Monday, December 20, 2010

Tis the Season To Be Typing

Tis the Season To Be Typing
Reader beware! I’m throwing this together out of nothing. I’ve been otherwise occupied by a broken ankle, when I should have been prepping this blog entry.
I’m definitely a Christmassy kind of person. Years ago, I would make Christmas tree ornaments each year for friends and people I worked with. Since I had so many to make, I always began the process in mid-summer. And to get in the mood, I would play Christmas carols while I worked. I used headphones to listen, so that people didn’t think I was entirely out of my gourd.
Long after I stopped making holiday decorations—up until right now—I’ve never given up the whole mood that goes with the holidays. I love watching “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and learning—once again—how Santa got both the name Kris Kringle and Santa Claus, what made the reindeer fly, why Santa has a beard, why the toys were put into the stockings, and so on. And I love what I consider the best song in the special, “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”. Any child that is starting to not believe in Santa Claus should be good for one more year after watching that special.
I also love watching “A Christmas Carol” (the one starring Alistair Sim!), my absolute favorite Christmas film. To say nothing of “White Christmas”, “A Christmas Story”, Miracle on 34th Street” and most recently “Elf”. Oh, I can’t forget “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Frosty the Snowman”. I never get tired of Christmas carols and rarely get peeved or impatient by long lines in stores—except maybe the food store, but that one is a year-round vexation.
This year, Christmas activities are being outweighed by work (writing) activities since I’m housebound over the holidays. Not that people aren’t visiting or sending me cards—and I appreciate them! But normally, I would be out at church functions including Advent services and the yearly Christmas Cantata. And of course I would be standing in line, silently singing along to carols while I waited—if I could get to the stores.
Instead, I’m writing—and writing more than the average teddy bear. My “Earthbow” ( ) was published this year. Immediately afterward, Dave at Gryphonwood asked me what was up next. Well, it’s like this, I told him: the next up is a three volume story currently with the umbrella title of “The Gryphon and the Basilisk”. I wrote the first draft of it back in the early 80’s and the first draft was written in longhand. Over the years, I’ve hired typists to type up sections of the manuscript, and later also keyed in other sections to WORD files. Now I’m on the third volume and face eight very long chapters that I have only in the original longhand—approximately one hundred seventy (500-600 word) pages of story that need to be converted to WORD.
This Christmas really is Tis the Season To Be Typing.
When I started working on this phase of the project, I was less than enamored with it. I still am. And then I got thinking about a Christmas many years ago—just over 50 so far as I can remember. One Christmas, I asked for a typewriter for my gift. We didn’t have much money but my parents were able to find a refurbished manual typewriter to give me. (There were no electric typewriters back then.)
Very, very late Christmas Eve—or maybe closer to Christmas morning—I slipped out of my bedroom and into the living room, to see if there was a typewriter waiting for me. There was! I was so excited! I ran my fingers over the keys and finally took a shot at hitting one of them. The typewriter—as typewriters did in those days—made a loud click. Freaking for fear I’d awakened someone, I rushed back to my bedroom. And acted all surprised a few hours later.
I learned the basics of typing and soon was turning in all my school assignments typed—even some of my math homework. (Try typing multiplication and division problems and see what ‘fun’ that was.)
A short time after this, I began typing my first written story. It involved time travel and I was the heroine, working for the government on a project to go back in time and fill in bits of historical detail missing from records. That may sound dull but it was an adventure story, since my partner (a very cute boy) and I were always getting into trouble. I showed the first part to my parents. I don’t actually remember their reaction but I do remember that they were generally supportive of any project that I did.
I also worked on a pastiche (essentially fan fic) of many different horse stories I had read. My teacher found out about the latter and asked me to read snippets from it during home room. I can’t imagine what the rest of the kids thought! I still feel sorry for them because this story really wasn’t very good.
Those two attempts at writing were my last efforts until 1979 when I tackled “Seabird” ( ) in my early thirties and “Earthbow” ( ) two years later. Oddly enough, I wrote these and their sequel “The Gryphon and the Basilisk” in longhand, even though I had an electric typewriter by then. One reason I did this was that I could write anywhere I thought of an idea or a new passage, even at work.
Over fifty years after first typing in the living room at Christmas, I’m keying in parts of the G&B manuscript in the living room over the holidays. The circle is complete.
A Blessed Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!
Sherry Thompson


  1. Sherry, Sure hope your ankle heals quickly. I still write most of my stories in long hand and then key them into the computer. I think better with a pen in my hand than I do on the computer. Funny thing about old manuscripts. I found one that was written thirty years ago in the days when one used carbon paper. I've set my granddaughter to the task of typing it into the computer for me. Good luck with your story, By the way your interview on my blog still has people stopping by to read it.

  2. I'm glad I'm not the only person that still uses pens for writing!
    So you also have manuscripts from 30 years ago--Guess that makes a whole two of us! Can I borrow your granddaughter?
    I had forgotten about the interview on your blog! Mega Mea Culpa! Please post the link!

  3. Cool story, Sherry. I recall my 7th grade typing class, and the row of electric typewriters that each of us got a turn with for about a week during the school year, just so we could experience it. But I learned on a manual. I still have an old Remington manual sitting in the garage. Needs a ribbon, though.

    Look forward to reading the new stuff!

  4. I hope your ankle is well soon. Enjoyed reading about the typewriter. It brought back memories of high school and learning to type on the manual typewriters. Then when I had a job I was so excited to have an electric one. Still have a couple of old ones in my closet.

    Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you.

  5. My kids are only ten eight, so have grown up with computers. My mom has an old manual typewriter at her house. They are fascinated with it. The ribbon is completely dried out, of course, and some of the keys stick, but they love playing with it. I always wonder what it must look like in their eyes :).

    Hope the ankle heals quickly!

  6. Hi, Rick!
    I had my old electric, until I retired in 2000. I had been storing in my office at work and decided to let it go at that point. It may have still worked but I hadn't opened the case even in years.

    Thanks for the enthusiasm re the G&B manuscript. I'll write you privately about that in a little while.

  7. Thanks for your note, Beverly. I'm kind of surprised at how many people remember their typing classes--and even used manuals in them. I guess we're a bunch of old fogies. ;-P

  8. Hi, Kat! I can't imagine what they would think of a typewriter either. Big and clunky for one thing, maybe. One thing about older antiques--they were often more attractive. I'm thinking now about the console radio in "A Christmas Story", with its beautiful wood finish.

    I think we appreciate computers and word-processing software more for having gone through the whole correcting of mistakes and the complications of revisions over the years first. That's something that this generation has never experienced. To them, I suppose, moving that cursor back to fix an error is a bother. ;-)

    Blessed Christmas to you!