Christmas morning 1971. That's me with my first typewriter on the very day I knew for sure I would be a writer instead of a ballerina. Levitating in the background is my daddy's Smith Corona, dutifully covered when not in use. But that is daddy's typewriter. This mysterious no-name machine is mine.
Something happens when you give a young girl a typewriter. It's semi-magical and the very reason I give machines away even now. If you want to grow a writer, give her a working typewriter, some fresh ribbon, and a generous stack of paper. Then stand back and give her room, because it takes a lot of unbothered space to try out a new voice. Over and over and over again.
I'm a high school Instructional Facilitator, which is a fancy way of saying I teach other teachers how to teach. Before that I taught AP and creative writing classes at Conway High School, composition and creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas, advised their undergraduate magazine the Vortex, and co-directed the Great Bear Writing Project (a National Writing Project site). On the internet you can find me blogging here on Fresh Ribbon, on No Telling, and putting up daily inspiration on Easy Street Prompts. Whew, I say.
I don't do it all via typewriter. Don't get me wrong - I love the retro in my tech, but none of this would be possible without the miracle of my Gateway laptop and the internet. I rely on my old manual typewriters for first draft slamming, though, because there is nothing more literarily honest than banging fingers on keys and seeing irretrievable words on actual paper. It slows me down just enough to think and keeps me from editing as I write. Besides, the ding at the end of each line? It sounds like victory.
As a collector, I'm a failure. There's no clear plan or reasoning when I gather these typewriters to me. All my purchases are emotional, driven by the feel of the keys, the prettiness of the type font, and whether or not it's inexpensive. Lately, folks have been dropping off abandoned machines and this place has become a halfway house for orphaned typewriters looking for poets. Since this seems to be working out well, I think I'll just keep doing it. Haven't met a young writer yet who didn't suffer from typewriter-jonesing.
Somewhere in the back of the hall closet or the attic or under the bed in your mama's guest bedroom, there's a manual typewriter waiting for you to release it back into the world. Go ahead, look.
Type like it doesn't matter,