk. (it was a gift, but still, is that pretentious, or what?)

At any rate, I think we all have our props. My question is: What are yours?


  1. That article about Patrick's wardrobe as he's out assessing the damage wrought by Irene--reminded me of folks go on about Hilary Clinton's hair as she's involved in peace negotiations. Though I do love Madeleine Albright's power pins (she wore a snake pin to interview Saddam Hussein). The ultimate prop.

    But that's not the point here... which is, props. I sharpen pencils. Rarely do I actually use one, but getting them sharp is a form of nesting that gets me ready to write.

  2. Sharpening pencils -- I love it. Sort of like a symbolic act to turn on your writing brain.

  3. I have my special pens and notebooks for this and that; a novel journal, a notes journal, etc. But the real prop is the cup of tea. I do have some themed mugs (one with a picture of London and a double decker bus, and I have a pink hippo mug from Leander Club, a souvenir from my latest book) but mostly I use one of my English Burleighware blue and white mugs. And I suppose that's a prop in itself.

    As for touring or signing, no special earrings or clothes or signing pens. My goal is always to looked somewhat pulled together and to find just the right balance between professional and artisty-writerly-hippy, and I'm sure I'll never quite manage to pull it off.

    Or look thin . . .

  4. Props, public,I guess I wear suits. Although suits are so OVER now, it's very distressing.

    On my desk is a bottle of wine I go from Sue Grafton. I can't tell you how inspirational it is.

    I'm still on the hunt for the perfect signing pen. Anyone, anyone? That's aprop I (happily!) still need.

    Sept 1? NO WAY.

  5. I started my mystery writing career with props--or rather one big prop. It was a traditional Welsh hat (rather like a witches hat) and I wore it to all my events when I spoke about my Cosntable Evans Welsh books.
    People still ask me about that hat.

    These days it's just bookmarks and fun giveaways at my events. I'm doing antique style French jewelry and mouse pads for Naughty in Nice when I go on tour next week.

  6. The jewelry sounds pretty cool, Rhys!

    Are suits really that over, Hank. Sounds like a discussion for tomorrow's blog....

    Tune in tomorrow for Fifty Dresses that Changed the World.


  7. Yikes. This discussion reminds me how very unprepared I am to be a 'real' author. I often work as a private investigator and I'm an outdoorsy kind of gal, and so I tend to use disguises and distractions like bicycle helmets and kayaking gear. But now I need to come up with some kind of 'theme' for my author persona--what prop could possibly indicate "writer-who-loves-wilderness"? That's going to take me awhile to figure out...

  8. See...and I thought you meant he got his in his due.
    i actually write with a pencil so that still a prop? I also buy and use the giant cap erasers that go on the puny erasers most pencils come with. (I erase a lot.) The wonderful robin Agnew gave me a skull and crossbones pin that I like to wear to events, Doris Ann Norris made me a Dead Head pin with charms that I also like to wear and debby buchanan gave me a Let's Get Dirty pin. Fun to wear those. My fave pen to sign with is an Aurora Asia roller ball. my hubby gave it to me when my first book came out and it's my lucky pen!

  9. When I began writing Who Do, Voodoo? I bought a very fancy "authoresque" pen. Weighty, the pen felt so good, just right in my hand. That romance lasted a few months and now the pen sits in a drawer waiting for a special occasion like the fancy lingerie in the drawer upstairs. I'm scouting for a prop, preferably something that will inspire me to great word counts with endless twists, conflict opportunities, and cliff-hanger chapter endings.

    I'm reading Bossypants right now. I (heart) Tina Fey!

  10. I didn't think I had any props but after reading all this I realize I do have them.

    I must have those erasers on my pencils, Rosemary. And I always use pencils to edit my work.

    I must have a glass of iced tea next to my computer, unless it is below 20 degrees, then it's hot tea.

    Unless I'm starting a new project, I always read the last line of my work. This puts me in writing mode.

    I'm with you on the Sept 1st thing, Hank. I hate it! Where did summer go?

  11. I can't wait to see if I got any of the Fifty Dresses question right!! I hope you post a complete list, jan...