wInksday #5 – Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki

Back at it with the Iroshizuku’s Kon-Peki, a fascinating blue ink. Bright, vivid, bold. If you’re looking at a light blue ink you’re not going to regret this one.

Again, decent showing all around and it actually did better on the Clairefontaine than the Scribble did. For this test, I used a Lamy Safari M so it being a German-style nib it’s a little bit more broad and I’m thinking I might just go back to my glass dip pen for the writing tests. The random text you will see is phrases I asked my friends Lindsay and Mossy to contribute…much to their confusion.

The Tomoe River performs well, as uusal, but the slight sheen isn’t as obvious, kinda muted almost. One thing I will say about the kon-peki is that it tends to get darker with the bigger nibs. I had this on my TWSBI Eco in a Fine nib and it was significantly lighter than this.

Notice how deeper the color is on this one? It’s obviously not as blue as the (in)famous Baystate Blue but it has a nice gradient of color.

I was kinda surprised at this one! So obviously the front part of the Clairefontaine is very fountain pen friendly, but there wasn’t that much ghosting either. Here you can even see where a little bit of the darker blue pops through when I pressed harder with my q-tip. Great dry time on this paper, too!

Finally, we come to the notebook paper. A little hint of that purple sheen, a decent dry time, not that great on the droplet test.

Overall, a very decent ink, I’ve had it on both medium and fine nibs and there is a little bit of a shade difference.

An (un?)needed defense of fanfiction

On Mondays, I’ll do a routine blog update with stuff that I’m working on, things relating to the writing world at large, and just my own meandering thoughts.

I always like to start off my blogs talking about fanfiction because it’s how I got started writing-writing. Before the book deal, before the longlists, before the MFA, before the dozen publication credits, and before even my first forays into original fiction, there was fanfiction. I’d write fanfiction of shows/series I enjoyed. Pokemon, Harry Potter, Animorphs, Final Fantasy, and even Grand Theft Auto.

Around ninth grade, I started playing a game called Tibia. A Germany-based MMORPG with a gameplay that even my pitiful 28.8 (shout out, Prodigy) modem could handle. It was World of Warcrack before World of Warcrack and Lord knows I played it for far longer than I should have. BUT. I found it fun. And since it lacked the lore that game series like The Elder Scrolls and Warcraft had I thought to fill in those gaps with my own ideas. And so I decided to write fanfiction.

Because to hell with narrative structure, this is where I’ll tell you what fanfiction is. Fanfiction is basically playing in someone else’s sandbox. Someone already created the setting and the characters and now all you do is use that. Before your left eyebrow starts going all the way up consider that this is something that’s been done time and time again in literature. What do you think Paradise Lost, the Divine Comedy and the Aeneid are? Current authors like Neil Gaiman, Rainbow Rowell, Naomi Novik and Cory Doctorow have either written fanfiction or still dabble in it.

Why do people write it, though?

And we’re back to Tibia.

pictured: me, in white armor, trying to avoid getting mobbed by every single yellow skull around me. below, in guild chat, my guild leader steaming mad that I didn’t listen when he told me not to go to the city. My use of MSN messenger and the WinXP start bar should date this picture.
my brother and I doing a random quest

I wanted to write Tibia fanfiction because like I said, I found the lore wanting. I thought of constructing a story to fill in those gaps. This is where I deviated from the usual course of fanfiction writers in which I decided to just take my ideas from this particular sandbox and put them to good use in my own fantasy project. But if I had stayed the course I could have come up with some pretty good ideas to benefit the game itself.

Some established authors like George R.R. Martin would argue that it’s not a proper writing exercise. I’d hate to disagree with someone who’s been in the business as long as he has but to write it off like that is a little bit silly. Every rule you need to write a good piece of fiction exists in fanfiction. And imitation exercises are bread and butter for anyone learning to write poetry. I remember at least several assignments I turned in during my poetry workshops were variations of writing imitations of poems from established poets. Hell, so many poetry books have “After XXXXXX” homage poems. I know in my own manuscript I have two different poems, one as a nod to my friend Lupe Mendez’s Aguacero poem and another as a direct reference to a line my friend Bryce Bennett said while talking about Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Are those poems bad? What about covers?

Which version is the superior? Dolly or Whitney? Simon and Garfunkel or Disturbed? Trent Reznor or Johnny Cash? Prince, Sinead or Chris?

