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Records and bicycles

have made a comeback,

so why shouldn’t

typewriters?

By Dennis Finocchiaro

 

Imagine Bukowski hunched over a manuscript-in-progress with his bottle of wine, likely with a window view of a seedy bar across the street for inspiration. He watches the faces of patrons going in steadily and coming out less-so and types away on his typewriter.

Think of Kerouac clicking away at the keys, thinking carefully about every word and comma, working out the full sentences in his head before capturing them on paper so as to avoid typos, mistakes and having to redo a whole page.  The noise of his friends in the other room, fighting over nothing or perhaps just drinking heavily, waiting for him to go out on a short road trip.

Times sure have changed. I’ve probably gone back seven or eight times to change typos, diction or other small items in this article, but back then things were different. The sights, sounds and environment of writers were drastically different than they are today. Typing on a computer is nothing compared to the feel of a typewriter. Yes, I admit it, I am a lover of typewriters.

The cold of the keys keeps your fingers awake and alive, the clacking of the typebars smacking the ribbon, immortalizing a word that cannot be taken back (see image below for a description of typewriter parts). The sound of the platen moving to the left a character at a time until that lovable, familiar ding of the bell. There was something so definite and lasting about working on such a machine. There is no backspace, there is no delete, there is only forever.

I, for one, can’t imagine what it was like to type school essays on an old Brother Charger. The invention of whiteout must have been a godsend for those people. Think about it, one little mistake and it was either white out the spot and let it dry or rip the paper off the platen (causing a rapid clicking sound) and start over.

But these days, especially lately, the world has seen a mild resurgence of the old fashioned typewriter. A little CBS news piece substantiated that last week with a five-minute report on typewriters and their growing popularity. I, myself have been using two particular typewriters for a while now, mostly in my work on Capturing a Moment, a collection of flash fiction I type directly on vintage photographs. For a book signing I brought my trusty Brother Charger 11 and let people play with it, and they loved it. Kids asked what it was, and parents or grandparents gladly demonstrated how the old machine worked. And every one of them smiled when they heard the familiar snap of the letters appearing on the paper.

Philadelphia even recently had a type-in, much like a sit-in, except nobody was demonstrating against something; they came together with a similar love of the old machines and a large number of people sat and typed. Michael McGettigan, founder of the Philadelphia type-in, said, “Your thought goes directly onto the page without a lot of intermediaries, and it produces an artifact in a time when so much of life has become so virtual…” That explains, to a certain extent, why typewriters have started a comeback.

McGettigan also points out that typewriters help with focus. “It will not let you play a video game or go look for bargains on Ebay…so if you’re sitting at a typewriter, you’re either going to write or fall asleep.”

He goes on to discuss the fact that the MP3 hasn’t pushed away the vinyl record, something to which I can attest. I started collecting records about fifteen years ago when I realized how much music was at my fingertips when I yard saled. At the time, records went for a quarter. But these days, hit a record shop or even the Punk Rock Flea Market and it’s clear that records are not a thing of the past. And that’s what typewriters are slowly becoming today.

So why not try it? Go to a thrift shop, start yard saling, see what you think. Spool some paper, hit a few keys, get a feel for it. Who knows, you could become a part of the ever-growing revolution of the typewriter. You could be the next Kerouac.

 

Dennis Finocchiaro is the author of Capturing a Moment and editor of the upcoming Anthology Philly. Images also by Dennis Finocchiaro.

Image taken from Xavier.edu.

 

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By Lyndsaye Ruda

Every writer has means for inspiration that leads to their bestsellers. J.R.R. Tolkien was influenced by Norse Mythology. I can’t really blame him; it’s a very interesting subject. And if you read anything by Robert A. Heinlein you’ll notice a feline theme sprung from an obvious love for cats. I can’t really blame him either. On the subject of cats, let me tell you a little bit about where I get some of my inspiration.

