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The first story eked out of my head and onto screen in 2008, spurred on by a will to heal a struggling spirit.

You know the story, at least most do.  Meltdown in the early naughts from gender dysphoria led to dysfunction and caused harm to family, friends, and clients of my then business.  In the years after, I recovered and rebuilt my life, achieved success for a state agency, and finally, faced and dealt with the consequences, twenty-one months in a federal prison camp.

By the time I arrived at the camp in June 2009, I’d written an entire blog saga chock full of bad writing.  Creative writing became a new permutation of my writing skill where on a professional, business level, I had it sussed.  Words come easy for me.

Camp life meant no computer or word processor, and I refused to use the email system since someone scrutinised it all, while hand scribed stuff left sealed and unfiltered.  When not tutoring, reading (175 books in 21 months), or walking (4-8 miles a day), I wrote, and wrote lots – 952 pages, distilled, on paper, with pen.  For each page brought home, perhaps three others came before it through the tedious act of paper editing.

My handwriting classifies as minute (see snapshot example) and mousy, so 952 pages carried a fair amount of words.  The breakdown would go something like one complete novel, four novellas which would expand into novels once my paws touched a keyboard, and four semi-shorts.

The first days and weeks at camp, my hand cramped from intensive writing.  The pens we bought were cheap, unwieldy, and hand numbing.  During this early time, my supplies were sparse, but once laden with writing supplies, off I went, scribbling out stories, burning through a pen a week.  Family and friends endured my scratched out letters; one received copies of the rough draft stories, and rough they were, requiring eagle-eyed vision, expert cursive deciphering skill, as well as an imagination capable of taking rough draft into some mental image of the intended story.

By the end of my camp run, just walking into the library would find someone offering up my usual writing chair, even though I inevitably demurred.  Perhaps I’ll write about the folks there in another post.

Pens no longer intrigue as a favourite instrument given the extensive camp usage, although I still find fascination with a good gel one easy on a hand.  When a situation calls for a personal touch, I’ll hand write a note or letter.  Otherwise, I embrace my keyboard as an essential element of my writing life.

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