Toys In the Attic

One of my earliest memories is of my mom reading to me from Little House in the Big Woods.    If I close my eyes, I can still see the Garth Williams artwork that was on the page when I told Mom to hurry up and turn the page.

“I’m not done reading it yet,”  she told me.

“But I am,”  I said.

I was four years old, and I realized two things that day:  that I knew how to read, and that I wanted to be a writer.  Just like Laura Ingalls Wilder.


I got my first typewriter not long after that.  It was a toy, but it worked like a real typewriter.  It was made out of hard blue plastic and it came with its own sturdy carrying case.  I took it with me everywhere I went, and I pounded out stories and poems that probably gave any readers a severe case of bleeding eyeballs.

By third grade, I had worn it out, but that was okay because I learned about quotation marks and discovered that my little typewriter didn’t have a key for those.  I figured out how to type two apostrophes together to make my own, and I expanded my vocabulary as other keys began to wear out.  I learned to find words that didn’t include the letters “g” and “r” but finally had to admit defeat when I lost the letter “e”.

It took less than a year to blow out the next toy typewriter.   Aunt Marian referred to my method of typing as “Hunt and Peck”, but Mom said I was using “The Bible Method”, otherwise known as the“Seek-and-ye-shall-find” method.

Am I the only one who sees the Star Wars influence here?
Am I the only one who sees the Star Wars influence here?

By the time I went away to college, my “toy” had been upgraded to an IBM Selectric.  That thing must have weighed fifty pounds, and it came with a corrector cartridge that was supposed to simplify the process of using Liquid Paper or White-Out.  I had taken an actual typing class by then with the oddest teacher my school ever employed (“My name is Frakes and it rhymes with brakes, and I won’t put the brakes on your typing speed!”).

I used that IBM Selectric to get through some pretty tough college classes, and even used it to hammer out my first query letter to Amazing Heroes magazine.  I knew that no one ever sells an article on the first try, so I wrote the letter as a practice exercise with no thoughts of actually writing the article. I nearly passed out when I got a letter from editor Kim Thompson a few weeks later calling me a “copacetic young lady” and giving me the go-ahead with a very tight deadline.

Oh, the horror that was the 1980's!
Oh, the horror that was the 1980’s!

I looked up “copacetic” and gave up eating, drinking or sleeping for a few days as I wrote “The Forgotten Reader” about what it was like to be one of the few female fans of comic books in those days.  I scrambled for a pen name—for the record, I was writing as “A.J. Lee” before the wrestler by that name was born—and thought my writing career was really taking off when I got my check for $35.20.

We’re often mistaken for twins.

The magazine ceased publication not long after that.

There have been a lot of detours since then.  A few articles here and there, some really egregious poetry, and a lot of self-indulgent attempts at “literary” fiction.   The Selectric eventually went the way of the two toy typewriters, and I now go back and forth between a tiny Asus Netbook and a “real” computer at a desk with my ergonomic chair to support my neck and shoulders.  I have access to things like spell-check and beta-readers and will most likely never again have to breathe the scent of Liquid Paper at two a.m. while chugging cans of tepid Tab and wondering why in the hell I ever wanted to be a writer in the first place.

In a way, I’ve come full circle from the days of that poor old blue typewriter.  It doesn’t matter if I type on a toy or scribble on the back of an envelope with a two-inch pencil stub with a gnawed-off eraser.   I’m a writer.  Always have been, always will be.

And I owe it all to Laura Ingalls Wilder and a little toy typerwriter.

Author: A.J. Goode

I am a romance novelist, single mother of three, and a high school lunchlady. To be completely honest, I have no idea which of those jobs is the most rewarding and which is the biggest challenge. I love them all. I write romance novels about the kind of people who might pass me on the street every day. My characters are often hurting in some way, and need to learn to trust others in order to heal themselves. I also blog about trying to focus on writing, and about my day-to-day experiences in small-town America. I write about life. The good, the bad, and the just plain odd.

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