I feel like Johnny Carson! (not dating myself at all, am I?)
Joining me today is a terrific writer and friend, Laura Maylene Walter. Laura is the author of Living Arrangements, a short story collection that recently won a gold IPPY award. She blogs (far more regularly than I) at www.lauramaylenewalter.com While I’m in California, Laura is filling in with a post about her childhood love of typewriters. It’s almost like she channeled me: last week, when I spoke to a big group of fourth and fifth graders, I regaled them with how I wrote my very first stories on an ancient machine that weighed twelve million pounds.
Actually, my own fascination with typewriters began long before–I longed to be a secretary, like the ones I saw on TV, in a sweater set and pearls. I especially looked forward to buzzing the boss when a visitor came to the office.
Here’s Laura’s post–thanks, Laura!
When I was a kid, I liked to write on our old manual typewriter. This thing was the real deal –inky ribbons that bled everywhere, sticky and jammed keys, slanty type, and that delicious tap-tap-tap sound. I typed stories and little books and even gossipy newsletters for my friends on that typewriter. It actually made a ding when you reached the end of a line and the shift key really meant something. I loved it. Loved it!
But the typewriter wasn’t without its frustrations. It couldn’t erase, which meant every word, every letter, was permanent. Even so, I wasn’t afraid to just sit down and type out whatever came to mind. But this created problems, too, like the time I asked my oldest brother how to spell a
long word. I typed out every letter as he said it – and it wasn’t until he threw an X in there that I realized he was just spouting off random letters so I’d mess up my entire page. Thanks a lot.
When I was eleven years old, I took my carefully saved money, stalked the aisles of the office supply store, and bought the most exciting thing ever: an electric typewriter.
That electric typewriter was a huge step up. First, it could erase. It did this weird backwards skip to magically rub out the last letter or word. Sure, sometimes you could still see a ghost of what had been there, but at least you didn’t have to pound the keys full force or actually touch the
ribbon and get ink everywhere. Plus, it felt professional, had automated settings and even served as an investment for the pen pal club I’d started.
Eventually, typing tools lost their spark – probably after the appearance of the word processor, that clunky pre-computer thing my mother bought. She kept it for years, even after we got a real computer. Once we were firmly in the computer era, I tried the word processor one last time but became incredibly frustrated that it couldn’t copy and paste. How could it have a screen and a blinking cursor and not cut and paste text? Ridiculous! I never used it again.
By now, I’ve gone through a stream of laptops. The last place I remember seeing the ancient manual typewriter was in the storage shed in the backyard when my brothers and I were cleaning out the house after it sold. We must have thrown the typewriter away. I wish now that I still had
it, even though it probably wouldn’t work and the ribbons would be hard to find and I would never actually use it to write. It would just be nice to have it again, to lift the heft of its case and remember the times I sat typing on the screened-in porch or alone in my room. That typewriter was, after all, what I used to type some of my earliest stories, way back when I first understood
what it felt like to be a writer with dreams.