Tag: pen


Reading on a Jet Plane

Alexia Gordon I just had time to unpack from Crime Bake before I hit the road again, this time traveling for my day job. Between waiting to board the plane, waiting for the plane to take off (I think I spent more time taxiing on the runway than I spent airborne), and the actual flight (which I spent crammed into an “upgraded” seat so cramped if I’d puffed out my cheeks I’d have hit my seatmates) I had plenty of time to get some reading and writing done.
Pen and paper are my go-to travel writing tools—much easier than a laptop to whip out at a moment’s notice, no danger of equipment failure (I suppose my pen could run out of ink but I can fit a dozen pens into less space than a power cord), no need to search out a power outlet, and no need to stow for take-off and landing. My travel reading varies. It’s almost always paperback, lighter weight than hardback, and no need to power it on or plug it in or put it away when the flight attendant passes down the aisle checking seatbelts and seatback uprightness. Size matters—it has to fit in my personal item. This trip, I chose a mass-market (about 4” x 7”) paperback book because it fit into one of my tote bag’s slip pockets.
I prefer to bring a book with me from home but sometimes I take the chance of finding a good read in the airport bookstore. I found one of my favorite novels, Han Solo at Stars End, this way. These days, the airport booksellers offer as many hardcover bestsellers as the neighborhood bookstore. Once upon a time (within my lifetime—my age is showing), back in the day before airports did double duty as shopping malls, the choice was more limited. “Airport novels” were a thing. Wikipedia, the source of all wisdom, defines an airport novel as, “a literary genre not so much defined by its plot…as by the social function it serves.” Hidden among questionable assertions about what makes a novel an airport novel (the Wikipedia article on the topic contains several assertions that sound more like pejorative opinion than objective statements and has been flagged as containing original research and needing more citations) is a workable definition: a mass market paperback of a length that will last for an entire journey, is fast-paced and entertaining, and that won’t require the reader to consult any reference material. Also referred to as beach reads, TV Tropes describes these books as “the junk food of the literature world”. I think the description is unfair—just because a novel doesn’t aim to win a Pulitzer doesn’t make it “junk food”. I will grant that airport novels tend to be “light” reading. After all, when you’re dealing with crowds, delays, surly staff, cramped conditions that would have animal rights activists protesting if animals were subjected to them, overpriced food and everything else that has turned modern travel into an ordeal to be endured instead of an adventure to be enjoyed, do you really want your reading material to remind you the world is rotten or require the same level of concentration it takes to navigate airport security?
Novels designed to meet the needs of travelers pre-dates air travel. The French coined the term romans de gare and the Dutch called them stationsroman when train travel was the primary mode of mass transit. What’s your favorite travel read? Do you think airport novels are the literary equivalent of junk food? Do you ever buy novels from airport booksellers? Or is your travel reading all electronic? Or are magazines and crossword puzzles more your idea of travel entertainment? Leave a comment on the blog or head over to  Missdemeanors ‘ Facebook page to join the discussion. 

