A Story of . . .
typewriters, books, collecting, writing, and author David McCullough
There's something about a typewriter (or a book about typewriters), that gets me every time. Today it was The Typewriter Revolution by Richard Polt. The book covers a good bit about the mechanics of a typewriter and a lot about the renewed popularity of the machine including the people and events that support it — have you heard of a type-in?
The Typewriter Revolution was new to me. I have two other books about typewriters that are worth a look. The Typewriter by Janine Vangool, is a beautiful volume loaded with vintage advertisements and photographs.
The other is Typewriter, by Tony Allan that features Richard Polt as consultant. This is a condensed volume chock full of interesting bits about the history of the machine, the typewriter in advertising, solving crimes, its impact on journalism, and today's type-in.
In addition to the books, I have a collection of typewriters (that's one of them underneath the books), and a few vintage ribbon tins. The typewriters are great fun for writing letters and addressing envelopes.
It's no coincidence that these books have all been published in the last year. Typewriters are enjoying renewed popularity. Maybe it's a reaction to so much screen time, maybe the wonder of a simple machine. Hipsters and people of all ages are in.
Author David McCullough has used the same typewriter for over 50 years to write all of his books, despite offers from friends and family to switch to a more modern writing device, the computer. He talks about his typewriter in this interview with The Paris Review.
Last spring our local library held a makers fare that featured a typewriter repair session hosted by Tom Furrier of Cambridge Typewriter. I'm hoping it will be part of this year's fair as well . . . I'm having trouble loading the ribbon on one of my machines. If you need repairs, contact Tom. He's friendly and generous in sharing his knowledge about typewriters.
Actor Tom Hanks collects typewriters and has developed an app that recreates the sound and look of typing on a typewriter (link below). Fun, but nothing beats the real thing.
Here are some links:
The Classic Typewriter Page - Richard Polt's site
The Typewriter - Janine Vangool's site about the typewriter
Typosphere all things typewriters
Hanx Writer - an app that recreates the sound and look of typing on a typewriter
The Anitkey Chop - a gallery of typewriters and people using typewriters
Cambridge Typewriter - Tom Furrier's shop and blog
Below is a page design I created that includes four of my typewriters along with two word puzzles. Post a comment with your answers . . . if you're stumped, let me know, and I'll post the answers.
Sometimes I Surprise Myself
Digging through some older files last weekend I came upon these stationery folders. They are designed to hold a few pieces of stationery, stamps, and a tip sheet. I liked them when I created them, but wondered if they were right. I still needed to create the stationery and tip sheet, so I put the project aside . . . not ready for whatever reason, for lots of reasons, for no reason.
Putting them aside and finding them nearly two years later gives me a fresh perspective. The concept needs a tweak or two, but it's a good start. I want to incorporate these folders into a new project I've got going.
The title of this post is "Sometimes I Surprise Myself." Why? Because I like what I created and the concept, the reason I made the folders, is still with me. So why did I stop working on it?
Timing? Other priorities? Distraction? Uncertainty?
No matter, it's time to move forward, and I'm taking them with me.
The Envelope as Canvas
Are you a calligrapher or lettering artist? Consider entering the Graceful Envelope Contest (deadline March 28, 2016). There's no entry fee and the contest is open to adults and children, judged separately.
The challenge is to use an envelope as your canvas, tie in this year's theme (communication), and incorporate stamps in your design. Entries must created on an envelope and mailed. Below are two examples . . . very clever.
The contest is sponsored by the Washington Calligraphers Guild and the National Association of Letter Carriers. You can find more information and get your entry form here.
Don't delay, entries are due March 28th.
A note about this year's theme from the Washington Calligrapher Guild:
Ever since Benjamin Franklin became America’s first Postmaster General, many of our most important messages arrived inside an envelope. Now your challenge is to design the outside of an envelope to highlight this—or any other—mode of communication. Your Graceful Envelope could honor the mail or the internet; the telegraph, telephone or television; person-to-person conversation or whatever kind of communication inspires your imagination.
And here's a link to some of last year's winning entries.
Special thanks to Lorraine Swerdloff, contest administrator, for the images!
This lovely gem came in the mail today! It's the first letter opener in my collection that has it own sleeve (and is brand new) from Izola. I've had my eye on it for a while, and mentioned it in the post for the L stamp in our ABCs of Letter Writing . . . a quick read and fun if you're an American history buff.
Love Letter Collage
Years ago, I hosted a Valentine's Day letter event and wanted to offer people some suggestions for writing a love letter. But I had two concerns:
1) it had to be easy
2) it was important to emphasize that love letters are not just for lovers
So I created a template, an easy fill-in-the-blanks love letter. And people really liked it.
