Typewriters I have known and loved….

My earlier post about writing got me to thinking off the typewriters I have used down through the years. What’s that you say? Yes, we used to have typewriters. With ink ribbons that you had to change. I know, it was prehistoric!

The first typewriter I ever owned was a manual Royal machine. I got it from my grandparents as a graduation present after I finished two years of journalism school. I wrote the very first story I ever submitted to a magazine on this machine.

The next typewriter I got was a gray Olivetti. Man, I loved this machine. I wrote my first novel on it, 100,000 words. The novel didn’t sell, but I put a lot of “word miles” on this one, haha. I got it from my Grandmother who lived in Texas at the time. She was one of the few people in my family who ever supported my idea of wanting to become a writer, so this one holds a special place in my heart:

The next machine I got was an electric typewriter. Boy, talk about a step up from manual! Your fingers could fly across the keyboard. I wrote tons of stories on two or three machines like this. I would wear one out, buy a new one. The first one I bought was in Lafayette, LA at Sears. I remember debating whether or not I wanted to spend the money for it. I got in my car, drove away, got halfway down the road turned back and went inside and made the purchase.

This was probably the best typewriter I have ever owned. It had the awesome Coronomatic cartridge you could pop in and out. Later, as typerwriters became an endangered species, it was more difficult to find the cartridges:

Now I work on a laptop computer. It’s like every other laptop computer out there. It has no soul, no quirks, no funny noises or needs oiling or the keys cleaned or anything like that. It is impersonal and uncaring. It’s like every other stupid laptop out there, I swear.

Yeah. I miss typewriters. But I’m not crazy. Computers have made the technical aspect of writing a lot easier, especially when it comes to producing a clean manuscript.

Yes, technically we are better off with computers. But emotionally? You are never going to convince me otherwise.

Just a Reminder: I am on Twitter, Too

Hey, I can tweet with the best of them. Follow me @kmarkhoover  :P

Follow Mark on Twitter and be amused at his stupdity....

The Story Endures: My Growth as a Writer

I remember the first real story I ever wrote. Five Million Years to Earth

I was living in South Texas and I was in seventh grade. I think we were living in Kenedy at the time. It was a one-horse town surrounded by weeds and cactus, tortoises and horned toads. It was there I got chased by a red wasp and I outran it I was so scared. I also saw a snake once. And in a ditch was a puddle of green rainwater with slimey frog eggs. You could slip your hand into them and they’d squeeze past your fingers all wet and gooey. I had a pet hen. I don’t remember her name, but she was brown. A little girl lived next door and her name was Peggy. I got invited to her birthday party and we had tuna sandwiches on an outdoor table under a shade tree. There was a field of clover next to the house. During the day you could hear bees hum.

It was a great place for a kid. I mean, for South Texas.

I was pretty sure by then I wanted to be a writer. At least I thought so. One day I got my spiral notebook and a blue ink pen. I had seen the movie Five Million Years to Earth on TV recently and it inspired me. I was a kid. I liked movies about giant insects and things that used human beings as disposable Slim Jims. I figured I could write something like that.

I can’t remember the name of my first story, but it was about an astronaut expedition to Mars and they get wiped out on a hilltop by angry Martians. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?) The narrator of the story was the last to die as the Martians swarmed upon the crown of hill over their dead bodies, victorious under a red Martian sun. I even illustrated the story. I don’t remember what ever happened to it. I either threw it away or it got lost in one of the innumerable moves that plagued my life, throughout my life.

I remember the second real story I wrote. I was now in eighth grade. This was for an English class. It had the added pressure of being for a grade, so I knew I had to make it good.

I was a big fan of science fiction so I thought I would write a story about an astronaut expedition which encounters a UFO around Jupiter. I got about halfway through and stopped. I didn’t like it. I didn’t even like my illustration of the UFO flying mysteriously near Jupiter. I slipped the unfinished story into my notebook and sat there, troubled.

I went home. Hours passed. I was going to be in trouble if I didn’t write a good story.

Later, after supper, I sat down and wrote a story about a Confederate soldier fighting alongside General Lee. The night before they surrendered at Appomattox he and his comrades were around a campfire eating beans and bacon. The trees were dark overhead. The next day, he accompanied Lee to the surrender, sees Grant from a distance, and goes home. The soldier didn’t care about the fighting. He was just a nobody guy caught up in history. He only wanted to go home and be with his family. The story ends as he leaves the battlefield one last time and strikes out on an empty road.

