Do You Have "Pens Envy"?

Tee hee. Sorry, couldn't resist that title.

This week, I'm writing about fountain pens. Writers get very excited about fountain pens. Once, a discussion we were having about them on Twitter became so animated that one of my tweets ended up in a national newspaper!

*Whispered aside*: A few canny writers have cottoned onto the fact that furnishing me with info when I ask questions quite often leads to free publicity. If you are one of them, I advise you to comment here. If you're lucky, you could end up featured on Groupon (the fastest growing web company in history) next Monday. I feature best selling authors, aspiring novelists, students, etc. If you write, and you say something quotable, you're in with a chance.

So, where do you stand on the fountain pen issue? Do you bubble over at the idea of a Mont Blanc, or are you quite happy with a Bic? Are you so far past pens that you can't read handwriting any more? Tell me all. If you love pens, I'm particularly curious to learn:

  1. What's your earliest memory of fountain pens? Did you use them at school, or did you ever make a quill? Was there a particular brand you used?
  2. Is there a fountain pen you've owned that is/was particularly special to you?
  3. What kind of pen brings on 'pens envy' for you? If you could have any pen/collection of pens, what would you choose?
Look forward to reading your thoughts.

Very best wishes,


Rebecca Clare Smith said...

I used to use fountain pens at school. They were introduced as messy things that left you with telling blue stains on the sides of your fingers and subsequently anything else you touched. I cannot express how much I hated those blue stains. Eventually we were made to use fibre-tip Berol Handwriting pens that mimicked the writing style of fountain pens. Even though they gave the same visual effect, they didn't flow with quite as much love for writing as the fountain did when penning something. I've tried calligraphy pens, too. They're not as easy to write with as the fountain and you do still get those terrible ink stains that so exasperated me with the latter. So, despite loving the flow of writing with a fountain pen, I was always put off by the staining it caused.

However, there are some nifty liquid pens now that flow just like fountain pens and are really lovely to write with, especially on unlined paper. Those pens really do bring me pen envy and I do have quite a few in various colours on hand. My favourite are the Paper Mate Liquid Expresso type. They write so beautifully, but the best thing is that they don't stain my fingers so I don't get a blue face when I'm moving hair out of my eyes.

Amanda said...

Oh my - you have hit on a hot button with this one! My earliest memory of pen passion has to be from the first writing lesson in fourth grade with Sheaffer fountain pens. Who knew the magic that would unfold from there?

As for a favorite fountain pen, that would be like trying to say which of your children you loved most - impossible. My collection continues to grow, safely housed in a wooden pen case that sits on my desk. I discovered the Waterford line through, my favorite pen place to shop and dream.

Even though I now "write" for publication on a computer keyboard, I still write for fun and passion with "real" pens, of course.

Amanda B.

Rachael said...

Hahaha. Fab title.

As a left-hander, pens are tricky for me. More often than not I end up smudging the work I've just done, so fountain pens are out. I've discovered a gorgeous Ultimo liquid pen which floats across the page of my not-Moleskine (too expensive!) notebook. It's a fetching shade called wine red, too. My fiendish offspring are fond of it too. Grr.

Rebecca said...

Great comments! Keep them coming. :)

Dan Holloway said...

oh, blimey, fountain pens. I had my first - a lovely Parker - when I was about 5. The first that was my own, that is - at school we had those plastic things with open tops and fountain pen nibs and cartridges that looked a bit like a cigarette light holder. I remember being gutted when the bladder burst (they always seemed to be made of very perishable rubber).

Right now I have a Shaeffer White Spot pen with a gorgeous rainbowy, oil-swirl metallic body, which my wife bought me in Cork just after it was European capital of culture.

That said...
I'm conflicted about fountain pens. The same as I am about notebooks. I adore beautiful stationery but it does tend to make me sit there, gazing at it bervously, terrified of "letting it down". So I rarely get anything done. On the other hand with a bic and the back of some old photocpying I can write for hours.

Rebecca Woodhead said...

Dan, how utterly wonderful to see you!

My first pens were Parkers too. There's something very distinctive about the smell of the ink, and the nibs are much sturdier than many pens. I think that might be why schools like them so much.

I also have the fear of 'letting them down'. Performance anxiety over fountain pens and notebooks? We may be extraordinarily nerdy!

