WRITING IN THE RAINFOREST

Writing in the rainforest can be troublesome. Thousands of years ago the former Indian inhabitants of this area told their stories with stone carvings and sacred spheres, which were also probably troublesome, at least time-consuming.

In the modern era, at University in the 1970s, I wrote papers on an electric typewriter. I learned how to cut and splice, using scissors and paste, and blotted out letters or words with “white-out.” Today’s college students have never heard of such things, but back then an electric typewriter was the latest writing tool. (The computer I worked with was half the size of a refrigerator!)

Then I moved to the Costa Rican rainforest, to a place with no roads, no electricity and no phone lines. The ambiance was perfect for writing – no people, no distractions, everything natural.  But I didn’t like writing with pen and paper; much too slow and messy. I tried writing on an old manual machine, but each letter required a powerful downward stroke. It was even slower. The most irritating problem resulted from the high concentrations of salt and sand in the atmosphere. The house is next to the Pacific Ocean and the waves throw up a fine mist of seawater and particulate. The machine’s keys and all moving parts soon melded together, immovable. (Oiling everything helped with the movement, but played hell with the paper and ribbon.)

From then on I wrote only inside my head. While performing various chores on the farm, or simply sitting and staring at the sea, I daydreamed about the stories and scenes and characters.

In 1988 I visited the U.S. and saw my first personal computer – an Apple II.  It was a revelation!  The word processing program was like magic!  When I returned to Costa Rica, I installed a small hydro-electric system and bought my first computer – a Commodore 64 – which was essentially a keyboard with a separate disk drive.  I used a small black and white TV as a monitor.

Over the years, I wrote my books on a succession of different computers, each one falling victim to environmental hazards (including cat hair, dog hair, ants, cockroaches, mushrooms, and other mysterious lifeforms). I had good luck with one particular Hewlet-Packard Compaq, which lasted five years!

Fastball Fari was composed on three different computers. Once, in the middle of a re-write, I suffered an electronic catastrophe and lost all digital traces of Fari; the disks went bad and the hard drive blew up. Luckily, I found an old written copy of the book and wrote it into the new computer page by page.

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