New Stories

The Typewriter Project

by Ally Hall

Have you ever written a paper with a typewriter? Many students on the Pitt-Greensburg campus might answer “no,” and would have no idea what a platen is or how to change a ribbon. Faculty members might chuckle at this, but hey—how’s acclimating to using that smartphone going?

It’s true that there are huge differences between the current generation of students and the last, but the new typewriter installation in FOB is bringing a retro spin back to artistic expression.

Dr. Lori Jakiela, Professor of English and Creative Writing at Pitt-Greensburg, is responsible for the time warp trap on the second floor. After Dolly Biskup, Administrative Assistant to the President, sent out an email asking if anyone might take the IBM Wheelwriter off of her hands, Professor Jakiela shot back a “giddy response right away.”

“Of course I wanted it. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, but I wanted it. I love typewriters and have a small collection of them at home,” says Dr. Jakiela.

“My parents gave me my first typewriter when I was very young. I told them I wanted to be a writer. I’m not sure they were thrilled with [that] idea…but they supported it anyway. Typewriters remind me of that. Pure love.”

Professor Jakiela says she took inspiration for the installment from a bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Literati Bookstore, owned by Michael and Hilary Gustafson, provided a public-facing typewriter that collected the sentimental and sometimes silly statements from passers-by.

“My one thought when I put out our typewriter was, ‘I wonder how many times people will type “my butt.”’ So far, that’s only happened twice. But in Ann Arbor, people wrote a lot of moving, beautiful things too, like ‘I will find someone some day.’ People would start poems and stories and leave them for other people to finish. Probably more than a few people wrote ‘my butt,’ but that’s o.k.”

Dr. Jakiela hopes to compile all of the written fragments, poems, and reflections created by the dancing keys of the typewriter installment into a book, similar to the Gustafsons’ “Notes from a Public Typewriter.”

“Writing–even if it’s just a line or two–is a great stress reliever. It’s a great practice in mindfulness,” says Dr. Jakiela. “It’s such an important part of my life and I love to share it with others. Also, did I mention typewriters are awesome?”

The installment, located beneath the bulletin board for the Creative and Professional Writing Program, will remain “as long as a love letter. As long as it takes.”

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