The Sunday paper has three FULL pages of weddings and two of golden anniversaries. The dry cleaners do your American flags for free. There's a used-car dealer named Rick Cheatum. Neighbors introduced themselves as "Mr. & Mrs" and they're our age! The mailman stopped to talk and told us about his 6-week-old baby who has colic and that his wife loves to read romances. Backyards have clotheslines with socks, aprons and undershirts, vegetable gardens, stacks of firewood and big collie dogs sleeping under shade trees. Alleys are narrow with a spine of grass.
We stayed in a motel while searching for a rental. I hand-wrote several book reviews on a couch in the lobby, then the manager kindly offered his typewriter. While Greg crawled around the filing cabinets and desk in his office, I typed my column on the five-layered carbon paper. Tore off the top sheet and mailed it to Art Seidenbaum.
Since The Times was still transitioning to computers, I once needed to phone in a column. I spoke as clearly as possible, articulating all punctuation and odd spellings. It took about forty minutes. As explained to me, someone transcribed my recorded voice -- typed it, I assumed -- then delivered a hard copy to one of the editors in Book Review. After corrections, it was sent to production for galley pages, which returned to Art for final editing to appear in the Sunday section. So many steps.
In that motel office I could not have imagined myself today, in my sunroom with a paper-thin computer on my lap. Just one keystroke, quiet as a whisper, I can send an entire novel to my publisher before you've finished reading this sentence.
From LONGHAND: ONE WRITER'S JOURNEY, to be published Spring 2015.