Posted by on in Magnolia City

When a writer becomes entitled

b2ap3_thumbnail_549070_562643820442674_785402469_n.jpgFinding the right name for your novel can be tricky. It’s really part of the text and can be just as important as that first sentence. In my last blog, I suggested that every novelist must find what Henry James liked to call the donnée, from the French for “given,” what life has implanted in you. It lies inside. The same is true of the title. The concept of your book carries within it the right name. It is often hidden inside the manuscript, in a phrase or clause, and can be winnowed out by a good editor.

People wonder why Magnolia City was on my list of possible titles for a book about Houston, Texas. It makes them think of the Deep South. But as I delved into the history of my hometown, I discovered many surprises. The biggest one was that Houston’s historic nickname was “the Magnolia City.” This may seem odd until you realize that during the period my novel is set, the 1920s, Houston was still a gracious bayou town, steaming at the edge of the Old South but awash in the new money of Spindletop oil. The city didn’t get varnished with the Western Myth until the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo kicked off in 1932. Before that, there were no cowboys or Indians in Houston’s history.

But there was a lost Eden. During Edwardian days, Houstonians took the trolley out to Magnolia Park along Buffalo Bayou, an earthly paradise that was designed to rival Central Park and was planted with 3750 Southern magnolia trees. It was wiped out by urban sprawl in the 1920s but lingered in the collective memory of Old Houstonians like the lost scent of the fragrant white flowers that gave the city its name.

That’s why I feel entitled to use Magnolia City as the handle for my novel. It not only evokes the romance of those days, but sets up the struggle my flapper heroine will face as she rebels against an old Southern code of behavior. If you’d like to read more about her journey to womanhood, please click on the subscribe button and fill in the information (it won’t be used for any other purpose).

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  • Guest
    Marilyn Kobialka Monday, 16 December 2013

    Great information on Houston. Part of my family once owned the land where Spindletop was located.

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Guest Monday, 19 February 2018