 I am a big fan of BBC, especially a show called Big Cat Diary hosted by Jonathan Scott and Simon King. The show takes place in the Masai Mara in Kenya and features a group of lions, cheetahs and leopards. When I was first introduced to this show I didn’t know much about cheetahs and I have since learned a lot. I have fallen in love with these creatures, so much so that I have become a member of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. They are an amazing organization and if you don’t know anything about them I suggest you look into it. But that’s also why I’m here. I take the stories of cheetahs and the reality of the hardship that is their existence: the fact that their survival rate is so low they have roughly 9 cubs per litter so that the chances of even one of them surviving is better, yet many cheetah mums that live to be 9 years old may only raise 2-4 cubs in their lifetimes; the fact that lions, leopards and hyenas kill these creatures as easily as you can snap a twig; and the fact that despite being the fastest animal in the world, these creatures lose 90% of their food between being unable to catch them, or other predators stealing the kills. And you thought cheetahs were ferocious man killers didn’t you? Truth is, they’re less hearty than an ant who can be crushed beneath your foot and you still wonder how you didn’t injure it.

So my inspirations come from these types of stories. I write about fact in ways that I hope will save someone or something from pain. I am in the process of creating children’s stories about cheetahs so that they grow up learning the truth about these beautiful, helpless animals. I also write about pet grief. I have been through the trauma of losing furbabies and it’s not easy. I have been lucky enough to learn from these experiences and want to share my knowledge to help others who may be going through the same heartbreak.

But my writing collection is larger than that. The poetry that I write is easier to explain as most of them speak for themselves. I can find ways to create more impact and lead into surprise endings in short stories written through poems. It gives me an opportunity to write about things that I am unable to put into a full story.

I also write romantic fiction. I’m not talking about Harlequin kinds of stories (well, not full stories anyway *laugh*), but the kind that evoke a more sentimental attachment. Currently I am working on a novel called Language Beyond Words. This story is about an American who travels to Australia and falls in love with a man she meets down there. But his ways are mysterious (aren’t these stories always like that?) and she learns a different kind of life. When something tragic back home in America happens she has to make some hard decisions about her future. I started this story over 7 years ago and it really began as a challenge to learn a new culture and write about something a little more emotional.

I also like tragedy, so it was a good chance to work on writing something that drew the reader out. To be honest, what started the story was running into a friend that I hadn’t seen for some time because he had been in Australia for a few months. When he came back it was so good to see him and he looked so different. He instantly inspired the main character in the story as well as the experience he had just returned home from. The rest of it came from sitting down and writing. Most of my work is really that simple.

I sit down, and I write. I love the feeling of pencil, or pen, on paper. I’m not as big a fan of typing stories out from scratch, I usually have to write them out first, and transfer them later onto the computer. I’ve been writing for so long and most of the stories I write don’t start off with a plan, just a desire to write. I have more story ideas than I have written, and ideas for future creations. I’m lucky to have gotten this far, and the fact that there are people out there that actually want to read what I have to write makes me feel even more blessed.

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The Greatest Love

Story Ever Told

(in My Opinion)

by Dennis Finocchiaro

Love stories come and go. Most anyone can say they cried reading The Notebook. And let’s face it, The Princess Bride is probably the actual greatest love story ever told, or we can at least agree to disagree. But whenever I think of true love, I think of a small segment of my favorite book of all time, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Of course, these days, everyone has heard of the book because it’s now a movie, or they’re just finding out the movie is based on a book as they read these words. Surprise! (This surprise is only for the misinformed, and I doubt that includes people who end up on this blog). But no, while this book is about the love between a mother and son and in no way romantic, a story within the story is the absolute purest form of love ever created.

I am writing about, of course, the fairy tale Oscar’s dad tells him, of The Sixth Borough.

In this tale, there was once a sixth borough of New York, an island that nobody remembers. Every year they had a big party, the climax being when a man famous for jumping would jump the small amount of water between NYC and this sixth borough. Once year, he finds he can’t make it across. And the next, he jumps and lands in deeper water. At first, the people think the logical: the jumped is getting old. But he insists he has not lost any of his jump (haha) and so they measure the distance only to find that the island is moving away from New York City.

And, of course, this doesn’t sound romantic at all, does it? The story continues past this celebration to two children, a boy and a girl, who are in love. The boy lives in the sixth borough and the girl across the small amount of water. They chat through cups on a string, which of course is absolutely adorable in and of itself. But as the island escapes the mainland, they have to keep adding to the line.

The string from his yo-yo.

The pull from her talking baby doll.