But back to literature proper. Fanfiction has a storied (ha, get it because stories ha i am comedy genius) tradition. Paradise Lost and The Divine Comedy are Bible fanfiction. The Aeneid is Homeric fanfiction. And they’re not the only ones. So whatever argument to be made against the literary potential of fanfiction is basically thrown out the window. Now I’m not going to say that if you go to fanfiction,net right now you’re going to be able to immediately find Miltonesque worth but that’s much more because of Sturgeon’s Law than it is about talent.

Okay, so is there money in it?

Yes and no.

Yes in very, very, select circumstances.

No, in most circumstances.

So, no.

For a brief moment of time there was Amazon’s Kindle Worlds where Amazon paid authors to write fanfictions of things like Veronica Mars, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and a few others. That’s been shut down. Then there’s the curious case of 50 Shades of Gray and The Mortal Instruments. Both of which started as fanfiction (Twilight and Harry Potter, respectively) before the authors re-skinned and re-packaged the stories as individual works. I don’t know if I’d do the same with my own because as it stands whatever connection I had to the original source of inspiration is molecule-small. (But I’d be remiss not to mention it lest I be accused of hypocrisy)

Anyway, money. Fanfic authors will not receve a single dime for their work. Some might even get flak from the authors (like Anne Rice) for writing it. It’s purely a labor of love. A lot of my friends are Firefly fans and devasted with the whole canceled-after-one-season bit and fanfics help with that. Others want to rewrite Supernatural beginning from Season 5 where it went off the rails. Others just want to wonder what it would be like for Captain America to stop by a Stripes and get a breakfast taco.

And it’s all okay!

One time, I was giving a workshop on flash fiction and I made the argument I made above, that a lot of the things that make fiction good will make fanfiction good. It just takes away the guesswork when it comes to developing characters.

You don’t have to write it, you don’t have to like it. But it’s been there, and it will continue to be there.

Also, even assuming all the bad things about fanfiction were true, that it’s not “Real writing” and whatever…consider the following XKCD strip.

xkcd: Rock Band

wInksday #4 – Diamine Scribble

And we’re back!

Sorta.

Still trying to get used to a better writing schedule so I can more frequently update this. Again, what’s the end point? I don’t know. I like inks. INKS!

I’ve picked up a thing for purple inks because it’s one of my favorite colors. Blame it on going to Church during advent, the association with Roman military history, lavender being one of my favorite scents, etc.

And then I thought, it would be cool to have one that can serve as substitute for a black ink and will only look purple on closer inspection.

So I discovered the Diamine Scribble. Diamine Scribble is one of two purple inks (the other being Diamine Monboddo’s Hat) that Fountain Pens UK came up with as a collaboration with Diamine. It’s a rather wet writer but it’s such a bold, black purple.

Once again, the two surprises are the Clairefontaine and the standard notebook paper in how they’ve managed these pen tests. The notebook paper should be the worst with fountain pens and the Clairefontaine better, but the latter has some interesting ghosting issues. I wonder if maybe I’m dolloping too much ink on the initial portion of the test.

That being said, the Clairefontaine is still a fantastic paper to write on, I just have to be more careful about writing on it since it almost feels like you’re writing on silk.

Plus, you can really see the gold undertones and it performs really well on the water drop test, compared to the next one on the list, the standard notebook paper..

You’ll get some of the shading but the ink smears all over with the water droplet test.

I was writing random sentences and this came to mind as a friend was discussing an ink she liked.

The Tomoe River has recently been discontinued and it’s a great paper! Current notebooks run you around $65 since people started hoarding them. I’m going to use them for letter-writing for the most part now and replace it with something more common like the LT1917.

But the breakthrough I’ve come across?

Rhodia. Quick dry time. Boldness and sheen. Does okay on the drop test. Little ghosting. Definitely one of the best papers to write on. My last journal was a Rhodia webnotebook and but for the fact that it was a little bit too wide-ruled for my taste, it was a great notebook.

Fountain Pen Friday #3 – A few of my favorite pens

But really, all of them. And I’ll go more into detail about the Diplomat, Lamy, and the Pilot later but right now I want to deviate just a skosh to talk a little bit about my favorite pens and how I feel they complement my fountain pen habit/daily pen use.

I just love pens, y’all. I’ve always gripped pencils way too hard for comfort and there’s something about mechanical pencils that just don’t sit right with me. Reminds me of this for some reason.

