Saturday, December 6, 2014

Typewriters: The Queen City's First Type-In

I had no expectations when I loaded thirteen typewriters into my car and made the drive to Cafe la Reine in Manchester, NH for that city’s first Type-In. I had organized the event as part of the Granite State’s “Writers’ Week,” a celebration proclaimed by the governor and set in motion by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project.  The Type-In got some good advance publicity, with multiple Tweets and reTweets, Facebook posts, and a story in the alt-weekly The Hippo. Still, in my mind, I was as prepared to be flooded with type-curious folk as I was to sit idle with lonely typewriters crowded ‘round my feet in search of solace.

The event was slated to start at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4, and I loaded everything in at 5. By 5:15 two happy people were banging away -- one on a Olivetti Lettera 33 with script font, the other on a Royal 10 with a purple ink ribbon. More typers followed.

Soon, the little coffee shop was full of the sounds of typing. Some typers knew about the event in advance, others I seduced with the nifty machines and my paper mache pig full of writing prompts. I’d written up a quick guide to life with typewriters and handed out most of the copies I’d made. 
One woman sat down at my Olympia SM4 (also with cursive font) and didn’t leave until she had finished whatever writing project she was banging out. 

Another woman wrote several drafts of a letter, using a black pen to add the Spanish-language accent marks that the Olivetti she was working on did not offer.

Overall, it was a good time. And I have requests to do more …

P.S. My thanks to my wonderful spouse for taking the photos.
The author checks out his typing stock the night before the Type-In.

Friday, December 5, 2014

On Writing: Words to Write By

Ursula K. Le Guin, while accepting her Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, at the 2014 National Book Awards:

"I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Yeah, I Decoupaged a Typewriter

In general, I’m a big fan of the Olivetti aesthetic. The Lexikon 80, the Lettera 22 and 32, are sleek and gorgeous, and the Valentine romps in my dreams like a far-too-expensive lover.
I’m far less enamored of the boxy look of the Lettera 33, and the Lettera 31 (aka The Dora) is downright ugly, especially in the all-too common putty color. I picked up a Dora last year some time, cleaned it up and freshly beribboned it, and was sad to see it’s also not a spectacular typing machine. It works, sure, but it feels cheap. I’ve heard similar things about the action of the Valentine, but at least it’s nice to look at.

So, I took my Dora and decoupaged it.

I’m also a big fan of the work of mystery dean Robert B. Parker, and I have a bad habit of picking up extra copies of his books whenever I see them on the used-book racks and bins. I decided to dedicate the Dora to Parker (and name it after him) by adorning the thing with pages from two of my favorite Spenser novels “Ceremony” and “Taming a Seahorse,” both part of the April Kyle trilogy.
Take pages, add Mod Podge, and -- tah-dah -- a somewhat more interesting typewriter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Queen City (NH) is Having a Type-In!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Writing: 15,000 Down, 35,000 More to Go

Nine days into my first NaNoWriMo with a typewriter, I've learned a few things. One, I am possibly the worst typist in the world. There's not a paragraph, nay, not a sentence, without some kind of egregious typo. Secondly, I find it a lot easier to get into the fabled "zone" on a typewriter. I turn on some jazz, make a cup of tea, and crank out page after page of (slightly garbled) fiction. 
I banged this out on an Olympia SG1, the "Mercedes" of desktop typewriters.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

On Writing: Back in the Saddle ... Again

The first step in solving a problem is admitting one exists, and I see, by the dates of my last half dozen posts, that I have one. Or several.
I haven’t written much in the past twelve months. I have had a ton of ideas, but few have made it even partially onto the page. My Duotrope submission tracker has gone cold, and there’s a thick coating of dust on my guitar. The state of this blog speaks for itself.
I'm using this 46-pound machine as a life raft. Wish me luck! (Picture is from the Machines of Loving Grace website.)
I have the usual excuses: I got busy. I got sick. Blah-blah-blah-life. All three are true, but I let those excuses get in the way of the work. Maybe it was unavoidable, maybe not. It’s as hard to tell from the Look-Back End as it was from the In-The-Midst-of-the-Muddle View.

Friday, December 20, 2013

On Writing Repost: The Creativity Equation

I teach creative writing at a large public school, and there's not a day that goes by when I don't hear one student or other whinge about “not being creative” or not knowing “what to write about.” On those occasions I give them my patent-pending Creativity Equation: Character A plus Situation B equals Story, which is greater than the sum of A plus B, or A+B=S>A+B.
This equation falls under the nonlinear algebraic subgroup “magic math,” which most students are not familiar with. So, I dumb it down to an axiom: Creativity is the ability to link two points into a not-yet existent third. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Teaching: A Little Slam Action

I stole these slams from my fourth-block creative-writing class. They did all the work. I just pushed "record."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On Writing: Why the 'Why Write Project'?

My life has been full of them since my last post. The quiet little role I anticipated at the NewHampshire Writers Project has expanded, as has my work with the Amoskeag Journal. Meantime, I spent the summer revising a novel, plunking away at short stories,  revising my website, and puttering around the house.
Oh, and I now officially collect typewriters and became a biographer of literary rock star Wiley Cash.
The day job got back in full swing come August, which claimed about two-thirds of my time and energy.  Unlocking the door to my classroom (and a tired and bleary cheeseburger break with my wife) was the impetus for my latest brainchild, The Why Write Project. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Blues: Seven Days, Five Books, Some Other Stuff

I closed the door of my classroom approximately 168 hours ago, and it will remain shut (barring trips back for reference material) until August 26. Since the door closed I've hosted one barbecue, attended one wedding, attended one Makers of Manchester meeting, met one Rhodes Scholar for a beer, spent three days in curriculum-development workshops for a new Freshman Writing class, shared one KC’s Rib Shack platter with my wife, slept about fifty hours, started breaking in a new messenger bag, played three hours of (mostly losing) poker, watched three episodes of The X Files, wrote a couple of thousand new words of fiction, plowed through the new Rolling Stone and Poets & Writers, and read five books.
I feel pretty good about the week, but I have a mixed reaction to the books.