Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Thursday, June 7, 2007
I'm the Web editor for Discover, and I just heard about your impressive
feat: writing all of To Kill a Mockingbird with one pencil. I'm glad you
picked up the implicit challenge from the article, and rarely have I
been so happy to found out that we were wrong.
I want to blog about your one-pencil challenge and link to your blog. I
wanted to ask if you might link back to our 20 Things story, probably
from the quoted section in the upper-right of the blog.
Congratuations on your record-setting triumph.
* * *
Thanks, Mr. K, for the kind words and for suggesting the link! It's now in place, just where you suggested. We look forward to reading your blog.
Readers: Find Amos Kenigsberg blogging here.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
That's our final count of the words in To Kill a Mockingbird. Our pencil copied every last one.
This includes the title "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the Section Titles "Part One" and "Part Two."
It takes in 405 pages of text in this edition, for an average of just about 248 words per page.
Our copying consumed 573 sheets of paper, giving an average of about 175 words copied per page.
We involved 26 volunteers for the first 32 continuous hours, copying about 32,000 words.
5 volunteers completed the task over the course of the following 4 weeks, in approximately 60 more hours. Probably more when you include the task of counting the words.
Please note that OUR count was 100,388 words. We feel this is accurate within 500 words. It's possible that another count would be different simply due to human error, as well as to different choices about how to count words, particulary hyphenated words or uses of dialect or common speech. For example, how many words would you count in each of the following uses?
We counted two words in each case. In cases like this, our process was to "translate" and count the words represented. For example:
't's right = That's right
he'da = he'd have
m'shoes = my shoes
Anyway, we've reached our major goal and intend to retire the pencil. It certainly has more words left in it, but it's fought the good fight and we want to have enough left to display in the library!
Actually, our original goal was simply to test the claim in Discover magazine that the average pencil can write 45,000 words. We're amazed to have written well more than double that number.
This entire project has been a challenge, a blast and a grind. It was wonderful to join with many volunteers and to amuse and surprise those hearing our story. We hope to do more pencil events, involve many more people and draw more attention to the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library and it's soon-to-launch building campaign.
See? You never know what might be going on down at the library!
P.S. This may sound like a final post, but it's not. What for updates!
We're still finishing the word count. For now, please enjoy these pictures. More facts and figures will follow.
The pencil in the "Bi-conderoga" mode that allows writing with a stub: The metal ferrule of another pencil joins the stub to an unsharpened pencil, and the combination is stabilized with tape and a splint (the shaft of a cotton swab).
The official final length: 1-3/16 inches (or 1.219 inches).
The completed manuscript has 573 sheets of paper and is 2" thick. And did we ever put the "manual" in manuscript!
The final page, written by five different volunteers.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
We're shooting to finish the actual word count by tomorrow.
Current estimated word count: 96,678
Final estimated word count: 99,630
Monday, June 4, 2007
Note: That would be more than double the number of words (45,000) that Discover magazine said we could expect from the pencil.
The pencil is harder to measure now, taped up as it is in the Biconderoga (not to mention splinted for stability) but its length is about 1.25"
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
We just received this great picture of Andrew Lashinsky, the lucky lad who won the huge wooden pencil that was one of the decorations in the Library during the book copying.
Andrew is one-third of a set of triplets, so you know that at least two members of his household may be envious of his good fortune!
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Here's a picture of the word: hot. It's circled but still hard to see.
And here's a picture of the pencil after passing 45,000 words. What a champ!
Monday, May 14, 2007
The page we've reached in the book: 170
Actual number of pages from which we've copied, starting with the title page: 167
Average words per page: 249
Length of pencil remaining: 3.125"
Pages of filler paper used: 221
The most recent sentence written: It was a happy cemetery.
Finally ... the big reason that the number of words per page keeps dropping (pointed out by a friend ... Thanks, Carl!): There's more dialogue than in the earlier pages, and dialogue takes up more room on a page, because of all the paragraph breaks.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I can report that we've copied up through the middle of page 168 in the edition that we're using, and that we still have over 3 inches of pencil to write with.
And we've counted up through the bottom of page 147. The total of counted words stands at 36,700. The projected total of written words stands at 41,745.
The average count of words per page keeps declining. That must be because Scout's vocabulary includes more long words as she ages somewhat through the book. Also, the farther you go, the more long legal terms there are!
