Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Thoughts From the Sisterhood

I'm one of the members of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Journal and journal writing is something I've done since I was a young girl. I thought I'd share with you my own adventures as a young diarist. I got my first diary from my father when I was 12, back in late March 1971. Well, it was a diary in theory anyway. In reality it was a pocket-sized 1969 daily planner from Yashica, Inc. Each page fit 3 or 4 spaces for daily entries, so I had to be economical with my writing -- the size of the lettering was as crucial as how much I could talk about. But from the moment I received it, I wrote in it every single night. I didn't plan to be committed to it - it just happened. I don't know how he knew this was something I would love, but my dad's giving me that little book started a firestorm in me that still blazes today, although it's harder to find time these days to just sit and think and write. Back then I recorded the usual minutiae that is the life of a New York City pre-teen girl living in the projects: who was in the latest issue of 16 Magazine; the latest 45 RPM record I bought; my favorite DJs on WABC (Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie); who got mugged in the building; the unrequited crush I had on the boy upstairs; how the next door neighbor's oldest son OD-ed in the hallway right in front of me; my desperation to turn 13 so I could get my working papers (and technically be a teenager!); and this gem: "Devon R. came to my house today and asked if he could open my bedroom window. He was sweating. His pet monkey threw his pot out his bedroom window (10A) and it landed on my bedroom window (3A), that was why. He came over to get it and made me swear not to tell. I would never tell. Pets aren't supposed to be allowed in the building." Life at the Stephen Wise Towers was occasionally like "Good Times" meets "That 70s Show."

I still have that little Yashica book, and all the subsequent diaries - real, bona fide diaries - in which I wrote every single night from that first night in '71 until around 1982, when I got my own apartment, supported myself with two jobs and suddenly found myself with less time to sit and write down my thoughts and the events of the day. Or was it maybe all the distractions of young adult life and escaping the projects and living in a great neighborhood in Manhattan? On the other hand, even in the aftermath of my father's sudden death in 1974, I didn't leave one page blank in any of my diaries -- that didn't happen until I was 22 and my life veered off into the "real world." I also remember how, sometime after my father died, I really was tempted to burn the journals of my younger self because I thought I sounded like such an idiot. I didn't cut myself any slack for being the very innocent 12-to-15-year-old that I was. I think I must have hated that clueless child because she was protected from knowing tragedy firsthand. It was supposed to happen to other people.I am so glad I didn't give in to the temptation to destroy those diaries. It's not just the personal history, it's also about a place and a time that's gone forever, and without documenting it, a lot of it would have been lost to me. They say one photo is worth a thousand words, but I don't recall any photographers showing up to document Devon retrieving his dime bag from my windowsill. Time alters memory and memory fades, but the written word is forever. Even in the Sisterhood's diary, I'll often try to mention things that are current but outside our inner lives, just to give it a context in time and place. I feel so very privileged to be part of the Sisterhood project and it's just so exciting and amazing to bear witness as our lives evolve and the three of us braid all the joy, shock, love, recipes, gripes, disappointments, revelations, worry, and anticipation of all things, fantastic and mundane, in our lives.

Maggie B.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

From the Sisterhood of the Silver Circle


The idea for our traveling journal came from the movie “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”. I fell in love with the idea of an item that traveled among a group of close friends who were to be separated over the summer. I had recently been separated from my friends forever by moving from New York to Georgia. But I knew I would never find a magic pair of pants, so I had to come up with something else. I shared my idea with some friends and we came up with the journal idea (the original Sisterhood wrote all over their magic pants) pretty quickly. We wanted something to wear, an amulet of some sort, while we wrote in our journal. One of our members was searching through a handful of change while paying for something and noticed one coin shining brighter than the rest. It turned out to be a 1964 silver dime. It occurred to her this could figure in our journal amulet. Remarkably, she was able to find four more, all of them from the 1960’s when they stopped making dimes out of silver. After doing some research, we learned that silver dimes were thought to contain magic properties. We commissioned an extremely talented and ultra-creative mutual friend to fashion an amulet for us, which she did out of suede and beads. We named the amulet “Luna Star” and it gave us the name for our group, “Sisterhood of the Silver Circle.” We bought a special pen, a copper-hued Monteverde Invincia and we named it “Rose Heart.” Once we had all the pieces of our circle together, we met in New Hope Pennsylvania by the banks of the Delaware River and consecrated all our items in a ritual for the purpose of keeping the journal moving among us. We took oaths to always write the truth in the journal and to honor our commitment. Then, of course, we went to eat.