I just want to eat in peace : adhdmeme
metallic frail pencil bad. no frail pencil > : (

Yes, there are erasable pens but I’ll just cross something out instead of using an erasable pen because WHAT IS THE POINT. Believe it or not there’s dry-erase fountain pen ink and I’m thinking, JUST. BUY. DRY-ERASE. MARKERS. But then again this is a blog about fancy inky sticks so I recognize my moral high ground isn’t as high as I think it is.

Anyway, here they are.

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From left to right: Papermate Inkjoy, Pilot G-2 1.0 Blue, Pentel Energel 0.7 Needle Tip Black, Pilot Precise V.7, Pilot G2 0.7 Blue Black, Pilot Metropolitan M with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, Lamy AL Star F with Diaine Scribble, and Diplomat Magnum F with Diamine Writer’s Blood
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This will never be a caligraphy blog.

The notebook is an Apica notebook that I bought for $3.15 at Kinokuniya and I really think if you like stationery, weeb stuff, or stationery AND weeb stuff, you should really check it out. In Houston it’s off the Grand Parkway and 1-10 close to Whiskey Cake; in Austin it’s…I don’t know, it’s somewhere in Austin. GOOGLE IT.

I’ll be going left to right providing a brief overview.

  1. Papermate Inkjoy: The teacher’s best friend. Plenty of colors to choose from and they have the cool thing of having the “grip” cover the entire pen so no matter how you hold your pen it’s covered by the grip. AND it also dries quick.
  2. Pilot G-2 (1.0 and 0.7) your workhorse gel pen. It was my first ‘favorite’ pen and I love how it writes. Like the other non-FP pens on this list, it’s the one I tend to clip to my work lanyard for quick access (the other being the Uniball Vision which I don’t always love to use). It’s also one of the ones that most frequently gets stolen because of how awesome it is and this is not an endorsment of piracy
  3. The Pentel Energel became my last favorite non-fountain pen pen before I made the transition into the FP stan that I became. They feel lighter than the Pilot and they also dry quickly, two things that are great for long writing sessions.
  4. The Pilot Precise is my nostalgic choice because I rememeber these pens were the elegant grown-up-and-business-y type of pens. I really like doodling off the side of whatever I’m working on with these.
  5. See Pilot above.
  6. The Pilot Metropolitan M is one of my finer pens and my first fountain pens. It’s such a great starter for reasons I’ve talked about before but a quick recap: $18, comes with a cartridge and a converter so at most you’re only spending that and $10 more in a bottle of ink or $5 in a set of cartridges. This one is my go-to-signature pen. I’ll write a hall pass or I’ll sign-off on documents with it. The ink I’ve chosen for it is also a large part. It flows well, it writes well, and it’s also got this really dark quality to it that reminds me of both the oil paintings I oved looking at when I was a kid and the scrawled ink I’d imagine myself writing with.
  7. The Lamy AL Star F is a beautiful pen. It takes the best part of the Lamy Safari and the Pilot Metropolitan and puts them together. It’s got the heft of the Pilot Metropolitan with its aluminum body and the quick-start capabilities of the Lamy Safari all in a nice metallic color. I like my purple AL-Star the best because of its color but also because of the ink choice I have: Diamine Scribble. A purple so dark it’s only purple if you know it’s there.
  8. Finally, the Diplomat Magnum F grew on me. I originally purchased the purple on a whim and I really liked it but it was a shade more bold than I wanted. So I decided to get the fine point and that one’s been amazing. It’s a bit of a wet writer but it’s also in my constant EDC rotation.

wInksday #3 – J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor (Emerald of Chicken)

And I’m back y’all.

It’s exhausting being a teacher. But I love it. I spent years working corporate and some days where I’d dread work. As tired as I am, as frustrated as I am, as beat-down as I can get sometimes by general ennui and stress, there’s not been a single day as an educator where I don’t want to go into work.

I’m also “the pen guy” at work, taking over that title from a colleague who was the reigning pen guy and then I showed up with my EDCs and suddenly I have that title.

Today we’re going to talk about the J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor, known as the Emerald of Chicken in some circles.

It is a gorgeous, if slightly wet, ink that behaves pretty decently, but I’d put it in a pen with a pen that wrote on the dry side.

Unless of course that’s something you like. Here’s how it performs.

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Obviously It’s going to look best on the Clairefontaine and the Rhodia due to the nature of those notebooks/brands. I’ve mentioned I won’t do Moleskine before but I’ll repeat it: Moleskine is tissue paper with incredible marketing. The thing that surprised me, and part of it could be that I just went heavy on the swatch, but the amount of ink that shows on the opposite side of the Leuchturm. That being said, it still performed the best in the dry time test.