I need to pick your brains actually - Writing Magazine article. Facebook. I'll email you.

Also, I've been so busy I'm way behind with my reading and hadn't had a chance to grab Nikesh's book. I had a moment the other day, so I went into a MASSIVE Waterstones and asked for it. a/They knew immediately which one I was talking about, before I'd even given his name, and b/They'd sold out, but wanted to keep me there talking about its nomination, etc! Hurrah for Nikesh!

Conrad Williams said...

I have a Sheaffer that was given to me by my sister on my 21st birthday. I've used it ever since. I think the nib has worn a little over the years and meets the paper just at the angle I'm most comfortable with to provide a lovely flow. It has a reassuring weight, too, something that a Mont Blanc pen just doesn't seem to possess. I've definitely got the pen fetish. I have about a dozen bottles of J. Herbin ink, in a variety of hues depending on my mood...

Rebecca Woodhead said...

Rebecca and Rachael, thanks for the heads up on the non-fountain pen fountain pens. That's the one downside - the smudge factor. I remember acres of blotting paper in my childhood. Can you still get that?

Amanda, thanks so much for reminding me of levenger. I was desperately trying to think of their name. That'll help! :)

Conrad, I can't write with Mont Blancs or Sheaffers. I feel deprived! Watermans, Parkers and Pelicans seem to work best for me. Wonder if that should be Watermen? Hmmm.

Nicole Rushin said...

Not into the fountain pen thing - they may be more idealistic than anything. Kind of like scarves and snow boots, really, it has to be cold outside to enjoy those things. Who wants to be cold? I have pen envy when I pick up a pen that writes well. I want to accidentally stick it in my purse and say, "Woops, I walked out with their pen." I actually wrote down the name and brand of a pen at an art booth one day. So sad. Yes, I do have pen envy, but I can admit that fountain pens are way too idealistic for me. Give me a pen that writes well and one that flows as fast as my thoughts do. A free flowing warm bic at a check-out counter is enough to send me into a creative frenzy, totally true. Good topic.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention this. I'd been writing with a cheap but cool matte purple plastic Waterman that a friend gave me several years ago. But for Valentine's Day, my husband gave me a new fountain pen! (That's real love for you.) It was a Cross--and I hated to tell him--but I liked it though I didn't love it. It was a bit too standard for me, and I like a little more style. We went back to the store and I looked at all the pens and ended up choosing a beautiful Waterman that was basically the shape of the one I was already using. But this one is handsome and luxurious.

Rebecca Woodhead said...

Nicole. The thing that annoys me about finding a disposable pen that writes perfectly is ... they run out. It's heartbreaking. Every now and then I'll find a pen that's just perfect, but when it runs out none of its identical twins write the same way. With a fountain pen, you don't have that problem. Pen stealing is the height of naughtiness! I am tutting in your general direction. Go to your room and think about what you did! :)

Beth, I was thinking about Cross pens today. They do good rollerballs but I haven't ever fallen in love with one. So glad you found a handsome and luxurious pen.

Jacqueline Gates said...

My very first fountain pen was actually the same one my mother used to write her college exams.

I treasured it, and relished the small ritual of filling it with the mandated navy blue ink and, although I hate to admit it, a certain smug superiority over classmates to had to 'make do' with lowly Bic biro pens.

When the nib finally split beyond repair, I wrapped it in tissue and stowed it in my Memories box. It still makes me smile.

For my birthday before last, in a flurry of devil-may-care frivolity, I asked for, and received a silver Waterman fountain pen. I actually wanted a Mont Blanc, but on trying them out, the Waterman just fit my hand like it was made for me. I keep it filled with a lusciously decadent perfumed purple ink and it's my link to both my word muse and grammar nazi.

I adore writing with it, and it has chronicled my goddess-journey and embellished countless journals and love notes.

My pen speaks to me of abundance, and rich-ness, and the genteel qualities of times past when a hand written note was the norm and penmanship was prized.

Rebecca Woodhead said...

Beautifully put, Jacqui. I can't write with Mont Blancs either. I had one made for me - weighed for my hand and everything. They even gave me a writing lesson when I picked it up. No good. Just could not write with the thing. My very favourite pen at the moment is a delicious Waterman. Utterly stunning to write with, so I understand your obsession.

Penny Lapenna said...

