I Love Her Despite Those Janky Ballpoint Pens

No Telling

My only daughter has disappointed me. Nature vs. nurture? I know I didn’t teach her this, and I’m convinced my genetic code was pristine on this matter. Clearly there is some throw-back DNA from her father’s side. And bad friends. There’s that. Why else would Em prefer trashy, generic ballpoint pens?

It’s not my fault. I come from a long and distinguished line of scribblers who appreciate fine writing instruments. Since my baby was able to make a little biscuit-fist I’ve given her only the sharpest of new crayons, the slickest Ticonderogas. At my writing desk, she’s had a life-long cotillion class of paper and pen.

Montblanc, Parker, Waterman – where did I go wrong?

The preacher’s kid rebels by breaking Commandments. A teacher’s kid skips school. My girl flaunts the cheapest of ballpoint stick pens and leaves them everywhere just to watch me cringe.

I‘ve tried to pretend they don’t bother me so I won’t feed the monster. This is a parental smoke screen I used with a particularly unsavory beau she wouldn’t shake. It didn’t work then, either.

(Honestly, I’d rather spend the rest of my writing life with a nasty ballpoint in hand than see that particular young man again. Things could be worse. It’s all about perspective and deciding which hill to die on. Don’t tell Em.)

The upshot here is The Perfect Grandson. Our hours at the desk together give me hope. Lay out one fine pen next to the trash his mother scribbles with – he’ll choose the Waterman every time. He may grow up to wreck cars and young girls’ hearts, but I’m guessing he’ll do both with a decent pen in his pocket.

He has to. I’m counting on him.

Bookplates and the Art of Procrastination

No Telling

Bookplates should be personal. Which is why the first one I made (with a little assistance from Gustave Dore) features tomatoes. I’m fairly certain Dore wasn’t from the South, but I am. We take tomato-growing seriously down here. If you’re laughing, you’re probably from Minnesota or someplace.

Don’t fret, these are all altered images frittering their artistic lives away in the public domain. I didn’t steal them and no one’s stealing my books with something like this on the inside cover. It’s not an Evil Eye, it’s an Exasperated Eye.

Sadly, the bat story clings to me. Can’t quite shake it, so I might as well make a bookmark. That’s not a rationalization, it’s a personal philosophy. Glass half full and all that.

I give books as presents all the time. Why, I’ve even been known to give them out at Halloween when the trick-or-treater is a little too tall for my liking. I gave out fifty-cent copies of Dracula, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Frankenstein a few years back and may never live that down. The too-big-for-trick-or-treating crowd has my number now. I’d never put one of these lovely presentation plates in those, though. They don’t deserve it.

This bookplate is strictly for scholarly books on rhetorical theory. Note the poor woman’s general demeanor. Enough said.

Making these was so much fun that now I’ll be grading all day tomorrow to make up for today’s artful procrastination. If you need to lose a few hours, I suggest Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Commons for a wealth of images in the public domain.

All I Need is this Stapler…

No Telling

I guess it’s just that time of year, but I’ve got a serious craving for office and school supplies. I want fancy pens and odd paperclips and fresh piles of yellow legal pads, college-ruled.

There’s absolutely nothing I actually need besides a few Parker gel refills (perfection), but that’s not put a dent in my irrational hankering for a little something more. It doesn’t help that a new Staples store opened up here not long ago, either. I can hear the notebook-and-journal sirens’ song clean through the walls of this house.

And that’s just the new stuff. I’m an avid gatherer of all things vintage. Ebay has become a curse and a blessing, because where else are you going to find those old pop-up phone indexes and boxes of air mail stationery? I’ve hunted like a fiend and it appears everyone in Arkansas is either still using them or threw them away when Nixon left office. Someone has to literally die and have their secret office drawers up for inspection at estate sales around here, which is too morbid and sad even for an addict like me.

I want an two-toned Swingline stapler, but not enough to dig through the used casserole dishes of some lovely woman who’s just gone to her Great Reward. That’s just wrong.

So tomorrow I’m heading out and won’t come back until I have a clipboard, post-it notes, onionskin paper – something – in hand. A cursory look around tells me I’m a little low on snazzy designer file folders and that won’t do.

