This workplace memoir chronicles the author’s 25-year ride through the hallways of law firms that included skid-row non-profits, leftie civil litigator firms, vigilante defense corporations, and madhouse mass tort factories. From her years as a clerk typist, legal secretary and office manager, she offers a behind-the-scenes peak into the hectic world of law offices, and the heart of clerical workers.
Praise for 100 Words Per Minute
“Wry, witty, sometimes nasty, always insightful, 100 Words Per Minute offers a glimpse into what working within America’s legal system is really like. 100 Words Per Minute is a singularly delectable collection, whether the stories are savored a few at a time or all at once.” —Midwest Book Review, March 4, 2007
“This is not a book that was sanitized into conventionality. It is so well written and so literary, it makes me shudder to think that you spent your life typing requests for changes of venue. I feel more honored to have you as a guest on my show than most of the famous people I interview, because society doesn’t appreciate the millions of smart, hard-working office workers, and you’ve given such voice to them.” —Marty Nemko, KALW Radio
“An extraordinary work indeed—a rare look inside the human heart of unrecognized labor, made visible by Sara’s forceful strokes of language.” —Joseph Matthews, Author, The Lawyer Who Blew Up His Desk (Ten Speed Press, 1998)
“Don’t let the size fool you—this little stick of dynamite will blow you away. If you work for an attorney you have got to read this book.” —Dee Sullivan, Paralegal, Author
“Sara takes her experience as paralegal and her talents as a writer, mixes them with a generous dose of ironic wit, and creates poems that breathe new life into the dusty form.” —The Legal Tilt—Exploring the Legal Mind
“Those who have typed and filed and maintained order in the white-collar workplace will find solace in Sara’s graceful prose and witty poems. She gives voice to a crucial segment of the American economic pie: the underpaid and undervalued “support staff.” —Melanie Lawrence, Fearless Reviews
“A touching, unpretentious examination of a lifetime of law office work, from fly-by-night operations to the antiseptic aisles of corporate cubicles. Paced for the coffee break, denizens of cubicles everywhere will recognize themselves and know that they are not alone in their isolation.” —Blue Collar Review
“A masterpiece of workplace sociology! The poetry throughout, even in the prose, is stunningly beautiful. The service she has provided to clerical workers and their bosses by writing “100 Words Per Minute” is immeasurable and invaluable, pertaining not only to the treatment of clerical workers, but the treatment of all ‘subordinates’ by their ‘superiors’. I have the fantasy to airdrop them nation-wide, taking special aim, of course, at law firms, where the need is greatest.” —Alice Kisch, Editor, Retired Legal Secretary
“Page after page, her humor and insights resonated with my twenty-five plus years in the legal secretary trenches. There’s plenty here for anyone who’s ever found themselves behind a desk, wondering how they got there.” —Lisa Simpson, Litigation Secretary
Excerpts from 100 Words Per Minute
From “Poverty Law”
The hook of my connection to legal work was so gentle that I never noticed when the jab actually went in, twisted, and then lodged itself resolutely for the remainder of my working years. And slowly, ever so slowly, it proceeded to seal my future.
From “Inflections and Innuendoes”
I could hear her footsteps coming down the thick, institutionally elegant carpet. It wasn’t really a sound I heard, more like a shift in air pressure, thickening and narrowing as she swathed wide steps toward her office door, and inevitably toward me. I release a short sigh, and a little bit of spittle slides out. I wipe, then continue to type. Maybe today she’ll stay in there and leave me the hell alone.
From “Noon to Six”
The elevator smelled of radon or boron, something distinctly carcinogenic. The building was magnificently situated on the edge of landfill, overlooking The City in all its glory. This place wasn’t on the eighteenth floor. It was the eighteenth floor. Like Alice, after popping the small pill, I slowly walked inside, feeling overwhelmed and distinctly outsized.
From “The Interview”
Doreen McAllister’s makeup was thick, tasteful for being tasteless, and her interview pants entirely too tight. She was not chewing gum, thank goodness, but she talked as though she had something large in her mouth, something capable of spitting forth giant loud bubbles. She appeared to be someone who never knew fear. I settled hopefully on Doreen. It might have been her gravelly voice, gritty with self-assurance and fearlessness. She answered each of my questions with a languid roll of her eyes and a clever little snap of tongue that said, “Honey, I’ve done it all, a thousand times.”
The stress has grown on me. I wear it casually now, like an occasional scarf. Tempers flare, intermittently, like little wild fires sparked by the wind. But they die down just as quickly. I stick to my business. Shut my door if it suits me. At any given moment, a printer or personality comes unraveled. Dissent is constant but also calming in its consistency. I walk through the maze of it, cut myself on the edges, and don’t even bleed.