by Guest Blogger, Lois Lamanna
I frequently think about how it must have been for writers in the past. Where did Shakespeare get his paper? How did he send his manuscript to his publisher? What did he do when he made a mistake? What did he do if his publisher wanted an extra thousand words or a thousand words removed? Did he have a style guide, thesaurus and dictionary? Were any of his works rejected? Did Shakespeare’s children stand over his shoulder and say, “Dad, if you used a turkey quill instead of a pigeon feather you would be able to write faster?”
Growing up in suburbia, post World War II, I recall mobilizing the entire family to search the house whenever we needed a piece of paper and pencil for a phone message. (Did Shakespeare have a junk drawer in his kitchen?)
My first typewriter came from the toy department of K-Mart. I got it for Christmas when I was a freshman in college. It had a transistor radio built into the blue plastic case. I was humiliated when I carried it into my dorm. Everyone else had black manual typewriters, except my roommate. She had an electric typewriter. I’ll admit I lusted after it. When themes were due I pleaded to use her machine. I scoured the dorm for spare sheets of erasable bond paper.
I got an old, even for the early seventies, old typewriter from one of my professors. He offered it as a prize for selling candy for a campus organization. I hustled through the professors’ offices to win. I wrote my master’s thesis using that Olivetti. I pounded out lesson plans in triplicate.
(In spite of what my mother said about cracking my fingers, I think manual typewriters are the reason I have fat knuckles.)
Woe to anyone who made a mistake while typing on a manual typewriter, especially when you made the mistake in triplicate. You had to erase the error, sometimes resulting in a hole in the paper if you rubbed too hard with the little eraser pencil with a conveniently located brush on the other end. To precisely line up the page under the correct key, to type over the misspelled word, was a skill very few people mastered.
The white tape that covered the black mistake was a miracle and I would like to personally thank the person who invented White Out.
I wrote my first manuscript using pen and paper then painstakingly keying the words into my primitive computer each night. I spellchecked it. I grammar checked it. I saved it to disk. I printed it and sent the first thirty pages, via snail mail, to agents and publishers. I got rejected.
Now I get rejected at the coffee shop by way of email, one click of a button.
The writing experience has changed dramatically since Shakespeare’s time, but one thing hasn’t changed. My children stand behind me and say, “There is a better way.”
Backspace, delete, cut, paste. Don’t my kids realize that this is the better way?
Retired from teaching (a subject other than English), Lois Lamanna’s first novel Matrimony and Murder, is being released in December 2011 by Avalon Books. While exploring her other options, she is working at Macy’s, selling jewelry. She lives in
with her husband and two dogs. When she is not working or writing, she enjoys
baking cookies and working in her yard. “I’m glad I am finally going to be
published; it justifies not dusting or running the vacuum.” Murrysville, PA