Norris Chambers Old Timer's Tales

Writing Conan Stories

by Norris Chambers

   We lived so far back in the sticks that a road didn't come by our house. There were just two ruts winding through the brush and dodging the trees. It was four miles to the main road, which wasn't much better. The matter of going to school was so complicated that I wouldn't attempt to explain it here. However, I did get a pretty good education in the little schools I attended, and since there wasn't much else to do, I did a lot of reading. By the time I was in the fifth grade, I was trying to do some writing, and I managed to talk my dad into getting me a typewriter. An uncle showed me where to place my fingers, and which one to use on each letter. I don't know where he learned, but he was a pretty good typist.

  By the time I got to high school, which started in the 8th grade at that time, I had developed considerable speed and had written a number of stories that I considered pretty good. Looking back on some of them now, I can see that I was mistaken. To make a long story short, I started my first "make money at home" project then. I advertised in a writer's magazine to type manuscripts for authors. The rate for typing in 1933 was from 15 to 35 cents per thousand words, and two carbon copies were required. I picked 25 cents per thousand as my price. I soon got some work to do, and began making money at home. It was not until later that I labeled it for fun. This was hard work, since most of the manuscripts had been double or triple spaced and corrections and additions penciled in. These had to be included in the final version. During a period when work was hard to find, and $1.00 a day was good pay, I did very well with my typing endeavor. During this four year period I did typing for Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian. I typed many of the original Conan stories that appeared in Weird Tales Magazine. While I was doing this typing, I never dreamed that Conan would be featured in comic books, movies and many new stories by other authors who kept his adventures going.

  But to get back to the theme of this column, making money at home, I doubt seriously if a typing service would make any money now. There are too many computers and word processors and too many people who know how to use them. But it was my first project. Since then I have tried many, many schemes to stay at home and bring in a second income. Some have worked and some have not, but they have all been fun.

  I have tried everything from bronzing baby shoes to a mail forwarding service. If anyone would be interested in the operation and results of some of these endeavors, I would be glad to write about them. Also, I would like to hear from anyone out there who is trying, or thinking of trying, some plan for making money at home. There's no thrill like that of opening a letter and finding a check in it. I will never forget the $37.00 check I received for my first published story. But I never made it as a writer!


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