Friday, January 13, 2012

About Me, Part One

I started writing when I was about 10. Not the "you must write this for school, for homework" sort of writing, but actually writing for fun. Taking time from playing with toys and playing sport to actually writing.

I used to use my grandparents clunky old typewriter to start with, a heavy thing that had no "1" on it, rather an exclamation mark instead in its place. That always struck me as odd. Even though the typewriter had the Upper/Lower Case button, and the other numbers were all fine, and all had symbols as well, the "1" wasn't there.

After me bugging my grandparents day in and day out to get the typewriter out and lift it onto the table for me (I was a small kid, and it was a damned heavy thing), they finally decided to leave it on the table, because they knew I was going to keep hammering away at it all through my Summer Vacation. And I did.

I wrote my first few stories on that thing. A series of short stories about a bunch of erasers that fought crime, and solved mysteries called The Rubber Police. I can't remember much at all about those stories, except that I seemed to spend forever typing them out, when writing them long hand would have been much faster. I still remember how sore my fingers used to get hitting those old keys, how hard it was to use the Upper/Lower Case button, and how unforgiving the typewriter was if I missed a key and my finger went between them.

I suppose someone must have been paying attention (more than the usual "look what little Andrew has been doing today") because I got a typewriter for my next birthday/Xmas (the joys of having a birthday in December - the combined present). It wasn't quite as heavy, so I could lug it around by myself, it actually had a "1", and it was a little bit more forgiving on the fingers (although it still hurt when you missed a key). And I kept using it (on and off) for the next eight years.

That's not to say I didn't use other things to write with. When I was about 13 I got a Commodore 64 computer, and a few years later I decided to get a printer for it, and some software for it. The printer and software were a dodgy fit, so half the time I spent writing, I was actually coding in BASIC so I could get the thing to print in a fashion that was actually readable to the unaided human eye. I wrote a couple of fantasy-parody short stories with titles like The Kind Woodcutter and the Nasty Troll, and The Good Prince and the Evil Dragon. Fun little pieces that I probably still have floating around in hard copy somewhere, unless the print has faded off the old dot matrix pages by now.

I remember at high school kids were asked what they wanted to Do or Be (which to me still seem like very different questions, but that's neither here nor there) when they left school, and I said I wanted to be a writer. Most kids were going to join the Army, or become Nurses, tradesmen or other things like that. I don't know whether the person asking the question understood what I meant, or was just an idiot, but, for some reason, my choice was the only one that was classified as a Non-Traditional Gender Role Career. Which, of course, made me the target of some interesting taunts for a while, and made me wonder why it was that I'd never actually read anything by women writers or seen many women journalists at the time. Thankfully, it didn't phase me.

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