How Old Are You?

More of the freewriting I've produced in Kathy Stinson's class. The launching line: "How old are you?"

"How old are you?"

"How old do you want me to be?

"You can choose?"

"Anyone can choose! I, for example, am seven going on seventy! I can play in the fields, wriggle my toes in mud puddles, do your taxes and pop my dentures into a glass by your bedside table, just you say the word!"

"Um... thank you, no. Can you really do my taxes?"

"Canadian or American? E.U. or Australian?"

"Are you an accountant?"

"No. I just get around."

"Can't they arrest you if you do my taxes without a license?"

"That's dentistry, son."


"How are your teeth, by the way?"


"Hey! Let go! Gak! -- Are you a dentist too?"

"And a chiropractor!"


OW! But I thought you said you could be arrested--"

"Why do you think I get around, so? Now, tell me about these feelings of inadequacy you've been experiencing."


I've taken a page out of Joe Clifford Faust's book (well, not literally), and I'm posting my progress on The Young City:

Seven Chapters
107 pages
26771 words

I'm doing this mostly for myself. After working on The Young City for almost a year and a half, the above scorecard gives me some sense of accomplishment.

Actually, what really gives me a sense of accomplishment is the 125 pages of handwritten text that I've composed for the story, 100 of those comprising sequential scenes running from the beginning of the story to the middle. That's a thick wad of canary-coloured lined paper with my handwriting on it.

The Young City has proven to be different from my previous stories in that most of it, if not all of it, is being composed by hand. The last time I did that was some point before I got my own computer (probably 1994; I remember composing Jabberwocky Dreams by hand). Since then, a lot of my composition has come on computer.

What's the difference? None that I can see. I composed most of Rosemary and Time and Fathom Five by computer, and I'm feeling just as creative on The Young City. But perhaps it's the fact that The Young City takes place in an age before computers, I feel compelled to write everything out by hand, first, to get a sense of going back in time, and hopefully transferring that sense onto the page.

Then there are the practical considerations. Erin and I have, for the past few months, started to go out as many weekends as possible to out-of-town coffee shops to sit and write. I don't have a light and fast laptop, or one that operates off its battery for long periods of time, so it's much more practical to haul a Cambridge notepad, a fountain pen and/or gel pens to whereever it is we're going to write.

I would like to have a faster and lighter laptop. The highly romanticised image of a writer composing in his titanium powerbook at a local Starbucks is something I'd like to experience if I'm ever lucky enough to write for a living. But I've composed portions of The Young City at home, in full view of the computer, and my first drafts have all been by hand.

The Young City will get on the computer eventually. In fact, I've typed in all that I've handwritten already (this is how I figured out exactly how many words I wrote), but it looks like my handwritten pad is only going to get thicker. Even though my story is already 26000 words long, I think I'm only halfway to the first draft's finish line.

I see that I've written about writing The Young City longhand before. Nice to see that I've stuck to things for well over a year...

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