Giving yourself a year or two to learn the computer (Ah! the Good Ole Days)

Notes from Alexis: She is taking her first computer class and loving it! Funny to think about learning to type on a computer and not a typewriter. We all take this for granted.
Dear Lex,
I am writing this in class, and as soon as I finish, I will print it and mail it to you. I just made a mistake because (Iii) hit the return key, and I should not have done that.
This is one of the things that I will have to learn or rather un-learn, and that is I no longer use the ‘return key’. It is so weird, and I love it. Imagine, just type along and never worry about being at the end of the line. Virginia has been helping me, so now instead of having one mistake I have two (see the small i beside the large I). Virginia helped again, and now I have three ‘eyes’. She said she was not responsible for any of the ‘i-s’ except the first one. We have laughed until I have lost my place. I didn’t know I was going to have so much fun at computers, and thanks to Virginia it has been fun.
Virginia is getting very impatient with me and wants me to print this because I told her she could have a copy.
Love, Mom

(Then she hand wrote this note to me.)
The lady in front of me wanted some help, so I made Virginia use the computer, while I helped the other lady, and then I was embarrassed. I apologized to Jeff (the instructor). I said, “20 minutes of working on the computer and I’m teaching.” He said, “I love it!” Then the little girl S. who is helping him, asked me to help her, with another student, so I did. I just took to it like I did to weaving, much to my relief. Programming is something else again. I told Dad I was going to give me a year to learn it, and I believe that is about right. There always seems to be something else the computer can do.
Love again,



Tempting yourself with lunches and Bon-bons, to get with the writing

Notes from Alexis: The great learning curve of ‘computers’! Plus loving the endless amount of books streaming into her thoughts!


Dearest Lex,

I’m so glad about you being ‘in’ your new house. All I could think of was the wonderful light in it. We really take our light for granted. It is only when I visit less fortunate folks who don’t have any light, that I realize once again what true wealth is. Not that I wouldn’t like to have some ‘pelf’ (wealth – especially if obtained dishonestly), too.
Well, this has been such a busy week that I hardly know where I am. Computer – Mon, Wed, Fri. I had to go to town Tuesday to buy a floppy disk, and Dad and I went to town Saturday. Five trips in one week! I feel I deserve a medal, for what you do every week.
I had done a dab of programming with LOGO (darned turtle) and wanted to see if I had saved it on my floppy disk right, and I wanted to show Dad my great accomplishment. It wouldn’t ‘BOX’, but I can hardly complain; it told me it didn’t know how to ‘BOX’.
I may have overstepped myself, though, because now he is nagging me to get the computer because he wants to put his garden info in it. This from a man who won’t put the info in the little red book. You know, and I know, who is going to put what, where. After all, I’ll be so good at it, right?
We came home, and I rearranged ‘Studio I’ to get ready for the new computer addition, and it turned out so nice, I couldn’t believe it. I stood in both Studio I and Studio II and dithered, and then when I plunged in, it was perfect.
I also went to ‘Friends of Library’ book sale, and got all Dad, and I could carry for $1.25; then got home and had a bill from the lawyer for $125. My lucky day I guess. Something symbolic about the number no doubt. So far my romp into publishing is;

Sold “Goats Don’t Care”              $ 15.00
Paid lawyer to get back ‘above’  $125.00
Column ‘About Books’                 $00.00
NET LOSS                                      $110.00