During the period that I have the journal, which we also call “the precious”, it can be difficult to make space in my life to sit down and write. But having it keep coming around forces me to create that time. We have come to understand the act of Sabbath keeping as going to church. But at its most fundamental, it is making time for oneself, giving oneself a break from the constant grind of work. Not just one’s job, but all work, and making time for what one considers holy. My friends are sacred to me and leaving them was gut-wrenching. I keep Sabbath and reconnect with them by reading their entries and adding my own. We are onto our second journal and in them we have shared stories of leaving husbands, finding new lovers, seeing our parents age and thinking of death. We have documented wonderful and painful events of childhood. We have bid farewell to loved ones who have passed and have rhapsodized over the coming of the seasons. We have revealed our own actions that have caused us shame. In them we have photos, commuter rail ticket stubs and some beautiful artwork and poetry. Every time we sit down, slip Luna Star over our necks and pick up Rose Heart, we imagine those in the future reading our words. In this way, we keep Sabbath.

Margie Jacobs

#1: Shows the current journal on the left which is sporting some collage art work by member
Cyan Owl; the pen, “Rose Heart”; the amulet “Luna Star” and the box on the right is a wooden cigar box that has also been decorated by more collage art work by member Cyan Owl.
#2: The amulet by itself.
#3: The pen by itself.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

On The Art of the Hand Written Letter

Today as I was out and about, I passed a Barnes and Noble bookstore. In the window was a copy of the book, The Letters of Noel Coward. This brought a smile to my face. Not because I'm a fan of Noel Coward, but because here was an an individual who, in addition to his music and plays, left behind a legacy in letters. And I'm sure his letters makes for interesting reading or else no one would have bother to collect them in a single volume. How many of us will leave such a legacy behind?

In a previous post I mentioned the difficulty that contemporary biographers are having in amassing information about their subjects. Since the nineties, and perhaps even before, people no longer communicate by hand written letters. The Internet has forever changed how we communicate with one another. Now I do love the possibilities that the Internet offers in this age of high speed communication. Without the Internet this blog could not exist. Yet, still I find the need and the desire to write the old fashion way, by hand. After all, more than anything, people who collect fountain pens love to use them - they enjoy writing.

Along with the decline of hand written correspondence so too has died the art of keeping a journal or diary. Or as my friend Sandy expresses it, "the art of memoir." There was a time when many young women of my generation had a secret diary, filled with their thoughts about life and about the cute boy who sat next to them in Science class. Travelers, once upon a time, kept journals of their sojourns abroad, filled with their impressions of the Eiffel Tower or The Great Wall of China. The 19th century explorer, Sir Richard F. Burton, wrote a wonderful travelogue entitled, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah [sic] & Mecca. Burton traveled through Arabia disguised as a wandering Dervish and visited all of the Holy shrines sacred to Muslims and participated in all of the rituals associated with the Hajj. He was one of the few, if not the first, Westerner to do so. His record of his travels throughout the Arabian Peninsula is a gripping narrative of a perilous journey. One could say that Burton's travelogue serves as a prequel to that of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which recounts his experiences in Arabia during the First World War. There is also the personal adventure of Sir Henry Morton Stanley who spent years traveling throughout Central Africa, most notably in his quest to find David Livingstone, "Doctor Livingstone, I presume?"

The idea is that, letters and journals affords us the opportunity to experience the lives of others and to see the world through their eyes. These writings amuse and entertain, inform and educate. They allow us to connect with those core feelings that we all share with each other. And they inspire us to take journeys of our own either outward or inward. To write about our travels, experiences and observations is to mesh ourselves into the warp and weft of the fabric of humanity.

Have Pen, Will Write


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Sample page from an illuminated Book of Hours.

I really like the composition of this photo.
The combination of coins, watch,
post cards and demitasse cup reminds me of my sojourns in Europe.