The list goes on. The two kids slowly destroy everything they love just so that they continue talking until, one day, they realize it’s going to end. The boy asks the girl to say “I love you” into her can and captures the words on his end, sealing the cup and placing it on a shelf so that, to this day, as the sixth borough has ended up in Antartica, “On a frozen shelf, in a closet frozen shut, is a can with a voice inside it.”

Why do I think this is the greatest love story of all time? Maybe I don’t, maybe I just absolutely adore it and couldn’t think of another story that gave me the same feeling as this one. But whenever I think of the sixth borough, I get chills. I even went to NYC once and took pictures that reminded me of the tale. Jonathan Safran Foer told a hell of a story in ELIC, but he also made up this fairy tale that made me fall in love with New York and the romantic side of the city. The purity of the love between these two children is described with the diction of a master, and hell, maybe I just have a soft spot for fairy tales.

But then again, there’s always those terrible moments in novels, and let’s face it, not everyone can write a good love story. Vonnegut, for instance, is without a doubt one of my favorite writers. But his stories tended to sway from romance, which was smart. He knew his genre and what worked with his stories; but one of his greatest unrecognized traits was that he avoided what he knew didn’t work. Brilliant. But not everyone is as intelligent as that; ask anyone who reads the Twilight books.

They are my example of romance that doesn’t work for me. And trust me, it’s not the teen angst aspect of the story, I eat that shit up when it’s well-written. But those books were just plain terrible. I know it’s become cliché to make fun of them, but the writing isn’t even any good. Many people ask me how I can love Harry Potter but hate Twilight, and that’s so simple: it’s the writing. J.K. Rowling is one hell of a writer. Her imagery creates moments in my mind out of things that are purely fiction. Like I know what a thestral is, right? But her words describe it and I imagine it. That’s what’s missing from all of the scenes, not just the love scenes, in the Twilight saga.

I can willingly admit I am a fan of a romantic novel. Nick Hornby has written a few that I love. Caprice Crane has, too. But they are artists, working words into stories that grab the reader and pull them in. Twilight just didn’t do that for me. I could never understand Bella’s love for a vampire, nor could I see the attraction. And trust me, I’ve even admittedly read books like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember (would anyone believe me if I claimed they were read for a class?), and as embarrassing as it is, I will admit that I fell in love with the characters. Jamie Sullivan from the latter was written with such a love of life and a purity that I couldn’t help but adore her.

That’s what was missing with Bella Swan and her boys. There was no real reason to care about them, to connect with them or to even want Bella to clearly be with either Jacob or Edward. Readers chose a side with no real reason. Or because they thought one actor was cuter than the other.

So there you have it; I admit, I enjoy a nice, mushy, well-written love story sometimes, but it has to have some literary merit. Is there anything wrong with that?

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Ahh, February. The month of looove. For some, it’s that special time when you curl up with the one you care about (or a book) and whisper sweet nothings to him or her (or it, a book), take him or her out to dinner (or it, the book, though I’ll say, it need not be a special occasion for me to take my book out to dinner). For others, it’s just another month in the long stretch of winter when we’re forced to plan our immediate futures and more importantly, spring shopping, around a groundhog. In some cases, it’s both. (Come onnn February, how can I possibly sit through an extra day of you this year?)

Whether you love it or you hate it, February holds that key day that has the ability to be somewhat fun, but mostly very annoying, all at the same time. You’ve guessed it: it’s Valentine’s Day. In honor of the special looove day, Den and I have teamed up to present something special to you. No, it’s not flowers, or chocolate, or lingerie. Though we thought about it.

Instead, we present to you our first-and-probably-last-ever-edition of: What It Takes To Write A Really Freakin’ Good Love Story (Or Scene), And How (Unfortunately) Possible It Is To Really Suck At It.

Check back Monday and Tuesday for Parts 1 and 2 of our series, as Den tackles the beautiful, sappy, mushy love, and I go in for, well, the other stuff.

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By Shawn Proctor

“I hate writing, I love having written.”
―Dorothy Parker

For many writers the thrill and pride of a finished work, refined and polished, motivates them. They feel pride in the accomplishment. Like Dorothy Parker, they are happiest looking at their body of published work.

Not me.