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The notebook I got for notebook paper has been doing exceedingly well, too. Surprisingly well, too. Now I tend to gravitate towards cream-colored notebooks because I feel they add that “aged” look to what I write, so I’m using this notebook as representative of your standard notebooks you’d use for school. It is the Office Depot Stellar brand and I got it for $2.

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You can also notice the sheen of the ink better here, and I think that’s one of the cooler things about this ink. If the light catches it after it dries it has a little bit of a red metallic sheen to it beneath the rich blue .

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For the Rhodia, the drying times were longer. I borrowed something from Mountain of Ink so you could see them better.

That being said, writing on Rhodia is still a delight. But if you really want to get fancy, as usual, you go for the Clairefontaine or the Tomoe River, which average around to $0.18 a sheet in a pack of 50, exponentially more expensive than buying a ream of copy paper ($0.014 a sheet) or a standard notebook for $2 and have 100 sheets to show for it.

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But hey, if you want decent write time and the type of paper that can take a punch, you’re going to want to use these. Both the Clairefontaine and the Rhodia are made by the same company but the former is ideal for fountain pen use and the Rhodia is designed to be better with multiple writing instruments.

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The only thing that ghosted was my Noodler’s Rome is Burning and it was from my broadest fountain pen. Obviously something like Sharpie would ghost, but all in all, this is a solid pad that you can find locally at places like Dromgoole’s and Kinokuniya (Rice Village and Katy, respectively) and occasionally at Barnes and Noble. My last journal was a Rhodia webnotebook I managed to snack from the Copperfield Barnes and Noble.

Fountain Pen Friday #2 – The Things He Carried

One of the common terms you hear in the fountain pen, and really a lot of other communities, is the term ‘EDC’ as in everyday carry.

Now, one thing I did mention about my fountain pen vice/habit is that it’s encouraged me not to put pens in my pockets (unless I’m wearing a shirt with pockets in which case my Lamy or Pilots look kinda cool).

But you know, I like to have multiple pens on hand. And so here’s my usual set up for leaving the house.

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The pen case is an iDream365 Hard Protective EVA Carrying Case . I got it off of Amazon and it’s pretty comfortable. Pens, I like to carry at least a combination of:

  • blue
  • black
  • red pen
  • ‘civilian’ pen
  • and a midliner highlighter because they’re the most fountain pen friendly highlighters

The notebook is an Exceed notebook. Exceed is a Wal-Mart brand that is basically a Leuchturm1917 knockoff with a very limited color selection.

But

It’s actually a very solid little notebook. I normally have slightly larger versions of it for my school meeting notes.

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School getup

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I keep the first set up ,and then I add a Think Ink notebook from Target where I log my meetings. I also found a pack of small steno pads at Target ($5 for 5) because of COURSE I did that and they are great for quicker tearable notes. At the bottom is my Minimalism Art bullet journal. It’s a great brand when it comes to fountain pen-friendly (and really, all pens) notebooks and for the price it’s great especially when you compare it to equal-size Leuchtturm1917s or Rhodias that are a little pricier.

I don’t buy Moleskine notebooks because their paper is extremely thin, even for regular pens. I tell people they’re like loose-leaf paper notebooks with an impressive marketing arm.

I keep my small notebook and my pen set for arbitrary thoughts during lunch.

Out and About/Hipster Set

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Because I can have more things to carry when I post up at a coffeeshop, I throw these in a leather college professor bag my dad gave me as a gift. I keep the pen case but add a pen wallet in case I want to switch out to a different color fountain pen.

I carry a small book with me from my to-read list (in this case, Rudy Francisco’s I’ll fly away) and a couple of notebooks. You’ll notice the notebooks have names and it’s…I don’t know. I name things. I don’t talk OFTEN about the things I name because then I’d be looked at as the kind of guy who names things.

But it started with what I thought was going to be the name of my first poetry collection but I liked the name so much it just stuck around as my all-purpose naming convention for my notebooks. Flash Floods and Revelations. Don’t ask. I just like the way it rolls off the tongue and HIM took the equally-aweseome Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights. My current lineup is as follows:

I – 2019 Bullet journal (Letterbox Notebook) – DONE
II – 2019-2020 Commonplace Book (Lemome Notebook) – DONE
III – Writing Project Journal (Leuchturm) – DONE
IV – Writing Project Journal (Minimalism Art)
V – Writing Project Journal (Leuchturm)
VI – Poetry Journal (Exceed)

Outside the Flash Floods series I have another Leuchturm notebook used for my homebrew DND setting notes/other assorted tabletop things; a standard notebook for my blog notes; and my 2021 Commonplace Book that I haven’t quite worked on this year.