David Oscarson's tribute to Jacques DeMolay,

last Grand Master of the Knights Templar.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Journal

In a few weeks I will feature an article from Margie Jacobs a member of the 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Journal.' A few years ago Margie and some of her friends decided to purchase a journal and a special pen, a Monteverde Invincia rose gold RB to be exact. The journal and the pen travels from friend to friend and from state to state. Each of the "Sisters" spends time with the journal and then mails it to one of the other members who record their thoughts, impressions, poems and other ruminations about life in the journal. I think this is a wonderful idea that I wish that I could duplicate with some of my distant friends.

I also invite other visitors to this blog to share their thoughts and feelings about pens and writing all are welcomed.



Pen Review: Recife Mercuri Arabesque

In one of my previous entries I mentioned that I would talk about pens that write very well and are priced affordably but receive little or no attention. The pen pictured below is the Mercuri Fountain Pen (FP) made by the Recife Company founded in France in 1987. From the very beginning two friends, Stephan Arnal and Leo Smaga, knew that they wanted to design pens for the fashion conscious. Their concept was to design pens that are both a fashion accessory and a practical writing tool that broke new ground with innovative designs.

When I saw the Mercuri Arabesque FP I was impressed immediately with its design. (The version in the photo is the Scotia.) I would describe the design on the Arabesque as a black-on-black brocade design with stainless steel nib and trim. It's slightly under six inches when capped and measures six and a half inches when posted, placing the cap on the back of the pen when writing is known as "posting", which makes the Mercuri as long as the Montblanc 146 0r 149.

According to the information provided with the pen, the Recife Mercuri is made from a substance known as bakelite. Bakelite is used to make stems for smoking pipes as well as for umbrella handles, it's a synthetic resin that can be molded to any desired shape. The feature that stands out on this pen is the guilloche pattern that has been engraved into the bakelite. Guilloche is the process of engraving resin, steel, silver, gold or other substances with a particular pattern like herringbone for example. Some manufacturers like David Oscarson and Michel Perchin will then apply layer upon layer of transparent lacquer which gives the pen a glass like finish. The Recife pens are sans lacquer, so you feel the pattern when holding the pen which is in no way uncomfortable or distracting.

I purchased this pen without testing it out first, something I don't suggest that you do unless you're an experienced pen purchaser. Well, Recife delivered the goods when it came to the nib, which is the heart and soul of any writing instrument. Although the nib is designated 'medium' it writes like a fine point. This is the finest nib that I've ever purchased, that is to say fine in terms of the thickness of the line that it lays down. (I prefer a broader nib on most occasions.) This pen has made me very appreciative of fine nibbed writing instruments and I will be seeking them out in future purchases. The writing is smooth on any surface and it writes first time every time with a wonderful ink flow. It does not dry out if you leave it lying around for a week or two. It's particularly striking when filled with Noodler's Heart of Darkness or Private Reserve's Fast Dry Ultra Black inks. I can't imagine using any other color ink except black or red. If Dracula wrote with a fountain pen this would be the one he would write with, filled with blood red ink!

The Mercuri accepts the standard European short cartridge but it does not come with a converter, which was a little disappointing as I prefer to use bottled ink. The good news is that the Recife Mercuri will accept the same converter that is used with ACME fountain pens.

You may have difficulty finding this pen as it is not carried by many dealers. I purchased my pen at CURSIVE, New York which is located inside ABC Carpet & Home at 888 Broadway and 19th Street in Manhattan. The price of the pen is about $125.00, which in the world of fountain pens is very affordable.

Have Pen, Will Write


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Confessions of a Fountain Pen

I've wondered what my pens would say if they could speak, they produce so many words and hold many secrets. Listen, while my pen gently speaks...

I am a fountain pen. I’m made of black resin and 18 karat gold. There are many who think that I’m special because of my pedigree, (I was born a Mont Blanc 149 Diplomat), but my true value lies in the service that I provide for my owner.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of being used to write many words expressing the thoughts of my owner. I’ve penned letters congratulating nieces and nephews who graduated from college and prepared scripts for television. I've written checks for charitable donations as well as those that pay the mortgage. I’ve also been used to write letters of thanks for Christmas gifts, nights out dining and birthday presents. I’ve prepared corporate reports and taken notes in classes, conferences and workshops. Although I’m happy in my existence as a fountain pen, not all of my work is joyous.