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Make Your Mark

   One of the cool things about being a writer is having an excuse to indulge my pen fetish. I’m forever searching for the “perfect” writing instrument, the Magic Pen of Wonder. A pen whose ink flows smoothly over the page with a solid (but not too thick) black line, a pen whose heft and shape meld with my hand to become an extension of my neural synapses. A pen that unleashes torrents of literary brilliance. I haven’t found *that* pen yet but I keep looking. I hate crappy pens (too lightweight, gloopy ink, annoying skips) even more than I hate lima beans. (I’ve hated lima beans since I was a kid.) Crappy pens stifle me. “Perfect” doesn’t mean expensive. At the moment, my go-to pens (not the ultimate but mad decent) are the Sharpie Pen and the Optimus felt tip, available at the dollar store. My fellow Miss Demeanors discuss their favorite mark making instruments. Paula Munier:A dear friend gave me a set of lovely amber lacquered Waterman of Paris Carene pens with gold-played trim years ago that I love, and to which I have since attributed magical powers. They are my lucky pens, which I use to write in my lucky red leather-bound journal with the hand-tooled Celtic roses on the front. (I write nonfiction directly on the computer like the former reporter I am, but I write all my first drafts of fiction with my lucky Waterman of Paris pens in my lucky red journal.) I go through about half a dozen ink refills and half a dozen notebook refills for every draft. It’s a ritual that keeps the story flowing–and writer’s block at bay. Michele Dorsey:I loved writing with a fountain pen when I was in parochial school where I learned to write cursive with the Palmer method. When I discovered the Uniball Gel Impact Roller with its bold 1mm line, I was in heaven. This baby writes as smooth as jelly sliding over peanut butter. My legal clients would swoon over the Uniball while signing documents. I gave a fair number away. I still buy these by the box. But I still missed the fountain pens from my youth. There is something elegant about writing with a fountain pen. It says “I want my words to be worthy of this noble instrument.” A few years ago while attending a writing seminar in Boston, I strolled into a Levenger store (sadly no longer there) during the lunch break. There it was. A fountain pen with my name on it. I bought it, returning to the workshop, poised to write notes with my long-lost friend. The feel of this pen in my hand, the sensation of the ink flowing across the page, is soothing to me. It makes writing as much as a physical act as a cerebral one. While not practical for drafting lengthy manuscripts, at least not for me, I get great pleasure taking notes and journaling with my trusty fountain pen. For me, it’s about revering an object that connects what’s in my head to the page. Now I collect fountain pens when I travel. The most recent addition is one I found in Amalfi, Italy, the site of the first paper factory. Susan Breen:My favorite pen is a Zebra Z-Grip flight. It’s smooth and flows easily and I buy them in packages of 50 from Staples. When you start a new one it has a little crust of ink on its tip, and there’s something thrilling about seeing the crust come off and the words begin to roll out. (Possibly a small thrill, but a thrill nonetheless.) Cate Holahan:So here’s my confession…. I don’t use pens except to sign books and then I use a sharpie because they’re reliable and cheap. I’m not especially attached to them, though. I take notes on my omnipresent smart phone (either by voice or typing). All my writing is done with word where it can be backed up to the cloud, reducing the risk of losing anything. All my plotting is done in excel where I can move around cells as elements of the story change. I even graph my character arcs in excel. Robin Stuart:Ha, I make mind maps of my characters to figure out how and why they intersect, and what each brings to the story. I use a pencil for that so I can erase and move people around. I used to use a dry erase whiteboard until I realized I needed something more permanent that I can refer back to and adjust as I arc out sequels/series. The drawings become touchstones so now I draw them in my notebook. I LOVE pens and notebooks. Where Paula is superstitious about her pen, I’m superstitious about the notebook. I use the same kind every time. The “when” of hand writing vs laptop is more nebulous. There’s no set rule but I carry the notebook everywhere. The laptop only comes with me on vacations or writing trips because I have another laptop I have to carry for my day job. I’ve only traveled with both computers once and I’ll never do it again. Much too stressful to keep track of both of them. Plus, I made no friends in airport security lines. As far as pens, my favorites are the ones that just feel right in my hand. Their weight distribution, width and materials vary. Friends & loved ones familiar with my stationery fetish give me pens as gifts so I have a heck of a collection. The most recent addition is from Disney World, engraved with panels showing how to draw Mickey in various poses. Tracee de Hahn:I love pens, but more as objects than as utensils. I have a few Waterford fountain pens that allow the ink to flow beautifully. Unfortunately, I only use them to write personal notes. When writing a story of any sort I pause too often and the nib dries and it’s frustrating. Instead, I resort to generically decent pens of many types and kinds. (I’m also prone to losing them, so I have dozens on hand.) Now ink WELLS, that’s another story. I have a large collection of those, ranging from silver to bronze, even a few traveling Chinese calligraphy ones made from copper and brass. Since all of the ink wells were intended for use with a quill, they don’t get real use… other than as objects of beauty and inspiration.

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