Friday, September 2, 2016

Beverly Cleary, writing by hand

Beverly Cleary, writing by hand:

To me, writing involves my imagination, a handful of 29-cent ball point pens, a stack of paper and time free from interruption. I often begin books in the middle or at the end and play about with my characters in my poor handwriting until I am satisfied with their behavior, which is often a surprise to me. That is the fun of writing. I then rewrite my books in somewhat more legible typing and take them to a typist who telephones for translation of words written between the lines but manages to return pristine manuscripts. I find typing the most difficult part of writing, and once bought and returned a German typewriter that had Achtung! printed on the front. Battling a typewriter is distracting enough without having it giving me orders like an arithmetic book. Telling stories quietly and privately with pen on paper is my joy.
This passage appeared in a 1985 essay published in The New York Times , “Why Are Children Writing to Me Instead of Reading?” A good question, one that results from the classroom study of “living authors.” Cleary quotes from a letter by E. B. White to a librarian in which he wonders about the wisdom of having classrooms’ worth of children write letters to writers. A sentence from the letter that Cleary is too kind to quote: “The author is hopelessly outnumbered.” In another letter, to a child, White explained why he hadn’t written another book for children: “I would like to write another book for children but I spend all my spare time just answering the letters I get from children about the books I have already written.”

Elaine found her way to the Times essay after reading Cleary’s two memoirs. They’re on my to-read list.

On an unrelated note: it’s really hard to type while listening to the Kinks.

Related posts
Beverly Cleary : handwriting : E. B. White (Pinboard)

[White’s letter to the unidentified librarian is dated May 7, 1961. The letter to a child-reader dates from late March 1961. From Letters of E. B. White , ed. Dorothy Lobrano Guth (New York: Harper & Row, 1976). White would go on to write one more book for children, The Trumpet of the Swan (1970).]

comments: 6

MK said...

"I find typing the most difficult part of writing, and once bought and returned a German typewriter that had Achtung! printed on the front. Battling a typewriter is distracting enough without having it giving me orders like an arithmetic book."

I find that hard to believe. Some of the keys of a German typewriter are in different locations (remember, there have to be keys for Umlaute, etc.). THAT would have been much more distracting. Nor do I know of any typewriter that would have had "Achtung!" printed on the front. Though that does not mean that there never was such a thing, I doubt it very much.

Michael Leddy said...

I wonder if it might have been a sticker of some sort, some direction to read the manual first or remove protective material from the platen, something like that. It might have been a typewriter with an American layout, like my mid-1960s Olympia, made in W. Germany. What I like in the passage though: those 29¢ ball-points.

MK said...

Perhaps ... Or it was a typewriter made for German spies with the American layout. The "Achtung!" was affixed to the front to warn them that it was not the standard German layout. :)

29 cent ball points? You probably would have used a faountain pen, wouldn't you?

Michael Leddy said...

Ha! I suppose I want to believe Beverly Cleary. I know though how stories can become embellished over time.

Yes, I’d use a fountain pen. But I like her unashamed declaration of the plainness of her writing habits. There’s a nice photo of David Foster Wallace with a Bic. Maybe they can make Mont Blanc-like tribute Bics. :)

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

It's hard to do anything while listening to the Kinks, Michael.

Michael Leddy said...

I’m learning this lesson well. :)