The hardest jobs are those letters of condolence sent to friends who have lost a loved one. And I've been called upon more than once to write an obituary. During those assignments the ink that I hold is mixed with tears of sympathy. Alas, a bitter sweet task.

And yet, I’ve also had moments of great joy.

Perhaps my happiest work has been those letters of love and passion that I have been employed to write on fine stationary. Ah! What joy! What bliss! I can only imagine how a heart may swoon on reading the words that have been so tenderly written. Words meant to transcend time and space. I also love to travel, and I’ve seen much of the world. I’ve been used to pen notes from Italy, Spain, England and, my favorite, France. Here, closer to home, the breathtaking vistas of America's Southwest have always been inspirational.

I know, you’re asking yourself: How can a fountain pen be responsible for such words, such musings? You see, within my reservoir is an amorphous liquid that lacks shape or meaning. But when my owner takes me into his grip, I become an extension of his thoughts by way of his arm, wrist and hand. That shapeless liquid becomes words on a page that take form and becomes meaningful. And when I’m used to give definition to a thought, I become immortal; the heart and soul of a legacy.

In the coming years it may be that I will change hands. Perhaps one of my owner’s nieces or nephews may inherit me. Should that happen my only hope is that they will not abandoned me for a keyboard, cell phone or some other futuristic electronic device designed to communicate faster, but with no greater degree of substance. But until that time I remain happy in the employ of my owner. And when day is done and I’m put aside for the evening, I’m never alone for I rest among many friends: Stipula and Aurora from Italy, Acme and Monte Verde from America and, my good friend from Germany, Lamy. I’m always in good company as, I am the proud owner of a human spirit.

Have Pen, Will Write

Cablecast Dates for HPWW

Below are the cablecast dates for Parts 1& 2 of Have Pen Will Write: The Joys of Fountain Pen Collecting. Please be advised that the programs can only be viewed in Queens, New York on Time Warner Cable and RCN. I will get cablecast dates for the other boroughs in the future, and perhaps some other locations around the country.

Have Pen, Will Write
The Joys of Fountain Pen Collecting, Part 1
Saturday March 22 at 9:00pm Channel 35
Wednesday March 26 at 8:oopm Channel 34

Have Pen, Will Write
The Joys of Fountain Pen Collecting, Part 2
Monday March 24 at 6:30pm Channel 34
Saturday March 29 at 9:oopm Channel 35


Have Pen, Will Write
The Joy of Fountain Pen Collecting, Parts 1 & 2 (Back to back cablecasts)
Friday April 11 from 7:00pm - 8:00pm Channel 34

Have Pen, Will Write
The Joy of Fountain Pen Collecting, Part 1
Wednesday April 23 at 8:00pm on Channel 34

Have Pen, Will Write
The Joy of Fountain Pen Collecting, Part 2
Saturday April 26 at 9:oopm on Channel 35

I also need to thank a number of people who have assisted me with this project. A big thank you to Madeline Johnson who jumped at the opportunity to direct the programs and who did a marvelous job editing the programs. Thanks to Steven Williams for his technical direction, sound and lighting. Thanks to Dr. Le-Nora Jones McBeth for her great camera work, Carole Auletta for being such a wonderful host, Linda Fanning for set decoration, George "Sandy" Campbell for the loan of some of his pens (who also gave me a nice Parker 51). And a special thanks to QPTV's Executive Director Daniel Leone who gave me the opportunity to tape the shows. A special thanks to Antonio Collado for guiding me through the process of setting up my blog spot.

And, finally, a special thanks to everyone who have given me their support in the creation of this blog spot and the TV programs.

Have Pen, Will Write


Friday, March 7, 2008

Why Fountain Pens?

I'm often asked, "Why do you write with a fountain pen?" Here's the story.

