How did I come up with the name “jorjastone?”
It’s a long story, best told with some time and a glass of wine. It’s a story of friendship, ideology and word play. It begins with my friendship, as a young woman, with an old man.
I was 19 in 1981 when I moved from Minneapolis to Winona, Minnesota. I had been to Winona a few times to visit a girlfriend from camp. I was fascinated by the bluff lands along the Mississippi River, and I wanted to explore the area.
At the same camp, my college-age counselors introduced me to the early days of natural foods and food co-ops. My first chore in Winona was to find the co-op and stock-up on brown rice, lentils, and dried apricots. The Famine Foods co-op was housed in the old, John Latsch grocery brick building. It was also home to Kupietz Feed and a place called The Free Trade Exchange. Free, trade and exchange sounded intriguing to me since I had recently quit my three jobs and moved to Winona with no job prospects. Inside, I found Ellery Foster, a tall, lean man in a flannel shirt with a full, white beard and long white hair combed back from a receding hairline. He was seated at his desk behind his typewriter.
Ellery was a retired forester and bureaucrat. In retirement, he had the time, and a regular pension check to support his true calling: barter, free trade, and rampant idealism. Over the following months and years, I often stopped in to chat with Ellery, and we became good friends. Many of the details of our conversation are lost to me now, but Ellery’s influence has remained with me on my trail of community, collaboration and co-operative work over the decades.
Ellery wrote a lot and he formed the “People’s Theatre” to present his ideas about sociology and economics to the public. One day in 1986, he asked me to pose as a fictional character he had created, Georgia Stone. He carried on a dialog with Georgia in a book he was about to self-publish. His Georgia Stone “shuns publicity,” so he wanted a photo of me wearing a broad brim straw hat shot from the back as I reached for the door to enter The Free Trade Exchange.
I’ve always been camera shy, but I agreed because I was pleased that Ellery had asked me to be in his little book. I didn’t concur with everything Ellery said and wrote, but his overall premise was benevolent. Over the years, the character, Georgia Stone, and Ellery have often come to mind.
Later, when I began writing, I sometimes felt simultaneous waves of excitement and embarrassment at the thought of my work being published. I wondered if I needed a pen name to hide behind and to have a more unique name than “Johnson.” Then in the 90s or early 2000s, I saw Georgia spelled “Jorja.” I thought the two J’s in Jorja corresponded to my initials, JJ. I liked the look of lower case j’s coupled with the one-word electronic addresses format, and so Ellery’s Georgia Stone morphed into my jorjastone. When I need a pen name it will be Jorja Stone. I like the way it looks and the way it sounds. It’s unique to me.