Dec 3, 2007

Jon Hassler: A writer for life

Imagine you’re 74 years old. You’ve written 21 books. And you’ve developed a Parkinson’s-like disease that leaves your hands incontrollable, making typing with any accuracy nearly impossible.

If you’re Jon Hassler, you start your next book.

Over the last 30 years Hassler has written 14 novels, two collections of short stories, two young adult books and three works of nonfiction. Most of his writing takes place in small-town Minnesota, where Hassler has spent most of his life writing and teaching English. Long retired from teaching, he’s working on novel No. 15. He composes about a page a day through a painstaking process that involves Hassler typing the first draft, which comes out looking like dummy text. He then prints the page, holds it inches from his eyes, (He has double vision as well) and reads the prose aloud to his wife. She retypes a clean version, prints it and reads it to him. They edit together from there.

Wow. That’s a man compelled to write. Reading this story by Dave Wood about Hassler made me think of my grandma, a lifelong reader. At age 82 her vision had deteriorated so much that she could only see through a hazy fog out of one eye. But she so loved to read that even that didn’t stop her. Up until a bad fall this past spring that lead to her death this fall, she read an average of a book a week, on top of reading three daily newspapers.

I wonder how many of my writer friends today will still be writing into the years when everything becomes harder. What will we think looking back on our days when all we had to complain about was writer’s block?

Check out this video that accompanied the story on

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