Now about syndication. Dad assured me you would be relieved, and I wrote you blithely certain of that, so am sorry you are disappointed. Tell S. I paid $700 for the Blue Rose (typewriter), and see if he is interested. Later this week I expect to make the decision about the computer, but will no doubt get it, and then I will begin to see about selling the IBM. (I just panicked!). (I had this all sealed up and ready to go, but I don’t know if I can let the typewriter go, or not. Let us hesitate on this one until I’m sure.)
Dad’s birthday card arrived (due 2¢, which I am adding to your account), and I’m sorry I didn’t mention it. I’m also sorry to have to tell you I forgot all about the boat oar until I was cleaning out Studio I and found it. He was so thrilled with it, and didn’t mind it being late.
Let me tell you a good story. This is from the ‘Medicine Woman’ files. Dad has been complaining about his stomach hurting. Finally, he said he had compared his symptoms with others and was convinced it was ulcers, and he was in such pain that he guessed he would have to go to the doctor.
I said, “Will you try Bert’s remedy first?” He agreed, so I started in. Bert’s remedy is cabbage juice. He said he cured his ulcers with it in a month after his doctor said he would have to operate. I started Dad on a wine glass full every night, and after five nights he said he had no pain. He said it was the first day in six weeks he had been free of pain. Isn’t that great!
I have a question. How many books can I start writing, and then tell you about, before you lose your place and your interest? Frankly, I don’t count. Every morning I get up and work on whichever one wants to be worked on. So now a new one. The funny part is I’ve been thinking about this one for years, probably as long as ‘EAB’, and then I could just see it, and started to work on it. I have been doing a lot of ‘analyzing’ of my writing, and realized I use a lot of ‘plot’, because I feel a bit insecure about being able to interest the reader with just the writing.
This new one has less ‘plot’. (A little less, I kinda like ‘plot’). To me everything and anybody, is ‘plot’. The characters in this new one are interesting, and I’m enjoying them.
Still, it is Phase I of writing and I have to keep lashing myself to the wheel, and tempting myself with lunches and bon bons, just to go in and do it. This is so I can get to Phase II and III of writing, which I love.
All day we have furious little snow storms, and then it clears up and shines, only to do it again. It’s all a lot of nonsense, because it melts almost as fast as it falls. The birds came back yesterday, and probably wonder why.
Thanks for the Bombeck books. Cheered me up, and since this is a ‘three-sorry’ letter, I needed them. Well, I have run out of steam, and have to get his juice made, and get ready to go to computer class (word processing tonight). Will write more later.



“Poco Kitty” could give better advice!

Notes from Alexis: Well syndication is “done” and she is back to books, with clearer thinking.


Dearest Lex,

Well, this is a letter I am finding difficult to write. It is hard for me to admit I was (am) wrong, but now is ‘confessing time’. I have been wrong about the newspaper column, and therefore the business idea.

A curious thing happened on the way to syndication – J. didn’t print one column. A small thing you might think, but large beyond imagining, in other ways. You see what happened was I got mad because he didn’t tell me, when I should have gotten mad because he didn’t print.

This set me to thinking, and finally I got it. I have walked all around it, and now I see that the column didn’t matter. I could write it or not, and I didn’t care. This bothered me exceedingly. I should have cared. Why am I writing something that doesn’t matter? Good question, and no ready answer.

One thing that popped right up in front of me was that while I wrote the column, I was distracted from the other writing. Perhaps I needed distracting, because the book was not going well. Actually the column has been a ‘Turning Point’ thing. There is no doubt that I will look back and see that when I wrote the column, I had set my foot on a different road, but that road is labelled ‘Books’ and not ‘About Books’. Remember, I did not see a stack of newspapers in my dream, but a stack of books.

I have 13 columns ahead and will give these to J., and I’ll go ahead with copyright procedures, which is good for practice, but then I’m through. I hope this will not disappoint you too much, but in any case my decision is final. When I reach the last 4 columns, I will write J. a letter and sever our arrangement. He did me a great favor by publishing the column, and then a greater one by not publishing. He is one of those people that come into our lives to do us favors; while not being part of our lives, in any manner. Curious, yes?

In a lighter vein, I got the “How To Syndicate Your Own Newspaper Column” and if you had listened, you could have heard me yelling across the state of Oregon, I was so furious! I sat right down and wrote them a letter. There was nothing in that newspaper column that ‘Poco kitty’ couldn’t have told me.