Friday, May 11, 2007
Monday, May 7, 2007
- Jeffrey Ketner
- Shirley Bowser
- Crystal Crissman
- Rev. Marlys Hershberger
- Anna Sylvester
- Donna Riggen
- Suzanne Sylvester
- Pamela Johnson
- Janice Albright
- Connie Letscher
- John Letscher
- Janet Eldred
- Ethan Eldred
- Don Ruggery, Jr.,
- Julie Ansley
- Mark Michrina
- Carl DeCaspers
- Joyce Eger
- Mary Ann Keagy
- Ann Blough
- Diane Witmeyer
- Michelle Ewing
- Marissa Ewing
- Ken Sheppard
- Keith Eldred
- Emmett Eldred
Here we see Emmett Eldred, Keith's son, wielding the Biconderoga at Keith's kitchen table, the new site for copying. The pencil endures! As of our last report, we had copied through page 132 or our edition. Now we've copied through page 205.
We've also started a careful count of the words in the book. Through 23 pages of our edition, the word count is 6600, or about 287 per page. If that rate holds steady, we've already written out nearly 59,000 words--well beyond the 45,000 stated in Discovery magazine!
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Click here to see the raw data. Note the sudden drop in overall length of the pencil toward the end, before the decreases become regular once again. That's when the ferrule and eraser came off!
As of this posting, the latest measurement is 3.26 inches. The pencil started out at 6.65 inches minus the ferrule (That measurement actually comes from an identical pencil with the ferrule removed), so the total decrease is just about 3.4 inches. Over 32 hours, that averages out to a decrease of .11 inches per hour. So a 6.65-inch pencil would take 60.5 hours to wear away. That means we're only a little over half-way done!
Now, another factor is the changing ergonomic situation. That's a fancy way of saying that it's harder to write with a pencil stub. On the other hand, there are two simple answers to that:
ANSWER 1: Switch to a second pencil
Hang on, this is not a cop-out. Think about it. We simply need to wear away 3.26 more inches of lead. If we do it in a second, easier-to-handle pencil, that's still the equivalent of using up the original pencil.
ANSWER 2: The Bi-Conderoga
Stub + Ferrule + A pencil with the ferrule removed + Stabilizing Tape = A more manageable pencil.
We couldn't expect to wear away the whole length, because we need to have something to hang onto to insert the pencil into Royal P40! We're still figuring out how much we more we could wear away, but at most it would be 2 inches. Our current estimate of our total words written, having worn away 3.4 inches of pencil, is 29,000 words. So wearing away two more inches would give us 17,000 words, lifting our total OVER the target of 45,000 words.
To be continued ... We're going to sleep on all this and form our strategy tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Note the word marked in pencil. We're going through and circling every hundredth word to establish milestones for progress!
Saturday, April 28, 2007
On 4/26/07 6:31 AM, Keith Eldred wrote:
Dear Discover Magazine editors,
Little did I know what an interesting challenge I would discover in Dean Christopher’s article “20 Things You Didn’t Know About the Pencil” (May 2007, page 80). Point number 6 claims that the average pencil can write roughly 45,000 words but that “History does not record anyone testing this statistic.” Let history record this: I was inspired to organize an event through the local library for volunteers to write out a word-for-word copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” using one pencil. The event will begin on May 4 at 2:00 pm and continue around the clock until copying is complete. We’ll go into it realizing that we need a miraculous performance from our chosen writing utensil. Our paperback copy of “Mockingbird” has 288 pages, and online (http://www.writersservices.com/wps/p_word_count.htm) I found an estimate of 400 words per page in a standard paperback, for a total of 115,200 words. Nevertheless, we are determined! And we are pleased to have found this way to honor a literary treasure. You can track our results at www.ToWriteAMockingbird.org. I’ll also plan to report back to you after we’re done. Please communicate my thanks to Mr. Christopher.
413 Bella St.
Hollidaysburg, PA 16648
----- Original Message ----
To: Keith Eldred
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2007 5:52:12 PM
Subject: Re: Your May 2007 "20 Things" article inspires library's tribute to the greatest American novel
Best of luck with the write-off. We hope all the participants do appropriate finger-stretches before getting started to avoid cramps! We’ll be sure to check back for the final word count.
The Editors at DISCOVER
Thursday, April 26, 2007
This happened yesterday when we were hanging the second big pencil for display. One of the Library employees, Kim (punctured, above) learned an important lesson. Chris, who is another Library staffer, helped Ken successfully extract the instrument.
Stop by the Library and see for yourself that Kim has recovered just fine. And while you're there—sign up to write a section of the book!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
And as long as you're at the Library, how about signing up to write out a section of To Kill a Mockingbird?
Monday, April 23, 2007
Okay, okay, it's not for writing. It's for decorating the library, site of To Write A Mockingbird. Ken and I made it with utmost care (if not skill).
It's also a prize! Anyone who comes into the Library can enter to win it! Can't you just picture this in your bedroom ... office cubicle ... day care center ... classroom ... ?
Come on in and fill out an entry form! And while you're at it, sign up to help with the writing!