A Life Changed by a Book
Yesterday, Glenda and I talked about what it felt like to become a published author. She shared the experience of touching her books for the very first time. Her description makes it easy to imagine how it must have been — one more example of Glenda’s skill as a writerr and storyteller.
Glenda’s accomplishment and that thrill of achievement are a future that many people reach for. Yet Glenda became a published author following a distinctly different path from the usual road. I wondered about that path and asked Glenda these questions.
How did you learn to write? How did you learn to type out the characters? How did you learn to find your clear, authentic musical voice?
Please allow me to share this except from IÃ¢â¬â¢ll Do It Myself about learning to print in Grade One in the Special Education class:
Ã¢â¬ÅBecause getting to the chalkboard was difficult for most of us once we were placed in our seats, we each had an 18-inch square piece of chalkboard at our desks for practicing our printing. It was also easier to work on a horizontal surface rather than a vertical one. Initially, my printing was wobbly scribbles. With practice and extreme concentration, I controlled my jerky movements enough to make my letters almost legible more of the time. I also kept a chalk eraser handy, though inadvertently an uncontrollable movement erased a good letter. In frustration, I did the letter again.
Although learning to print, and then to write, were important steps in learning to read, it was evident that printing would not be efficient. It took too much energy and was too time-consuming to keep up with my work, and that would only worsen through the grades. Learning to use a typewriter was a necessity.
An electric Smith Corona typewriter was placed at the back of the room, which a few of us shared. When it was time to do typewriter work, Mrs. Rutherford dragged me in my desk chair over to the typewriter table and then dragged me back to my desk when I was done. Then it was the next studentÃ¢â¬â¢s turn. A while later, perhaps once funding became available, we each had a typewriter at a second desk beside us. We simply dragged the typewriter back and forth as we needed it. It was much easier, especially on Mrs. RutherfordÃ¢â¬â¢s back.
As I have only one somewhat functioning hand, I only typed with one hand, my left hand. While typing, I steadied my hand on the typewriter hood to give myself some control over the spastic movements and used my thumb to hit the keys, causing my wrist to be in a dropped-wrist position. This concerned the adults, particularly the physio and OT [occupational therapist]. Although this was decades before repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome had been invented, they were concerned that the dropped-wrist position would cause damage over the long-term.
They decided a splint with a stick to hit the keys was needed to keep my wrist in a good position. With this contraption snuggly Velcro strapped to my arm, I was expected to have enough arm control to steady my hand mid-air, without resting it on anything, and to accurately hit the keys. And this was less frustrating than printing with a pencil? After a few days, the splint ended up in the back of my desk drawer, and I resumed typing with my left thumb, my hand in its compromising position. I type the same way today, as nothing else feels as natural. For a non-verbal individual who relies on written communication, my left thumb is my most valued body part.Ã¢â¬Â
I have always enjoyed writing; that is my means of communication and expression. I fondly remember our Creative Writing sessions after Friday morning recess in the Special Ed class. In the regular Grade Seven class, as a replacement assignment if there was something I couldnÃ¢â¬â¢t do, the teacher had me pick one moment or incident and write as much as I could about it by describing all of my five senses. The idea was to expand that one moment in time as much as possible and to include as many details as I could remember. I still use that technique if IÃ¢â¬â¢m stuck while writing.
Once I got my first computer in university, my writing improved because rewriting and revising were easier. I no longer had to type a rough copy and then a good copy or mess around with that darn correction paper. I love when the words just flow through me; that when I am in my groove and truly using my gift.
Gosh, Glenda, that’s a story. Thank you.
–ME “Liz” Strauss