Obviously, I don’t take them all out at once, I just pick and choose what I’m going to work on if I’m in my writer mode. In the picture above, it’s my set up for my long-standing fantasy project and the bones of my second poetry collection.

wINKsday #3 – Noodler’s Rome is Burning

Nathan Tardif is an interesting man. A very outspoken New Englander with strong Libertarian convictions, he runs his entire organization by (mostly) himself. Makes ink. Sells the ink. Packages the ink.

I think that’s pretty neat. I also think it’s pretty neat that he has an incredible ink variety. And that he sometimes does things like challenge researchers to erase his strongest archival ink and once they do, turns around and creates an ink so permanent it’ll outlast Chabelo and Keith Richards.

It was a Noodler’s ink that first showed me all the dimensions that ink could potentially have. I went to Dromgooles, Houston’s only fountain pen-centric store and only store in the state that employs an ink sommelier. I asked for some recommendations and he told me about Noodler’s Rome is Burning.

And then he showed me.

This ink has a decent shading, behaves well, is mostly waterproof, and when it gets wet the gold wash turns the ink purple.

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Every bottle of Noodler’s comes with several quotes that are Tardif’s scratching his confirmation bias.

I didn’t pack my test strips correctly so I’m only testing it out on 3 papers, and the pen I used was a TWSBI Eco with an M nib.

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What surprised me is that the notebook paper did the best on the back side water test but it has the most ghosting.
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The Tomoe River did well, had the best dry times.
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The Clairefontaine did well, too. Great dry times and it’s the one that best shows the gold-to-purple.
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I need to get my TWSBI to Dromgooles since I think it’s flowing more like a B than an M, but here we see that it even performs well on regular paper.

The other great thing about Noodler’s is that they’re some of the most affordable inks out there. You can get two Noodler’s for the price of a single Pilot Iroshizukiu or Sailor 50 states.

Magister Monday #1 – Required Reading

Mondays will have weekly thoughts about writing craft-related stuff.

I’m always grateful for Lupe Mendez, Jasminne Mendez, and Icess Fernandez for what they’ve done for me in terms of being a writer in this city. Lupe and Jasminne invited me to lead a small flash fiction workshop as part of their Tintero Readings series. Icess, a few months later, gave me the opportunity to lead a similar workshop in her class at Lone Star College.

And when I walked out of that class, all the talk about vocations that the Marist Brothers of the schools had talked about all those years ago at St. Joseph’s Academy.

Teaching rocks.

I mean, it’s the hardest damn job I’ve had in my life, but it’s amazing. And so I think that I’d like to do a little teaching on the side and impart some of my knowledge (pause for laughter) some of my EXPERIENCE in the field of writing.

My credentials:

  • One traditionally-published book (after 60 queries)
  • 20+ poems, short stories, and essays published in different literary magazines
  • 1 story, The Ritual, part of The Airgonaut’s Pushcart slate in 2016
  • Same story with a Best of the Net nod and longlisted for Wigleaf’s Top 50
  • Alternate for Houston’s Word Around Town poetry tour
  • Studied under Sasha Pimentel, Lex Wiliford, and Daniel Chacon as part of my MFA in Creative Writing through the University of Texas at El Paso
  • My mommy thinks I’m special

There’s not going to be much rhyme or reason to how I’ll run these little MFA-in-your-home (not to be confused with DIY-MFA). I’ll just really ramble on about particular subjects and hope some of it is useful.


I’m going to start out by listing my curriculum, aka the books that I feel any writer could use in their arsenal.

Here’s why:

When people ask me, what’s the best way to start writing? I don’t think about my process. My process is unique to myself and it’s different than any other processes. Some of them I’m like <Scooby-Doo Aroo?> suspicious of, others I can see the value but in the end the process is unique.

But one good way to start is finding something that you really like, and writing something similar.

So here’s my list.