Well, will stop for now. Loved your letter, and the hope for a job. Does this mean you can quit driving the old folks?

I wish we lived close enough so Dad could help you. He is driving me nuts, he sits and stares at me, wanting me to find something for him to do.



Do it totally – or forget it!

Notes from Alexis: Well, it is so funny reading about the “New” computers of the world. It will make you smile.


Dearest Lex,

Well, I’m going to try to bring you up to date on the great computer adventure. Once again, let me tell you how frustrating it is trying to work with ‘non-communicators’; in this instance ‘Dear Old Dad’.

I called up and told the gal at the college that I wanted to sign up for computer classes (adult literacy I think they call it). $65 for five weeks – Mon. and Wed., two hours each, and a free night on Friday to practice on an Apple. That figures out to $2.00 an hour, which seems pretty reasonable to me. I told Dad about signing up, but not about the new computer at your place, (one thing at a time I figured). He was noncommittal, so I rethought it, and decided to wait until a later session; so I called them up and said I couldn’t make the class. Then you called, and I decided to go to the library and investigate computers.

When I told Dad, I had cancelled the course, he got a little testy with me, and said he thought I should have taken the course. This set me back a little. I couldn’t figure it out; and all of a sudden, “I was the non-communicator.”

Finally, after some careful and exhaustive digging, I found out that he believes his shop will go total computer in a year, and he needs to know how, from ‘Ground Zero’ up. He figured if I went to school; I could teach him, and maybe even help him set up his parts list on it. Further, he thought our getting our own would help him because he could practice here at home. Still, all this came with grunts and groans, and monumental silence, and with a lot of guesswork on my part. I did, however, jump into computer research with a vengeance.

You know me – ‘Do it totally or forget it’! I found out that ‘Kay- Pro’ has the best deal for ‘po folks’ like us; and certainly the best beginner pack, software wise (which is the best way to go). Pick the software and get a computer to run it. Not only that, but KayPro has local service and been here the longest, two or three years, I forget now, but longer than Apple or IBM by a year or two, and they are nice folks too. (Oh boy, if she could only see the future)

By waiting a month, I can get their cheap set – Kay-Pro 21 – with a built in modem so it can talk to another computer (as in the Internet). This will be a big savings. Okay, so I’m up at the computer store talking about computers, and then I went back and paid the nice lady at the college for the course, again.  This was because I didn’t have enough guts to call her again, and sign up again, but I’m getting a whole lot of ‘nothing’, from Dad.

I have decided to get credit through the computer store, (10% down and $75 a month) because I get a credit card, and can buy other things on it at the store; and because I have a theory that they love you more, if you owe them, than if you don’t. Once I get the computer, and feel sure I’m okay with it, I’ll go to the bank and get a loan.

Now here is the capper. Last night Dad asked me when I was going to get started buying the computer!! He said he thought I better get on the stick. Well, actually, I’m on top of it all, and pedalling as fast as I can, or should, but imagine him being impatient. I tell you I was shocked. He has turned over from hating the mere thought to being excited about it. I can see the day when I’ll have to beat him off with a stick.

The thing is, I think he has been scared about his job. He couldn’t figure out how he was going to work and learn at the same time. Now he has a chance at some one-upmanship. When they lower the boom, he can be on top of it and tell them what he needs and wants. J. of course is envious. He started out with Radio Shack ThS-80, a cheap model; and then has added things piece by piece. In time, he will end up spending as much as me, but TRS-8O is not all bad. If he can learn how to do it, he will be able to do a lot. We will not, however, be able to talk to each other on our computers, because his is MS-DOS, and mine will be CPM.

Have some fun some day, and go to the Kay-Pro dealer, and get all their brochures, and then go to the library and get the books that will tell you what all the funny numbers and letters mean. You might just as well, because you will be online with me someday. Good lord, I’ve spent all this time on ‘computerese’. You better learn the language because you’ll be hearing a lot of it. You’ve survived bridge, weaving, and writing, so why not ‘computer’?