I don’t remember what grade I got, but I do think it was an A. Anyway, I know it was a good grade.

Now it goes without saying neither of these stories were very good. They would not pass muster today, probably not even compared to stories written by other kids in seventh and eighth grade.

But they have remained with me all this time. Despite how much progress I have made, and have yet to make in this profession, those stories will always be part of me. They were my first true efforts at writing a short story. I had started several before then, but never finished them. They were the first stories I actually finished.

I will always remember writing them. I remember how I felt when I started them, and how I felt when I finished them. I remember the notebook paper they were written on, and what my life was like at the time, along with all the fears, upsets and hurts I had to endure from other people around me. All those things are part of those lost stories, and those stories themselves are part of me today.

The third story I wrote I was much older, eighteen or nineteen. I was living in Tyler. I had gotten a new portable Royal typewriter from my grandparents. It was a story about children who were cyborgs attending their first day of school. They were being taught how to be soldiers so they could protect humanity from some evil and dangerous presence in the universe. This was also the first story I sent off to be considered for publication. I  want to say I sent it to Amazing but I know that’s not right. Anyway, whoever it was didn’t accept it.

That didn’t stop me one bit. I kept right on writing. I went back to college, got another degree, and started teaching. When I quite teaching I started writing full time. Suddenly, the floodgates were opened. And here I am now.

But those first stories…I think about them sometimes, and the little boy alone in his room with no real friends to speak of, writing alone. I think of those first stories and how they are still a part of me, how they resonate.

I guess that kind of fascinates me in a way. I don’t know why. Of course the stories are part of me, I wrote them.It would be impossible for them to exist outside of me. I created them.The story endures.

They were the first steps I took to becoming a professional writer. The very first steps. I had no idea what was ahead of me in my future when I wrote those stories. I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me at the time.

But they were the first ones. They taught me another lesson, one I have never forgotten.

Stories endure. The story always endures.

 

 

The Lonely Chaos of Writing

Mark here. I wrote this essay years back. I think the things I said are as true today as then. We all have walls we must climb. I maintain there is NO other profession like writing. None. It is internal and solitary. I mean, even a painter gets to look at a bowl of fruit sometimes.

All we have as writers to comfort us is our imagination.

Anyway,  a couple of friends said it helped them process some difficulties they were experiencing at the time. I reprint it here in the hope it may help someone else who is struggling with some aspect of writing, or anything else in life.

………………..

I know your life is chaos right now.  I know that and you know that.Writing takes and takes...we give all.

But sometimes you have to be a right bastard if you ever want to write. Sometimes you have to shove other people out of the way and make room for yourself so you can write.  It’s not a nice thing to think about.  I know that.  But no one else can write for you. You have to do it yourself because you are a writer.  Don’t forget that.

You see, writing isn’t like any other thing.  It’s completely you, no one else.  Therefore, since that’s true, sometimes you must push people aside, even those you love, to make the room you need so you can write.  Yeah.  It’s very selfish.  But writing demands selfishness.  It doesn’t allow anything else to impinge upon the freedom it wants to have in our minds, and its desire to express itself on paper because writing is even more selfish than we are.

Writing will NEVER be loyal to you.  The only loyalty will be what you have for your writing.

Like I said, writing is very selfish.  It has to be or you’re really not writing.  In the words of Truman Capote, you’re “typing.”

You have to get that straight in your mind.  Listen, it’s not your talent, it’s not your ideas, it’s not your perception that you have to overcome. It’s YOU.  You have to overcome you so your writing can prevail.  In a word: you must submit.

Writing isn’t happy with second place, either.  It demands it be first in your heart and mind and soul.  Writing isn’t interested in being best friends. It wants to be all.  You have to make that commitment.  You have to move beyond the point where writing is a game. It has to become your breath.  Your living breath.

Speaking for myself, I don’t see that in everyone who says they want to be a writer. But I see it in some people and they got me to thinking about it yesterday.  You have to plant your flag and say, “Okay, I’m in all the way” and then go down with the ship if that’s what’s called for.  Because writing doesn’t make any promises, either.  There are no guarantees and there never will be.  Writing doesn’t meet you half way.  You have to climb Mt. Everest and then jump a little higher and you still might fail.

Writing gives nothing. It only takes.  As a writer, you have to give and give.

And that’s what writing is all about, Charlie Brown.  I think you can do it, and I think you need to do it,  and I will always be there for you.  But even so all I can do is show you the landscape.

You have to go into it alone.  And once you’re there, never turn back.

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