Craft Books/Gen Reference Books

Stephen King, On Writing
Thomas E. Foster, How to read literature like a college professor
Jessica Brody, Save the Cat! Writes a novel
John Dufresne, Flash! Writing the Short Story
The Rose Metal Field Press Guide to Flash Fiction
The Rose Metal Field Press Guide to Flash Creative Nonfiction
Edward Hirsch, The Demon and the Angel
Edith Hamilton, Mythology
Octavio Paz, Labyrinth of Solitude
David Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife
Ron Rapoport, From Black Sox to Three-Peats: A Century of Chicago’s Best Sportswriting from the “Tribune,” “Sun-Times,” and Other Newspapers 
Writing With Color

Poetry

Jaime Sabines, Recuento de Poemas
Lupe Mendez, Why am I like tequila
Jasminne Mendez, Night-blooming Jamsin(n)e
Neil Hilborn, Our numbered days
Sabrina Benaim, Depression and Other Magic Tricks
Sarah Kay, Never mind the wreckage
Sandra Cisneros, Loose woman
Leslie Contreras Schwartz, Nighbloom & Cenote
Rudy Francisco, Helium
Mark Strand, A blizzard of one
Sasha Pimentel, For want of waterAndrew Gibson, Lord of the Butterflies

Short Stories

Benjamin Alire Saenz, Everything begins and ends at the Kentucky Club
Roxane Gay, Best American Short Stories 2018
Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors
Dagoberto Gilb, Woodcuts of Women
Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek
Hillary Leftwich, Ghosts are just strangers who know how to knock
Daniel Chacon, Unending Rooms
Raymond Carver, Will you please be quiet, please?
Bonus short stories: April Bradley’s Acetone Smells Like Death
Kathy Fish’s Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild
Don Shea’s Jumper Down


Podcasts
Writing Excuses
Writers on Writing
Personal Rejection Letter
The Mythcreants Podcast

YouTubers
HelloFutureMe
Write About Now

Fountain Pen Friday #1 – Starter Pens

Fountain Pen Fridays are the weekly blog posts/conversations about fountain pens and general stationery.

So now that we’ve talked about why fountain pens, I’m going to talk about how best to introduce yourself (or others) to the hobby. In the community this is known as penabling but I also call it pen-vangelizing.

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Portrait of the blogger as a young pen-vangelist

I’m going to divide this review into two tiers. Tier 1 will be your super-budget-just trying-this-to-see-if-I-like-them pens and Tier 2 will be your actual starter hobby pens. I’ll include as much information as possible and try to be as concise as possible but if you want to skip the explanations you can see a chart at the bottom. Each of these pens will get their own individual reviews later.

I’m mostly including Tier 1 out of due diligence.


Tier 1

Kaweco Perkeo, Pilot Kakuno, and Pilot Varsity

Kaweco Perkeo ($15-$17)

Pros:

This is a surprisingly handy pen and a great writer. It’s a taller version of the Tier 2 Kaweco Sport and in many regards it writes much better. It’s also comparable in size to other fountain pens and It only takes international standard cartridges, which are just about a dime a dozen. It lacks a clip but the octagonal shape the cap is designed in keeps it from rolling off the desk easy. Oh! It also has a slightly indented grip intended (ha indented intended i r so smart s-m-r-t) It’s also very lightweight, which can be a pro for some and a con for others.

Cons:

The biggest downside it has it shares with the Pilot Kakuno in that it doesn’t come with a way to clip it somewhere. The color selection is also very limited. Per Jetpens:

Cleaning

Relatively easy, as it’s a cartridge-filler and you’d just have to rinse out the ink residue when switching cartridge colors.

Verdict

While not a must-buy, it’s a great pen to have for quick note-taking and having the ability to use international cartridges makes it a great pen.

Pilot Kakuno ($10-$12)

Pros

It’s no secret I’m a Pilot stan but I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Kakuno. But it’s not a bad thing. The Kakuno, like the Perkeo, also has an indentation that guides you where your hand’s supposed to go on the grip. It also has a wider range of colors than the Perkeo or the Varsity. With some resin glue, you can also turn it into an eyedropper pen (more on this in the future)

Cons

It only takes proprietary Pilot cartridges, which can be good if you’ve stocked up on them but honestly if you’re going to stock up on Pilot cartridges you’re better off spending a few dollars more and getting the Metro. It’s also more of a dry writer, which, again, works for a lot of people.

Cleaning

Much the same way as the Perkeo, quick rinse.

Verdict

For the price, go for the Metropolitan.

Platinum Preppy ($5-$14)

Pros

It’s somewhere between the Kakuno and the Perkeo in terms of how it writes, so it’s a good balance. It’s also, at $5, the cheapest single option outside the Varsity. If you add the converter, or the o-rings plus the eyedropper to “hack” it into a converter pen, that’s still $14.

