It was only a matter of time, really. Our Writing Center typewriter – a dubious Remington Quiet-Riter – bit the techno-dust and had to be replaced. All that creative effort on the Big Ass Roll of Paper, all those timid hands clacking out their first mechanical writing, well, it was too much for the old girl. She threw a feed roller. Not AT us, mind you, but certainly in revolt.
I went home and made a quick search under the bed for another machine that could take the kind of semi-Kerouacian punishment our writing tutors can dish out. And look what I found.
This sweet Royal was an Ebay chance I took a year ago. I paid more in shipping, and not much there. What arrived was this completely pristine Royal Quiet Deluxe. She’s an odd textured green – something between August grass and Ozark moss. The roller had never been struck and all the paperwork sat tucked inside the top of the case.
The truth is, I’d forgotten about this little jewel. And yes, I feel a little guilty about it.
Jennifer and I retired the Quiet-Riter with all the dignity due that toad-colored workhorse. Spinning the BAROP gingerly out was a tad tricky considering missing feed roller and the delicacy of the teletype roll, not to mention the enormous length of the damn thing. It was a two-woman job.
I think I heard “Taps” playing softly behind us, but I’m not sure.
Percy came to me in a dream, almost. I’d been hunting one of these with a vengeance for some time and with no luck whatsoever. Then – just as it happens with true love – I stopped looking and this Royal KHM showed up at my office door with a fist full of road-picked flowers and a shy grin.
It seems he’s not from around here. Probably hopped a train from Chicago – I found the barest remnant of it stamped on the shreds of his vinyl cover. You know, I live in a train town and it’s not least bit unusual to find a wayward traveler here and there. I’ve taken him in, promised hot water and hot meals in return for a little office work.
Oh, he’s filthy. I knocked out dirt-dobber nests and a couple of spider skeletons. Despite that, I was able to dust him off, put in a new ribbon, and begin typing as if not a day had passed since 1936. A steady, even Elite. This will be my new office typewriter – after a good going over.
Ed, I’m sorry you couldn’t get your hands on this one. You would’ve loved it.
I just found out. Ed Cordon, my friend and typewriter repairman at Acme Business Machines is gone. Those interested may want to leave a message here. I’ll send a long letter to his wife, typed on one of the many typewriters Ed lovingly resurrected for me.
It isn’t enough, though. School began and I was busy. I never called and now I can’t.
I‘ve made the commitment, and sworn to do my duty as a NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison. No going back now – I’m writing a novel in “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” Why am I doing this to myself? Because last year I wrote over 50,000 words in thirty days and it made me happy.
It was the finest writing experience of my life.
I found out just how far I could push myself despite grading and conference-hopping and other general must-do business.
The mad month redefined me as a writer and forced this poet to sling out a story that held together.
At the end of the month, I had a novel in hand and the giddiness of it floated me until, well, just now.
I‘m exactly where I was last October – no plot, no plan. Just a character I’ve been carrying around with me for a while. My strategy is simple: Start writing and let the character tell you the story.
I do tend, as I slam the thing out, to have an idea for a direction or scene. In order to keep those handy, I create a file, name it, then close it and get back to writing. When I open up the Novel Folder each day, the scenes are listed right there. I simply click on one of them and begin. At the end of the month, I piece the puzzle back together and it’s ready for rewrite.
That’s it. No note cards or agonizing character outlines. No plotting maze. I let the characters be and they go where they wish, committing all manner of lovely and unlovely acts. The critters walk around with me and whisper in my ear all day. By the morning write, there’s story.
I can’t wait to see this year’s novel roll out from under my fingers. I’m not sure I have the muscular fortitude of the Typewriter Brigade, a stealthy group of miscreants who manage to produce their NaNoWriMo Novels purely on typewriters. I’m going to slam out part of it on the old manual machines, though, as long as my fingers hold out. We’ll see how that little experiment works.
If you feel you can join us, do. If you can’t, grab some pom-poms and start cheering on November 1st.
If you listen very closely you can hear a collective oooh-aaah in the typosphere. Strikethru Publishing’s first volume of Silent Type: A Retrotech Journal made its way to the mailboxes this week and I’m beside myself with typewriter love. Forty-three pages of full-color photography and divine collage in addition to fiction, poetry, and essays – in full typewritten glory.
It’s a strong read and a stunning tribute to the retrotech in all of us. Strikethru, take a bow.
No, take two.
Volume I ran out as quickly as it was printed, although there’s talk of a second printing and a nudge here and there toward Volume II. If you can’t live another minute without having a copy in your hands, let Strikethru know. Tell her Monda sent you.