Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Celebrating Typewriter Day: a modest proposal

Spring is here, and the thoughts of young typists have turned once again to... random acts of clacktivism. Monda found it and Strikethru picked it up and of course being a complete Control Freak, I will now attempt to drive it into the ground. NaNoWriMo is over five months away as I write this, but Typewriter Day is approaching fast -- only 32 shopping days left! -- and I think the fingers of Duffy's Typewriter Brigade grow restless. What to do?

In the spirit of various Internet traveling [item] projects (journals, cameras, etc.) I'd like to propose traveling type-writing, rules as follows:

  • You must have in your possession a typewriter, or be able to lay hands upon one by June 23 a.k.a. Typewriter Day a.ka. the 140th anniversary of the first U.S. typewriter patent to Sholes.
  • You must be able to use said typewriter.
  • You must be able to send and receive mail, and be willing to pass your address to one other typist via email or other channel, and pass your general location to me at traveling.type at gmail . com for route planning.
  • You must be able to "sign up" someplace appropriate online. I like the NaNo topic linked above, though members don't need to be NaNo-ers.
  • You must be able to afford postage.
  1. One June 23rd, take your typewriter and two blank pieces of paper to a public place. (Note for the shy: "public" can be interpreted as you like. Surrounded by your cats in your living room is fine.)
  2. Insert one piece of paper into your typewriter and Type Something Incomplete. Ideas: start of epic poem, short story, ode to someone walking past, ode to your typewriter, crazy luddite ranting, a treatise on the political inclinations of your cats.
  3. Remove paper from typewriter. Gasp in horror at typos and grammar flaws and stilted language and oh-my-God-did-I-really-write-that moments. Take deep breath and put down paper. Have a glass of wine or other Fortifying Beverage as needed.
  4. Insert other sheet of paper into typewriter, placing a LOG heading on it. Leave a little author's biography or whatever meta-information you like: where/when you typed it, reactions of the public, ideas or apologies for the next author.
  5. The tough part. Gather up your sheets of paper and place in envelope. Mail to next typist on the list which will have been worked out in advance. Wait patiently for different letter to arrive from previous typist in chain. Repeat steps 2-4, appending your own genius to those that have gone before you: add to the main page, add to the log. If you complete a page, please number the page before starting a new one. Repeat until your own first pages come back to you. Gasp in wonder at finished product.
  • Please aim for a prompt turnaround. One week, perhaps?
  • Don't bundle up different works and send them en masse to the next author. Handle them as they come in, send them out one at a time. This involves a lot of mailing and postage fees (one stamp per bundle at least.)
  • Don't write pages and pages and pages when it's your turn, try to keep the contributions (and postage) reasonable.
  • Follow the "yes, and" improv rule. That is, when you receive a packet from previous typists, be sure to contribute in the spirit of the thing. Take what's gone before and add to it. Don't kill off characters or hopelessly mangle the hard work of those gone before. Always think "yes, and" then something else...
Enough rule-forging for now... discuss!

UPDATE: I have set up a new email account for this project since it's generated some interest. If you want to play, please send a note from your preferred contact email with your general location (e.g., state or province and country) to traveling . type at gmail . com This handles the "sign up online" requirement, so I've struck it out.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I appear to be an idiot, as I selected a name just one letter off from the Travelling Type (two els) blog and email address. Heartfelt apologies to the original TT and for any confusion.


Jeff said...

I might be up for such an event. Let me know if you all work out a place to "sign up" online. Perhaps its time to start, or find, a USENET group?

mpclemens said...

Usenet -- wow, talk about "old school." I thought it had been taken over by Viagra spammers years ago. It's a consideration, for sure. All private information (mailing addresses) would go back-channel anyway.

Jeff said...

I really do prefer USENET. I was an active member of alt.smokers.pipes back in 2005/2006, but haven't used USENET much since getting really busy with school work. All in all, higher quality content and ease-of-sharing, as compared to blogging. But alas, even web forums are taking the blog format, where the top-poster starts an article and the "comments" are just replies to the thread.

Monda said...

Oh mp, color me ON BOARD for this little project. This has all the delights I love - typewriters, writing, getting mail...

I'm thrilled, I tell you. Let's go.

Strikethru said...

I'm in.

Duffy Moon said...

Wow, you've really thought this out.
It sounds like fun. I still hyperventilate at the thought of sharing something publicly that I've typewritten, but not to the point of syncope, which is what I used to do in the days before I did my first typecast.

Will there be some public sharing of all the finished products at the end of the event? Someone scanning and posting them all? Or leaving it to each individual to publicly post (or not) the piece which they started?

mpclemens said...

Hooray! A summer writing assignment. My English teachers would have been so proud.

I gave this some more thought, and I think we could get by with using Google documents for coordinating. I can post a spreadsheet showing the various traveling projects, and periodically update it as to location of each.

I've also made an email address to coordinate this:

traveling.type at gmail dot com

Please send a note from your preferred contact email to this address with your general physical location and I'll mark you down.

Will post about this on the NaNo forum as well, in an act of shameless self-blog-promotion. :-)

mpclemens said...

D'oh. Forgot to reply to Duffy.

I think a public show-and-tell would be great. I'm surely going to scan "mine" when it comes back to me, and would be interested in seeing others as well.

Teri said...

Count me in too. I need the practice ;)

mpclemens said...


Please be sure to send an email with your general location over to the above-mentioned Gmail account so I can get a confirmed way to contact you. I'll send you a link to the tracking spreadsheet in return.

CStanford said...

Sounds lovely, but cash is gonna be tight enough this summer that I don't know if I dare.

If I don't email you to sign up I'll still be interested in seeing any results anyone might put up.

mpclemens said...

It's my hope (possibly false) that this can be done for the price of first-class postage for each hop, so at best you'll be out $0.42 x number of participants. I'm going to guesstimate that about $10 each should be the maximum we're spending on this, assuming all-domestic mail and a ready source of envelopes (hello, supply room!) And that $10 will be spread out over however many weeks this takes to complete.

It's not meant to be a hardship, though. If you can't participate for one reason or another, that's fine. But do consider causing a scene on the 23rd by plopping down in your local (wherever) and typing something for posterity.

One suggestion that's come up elsewhere is sending a (typed) thank-you letter to your nearby repair person, if such a thing still exists nearby. That'll only set ya back a stamp.