I feel like the first leaf of autumn to turn amongst the verdant green. I’ve gone back to school. Not for another degree. I’m auditing Bill Watterson’s Shakespeare Comedies and Romances at Bowdoin College. That’s my classroom pictured below. I get there by bike.
Back when I was at college, I had wanted to take a similar course, but it was full. Bill asked, “15 years ago?” Got to love him. More like 20 years. I swallowed my embarrassment and took a seat besides classmates half my age.
I’ve been a fan of Shakespeare since my tweens. I’m self-taught on this subject since leaving school. So was Shakespeare. He dropped out of school at 13.
Shakespeare wrote with a quill pen that had to be dipped in ink every 3-4 letters. He still managed to write 30 something plays and over 150 sonnets. My friend Aaron Kitch, who also teaches Shakespeare at Bowdoin, believes writing by hand affected the work produced. It forced the writer to slow down and to think.
Have you ever felt “out of sorts?” That idiom comes from 17th century printing. The letters were sorted into boxes. Occasionally letters were put back in the wrong box. Other times the printer would run out of letters while setting a page. He’d have to fiddle with the spelling to make it work. Paper was too valuable to discard, so if a proof reader found an error, they’d still keep that page and fix it in the next copy. Even in one edition, the spelling varied.
I compose my novels directly on a computer, my fingers flying across the keyboard at the rate of my thoughts. I write quickly, but I spend as much time revising as composing. Revision involves reading a print out with a red pen in hand and then cutting, pasting and rewriting on the computer. It is like working on a 3D wooden puzzle that has many possible combinations. I am not pining for quill and parchment, although I do value contemplation.