It Began with a Typewriter…

For a hook, this line might not be as compelling as “Once upon a time…” or “On a dark and stormy night…”. However, it is perfect to begin sharing my odyssey as a writer.

Once upon a time, (sorry, couldn’t resist) I was a twenty-one-year-old wife wishing to make a career change. What? At such a young age? No, it didn’t involve leaving my husband of one year.

To help pay the bills, I took a job as a nurse assistant in a nursing home. While a nice private facility which paid better than minimum wage, it was still a difficult place to work. Especially when you are a sensitive, creative soul who might weigh 100 lbs. wet. Many of the residents were bigger than me, and not all of them appreciated the assistance, most especially those with dementia. After nearly a year of employment there, I longed to find another job with fewer physical demands and fewer opportunities to have my feelings hurt, simply because I was trying to help someone.

My husband and I married in the late 1980s, just a few years before the internet started becoming widely available to everyone. It wasn’t unusual to find a computer or two in an office (no, they didn’t have Word yet), but you could still find many typewriters perched on secretaries’ desks. I took typing in high school, but funnily enough, it wasn’t my best subject. Many of the office jobs I found in the local classifieds required applicants pass a typing test to be considered for a position. What to do…

On one of my weekends off, I perused the garage sale classifieds. Fate smiled upon me. I found a listing with an electric typewriter which supposedly still worked. The garage sale was in progress that very day, so I dragged my husband out of the house to go typewriter shopping. Lucky me. They still had the machine when we arrived, and as promised, it still worked. It was even a recent enough model; typewriter ribbons could still be purchased for it. Yeah! (Typewriters do not come with backspace or delete buttons. We had white-out for that.) I wish I could remember what we paid for it, but I still believe it was a bargain.

Now that I had my own personal typewriter, I could practice increasing my typing speed in my free time. Surely, copying any old document would do, right? Nope. In my brilliant, 21-year old mind, it made more sense to write a romance novel while improving my skill. Bonus! Who doesn’t love a twofer?

Did my typewriter and novel writing get me out of my nursing home job? Sadly, no. I worked there a little over two years, until we decided to move from Nebraska to the town in NW Iowa, where my in-laws lived. Hubby was a reservist in the military. He received orders to report in California for two-weeks of training, then was supposed to leave for the Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait. We were expecting our older daughter at the time, and I didn’t want to live four hours away from both sets of grandparents, with a baby.

My parents moved me during the two-week training period. Days before it ended, the Gulf War did too. My husband just missed being shipped out. Instead, he joined me in Iowa and found a new job at the Farmers Coop lumber yard. I went back to work when our daughter was two months old, as a nurse assistant in the local hospital.

I continued using that typewriter until 1993, when we purchased our first home computer, complete with 3 1/2-inch floppy disk storage and dial-up internet. Our younger daughter was born that same year.

Now a mother with two small children and a part-time job, the novel writing had its challenges. I joined Romance Writers of America in the latter half of the nineties, seeking support from others who would keep me motivated and help me hone my craft. In 1997, I finally made that career change, into graphic design, and within a year had a full-time position. Moving to Texas in 2000 ultimately brought my novel writing ambitions to a halt. Though the girls were still in elementary school when we first moved, it wasn’t long before they entered middle and high school. I continued to work full-time as a graphic designer. Hubby was an orchestra teacher with practices and programs, before and after school. He also rejoined the military after 9-11.

He is now a disabled veteran, with a spinal cord injury, and I am his caregiver. For a while now, I have been considering finding ways to bring in additional income, without leaving him home unsupervised. A few months ago, I had an idea and dusted off the novel I started 30 years ago. Made perfect sense to my brilliant, 51-year-old mind…

Quote of the Week

Don’t be getting anyone’s knickers in a twist. It’s painful for all involved.

Kristal DeJong

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