I do NOT have pens envy. However, I have this yearning for something relevant to hold in your hand and twiddle with when thinking. I need something to replace that; but a writing implement that never runs out when you're trying to get a thought down, that swirls across the page without blobbing or vanishing, that leaves the page looking as clean as a typed manuscript - that would be something. If we can have solar-powered vehicles, can we not have an equivalent that connects our writing effortlessly to the PC?

Amanda B. said...

Rachael, the best lefty pen has to be the EnerGel pen from Pentel. It glides effortlessly across the paper, and dries so quickly that the "lefty smudge" has become a thing of the past for my lefty family members and friends.
Amanda B.

Rebecca Woodhead said...

Penny, if they make one of those I need one too.

Amanda B, I noticed that Stabilo makes one for lefties called the 'move'. I noticed this because I bought the wrong one. I'm right handed. I bought the one with the 'L' very cleverly hidden. Mum's left-handed though, so she'll be getting a new pen very soon. :)

Fun and Games said...

Aloha Rebecca, if my memory serves me right,the Bic pen, or the inexpensive ones,worked just fine for me. In fact, I changed over to fountain pens, and was told that if water gets on it, you won't be able to read the writing, so I switched back. Don't like to going over my writing.. Lol I don't think I ever wrote about pens ever, I suppose first time for everything. subject will be on what font I wrote with in the virtual world.. Lol :) Later, Lani :)

Fourth Grade Teacher said...

The day before you posted this, I was talking to my students about this. We were discussing the word "marvel," and I pointed out how current pens are a marvel compared to the earlier fountain pens or still earlier quills.

When I first started school, desks had holes which were formerly ink wells. However, I was first introduced formally to fountain pens in high school, when they suddenly became popular (again). I loved pushing a button and slurping ink into my pen, even if it was messy. My writing was messy anyway, so it didn't make that much of a difference! I loved the thickness and heaviness of good pens as well.

My current favorite pens are gel pens. My secondary dream would be to have a gel pen with the feel of a fountain pen. My primary dream would be to have a thousand dollar gift certificate to Levenger's! I love drooling over their pens!

*crossing my fingers in the hopes that posting from home will actually work!

Rebecca Woodhead said...

I remember those holes! We actually still had the ink wells in some of our desks, with sliding brass covers.

Rebecca Woodhead said...

Great comments! Thanks everyone. I'm putting some of these into the next Groupon blog.

Don't worry if yours doesn't make it in though. I'm linking back here from there so people can see your input.

Dan Holloway said...

:) We had Nikesh working his magic for us in Oxford Castle last month - the man is a legend. If you love beautiful packaging to go with amazing content, though, you just *have* to get your hands on Stuart Evers' 10 Stories About Smoking

Rebecca Woodhead said...

Gutted I missed that. Will he be coming back soon? Want to come along to one of your Oxford gatherings. You're in the post, by the way ... The Pen is Mightier than the Procrastination

pldaniels said...

I certainly have pen-envy. I'm a lefty like quite a few here but I'll persist with a good fountain pen. For me, there's something so luxurious about that sound of the pen leaving its mark across the paper, love it too when you see them writing in movies and you hear that 'scratch scratch' noise. My first was a Schaffer that I bought with 2 weeks of work allowances ($145, gold/stainless) back in the late 1980's.

Summer Solstice Girl said...

I joining very late but only now I found this post.

I HEART fountain pens. Had them since I was very little. And I do drool over the idea of a Mont Blanc (hopefully one day)

To answer your questions

1. What's your earliest memory of fountain pens? Did you use them at school, or did you ever make a quill? Was there a particular brand you used?

I was 6 when I got my first fountain pen. It was a gift from my father. A very beautiful Parker. Unfortunately, I never got to use a quill.

2. Is there a fountain pen you've owned that is/was particularly special to you?

Yes! The LAMY Safari white

It was given to me when I graduated from University. It came in a set with the LAMY Safari Ball Pen and the LAMY Safari Mechanical Pencil in a beautiful leather case.

Unfortunately, it got lost (or stolen) when I moved to a different city for an internship.

3. What kind of pen brings on 'pens envy' for you? If you could have any pen/collection of pens, what would you choose?

That would probably be the Ingrig Bergman "La Diva limited edition" from Mont Blanc

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