HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, I know Jonathan and I have a funny and unusual life. The other day, I was in a cab on the way to a library event, when Jonathan called me on my cell. He was trying to decipher the handwritten notes I'd made on the draft of his opening statement in a murder case.
I can't read your handwriting, he said. (Here's a photo of it.)
Yes, indeed, my handwriting is --well, incomprehensible. I write thank you notes and people say--I got your note. What does it say?
(Decoding the above: The C (commonwealth) wants you to believe Mr. H and Mr. P shot and killed Mr. R, and they are going to shower you with what they will try to convince you is...)
Now, I know schools have stopped teaching cursive handwriting--a move I cannot believe.
In that same cab, I said to the driver--did you take handwriting in school?
He said no. It was too difficult, and we all hated it, so they stopped teaching it.
How do you sign our name? I asked.
I just hook the letters together, he said. We learned what they call... He paused.
Printing? I said.
Reds? Thoughts? (And if you have a handwriting sample--let's see it!!)
HALLIE EPHRON: My handwriting is so atrocious my husband insists on rewriting shopping lists. Printing is no better. And they taught cursive writing when I was in school - I even earned a "penmanship certificate." The older I get the worse it gets. This is a challenge when I interview someone for research. If I don't transcribe my notes within 24 hours I simply have no idea what I've scribbled.
So here's an example. This is a note I took recently interviewing a friend whose mother was a doll collector. (I think my next book is going to be something about dolls. Creepy dolls, of course.) I challenge anyone to figure out what it says. Hint: She was telling me about a doll her mother's hair dresser gave her when he closed his shop. It stood in his shop window at Christmas-time.
Decoding the scribble: A SANTA CLAUS SING ROCK AROUND XMAS TREE RED VELVET SUIT AND SWIVELS HIPS
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I have terrible handwriting and have always had a real complex about it. I think I must have made Cs in cursive writing in elementary school, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Maybe it's poor eye-hand coordination or motor skills or something... I've never stopped envying people who can write a beautiful, flowing cursive script in journals and letters. That said, I do write by hand, all the time, in cursive, not printing. Printing is so laborious--no wonder people who can only print want to text or type all the time. Here's a garden list, and some book notes.
And there is something special and unique, I believe, about the way our brains work when we write by hand that can't be duplicated with a keyboard. I do a lot of my brainstorming/idea jotting in notebooks, for instance. So if they stop teaching cursive in schools, will our brains lose another bit of wiring? A very scary thought.
Something weird? In business college I made an A in shorthand.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I have fairly terrible handwriting, even though I remember studying it—with the practice paper with two solid lines and the one dotted line down the middle—in first grade. As an adult, my handwriting has gotten worse and worse. I was a little disconcerted to realize the kiddo would not be learning it in school (he prints and has perfected a scribbly signature), but, yes, he'll probably be using keyboards, so....
I recently bought a fountain pen though, inspired by novelist Kim Fay, mostly for the romance of it. [Of course I'm not using it yet, because I need to pick up ink — one of the many things on my (typed and on my smart phone) to-do list.]
Generally I just type right into the laptop when I write, but I do use yellow legal pads and pen when I'm outlining. Like Debs, I think there's some sort of connection to our more emotional selves. Or something....
Here are some of my notes for THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT :
HANK: Oh, let's see Mattie's writing--er, whatevering.
SUSAN: Okay, here's a thank you note Mattie wrote today to novelists Carole E. Barrowman and her brother, John Barrowman (aka Captain Jack of Dr. Who fame), for their gift of an autographed copy of their novel, HOLLOW EARTH.)
HANK: He is hilarious! (Did I mention..hilarious?) (We need to do a blog about thank you notes!)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm a big believer in nice handwriting. I'm glad they taught it at my kids' parochial schools, although in my son's case (left-handed and with small-motor challenges when he was small) it didn't take. My girls have a good hand, when they try. I think I was inspired by my grandmother and my mom. My grandmother Greuling had that classic Palmer penmanship they taught back in the first decades of the 20th century, when almost everything had to be written by hand. I don't know if my mother had it from her mother or from good teachers, but she has handwriting that is lovely, legible, and also distinctly hers.
I can understand the schools dropping penmanship - there are a lot of subjects to be taught and lets face it, our children and grandchildren will spend more time typing and texting than writing. On the other hand, I can't imagine getting through college and law school without cursive. Done correctly, it's both readible and extremely fast. If I had had to block print my class notes, I'd still be a 2L.
LUCY BURDETTE: You all had better let me and Julia write the ransom notes if we're kidnapped...I can't believe they aren't teaching kids to write by hand any more. What about thank you notes? Emails and texts, I'm sorry, do not match up. I can remember the lined paper--I had trouble with the tall looping letters like h's and p's. And Debs is right--when I'm stuck somewhere waiting without a computer, I often take a pad of paper to work on book in progress. It's amazing what comes up on the paper... Here are some notes:
|Wait--I can totally read this, Lucy!|
RHYS BOWEN: Isn't it interesting that many of us have less than stellar handwriting?
Perhaps great creativity equals poor handwriting, OR our brains rush so far ahead that our hands scrawl, trying to keep up. I've tried taking handwritten notes for my books and often can't read my own notes. I make John a shopping list and he calls me to say "Did you mean beets or leeks?"
"Peas" I reply.
So if any of us were ever captured and held hostage and could get out a note with a friendly carrier pigeon we'd write "Help. I'm a prisoner in the old clock tower." And nobody would understand us.
HANK: True! Remember that Woody Allen movie where the bank robber hands the teller a note--and the teller reads out loud: "Huh? You're saying--I have a GUB?"
Reds--where are you on the hand-writing spectrum? And the Hank-book of your choice to one lucky commenter!