I mentioned in my previous post that I'm a native New Yorker. I attended Catholic School most of my life, from elementary through high school, with the exception of my senior year. In elementary school all of my teachers were Nuns. At that time there were daily lessons in penmanship. From the first grade to the third grade we wrote with pencils. Each day we practiced writing majuscules and minuscules, that's to say, capitals and lower case letters. Eventually we were taught to connect the letters and develop our cursive script. The big day came when we were promoted to the fourth grade where we were allowed to write with an ink pen or fountain pen.

The Nuns believed that the development of good penmanship was the sign of good character. And to develop good penmanship one had to write with a fountain pen, ballpoints were not allowed. Now I don't mean to suggest that poor handwriting is a sign of poor character, that would be overly simplistic and not true. However, I must note that I never met a person with good penmanship that I didn't like. This taps into the field of handwriting analysis of which I'm no expert. But it would be interesting to do a study of the handwriting styles of Presidents, politicians and folks who are incarcerated to see if some sort of pattern develops.

I find that when I write with a fountain pen the quality of my thoughts and words improve greatly. The fountain pen is an extension of one's arm - the thoughts move from the brain through the arm and hand and causes the pen to move across the page, it's an organic process. With the use of computers there has been a decrease in the knowledge of how to use a writing instrument. Along with that, a lot of young people do not know how to look up words in a dictionary because they rely on their computer's spell check. I was watching someone write with a pen recently and they were holding the pen with a balled-up fist. They were choking the pen tightly and it showed in their script. The art of writing by hand is still important and needed. If one is filling out a job application, good penmanship could make a difference. Computers are wonderful tools but they may not be appropriate for every means of communication.

On to other matters...

I hope to post some photos of interesting pens on this site and to add some links to web sites where you can delight in the wonderful world of pen collecting.

For my next post I'll discuss pens made by companies that are not widely known, but whose pens are enjoyable to write with.

Have Pen, Will Write


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Welcome to Have Pen, Will Write

There's a saying that we do not choose our path but that the path chooses us. I like that saying and I use it often. But in my case it seems that I create my own path as I walk - the asphalt just magically appears beneath my feet with each step that I take. Yes, I said asphalt. You see, I live in the Big Apple and we ran out of yellow bricks a long time ago. This ain't Kansas and it's surely not Oz. So my path has lead me to create my own blog spot: Have Pen, Will Write. It's a bit of an oxymoron as no pen is used to write the words that you are now reading. Yet, having this blog will enable me to share my passion for fountain pens with a wide audience.

About five years ago I read an article about the difficulty biographers are having in finding information about their subjects. It seems that, with the Internet people no longer write letters by hand, so there is no written record of a person's life left behind to be researched. Most of us who receive email do not print them out and tie them up with red ribbon as legacy of who we were. I have a drawer full of personal letters and cards that I've received from friends and family that I cherish. These letters are a part of my legacy.

The other incident that made me return to letter writing as a form of communication was the passing of the father of an acquaintance of mine. There were a number of email condolences that were sent by friends, but I did not participate. I felt strongly that the expression of condolence should not be communicated in an email. It lacks class and style. Such feelings should be expressed in a hand written card. Or take Valentine's Day, for example. Would you send your wife or lover an email Valentine's Day card? There's nothing special in doing that. The choice of pen, ink, stationary and perhaps a bit of fragrance on the card yields a complete and sensual expression of love that can not be conveyed through an email. Hence: Have Pen, Will Write.

I'm also happy to announce that I've just completed two half hour programs about fountain pen collecting. I want to share my love of writing instruments and the art of the hand written note with a wider audience and the programs allows me to do that. If possible I'll post some clips from the show for those who are interested and who do not live in New York where the shows will be cablecast.

So this blog spot will be about pens, calligraphy, the art of journal writing and hand written communication. All are invited to post their musings and questions about this subject.

But a blog spot is also a very public journal. Most of us who keep a diary would not leave it out for others to read, yet to have a blog spot is to do that very thing. So, as this is a public diary, I will occasionally venture into other areas with my posts. I'm a very active Freemason and I have a strong interest in esoteric and antiquarian subjects and you'll read about some of those things here.

So if you have thoughts that you would like to share and if you have questions about fine writing instruments don't hesitate to post.

More to come.......

Have Pen, Will Write