Fresh Ribbon for my Typewriter-Jones

Fresh Ribbon

This is what happens when I get a little spring break time on my hands. I started a new blog, Fresh Ribbon. It’s a full-blown typewriter-obssession site and I’ve had a blast getting it started. There are a lot of Very Serious typewriter collecting sites out there in the electronic void – this isn’t one of them. Too girly. Who cares.

That doesn’t mean I won’t let my typewriter-jones creep in over here, though. I just like to put things in piles sometimes, and the No Telling pile was getting a tad unwieldy. Besides, nothing is more fun than designing a new site and it makes me write. Self-imposed deadlining and such. We all play these little headgames to get the words moving from our heads to something more substantial. This blogging thing seems to work for me.

The writer-poet-English major-thing creeps in over there, too. If for no other reason, you have to visit Fresh Ribbon just to see the smoking-and-typing poetry video I’ve implanted on there. It’s not mine, but it should have been.

Obviously, I’m finding excuses not to prepare for the post-spring-break-week ahead. Enough of that. I’m hyphenating too much anyway.

Go write a “Dear John” letter for the weekly challenge. I’ll need a little entertainment this afternoon when I’m taking breaks.

Spring Break Heaven is a Typewriter Repair Shop


I’m a lucky woman and I know it. I just happen to live in a place where there are more than a few old-school typewriter repairmen still plying their trade. While making the rounds with my Tower President, I ran into a local man who told me the place to go for typewriter repair of any unusual kind is definitely Acme Business Machines in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

There is no link to the shop because, well . . . Acme doesn’t have a website OR an email address. They just have a shop and a telephone.

Since Acme is only about 20 minutes from my house, I just loaded up my janky Olympia Socialite and headed out. Three hours later, I drove home with my eyes bugging out and a 1948 Smith Corona Silent in the back seat.

I’m not going to give you a play-by-play right now. I should have taken a camera with me to Acme Business Machines. Who knew it would be such a typewriter haven? I’ve got a return trip scheduled to pick up the Socialite, and you can bet this time the trip will be fully documented. Stay tuned.

I typed on every single machine the owner would let me near, and he just kept handing me paper. When he opened the Smith Corona Silent case I thought I’d burst into tears – it was so beautiful, perfect, NEW looking. After typing on everything in the store, the touch of the Silent was music. Every typewriter site I’ve ever visited touts the old SC Silents as the best typers, but you really must get your hands on one and type a line or ten to fully appreciate the soft insistence of its keys. Line after line the machine functioned as if it planned to live forever, and it just might. This machine is tight and controlled. It has substance.

Of course I left with it.

I typed that night on it for hours and I could have kept going. The trick, as Will Davis at the Typewriter Forum told me, is to get the machine at the perfect height. The keys are more upright, so the machine needs to sit a little lower for comfort. Once I found the perfect table, there was serious typewriter mojo.

I call her Mamie.


The First Typewriter


I began my collection about two months ago with my first purchase – a 1958 Tower President 12 with cursive type. My daughter instantly named her Agnes Gooch after a character in a 1958 Rosalind Russell film. If you’ve never seen Auntie Mame, you simply must. Immediately.

It took a month for one of my local typewriter shops to get her cleaned up and ready for work. The Ebay seller was a sweet man from Missouri and this typewriter had been his mother’s.

All typewriters have a story – tell yours.



(This typecast is brought to you on Agnes, a 1958 Tower President 12.)

Here goes…


Welcome to Fresh Ribbon. As I scribbled on my other blog it became clear that my addiction to typewriters was fast becoming a focal point. Since I love organizing things into piles, I figured it was time to start a blog about typewriters.

I’m no mechanic, so this won’t be a place to find out how to fix your machine. It will be a place to talk about typewriter love and writing the way it should be done – without electronic editing-as-you-create and spellcheck.

Since I’ve rediscovered the joy of typing on machines, I’ve done a little research. Some of it is invaluable for typewriter ownership and some of it is just fun. Ephemera and lots of it. There are scads of helpful sites that can walk you handy types through the mechanics, and I’ll start listing those things over there on the left. God bless the handy, I say.

If you run into a site that might be helpful for those just beginning to collect/obsess, just let me know and I’ll add it.

With a little luck, maybe scribbling here and there on this blog will keep me off of Ebay and out of the poorhouse.

(Gas-masked typist can be found here.)

Valentine’s Gifts for Writers, or Olivettis are a Girl’s Best Friend


It’s almost V-Day, so get your plastic out and start buying. Since I waste a little bit of time each and every day on Ebay, I thought I’d share a few Valentine-specific goodies, like this Olivetti Valentine typewriter, circa 1969. If you don’t plan on spending at least $250 (that’s the bid right now), there’s another one coming up in a few days. These things have fast become groovy collector’s items, and it’s obvious why. If you sit behind this typewriter very, very quietly, you can almost hear “spill the wine, dig that girl” coming right out from under the hood.

Since both Olivettis will probably go for more than most of us want to spend, you can always feed the typewriter fetish with this vintage Royal Quiet Deluxe. I realize that “quiet” means something different to laptop users, but these are nifty little machines. This one has a little over a day left and is a tad over $40 right now. Theres a pricier one coming up later, so if you want to prove your love a little more cheaply, now is the time. I love the paper holding “ears”- kind of like the antennae on that portable television Mom used to put on a TV tray. You remember, back before cable.

