03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Story of Another Manual Typewriter's Journey

After reading the article in today's New York Times about Cormac McCarthy donating his Olivetti manual typewriter, one on which he wrote countless manuscripts, perhaps even his Pulitzer winner, I couldn't help but recall my first typewriter, a manual Smith & Corona, the color of a placid Caribbean sea. But I wouldn't have known that then, since I rarely traveled much further than beyond the small, rural town where I was raised on a farm in Upstate New York.

I was about ten years old when an aunt gave me a banged up metal typewriter that I'd unearthed from a toy box in her house. My excitement was soon quelled, though, when I discovered that the paper wouldn't lock in place; but that didn't matter because the ribbon was pretty well used up, anyway. Still, there was something about linking words together that had a hold on me and I would sit in my bedroom with piles of scrap paper and write poems and stories in longhand for hours. So when other girls were asking for Barbie dolls, I was wishing for a typewriter, one that would actually tap out a world of my own creation. Imagine how thrilled I was on my fifteenth birthday when I received that second-hand Smith & Corona as a gift. I can still hear the clickety-clack as I struck those keys for the first time. I don't believe I dreamed of becoming a writer then--it was more my need to express injustice and sorrow--not necessarily my own--by rolling in one sheet of paper after the next and writing poems with titles like Hey, Mr. Preacher Man and Bondage. Yes, I was quite isolated, confined in a place very few people heard of, and exploring certain struggles meant giving them a voice--even if no one was reading what I was writing, which is probably just as well because they were quite awful by literary standards.

Perhaps I was wrong to state earlier that I rarely traveled much further than beyond the small, rural town where I was raised, because during all those hours in my bedroom at my typewriter, I took a number of journeys, developing lives and tales where there were no circumstances to stop me. I have since moved on from that typewriter, going from an electric typewriter, to a word process and now my computer. I have also given myself permission to call myself a writer, without blushing with apology and embarrassment, but that wasn't until long after receiving that first typewriter. Nowadays, I write novels, short stories, essays and blog about a variety of topics, but imagine my surprise when after moving away from that very isolated world, I decided to write about it in my novel Without Grace--from my Long Island home. Guess that confirms it doesn't matter whether it is on some farm in Upstate New York or in a suburban Long Island home, it's the passion that drives us to share our truth and that first manual typewriter was the means that got me there.