Post date: Aug 20, 2019 1:12:48 AM
I almost bought a bubble machine, candy, balloons—but in the end it was the two donated manual typewriters that made people of all ages stop and stay awhile.
The Festival by the Lake was the first event since The Room to Write received its determination letter from the IRS that it was officially a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It was exciting. It was festive. It was a picture perfect day. How would the idea of writing be received? What if nobody came by? What if words weren’t so cool after all? Six hours seemed long. It looked long on paper. In the end, it flew by!
I was so thrilled to see so many young people basking in the satisfaction of something so simple. In these days of overcomplicating everything—it was nice to see that “simple” can still make people of all ages stop and stay awhile.
If that wasn’t special enough, late in the afternoon two 8th grade girls came over and sat at the two typewriters. Before starting my family I was an 8th grade English teacher who wanted nothing more than for my students to enjoy creatively crafting the written word. The two girls at the festival that day were not there to just poke at the keys a few times and move on. They picked pretty paper from the selection. I showed them how to load it into the typewriter and there they sat for a good long time—writing poetry. One found a poem she had written in fifth grade to type out along with whatever she had decided to write there in the moment. One found something inspirational written by JRR Tolkien to add to her page of poetry. It doesn’t get better than that!
I set up all my information for The Room to Write and placed the two manual typewriters perpendicular to each other on a card table. One was facing the lake—what a whimsically romantic thought remembering it just now. I brought plain white paper. I brought paper with flowers, paper with angels, paper with an inspirational scene. Most of the tiny typists weren’t concerned with the paper—it was the keys they were really interested. The majority of my visitors were young ones from as tiny as age 2 all the way up to the teen years.
Much like my experience in the past kids were drawn to the unfamiliarity of those two contraptions sitting on the table. What in the world was that? Surprisingly some knew the name: typewriter. There were no plugs. There were no screens. Nothing to strap on your head or stick in your ears. No waivers to sign. Absolutely nothing glowed and yet those typewriters blew their minds. Many were so young they couldn’t spell yet—but they wanted to. It was endlessly amusing, which led to most of the little novelists being coaxed or carried away eventually by their parents who had hoped for more from a festival than to watch their kid type on an old typewriter.
For me it was success! The sound of words, in many cases partial words or misspelled words, hitting a page was music to my ears and to the ears of those little ones. Typing really can be quite a comforting sound if you don’t have a headache. Perhaps it has that same addictive quality as bubble wrap, but instead of destroying a bubble you are creating words, sentences, stories. I’d say that is even BETTER than bubble wrap. Wow—that’s an idea for next year: which do kids prefer bubble wrap or typewriters?
Later in the afternoon the always wonderful and endlessly generous Carol Gordon Ekster joined me. She brought her wonderful books along with her to share with festival visitors, including my children who were fortunate enough to hear Carol’s stories read that day by the author herself.