This year I wanted to create a new version. Because I've been wanting to experiment with collage, hand-lettering, working off-line, and keeping things loose, this was the project I picked.
Below is the finished piece. Be sure to download the fill-in-the-blanks love letter along with a stationery sheet, write a letter, and say something nice to someone you love.
Oh, I love mail, and I've had my eye on this gem for a while. It's the Letter Writers Alliance Pigeon Post, and it comes with everything needed to mail it. Yep, you can mail the pigeon (no box necessary)—fits into the blue mail box on the corner. I'm so excited I may send it to myself and then to someone else when it comes back. I'll keep you posted!
Are you a writer? Be a good one.
Don't Write, Read!
Don’t write, read . . . about how to write. While it’s true that practice makes perfect, practice alone won’t make your writing better.
These books are three of my favorites.
When I started writing my book Postmark, A Guide to Writing More Letters, Cards, and Notes, I re-read these books as I wrote. Just a chapter a day. As I read and wrote, I became more aware of structure, word choices, punctuation, tense, and rhythm.
Writing is a lot of rewriting. Tedious? Sometimes. But without it, readers will get confused and they won’t stay.
One way I like to practice writing is by writing letters. I start with a piece of scrap paper and draft my letter— scribbles, arrows, crossed-out words and sentences fill the sheet (it would be a terrible waste of stationery otherwise). When I’m ready to rewrite on better paper, stationery, or inside a blank card, I’m more confident that my writing is solid, easier to read, and more interesting.
Sure, write a letter to your mum and she’ll probably read every word. But if you’re writing a blog or a book, sloppy writing makes a poor impression. Make it the best it can be. Hone your skill by reading and studying the work of great writers, read books about how to write, then write, and rewrite.
Athletes have coaches and actors are guided by directors, why not you? Take a course, join a writing group, find an editor, or grab a how-to book at the library. It will make you a better writer.
If you're going to be a writer, be a good one.
What are you writing? How do you edit and review your work? How do you hone your skills? Got a tip? Share it with us, we want to know!
This is a Calendar of Days post - today is Opposite Day.
January 13th, 2016
January is Creativity Month, and if you remember our post from Monday, this is Letter Writing Week . . . talk about having your cake and eating it too! Mail lovers rejoice.
Getting mail is always fun, and now it’s even better. I discovered this gem at a local craft show this past December and just had to have one. They are designed by the very creative Holly Karolkowski of Art for Small Spaces.
Holly's creativity doesn't end there. She's also the creative genius behind Lost Monster Designs . . . take a peek! Contact Holly for cake and monsters!
My slice is going out later this week for a January birthday . . . sweet!
Another Way to Say Hello
It’s Letter Writing Week. This is my favorite to date. I love to write letters; it’s my hobby, my passion, my pastime. I write a lot of letters and what I hear most often from people is:
“I’d write but I don’t know what to write about.”
Write about your day, something you did, something you saw. You’re not being graded and you’re not writing a novel, so try to relax. Really. It’s simply another way to say hello.
And close behind that is:
“But my handwriting, it’s awful.”
Well, it’s probably not as bad as you think it is, and really, your handwriting is what makes your letters most special. And what makes it even more compelling is that we can often recognize who a letter is from without looking at the return address. Your handwriting is as unique as you are and that’s what makes all the difference.
One morning I was getting ready to write when this happened:
It was early in the day and I was collecting stationery, stamps, and a decent pen to write a letter to my in-laws when I heard the neighbor’s chickens. At least two of them were squawking, and it was loud. So loud that I stopped what I was doing to peek out the kitchen window to be sure they were safe inside the coop. They were.
When I settled in to write, I wrote about the chickens:
The neighbor’s chickens are squawking. The coop sits at the low end of the backyard just over the property line.
We can see them from the back porch, and in the evening when we’re out there, we like to watch them—we call it chicken TV.
One chicken goes in the coop, they all go in. One comes out, they all come out. And peck, peck, peck. There’s Ziggy (the hen with orange feathers), and Jimmy (the speckled one), and three others, and they spend a good part of the day circling in and out of the coop. Peck, peck, pecking. In and out, in and out, peck, peck, peck. Maybe that’s where hen-pecked comes from!
When they lay eggs, they squawk. One echoing the other. One egg, squaawk; two eggs, squaaawk; then all together--SQUAaaAWK, SQUAAaaaaaAWK, SQUAAaaaaaaaaaaaAWK!
The chicken letter was a big hit and it gave us plenty to talk about when we visited a few weeks later. And that’s something to squawk about!