Talk about an emotional surge; you called, and I jumped up and went to town, and haven’t come down yet. I’m soaring at 30,000 feet. There is just nothing like a new interest to keep your red-blood count high.

Well, I have to run. I’m going to babysit little J.



Non-Communicators Bore Me!

Notes from Alexis: She is tired of “Non-Communicators,” you can hardly blame the woman, we all like those who share more of their world.


Dearest Lex,

Happy Valentine’s! Funny, isn’t it, how little attention I pay to these manufactured occasions. My mind is just not attuned to them, and I wouldn’t have remembered if I hadn’t written the date on this letter. It amazes me a dab that others take them so seriously. I suppose it is a little like Monopoly… if you are going to play the game (America – Twentieth Century) you are going to abide by the rules.

Well, by now you have gotten your Keno Star newspaper, and saw that the column wasn’t there. It took me a day, but I finally decided exactly how I feel. It made me mad! Quietly and permanently angry. Not that J. didn’t publish it this week, but that we were over there Sunday, and he knew then that the column would not run this week, and he didn’t say a word.

I told you there is ‘no communication’ between us, and now you see what I mean. I just suddenly decided I am tired of J., and I’m not going to give him any more columns. So where does that leave us? I asked Dad, what he thought about “Aurora”(the name I have given the business as a whole). He said he thought it was exciting. (Did he strike you as excited? Interested?)

Boy, I’m telling you these non-communicators bore me. I’m really good at making up dialogue for my characters, but I find it tiresome to have to do it for real, with walking around human people.

You know something? I like making decisions. Going around in a haze full of doubt, is my idea of ‘no fun’. Resolving things is a lot like doing dishes or cleaning house – it never truly gets done, but it’s a whole lot better than ‘not doing’.

The house and the head are clean and clear for a while.

Will stop now as I have to go to town and do a few errands.



All Good Things met with Suspicion and Resistance!

Notes from Alexis: Finally, she realizes that only she can get her books promoted. Thus the ‘Query and Synopsis’ to be sent to agents, will reluctantly go out.


Dearest Lex,

Well, I guess you think the old folks sit around and do nothing, when in fact it is a beehive of activity down here. Of course to an outsider, it might well look like we sit around and do nothing, but hang on and I’ll give you a detailed tour.
First, I am going to tell you about a change of heart of mine, a complete turn around of attitude, the big 180’. Always trust my authors (the books I read). When I read a book by a favored writer and he or she mentions another writer, I dutifully go down and get that writer’s books.
This happened to me with Jesse Stuart. Someone mentioned him, so I wrote his name on my “Get List.” When I went to the library I was dismayed to find ten or more titles. Where to start? I finally settled on his non-fiction as my first book; and I wasn’t too thrilled to see that he considered himself first and foremost a poet. I then proceeded to read all my other books, but his. I just kept putting him off. Then I couldn’t delay any longer, and with an ‘Oy Vey,’ I settled in to the task. It bothers me that all of the good things that have come to me, have been met with suspicion and resistance (by me). I have to be practically dragged to them, and forced, so to speak, to taste. Does that sound like an educated woman with an “Open mind?” (No)
I still haven’t read his fiction (some poetry, and since I don’t like it, it must be poetry). The four books I have read have changed my attitude and I find it strange. I believe a close scrutiny of the writers who have deeply affected me and why, would make for an interesting study for those who enjoy puzzles.
Not to give the plot away too much, because I want you to read his books, Jesse was born in 1901 in Kentucky and lived a life that is better than a novel, maybe too fictitious for a novel. His life and his writing are so good, and he never gave up. And this turned me around. I thought, “If a writer like him can get rejection after rejection, then publishers are just assholes, and I can’t get upset about them.”
So I changed my attitude. Now I see that being a “WRITER!’’ (quotes, bold face type, exclamation point and underline – – is that a case of overkill do you think?) is like being a “POTTER.” Once you get over the thrill of it all, it is just a business like any other. Can you remember when you were ‘Scared’ to say you were a potter?
I could see I was going to have to learn the business end (Publishing) of being a big ‘W,’ so I had to get busy. After umpteen “How-To” books, I now know that:

(a) That I am just too ignorant and uneducated to conduct my own selling. It doesn’t scare me now, but I am no better at selling words than I was at selling weaving.

