Erin Lynn Violette is a recent graduate from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program in Creative Writing. She currently lives in Hollywood with her husband Ryan, and their spirited dog Abbey.
Miss Pamela: Writing Experience With Pamela Des Barres By Erin Lynn Violette
Who’d have thought a girl like me, who loves music and writing, would be sitting in one of Pamela Des Barres’ writing workshops in her Los Angeles home? This was more than I could have hoped for.
I was excited to see how this workshop would go. Clearly Ms. Des Barres has her writing merit with four books under her belt– including I’M WITH THE BAND and LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER: BACKSTAGE SECRETS OF ROCK MUSES AND SUPERGROUPIES– and countless writing credits in the online and magazine arenas.
What drew me to her (and I’m sure draws many people to her) is the love of music. My love for music is rivaled only by my love to write, and Miss Pamela (as she likes to be called) offers a little of both in her fabulous writing workshops.
The workshop was for two nights, three hours each night. I arrived a little early the first night with a bottle of wine, Christmas cookies, and chips (which were my husband Ryan’s contribution, although he wasn’t taking part). Miss Pamela’s workshops are for ladies only.
Upon arriving there was a very appreciated handwritten sign letting us know that we were at the correct doorstep, and when Miss Pamela opened the door she was gracious and explained how she was making some last minute preparations for us.
Her living room, where the workshops were conducted, was a warm space decorated with a plush leopard print sofa, and a few wicker chairs. Her walls were covered in art, some of it created by her long time friend and Captain Beefheart’s cousin, Victor. A picture of Jesus glowed from under her dining room table, and Elvis and James Dean were present in the form of memorabilia everywhere- still dearly loved by this one-time groupie.
Her absolute favorites you ask? They are still Elvis, and James Dean. In fact Miss Pamela still gives writing workshops in James Deans’ hometown in Fairmount, IN. She added Mickey Mouse to her list of favorites, and expressed praise and love for the genius that is Bob Dylan.
“He is our bard,” she cooed. “Our modern day Shakespeare, he’s it. I met with him once. He told me he liked my book. He read it cover to cover, and he said ‘you’re a real good writer.'” She places both hands to her heart. “‘OK I can die now,’ I thought.”
We laughed and admitted this was an awesome compliment. Bob Dylan remains top on Miss Pamela’s list of dream men.
And this is pretty much how the night carried on – great conversations and little spurts of Q&A, interspersed with some great writing exercises. Each night we covered three writing prompts and followed Miss Pamela’s writing rules – no qualifying, keep your pen moving, and do not correct, just go, go, go.
The stuff we wrote was funny, profound, sometimes sad, often times beautiful and most of all it was fun to be sitting amongst a group of like-minded women, bonding through our shared love of writing, and music.
My husband who is always up for a barroom gig was happy to go, and we arrived early. I ordered my usual – a Shirley Temple, and Ryan had a beer. When Miss Pamela arrived we sat at a table in front, and to the side of the stage. Ryan was honored to buy Miss Pamela and her friend each a white wine spritzer.
“How often do you get the chance to buy the most famous groupie a drink?” he later confessed to me on the ride home; and it was certain Miss Pamela still had that certain je ne sais quoi.
One of the bartenders came to the table wiping it down and saying hello to Miss Pamela. Later, what seemed to be a modern day groupie reached her hand out to touch Miss Pamela’s. She smiled warmly before slinking back out onto the dance floor and stealing a quick kiss from Dan Janisch between songs. Then she disappeared to the side of the stage and took pictures with her digital camera.
I couldn’t help but notice when most people started clapping at the end of a song, Miss Pamela never clapped until the last chord was played.
A few songs later Dan announced he was going to sing a song dedicated to Pamela. And the dutiful music lover, Miss Pamela, got up and danced. I regret I do not remember what song it was, but Ryan said it was one that made him think of the Velvet Underground’s “There She Goes.”
Lost in the music her body was translating the melody, the words, and the very meaning of the song to the rest of us, quite the same way someone would use their hands to sign a speech in American Sign Language. It was then I realized the term “groupie” really meant music goddess, even music muse. Because here she was decades since her heyday in the arms of Jimmy Page, and here she was still hopelessly in love with the music -many times burned by the musician, but never by the music. The music that kept her brushing off her knees and going to another gig.
Groupies like Miss Pamela have been discovering the music before the rest of us even realize what hit us. She saw bands like The Doors perform before they were famous, so I felt I should get up and announce, “Watch out world because Dan Janisch could be next!” I went home and purchased his CDs on iTunes because he was that good! And if I had to define him in a sentence I would say he’s a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, with great stage presence, a strong voice, and Michael Hutchence hair. In a second sentence I would say he’s the kind of musician who crosses generations in that I know my grandparents, and parents would like him as much as I do.
Miss Pamela’s writing workshop was a great experience and worth every penny. She creates a safe and fun writing environment that allows your creativity flow. A lot of ladies return to Miss Pamela’s workshops numerous times, in fact two attendees had been before. There’s no question I would return. It’s a great chance to talk about music and passion, it’s an opportunity to meet wonderful people, and to write and share without inhibition.
(photos courtesy of the author)