My stories divide into two categories: published and active. When a story has been committed to print part of me celebrates that it has been completed, part mourns its loss because I know what happens next. The piece goes out into the world to readers. It is not mine anymore. And other stories, ones I am still writing and editing, take its place. Like a friend who has moved far away, the story becomes less familiar over time until one day I no longer feel connected to it. The spark of inspiration vanishes. I can revisit the story, see its merits and flaws, but the experience is as a reader, not as a writer.

Active stories, like Anthology Philly’s “Heartwood,” excerpted from my unpublished novel The Sugarmaker’s Son, stay a part of my active imagination. I ponder them in quiet moments. I see reflections of their narrative arc when I read fiction or watch a movie. They are companions and friends.

My favorite moments as a writer come from the rush of finishing a first draft, the struggle of revision, and the craft of editing. Each stage presents a different challenge and reward. It’s the thrill of finding the just right detail or turn of phrase that keeps me writing. But I don’t hate “having written,” as Ms. Parker says. Publication ends my attachment to older stories. It clears space in my mind for the next short story, the next novel, the next character who will tiptoe close and begin to whisper.

Shawn Proctor is one of the authors from the upcoming book Anthology Philly. He can be followed on his blog and his twitter is @shawnproctor.

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Why I Love My Typewriter

Wragsthinks blogger Dennis Finocchiaro will be discussing his love of typewriters and why he thinks they’re making a resurgence. Here’s a little teaser video, a special news piece that ran on CBS last Sunday.

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By Sara Martin

Today, I’m riffing on a post that Angela Marchesani wrote last week about “Writing In the Zone.” She captured some of my favorite tips for harnessing creativity, so I’m going to give you some guidelines for applying these in your own work.

One of Angela’s tricks is “faux blogging,” or what she calls flogging. While the creative process does often feel unrelenting and brutal, flogging in this context is purely figurative. It’s like blogging, but to an audience of one: yourself.

So what’s the difference between flogging and journaling? Structure. Successful blogs have an overarching purpose. Consistency attracts readers. It can show up in subject matter, narrative voice, posting frequency or length, but readers are drawn to blogs that regularly deliver.

My number one tip for flogging is to develop some themes.When you’re writing for yourself, establishing consistency attracts a valuable resource: ideas. I have over 40 flogs, each dedicated to its own topic. Some are simple lists, others are written in paragraphs, others are more stream of consciousness. I’ve discovered the more homes you provide for different ideas, the more they come to visit (it’s an “if you build it, they will come” phenomenon).

For example, one of my flogs is called “Isness.” I started this one after reading a book about mindfulness. The author advised pausing a few times a day to accept your life exactly as it is. Whenever I see that document on my list, it reminds me to be patient when my day isn’t happening like I think it should. Just seeing the name Isness encourages me to take a minute and write along that theme. I probably contribute new entries to 3-4 flogs every day. Reviewing my list conjures new ideas throughout the week.

This might sound overwhelming, but I’ve slowly built my flog collection over the last two or three years. And I consistently combine similar flogs or prune the ones I no longer find inspiring. I’m a big fan of Google Docs for organizing. Each flog is its own document, accessible easily from “the cloud,” which I imagine is a large warehouse somewhere outside Silicon Valley. Google Docs is as convenient as email, so it’s a regular part of my routine.

Having themes improves your personal writing in three ways:

1. It sparks new ideas. As I mentioned above, a list of themes has the effect of motivating your brain to write from different perspectives.

2. It makes you prolific. The more themes I have, the more I write. It’s like having a big closet — you tend to fill the space you’re given.

3. Your writing is easier to navigate.The structure provided by themes helps you remember what you’ve written in the past and find old ideas. Many of my ideas take months or years to germinate. When I finally decide to use them in a published work, it helps to compare notes from early passages.

I’m sure my approach to flogging is different than Angela’s, as every writer uses tools in their own way. But before her post, I’d never drawn the comparison between my private writing and blogging.

My flogs have been very useful over the years. I credit them for curing writer’s block on many occasions. It’s been illuminating to step back and examine why they work so well. Flogging is a way to make room for new ideas. Build some themes they will come.

Sara Martin is an artist and writer based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her blog provides a weekly dose of artistic wisdom and creativity how-to. Learn to maximize your creative life at modernsentiment.com/blog. She can be followed on Twitter @sara_c_martin

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