(b) I, therefore, need an agent, and in order to get an agent, I have to write the Query  letter and the Synopsis.   Both of these are things I have adamantly resisted.

(C) I no longer call them “rejections.” Now they are just “returns.” Nothing personal,  just merchandise that didn’t sell. The timing was wrong or the market was soft, or the publisher is all tapped out, whatever.

I will use Dad as the guinea pig. He had no interest in reading EAB at all, so if my synopsis can sell him it might sell an agent. Agents have a lot of reluctance to take on new and unproven writers.

So how’s it going with you? I’ll bet you thought I would never get around to you. Dad went ice skating down on the river, so now you know how cold it has been. He has fallen in love with the Frugal Gourmet (me too) who has a cooking show on PBS, and Dad wants one of your steamers. We’ll buy if you have any left. If not, put in our order for when you get the steam up in the Outback Pottery again.

Well have to quit, and Q&S (Query & Synopsis), brother, is that a task I’m not looking forward to. About like making handles for pots.



“Oy Vey,” meaning, “Oh Wow, what a bummer!”

Notes from Alexis: Winter takes over, syndicated columns take over writing, and spinning out of control comes in more than one way.


Dearest Lex,

Wow, I could see you so clearly in your pickup on the ice, then the other cars coming for you. I once {in a totally safe situation) did a brodie on ice, and I know how powerless you feel. When it happened to me, B.B. from across the street  was watching and laughing. He thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen, and I had to suffer his humor because he pulled me out of the ditch.

The frost has frozen thick on all the trees and we look like Nome, Alaska, but it is  beautiful and cold, with no new snow. We do have about a foot on the ground.

Well, onward. A young girl has been coming over and buying yarn and talking to me about weaving and spinning, her name is E. She called me the other night and said she wanted to come to look at yarn, so I said okay, thinking she would be twenty or thirty minutes. She was here in five, and then it seems she wanted me to show her my Wilhelmi spinning wheel, which was down at M.’s. So we went and got it, and then she wanted me to give her a spinning lesson. She left at nine and I hadn’t eaten since noon. I was shaking and couldn’t eat anything, but toast and coffee.

All the time she was here she would sigh these great wracking sighs, up from her toes and say, “Oy vey” – which is Hebrew meaning “Oh wow, what a bummer man!” She took the wheel with her, and I really don’t know if I taught her to spin, but I sure picked up sighing, and ever since have been going around thinking, “Oy vey.”

I don’t care how slow or how fast you run the marketing end of the business. I fervently hope I never have to think about the business end of the business. I want to think about writing, and I want to not think about the other.

There is no communication between me and the neighbor J., about the column.  Even when we talk, our words slide by each other. It’s just like talking to a foreigner. Still, I like the idea of having the column in the local “Star” first. For one thing, he just prints whatever I hand him, since we had our little discussion. Then too, I love having people tell me they have read the column. S. told Dad she reads it, and sends it on to S.’s girls. Of course she hasn’t said anything to me.

A lady at the library saves me a paper each week, which has turned out to be a blessing. I used to be able to pick up 3 or 4 at the P0 Box, out of the waste basket, but no more. They are throwing them away at home, I guess.

Well, I’m going on to the library now, and from day one (1-1-85) I will have to start keeping travel logs, and expenses and accounts. I don’t know why they just don’t let writers and potters be exempt from everything. By the way, I love the things you enclose. They are like special gifts, and if I forget to mention them, don’t forget to send them.