I. Must. Replenish.

Step Right Up

No Telling

The First Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper is on and there’s much to see. Anyone who’s addicted to writing tools and paper needs to stop by to take a gander at the notebook and pen reviews, as well as pieces on paper obsession. Love this!

Not familiar with a blog carnival? Step on over to Notebook Stories and take a look at the submission requirements. Next month’s carnival is hosted by The Pen Addict, so scribble a little something and use this submission form to enter your post.

A couple of ditties of mine – this one and this one – made it onto the midway, so get your post on and enter September’s Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper.

Deadline: Sunday, September 6 at 5:00 pm.

Lost and Found or Where Do I Put the Bookplate on this Kindle?

No Telling

I’ve spent a few weeks trying to justify buying a Kindle. So far there are only two entries in the plus column: storage and techno-fascination. Neither are strong arguments for dropping $300 (or thereabouts) on a new gadget.

The minus column is long and includes many tactile reasons I love books in the first place – the feel of the pages, writing all over the margins, the ability to sling a bad book at a wall and still have an intact, readable book to give away. Now I have the best reason not to own a Kindle: bookplates.

No, I’m not one of those who meticulously labels ownership in each new purchase. I appreciate those who do, though, and love finding an old book with a gorgeous bookplate glued inside the front cover. Oh, the history! Try recreating that, sleek and pricey Kindle.

I’ve found a bevy of gorgeous bookplates, obsessive collectors, and Etsy recreations. Waste a little time sifting through these sites and luxuriating in the art of the bookplate.

For the serious collector there’s always The American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers. Here, you can actually commission a personal bookplate and the art is stunning. I’m sure the price is, too. It’s all about the math, really. How many books and commissioned bookplates can you buy for $300 (or thereabouts)?

Go crazy at Flickr. The Exlibris pool is an ooo-la-la collection of vintage bookplates, and Heraldic is another. My favorite, though, is the Pratt Libraries Ex Libris Collection. These are To. Die. For.


So it looks like my spare change will go elsewhere now. Sorry, Amazon. Until the Kindle is made of magic paper I’ll stick with the real pages. It looks like I’ve got some shopping ahead of me.

And so it begins…

No Telling

The indoctrination is complete. After a quick trip for supplies, The Perfect Grandson has his first notebook. He wrapped his chubby two-year-old fist around a blue crayon and moseyed from room to room waving both the instrument and his 3×5 notebook, stopping occasionally to add this or that to the pages. Just like…well, everyone else in this house. We’re a notebook-waving, scribbling family, and he’s officially joined the ranks.

Clearly, his genre is fiction. There was a great deal of plot that didn’t make it to the page, but I was fortunate enough to hear it all. Trust me, it’s an action/adventure piece thick with tension and twists. There’s also something about a bug with spots, but I don’t want to give it all away.

I burst with pride.

What This Country Needs is a Cheap Cigar Box

No Telling

I know you remember these. Maybe your cigar box of choice wasn’t Roi-Tan, but you had one. Maybe dozens. Was it a Swisher Sweets? Hav-A-Tampa?

I alternated between White Owl and Kind Edward cigar boxes for my more important collections at home. Rocks, mainly, but sometimes buttons or leaves, sometimes pecans and pokey sweet-gum balls. I remember finding a papery chrysalis once dangling from a forsythia bush. I opened the lid several dozen times a day fully expecting each time to unlock a grateful butterfly, but it never happened.

In late August I always had a fine collection of locust shells carefully picked from tree bark, screened doors, and other scratchy, irregular places. These were particularly prone to crushing in, say, the back pocket of your jeans, so a sturdy cigar box was essential. My neighborhood friends and I would travel in rangy packs like out-of-season Easter egg hunters, some of us with empty mayonnaise jars but most of us with cigar boxes. We could kill entire afternoons looking for locust shells and sticking their hooked little empty feet to our clothes and hair. After scaring my mother with them at dinner, they were always carefully placed back in the King Edwards box and spent the night under my bed.

I don’t know what those kids with the mayonnaise jars did. Those were for lightning-bugs anyway.

The fancier boxes were fine for treasures, but Roi-Tan was was the box of choice in my school desk. Elegance. An air of serious sophistication. Everything about this maroon box said you cared about the pencils inside and that education itself was a somber, sacred event. No bug shells or glass buttons in this box, thank you, the Roi-Tan held cerebral tools.

