Typists Need Not Apply

The Writers Room at 740 Broadway in New York advertises itself as "the nation's largest and oldest urban writers' colony," a vibrant little oasis of creative energy "located in a bright and airy loft at the crossroads of Greenwich Village and the East Village."  Sounds utterly charming, no? A welcoming haven where kindred spirits driven to commit words to paper--excuse me, words to screen--come to realize their full potential as writers.

That is unless, of course, you happen to do your writing on a typewriter, in which case you will be told to pack your gear and leave--and don't let the door whack you on the backside on the way out, either, heaven forbid it might disturb one of the fragile geniuses toiling away in tortured silence in a little carrel nearby. That's what has happened, at least, to a children's book author by the name of Skye Ferrante, who was told to gather up his 1929 Royal and vacate the premises, his incessant tapping of the keys was bothering the other writers.

Back in the old days--and by the old days, like just a few months ago--there was a sign in the Writers Room advising all members that "in the event there are no desks available, laptop users must make room for typists." When Ferrante showed up recently to work--and the dues are $1,400 a year, by the way, so he wasn't there hat in hand--the sign was gone, and he was told he had to either use a laptop, or get out, and that the remainder of his membership fee would be refunded.

"I was told I was the unintended beneficiary of a policy to placate the elderly members who have all since died off," Ferrante, 37, told the New York Daily News. He refused; like a lot of us, he likes working with paper, and he likes the feel of old typewriters. "Some people like to listen to vinyl," he said. "Some people prefer to drive a stick shift."

Writers Room Executive Director Donna Brodie confirmed the ban, explaining that Ferrante's typing was, indeed, a distraction. Allowing him to type, she said, "would mean that everybody else who wanted to work in that room would have to flee. No one wants to work around the clacking of a typewriter. That's why the room had been established."


Tell that to Cormac McCarthy, or David McCullough, just two writers I can think of off the top of my head who swear by their typewriters, and I guess that would have dealt out the late Robert B. Parker and George V. Higgins as well. I wonder if any of these abused writers ever spent any time in a newsroom--a real newsroom, where the ever-present clatter of typewriters was intoxicating, like the sound of waves rolling up on a beach. And I wonder what the attitude there would be toward someone who might have the temerity to write with a Number 2 pencil. Might the scratching there be a bit too obtrusive as well?

A bright and airy loft, indeed.