Cons

It’s an ugly pen and a little on the thin side overall. It also uses proprietary cartridges so if you’re not turning it into an eyedropper you’re limited to just the Platinum cartridges.

Cleaning

There’s not much to cleaning this one, just if you’ve managed to turn it into an eyedropper, do it over a sink.

Pilot Varsity ($8 for a 4-pack)

I AM PILOT STAN IN A GREAT MAGNETIC uhhhh something

Pros

This pen has no business writing as smooth as it does. It’s got an even better flow than the Pilot G-2. It comes with a clip so it looks even better than the Perkeo or the Kakuno. And when it comes to introducing people to fountain pens, I like to have one of these on hand because they’re a quick and dirty introduction to this wonderful world.

Cons

It’s disposable, so there’s no refilling, no converter, no hacking into an eyedropper pen. The color palette is limited to maybe 8 colors, too.


Tier 2

Now for the fun part.

ABOVE- From L to R: Pilot G-2 for comparison; Kaweco Skyline, Diplomat Magnum, TWSBI Eco, Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari. Below, the same pens but posted (with the cap on)

I’m not going to rank them in any specific order because this is the “What’s your favorite deep dish in Chicago?” argument (Spoiler: It’s Giordano’s, no, I won’t take feedback) and I’ll leave the verdict for last.

I will also put them individually next to the Pilot G-2 so you can see how they are.

Kaweco Skyline ($25)

Pros

It’s lightweight, but sturdy. The color combinations available are also very cool — for a little extra you can have an all-brass one, for instance. It also falls under the aegis of pocket fountain pens so it’s a quick grab-and-go pen. Just like the Preppy mentioned above, it can be turned (with a little bit of know-how) into an eyedropper pen AND it takes international catrtidges so color options can be vast.

Cons

$25 is just for the base pen and one cartridge. If you wanted to add a converter to get different kinds of ink, that’s like $6. If you wanted to add a clip, that’s $8. So to really deck out the pen you can expect to drop $32 dollars, which is $12 more than the Pilot Metropolitan and the Diplomat Magnum, $2 more than the TWSBI Eco, and just $3 less for a decked-out Lamy Safari.

Cleaning

Follow Perkeo recommendations.

Lamy Safari ($30, comes with cartridges; $36 with converter)

Pros

There’s a reason Lamy is one of the most commonly-recommended fountain pens for starters. It’s got a sturdy build made from the same kind of plastic Legos are made, its ink flows well, and there’s a really nice color range to them. The pen clip is also massive but uniquely shaped so that it’s both secure in your pocket and also able to be taken out a moment’s notice. Also, for it’s size it’s basically lightweight.

Cons

In my mind, you have to get the converter because, to me, the Lamy cartridges it comes with are kind of crappy. Lamy usually packages them with a blue cartridge that’s a really weaksauce shade of blue. So you’re starting out with $36 unless you actually end up liking the cartridge.

Cleaning

Cleaning screw converters can get to be a pain, but you won’t have to do much of this unless you plan on switching inks on this pen every two weeks that the converter runs out.

Diplomat Magnum ($22)

Pros

The Diplomat Magnum is strangely not mentioned in a lot of these “Starter fountain pen” lists and I don’t understand why. It’s a really great writer, comes with its own converter when you order from Goulet, (Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the Goulets or Goulet Pen Company, I’m just a fan of their customer service and their products). And like the Lamy Safari and the TWSBI Eco, it has its own ink window that lets you know when your supply is running low so you can re-ink.

Cons

There’s only 8 colors of this pen and it’s a little on the lighter side when it comes to weight. My thinnest pen (a Parker Jotter) is heavier than this, as are most of my other pens, including the gel pens I have. The other thing is a weird one because it’s strictly based on how I write. Every time I pick it up, my thumb settles right above the ink window and it’s a weird scratchy feeling.

Cleaning

Since it’s a twist-converter pen, you can follow the Lamy instructions.

The Pilot Metropolitan ($19)

Pros

This is a really solid starter pen. The weight is very comfortable. It punches above its weight class and has the feel of a fountain pen three times its worth. Of this list, it’s the one that most represents a traditional fountain pen experience. The ink flow is great, and when it’s paired with a wetter ink it just about sings on the page. And one silver lining to the smaller converter is that it’s easier to clean and you can switch out inks more frequently.

Cons

It comes with a squeeze converter that doesn’t have the best ink capacity. A good “charge” will last you about five days and that’s a little less than what the Lamy screw converters or the TWSBI will have. The color selection is also limited to roughly about 7 colors and their ‘animal print’ equivalent.