Every writer needs another journal. It’s the pure intoxication of a virgin page, and no matter how many we already have it never hurts to have just one more. I’m a Moleskine and Chemistry Notebook gal myself, but some of the leather journals are just too delicious to pass up. This Fiorentina journal is crafted, not made. I sigh at such beauty, and I’m perfectly convinced I’d write better in one. Especially with a fountain pen.

I know better than that. As entrancing as those beautiful and expensive fountain pens are, I just can’t stand to write with one. I know there are rabid collectors out there who’ll tell me I just haven’t bought the right pen. Save your strength. Nothing writes like a $1.97 Uniball Signo 207. Nothing.

If you really want to impress on Valentine’s Day, you buy an obscenely large diamond. That’s easy. If you want to impress a writer, find a little ditty like this. It’s a writing box and every writer should have one. This folk art lap desk is more than just a writing surface – it’s a hidey-hole place to stash extra typing paper, Uniball 207s, and that Fiorentina journal. Keep in mind that if you don’t particularly like this one, Ebay has about fifty others for sale at any given moment. If you don’t buy it for the writer you love or who loves you, then for God’s sake send it to me.

The Alchemical Socialite


There she is, ladies and gentlemen. How can I possibly describe the feeling of having my fingers on the keys of a real machine again, slamming out the clicketys of a pouncing metallic onto the permanent page? My 1967 Olympia Socialite: she advances, she dings seductively at the end of a line, she reminds me of the first writings I ever made sitting at my father’s desk in front of the old Corona Sterling – only more meticulous, less athletic, sexier.

I’d forgotten about the sweet bell and the zing of a finished line. It took me about ten minutes, but the exquisite rhythm came back. Forget all those aching, ridiculous typing classes I took in high school. Those had a secretarial aura that insisted the point of using the machines was to type up someone else’s words. Quickly. No wonder I dreaded those drilling hours. If Mrs. W had put a woman’s typewriter in front of me and told me to have at it, I might have actually done it without rolling my eyes.

It’s typewriter abracadabra. I know it sounds crazy, but the entire world slows down and attends when I’m at the keys. The computer is a ravenous time-eater and feeds my embarrasingly short attention span. I swat web pages like gnats. Not so on the Socialite. On her the words are heavy and sentences have a sound. I can actually hear myself think. And that pesky “rewrite while you write” problem? Forget it. Each keystroke is an unregetted decision. Even when I pause or find myself a little stuck, my nails rest on the home-keys and restlessly tap until the words come.

And the words do come.

I whined, but I wrote


The two suitors offering to light my cigarette are Frustration and Distraction. You know those boys, and they’re not gentlemen at all. It’s bad enough when one of them comes calling, but I’m being double-teamed.

My personal, sacred scribbling time suffers, and it makes me difficult. Frustration and Distraction are wild-eyed bad-boys and they’ve both simply got to shoo.

I used to have this delightful hour every day when I sat outside – rain, shine, or tornado – and did a little hand-scribbling in a chemistry notebook. I’m one of those fidgety extroverts who can’t write in a closed room alone, so I always wrote outside the student center or at the local coffee shop. Just enough solitude, just enough background murmur, and the perfection of a good notebook.

It wasn’t that I was stoically productive or especially brilliant at those times, that wasn’t really the point. It was a languid, trusted hour without rules and “no smoking within 25 feet of door” signs. It was my hand gripping a perfect pen and gliding over the page with so much to say, to cram into that little hour. It was bad coffee and too many Virginia Slims in places where I never had to create a character because they were sitting all around me. Makes me a little misty just thinking about it.

I’m going to whine now, so pay close attention.

The problem began with the outdoor smoking ban at the coffee shop and student center renovations that cordoned off my Very Perfect Place To Write. These two events happened concurrently, leaving me no choice but to write in my office or at home. Both places lack ever-changing crowds and weather. Both places have a computer, and I suspect the computer is killing me. I really do.

In the time it took to write this far I already checked Ebay, my office email, my personal email, my students’ group blog, the weather for tomorrow, and CNN for the latest on the Michigan primary. Hillary won a one-man (person) race and Huckabee finished third. I’m serious. You know I am because you do this, too.

Frustration and Distraction. There they are. It’s enough to age me beyond my 36 years (thanks for the suggestion, Tim).

I’ve decided that the computer also makes me rewrite as I’m creating – something that doesn’t happen when I’m handwriting. It also makes me all parenthetical and dashy – a terrible, computer-invoked symptom reflecting an inability to concentrate for more than, say, three running seconds. Multitasking is good if you’re trying to clean the house or get ahead at your factory job, but it’s literary murder for those of us who need to write for extended periods just to feel balance.

I ran across a blog the other day that blew me away – Strikethru. Typecasting or papercasting is so delightful that I won’t attempt explanation. I’ll just show you. And then I’ll check my mail and Ebay and go to bed. You really should stop by this site.

Loose Ends


I’m really awfully busy, what with the spring semester starting and reading Jack Cafferty’s It’s Getting Ugly Out There and Ebay and scribbling terrible drafts of Chesaleen and all. It takes more effort than you think to write badly and then go back at it again.

As soon as I get my instructional land-legs back, finish Jack’s book, win that typewriter on Ebay, and do a little more justice to poor Chesaleen, I’ll write about every last bit of it. Especially Jack (note the familiarity), who I’m now a little in love with.

I also have something to say about birthdays and my new decision to lie about them. If you recognized the picture above, then you should probably be lying about your age, too. Those who don’t get it will probably be seeing me in class on Monday.