Every single year before the first day of school, my dad would take me down to Rexall Drug to pick out the perfect cigar box. Timing was everything, because everyone got their cigar boxes at the Rexall and if your daddy was the sort who put things off, you could end up carrying fat pencils and an Elmer’s paste bottle in something ridiculous like a paper sack. That was nothing short of social suicide and certainly no way to begin first grade. These were the days when “special” kids were carted off before the end of the opening day and never seen again.

Thinking back, I’m sure the missing children had little to do with paper sacks vs. cigar boxes, but times were different back then. Falling into school-supply lockstep for a month or so was calculated survival. It was dangerous to be quirky and we knew it.

So Roi-Tan it was.

My mother wrote my name on every single side of that cigar box, not that she needed to. By the end of the first week I’d written “Monda” a hundred times on it myself, trying out every single crayon I’d brought with me. Most of the boys used scissors to gouge their names into their cigar boxes, a practice I found equally violent and fascinating until a boy named Dale nearly cut off a finger doing it. He was whisked, bleeding, out of class and down the hall. When he returned the next day, he had stitches, round-edged scissors, and a swagger. I fell in love with him by recess.

I found this Roi-Tan cigar box at a Camden, Arkansas junk store for $2. It was worth every penny just to remember the locust shells and swaggering Dale.

Note on the Fridge to Moleskine and the Very Good News

No Telling

Dear Moleskine,

I know I’ve been a tad insistent about this ruled, extra large notebook business. I know I’ve whined and shaken my fist in the air in frustration. In short, I know I’ve given you a hard time.

The last email I received about the rebirth of the XL ruled Soft Cover Moleskine was heartening. While my favorite XL ruled cahiers were still history, I could make do. It put a dent in my despair.

So you can imagine my absolute joy this morning when I found this little miracle in my email:

Here I sit, down to my last two or three cahiers, and you slide out of the email ether riding a white horse and slinging out Exactly What I Want. I was this close to breaking up with you, Moleskine, and now you’re offering my favorite notebook in two new colors. I feel like dancing.

You may now consider us reconciled.



(Start your credit cards, Moleskine lovers, and click on the announcement above to stock up.)

Moleskine and Etsy and the Seven Stages of Cahier Grief

Fresh Ribbon

I’ve been a little put out ever since Moleskine discontinued production of my beloved black, extra large, ruled cahiers. A friend who went to the AWP conference gifted me with Moleskine’s 2009 catalog and – adding insult to injury – now there’s a glorious, deep red XL cahier – in blank and gridded paper only. No! Moleskine also added an 8×11 hardbound ruled “folio” notebook, but I can’t find this one online anywhere. There’s the barest mention of it here, but no picture or price.

I need to make peace with this loss. There’s a reason people make fun of Moleskine addicts. There are seven stages of grief, you know, and I’m floating somewhere between #4 and #5. It’s not a pretty place.

So off to Etsy. I figure if Big Business isn’t interested in me, I can send my couch-cushion change to someone who cares. I love supporting artists and they love making art. It’s a match made in heaven.

There are so many gorgeous choices. It’s taking me too long to figure out how to link the pictures to each site, so I’ve included the links below each one. (A little help, techies?)

Neilsonhandmade has a stunning How to Win Boys “upcycled” book. I may need to rob more than just my couch-cushions to get it, but it’s a contender. The Trouble book is another, but there just aren’t enough couches to bankroll that one. When I win the lottery, this will be one of my first stops.

Allibell has handmade journals are a little closer to my price range. Thirty pages of mulberry paper and all that vintage ephemera for only $9.00.

Ah, Afiori. This jewel is only 4″x6″, but it has a hundred pages (x2 of you write on both sides) of mixed papers. The cover is one of Afiori’s prints on frosted plastic, so it doesn’t have to be so preciously guarded against coffee spills and such. Only $12. Lovely.

There are literally hundreds more upcycled, recycled, hand sewn, vintage, breathtaking journals on Etsy. I even found quite a few artistically enhanced Moleskines there. Sadly, none of them are extra large, ruled cahiers. When I’ve moved ahead a bit in the grieving process, I’ll give them more attention. Right now it hurts too much.