Cleaning

Squeeze converters are actually very easy to clean. You separate the pen, rinse out the converter, and then use a Q-tip to make sure all ink residue is clear.

TWSBI Eco ($30)

Pros

If the Pilot Metropolitan best resembles the standard of fountain pens, the TWSBI Eco best represents the potential for what fountain pens COULD be. The ECO has a HUGE ink capacity and once you fill it you’re going to be using it for a bit. The other thing I really like about this pen is that I’ve never had it hard start. I’ve gone for months without using my pen only to pick it up and it’ll start writing as if I had only had it capped for a few minutes. It also comes with a tiny wrench and fountain pen-friendly silicone grease for longer-term maintenance.

Cons

It can be a chore to clean a piston filler because it’s like filling a screw converter but with some extra time over the sink. This also means you best be committed to the ink you’re putting in (which, honestly, is not that hard to do).

Cleaning

See above.


Verdict

The Pilot Metropolitan takes the official Obsidian Palms recommendation for best starter foutnain pen. For $18, it’s probably the best bank for your buck. The Namiki ink cartridges it comes with are solid if you don’t want to start out with ink just yet. It’s got a really nice weight to it and it’s also easy to clean.

The TWSBI would be my runner up because of the comfort you have of being able to use it for longer writing sessions.

The Diplomat Magnum is great but the weight is a little too flimsy for me. And the Lamy Safari is best upgraded to a Lamy AL-Star ($42 in total for pen + converter) because it combines the comfortable heft of the Metropolitan and the other pluses of the Safari.

wINKsday #2 – Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku

Hello, everyone! Hope everyone’s enjoying their Spring Break/Stimulus Day/Ordinary Workday. Today is the official start of my wINKsday series. I thought I’d start with the very first ink I purchased – the Pilot Iroshizuku ku-jaku. Kujaku means peacock in Japanese. It’s also apparently <furious typing> a type of koi fish and a character in Naruto.

I’m not familiar with the show* so whatever.

Anyway, my wife has a peacock feather tattoo on her right forearm (a stellar job by Jose at Electric Chair Tattoo) and as someone who can be as extra as peacocks (there are times when I’ve referred to myself as the human personification of the last four minuts of the 1812 Overture) I thought that a bird-themed ink would be great.

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Pictured: The blogger

Also, I’ve mentioned that I like blue inks and this is right on the edge for that.

Pilot makes great pens and UNSURPRISINGLY they make great inks as well. Their Iroshizuku line of inks is a little on the pricier end ($18-$22 a bottle compared to brands like Noodler’s, Monteverde, or Diamine where it’s $8-$15 as the average) but that’s not bad at all for 50 ml and for a really nice bottle.

Which, again, you’re buying ink for the writing part but my argument is — if it’s going to look nice it might as well look all the way nice. Noodler’s is one of my favorite inks but the box is a plain jane white box, for instance.

So ON TO THE TESTs. As a reminder, I test using my glass dip pen. Water test is a drop of water from an eyedropper and then brushed with a #3 paintbrush. Reason I do this is to simulate your standard ‘oops I’ve spilled something’ and because some of you might be interested in doing watercolors with the inks I pick

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Top to bottom: Clairefontaine Triomphe-MISLABELED, Copy paper, Tomoe River, and Office Depot notebook paper
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As we saw with the Writer’s Tears test last week, your standard copy paper performs the worst when it comes to ghosting.
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Clairefontaine Triomphe – water test seems to get rid of a lot of the ink
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The printer paper doesn’t fare too badly from the front, but that big splotch just looks awful on the reverse side of the paper.
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Tomoe River does the best as usual, and it’s one of those weird things where it probably feels the flimsiest out of all the paper I use but it’s a great paper for fountain pens. From the waterdrop test, it also maintains the best legibility after it’s been wet.
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Tomoe River paper also best shows the secondary colors of the ku-jaku, the little tiny hints of red.
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Finally, we come to the notebook paper. Water performs okay, ghosting is minimal, dries relatively quick.

This is the notebook I’ve been using for these tests. I also realize I forgot to include my Rhodia and Leuchturm tests but they’re somewhere below the Tomoe River and Clarefontaine papers and above the others in terms of performance. I’ll be sure to include those tests next week!

Hope this was useful!

*I moved to the US before Inuyasha and Naruto became a thing and so I didn’t get back into anime until years after I moved to Houston.