My husband got me a typewriter for my birthday. It’s a Remington Portable No. 5 from the 1930s with glass keys, and it actually works, much to my delight. I still have to figure out how to replace the ribbon. I’m afraid to break it. I ordered a new ribbon online and the shop that sent it to me emailed a PDF of the original manual to my typewriter, after I asked if they had any instructions or advice. How nice was that! Turns out the shop owner, Anthony Casillo is the author of “Typewriters: Iconic Machines From the Golden Age of Mechanical Writing.” I’ll have to check out that book, too.
I intend to use the typewriter to write bad poetry and maybe a list of prompts now and then. I definitely won’t be writing novels on it. I barely have the patience to write long hand here and there.
It smells like an antique shop in my office now, a mix of dust and cigar smoke, possibly? Or maybe just paper. My desk is perpetually messy, covered with printed out manuscript pages--some of them mine, some of them editing clients’.
I painted my office a light purple in honor of Virginia Woolf. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” she once said. She should have added a typewriter, too. It goes well with the purple.
My parents seemed mystified when I told them I got a typewriter. “Oh, that’s nice,” they said in typical Minnesotan fashion. Code for: why the heck would you want one of those?
I had been looking at typewriters for more than a year. And many of my writer friends either own a typewriter already or covet them badly. Maybe it’s a bit of romanticism on our parts, but so many great writers worked on them, meticulously perfecting and retyping each page. They are part of literary history. It’s fun to have one, even just to look at.
Fiction is a brutal art form as it is. As I work on the thirteenth draft of my time travel short story, the typewriter in my office reminds me that revising on my laptop isn’t so bad. At least I don't have to retype fifteen thousand words each time I revise or cut something, and I cut like crazy.
The great French poet Paul Valery once said “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” The same holds true for murder mystery novels written by perfe...