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A Twist in the Tale: Weegee Considers the Writing Life

By Jenny Kalahar

My husband and I began to teach our terrier to read some time ago. Writing came next, and her typing lessons are going very well.

We’d given Weegee several old keyboards and tons of plastic odds and ends to work with in her basement laboratory. One day last month she had us follow her downstairs to see what she’d created: a keyboard with keys that were each big enough to accommodate the whole surface of her right paw. It’s about five times the size of a human keyboard, and it’s very impressive.

Weegee's got her author photo all ready.

Weegee’s got her author photo all ready.

Before making dinner each afternoon I would go with her to her own computer where at first I had her practice easy words: cat, sniff, tree, food, etc., and then she advanced to harder ones like squirrel and prestidigitation and squeaky (those are some of her favorite words, I should clarify). Soon Weegee was typing pretty quickly, and even on her own, when I was too busy to give her a lesson.

She came into my office the other day when it was time for one of our walks around the neighborhood and said, “You know, Jenny, when I write my first novel it’s not going to be about dogs.”

“No?” I asked, raising an eyebrow as I turned in my office chair to face her. She’d never mentioned any real plan for her new skill. I had only thought that she wanted to write fan letters to favorite authors or to do online searches for her favorite dog-food commercials.

She took her red leash from its hook by the door and then, holding an end in her mouth, she left the room knowing I’d be right behind her.

“Well, then, Weegee, what are you going to write about?”

She sat calmly as I attached her leash and then put on my long, blue coat before we stepped outside. “Dinosaurs,” she answered.

I was picturing the museum variety for some reason. “Oh, that’s because they had huge bones, right?”

She scowled. And then she laughed, realizing what I must mean. “Funny. But, no. Dinosaurs have always intrigued me. Remember the book Pat read to me when I first moved here from the shelter? The one about tera . . . tero . . .”

“Pterodactyls. Yes. How could I forget that picture book? He read it each night for over a month!”

“Well, my novel is going to have tera dinos in it, and there will be evil space aliens that look like cats, and there will be a side mystery story about squirrels who do stage magic acts with squeaky toy rabbits. I’m really looking forward to diving into the writing, let me tell you!” she told me happily as we walked along the gravelly alley.

“I can’t wait to read it, Weeg. I can’t wait to read it.”

She called a greeting to a backyard Collie in his own language before asking me, “Do you think my readers will mind if I don’t use punctuation? I didn’t bother putting any punctuation keys on my keyboard, you know. But I don’t think that will matter very much, do you?”

“Well, we’ll cross that hyphen when we come to it, Weeg,” I said, leaning down to pet her black-and-white head. “And we’ll hire a good editor when you’ve got your first draft finished.”

She spun around suddenly, interrupting herself mid-stream at her favorite tree. “‘First draft’? You mean that I’ll have to do re-writes and stuff?”

“Naturally. You don’t think you’ll get your book perfectly right without reworking your paragraphs, or checking for grammar issues and plot inconsistencies and –”

“Forget it, then!” she growled, turning her attention back to the tree. “I’m just going to write poetry. Nobody cares about punctuation and grammar and plots when they’re reading a poem.”

I opened my mouth to argue, but instead I let the conversation drop. After all, I realized, the only way I was ever going to get to read her dinosaur novel was to stop being so logical.

Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime: Another Tale of Used Books and Cats. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog, Bookselling and Writing with Weegee.

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