Guest Writer Spot

Happy Friday! I hope the first week of this new year has been a bright one. If not, don’t worry – it’s the weekend tomorrow!

As it’s Friday, it’s time for my Guest Writer Spot. It’s a pleasure to welcome Sharon Boothroyd to this slot for the first time. Here’s a little bit about her, in her own words:

“I’m forty- something, happily married and I live in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

“For the past six years, I’ve had a variety of letters, opinion pieces and poetry published in a wide range of UK national magazines. I’ve also worked as a pro web copywriter, however I’m most proud of my 14 short stories that have appeared (or are due to appear) in My Weekly, Your Cat, Take a Break’s Fiction Feast, The Weekly News and Prima.

“My website is: www.sbee.orgfree.com

Enjoy her delightful piece about how she learned to type:

QWERTY – how I mastered typing!

By

Sharon Boothroyd

 

I learnt to type on a heavy black manual typewriter at school in the late 1970s. Although I was keen to learn, I took a strong dislike to the messing about with ribbons, carbon paper etc.

Then there was working out the margins – as I wasn’t good at maths,  I usually ended up with all my calculations wrong! Typing really hurt my fingers too, as I was forced to slam down hard on the keys to make any sort of impact on the paper.

Are there any readers of a certain generation who recall typing: ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs?’

How I hated typing it out!  I couldn’t see the point of these typing exercises. It was just bland, boring text that held no meaning whatsoever.

And if you made any mistakes (as I frequently did) there was nothing else for it but to carefully ease the paper out of the roller and type the whole blasted document out again!

And type it very slowly too, making sure it was error- free. I always came away from the lessons with smeared ink over my hands.

Shorthand and typing were regarded as good, solid skills for girls, and if these were acquired, you had no worry about being out of a job. 

It wasn’t the sort of occupation deemed ideal for boys or men. In my Yorkshire town, boys were encouraged to ‘learn a trade’ and go into some sort of blue collar work.

I don’t know why, because there were plenty of male journalists around, working on local and national newspapers, who typed all day long! And lots of male novelists and playwrights as well. 

Over the years, I’ve tried my best to touch- type, yet sadly, I never quite managed it, so my dreams of becoming an important secretary remained just that- a dream. 

Deep down, I only wanted to learn to type because I wanted to write. You can’t really send hand- written fiction out, can you?

When I was in my mid- twenties, I lived in a city based student house- share.

I needed a typewriter for my media studies course, plus I wrote a lot of letters to my friends and family back home in West Yorkshire.

This was the early 1990s – long before computers came into general usage. At this time, they were mainly operated in offices.

Back to my typewriter.

Browsing in the city, I spotted a lovely electronic model on display in a specialist typewriter shop window – however, it was quite expensive and I was a poor student (The typewriter was much more expensive than a 2016 tablet or computer).

I opened the shop door, approached  the counter and cautiously asked if I could pay for it in weekly instalments. The chap said yes.

It took me months, yet finally the day arrived when I could take my brand new shiny typewriter home.

It was very heavy and wide, and wrapped in thick cardboard outer wrapping.  However, I managed to  grasp the carrying handle that stuck out over the packaging.

I remember that I really struggled carrying it on the bus and passengers stared at it – they couldn’t work out what it was!

Once home, I set it out on the kitchen table, I plugged it in and switched it on.

It made a fierce buzzing noise and the the clattering of the keys were still quite noisy, but oh it was heaven not being forced to slam my fingers down hard on the keyboard!

Unfortunately for me, my house- share mates took my typewriter over and used it for their own projects.

They wasted my precious printing ribbon (This was a cassette type of affair that slotted into the upper part of the machine), all my A4 paper and my bottles of tippex too.

As time progressed, computer technology and the updated word processing programs made typing much more easier. Eventually, I found I had no use for my big bulky electronic typewriter.

After I completed my course and moved on from the house- share, I sold the machine for a much lower price than I’d originally paid. I was very lucky to sell it, actually.

And I’ve never cracked that admired typist’s skill – accuracy and speed. As for 40 words a minute – forget it!

My typing mode isn’t exactly ‘hunt and peck’ but I do need a big chunky keyboard, because, as I learnt to type on a manual typewriter, I have difficulty using the smooth flat keyboards found on most laptops.

However, modern printers are an absolute godsend. No more blobby, flaky bits of tippex! And the automatic word count facility is superb – there’s no counting the words on each line and trying to calculate how many words on the page.

In the early nougties, I went through a phase of using floppy discs to store my work on, but as I didn’t have a home PC, I visited the local library and used the computers there.

The process of opening and closing the document files on the disc, via two computers (carried out by a librarian) entailed a lot of faffing about and it was very time consuming too.

Much to my frustration and disappointment, the next day, when I opened the disc, I quickly discovered that something was amiss.

The librarian from the previous day hadn’t saved my work properly.

As a budding writer, I was furious. I felt the library staff didn’t understand what this meant to me.

They simply shrugged it off, as if it was nothing.

So I was very glad when later, I married a computer geek and my discs were swapped for USB sticks.

It’s easy to panic when things go wrong on the PC, but my kind hubby is very good at sorting out any software problems.

As my husband designs websites, he often asks me to contribute promotional text for the client’s web pages.

This was how I began my freelance writing career. I progressed from this onto magazine letters, then I gave poems and short stories a go. I was thrilled and delighted when my work began to sell to major UK magazines.

I learnt how to present my work professionally too.

Like most writers, I now use a computer at home for typing, saving and printing work, yet the sheer joy of buying and owning my very own typewriter will always remain in my memory.

***

big-things

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 Responses to Guest Writer Spot

  1. No typing at my west riding school in the 70s. I did however, inherit my great uncles imperial. Duly bought myself a learn to type book and by the end of uni summer holidays I was touch typing like an almost pro. When I later joined a newspaper office the male reporters could only type with two fingers. Sure, it’s a useful skill, but one that can easily be self-taught.

    Congrats on the freelancing 🙂

  2. Patsy says:

    In one of my jobs I sometimes had to use a ‘proper’ typewriter to add names to certificates. The keys were really stiff and, as it was used so rarely, the thing was up on a shelf almost at eye level, so the job was physically quite difficult.

    I’m glad I don’t have to write my stories like that. Still can’t type with more than two fingers though!

  3. Sarah says:

    What lovely memories you have, Sharon. 🙂 I had one of those old typewriters too but mine was a red and grey colour. Then the letter G broke and I saved up and bought an electric typewriter too, from a specialist shop, I don’t remember the brand name, only that it was grey. That was when I started a writing course with the Writer’s Bureau, a course that I started in around 95, stopped in 99, then picked it up again in late 2014, and completed it in Dec 16. 🙂 I’ve had a few things published and my first non-fiction book will be released in April this year. I still haven’t mastered stories yet, although I have written several and I have completed a basic MS of my first novel. I am improving all the time, plus, I’m enjoying it. I’m hoping to have some poetry published this year, thanks to Esther encouraging me to try it.
    All the best with your writing, Sharon. Thanks for the memories. Have a fab 2017! 🙂

  4. kjcarine says:

    Great post! I had one of those electronic typewriters in the 90’s too, Sharon. Gosh how lucky we are these days with technology for writing -computers, tablets, apps, printers etc…

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