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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Kaweco Perkeo ($15-$17)
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.
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:
Relatively easy, as it’s a cartridge-filler and you’d just have to rinse out the ink residue when switching cartridge colors.
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)
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)
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.
Much the same way as the Perkeo, quick rinse.
For the price, go for the Metropolitan.
Platinum Preppy ($5-$14)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Now for the fun part.
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.
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.
$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.
Follow Perkeo recommendations.
Lamy Safari ($30, comes with cartridges; $36 with converter)
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.
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 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)
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.
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.
Since it’s a twist-converter pen, you can follow the Lamy instructions.
The Pilot Metropolitan($19)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
And that’s really it. At the end of the day, it’s all about what gets you writing.
As a writer, I’ve come across “Writers Hate This!!!!! Become a BESTSELLER in just 30 days!” time and time again. But there’s no guarantee that 1) it’s not a scam 2) it actually works.
Why? Because every writer is different. Every method is different. Are there some techniques that might make you write better? Sure. But they’re not necessary. I have an MFA in Creative Writing. It helped me be a better writer, but people could become better writers without the degree.
(And if you look at certain awards like the Hugo and the Nebula, MFAs are the minority)
So it goes with fountain pens.
Up above you see a smattering of pens I really like. From left to right: Pilot Metropolitan (fountain pen) and my non-fountain pen go-tos: the Pilot Precise V7, Uni-ball Vision Elite, Pilot G-2, Pentel Energel Needle Point, Papermate Inkjoy, and the Grademaster5000–a red Pilot G-2.
Every single one of those pens writes well and serves the function of applying ink to paper. So if plain function is all you’d like, go with any of those.
But if you want to add a little variety, here are a few reasons why you should use a fountain pen.
1. It feels nice
As much as I loved writing with my Pilot G-2s or my Papermate, I had the bad habit of sometimes gripping too hard on the pen. Now, a lot of that could have been trained away when I was a young child but it somehow never took.
That’s not a problem with fountain pens. My Pilot Metropolitan (pictured above) is heavier than the pilot but I don’t feel my hand cramped after long writing sessions. Even as a lefty, it sometimes feels like the pen is singing as I jot down notes on whatever might be coming to mind at that moment. For those people with much nicer handwriting than mine (in other words, anyone with fine motor skills beyond those of an angry chicken) having a fountain pen would be a real treat.
They’re very comfortable and like a pair of shoes, all it takes is a little bit of research. You might even find that you’ll hit on your ideal pen from the very beginning. To me, it’s going to depend. I think if I were to pick for me it’d be a solid tie between the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy AL-Star. The AL-Star is pricier but it’s got a very comfortable weight on it and a better color selection. The Pilot Metropolitan has less ink capacity but like the AL-Star it has a very comfortable weight to it.
2. It‘s environmentally friendly (and might spare your clothing if you’re the type to not pay attention)
So, by volume, regular pens are cheaper. A pack of 4 Pilot Precise pens, for instance, runs you as much as the cheapest entry-level fountain pen (a $10 Pilot Kakuno). A pack of Pilot G-2s or Pentel Energels goes for anywhere betweem $3-$5.
Because they’re as disposable as all the ballpoints I used to collect. They get lost easy, and they’re just plastic you’re adding to the environment because let’s be honest, no one actually buys refills for the Pilot G-2s. So soon that pack you got for $5 turns into $20 and now you’ve spent more money than you would have on a nice Pilot Metropolitan that you won’t be so inclined to throw away.
And there’s something so…forgettable about those plastic pens, and that leads to problems if you happen to be the type of person to pocket their pens. As in, one day you’re just forgetting to check your pockets and the next thing to know you’re asked if you’re into Star Trek given how many red shirts you find yourself owning.
You won’t be so inclined to pocket a fountain pen, and if you do, you’re clipping it securely and taking it out before you throw your clothes into the hamper or The Chair.
3. The Ink selection is out of this world.
From the pens mentioned above, the Pilot G-2 has the most diverse color selection.
Let’s just eyeball the individual colors and say there’s 20 in total of all kinds. 20 doesn’t even come close to the shades available for fountain pen ink. The Pilot Precise comes in black, blue, and red. The inkjoy in about 18 varieties.
JetPens has 39 different shades of –purple-and that’s not all the purple inks out there. For example, I have the Diamine Scribble, a really dark purple you can only tell is purple if you swipe your finger right across it before it dries. Or the DeAtramentis Alexander Hamilton, a vibrant, Advent-colored purple.
I’ll go into detail in further posts about why the hell having such an extensive ink variety helps, but right now let’s leave it at that. It’s nice to have variety, and it’s nice to be able to have anything from SUPER SRS black or blue inks to SPARKLY GOOD UNICORN POOP sheening pink inks.
4. It just looks cool
Why WOULDN’T you like something that looks cool when you write? The AL Star pictured above is amazing. Or take a look at the TWSBIs below.
You have such a wide array of different pen bodies and types and nibs to choose from.
The above is my collection (that’ll be downsized by 5-6 pens soon) Each pen has its own personality. I like to sign official documents with my black Pilot Metropolitan M. I like carrying my orange TWSBI around because I have inked it with a blue ink and it’s the colors of my alma mater. My yellow Safari is inked with a ‘stain your soul’ blue ink that’s very loud and vibrant. My two red pens are my go-to graders (Waterman Graduate inked with Monteverde Ruby and the red Lamy Safari with Diamine Oxblood). My Moonman (furthest from right) is inked with a green with gold sheen after Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay (Nature’s first green is gold…) a poem I teach every year in class.
And really, it’s kinda fancy. You’re signing something and then out comes that steel (or gold, or palladium) nib, you hear an audible bling somewhere and it makes signing even an attendance sheet a fancier experience.
So, I’ve settled on the publication schedule for this blog and hopefully, the [redacted adjoining project] as well:
I will talk about writing in general, the craft, genres, and just stuff that could be useful for would-be writers.
Will be my ink review day. All reviews will be objective and predominantly positive because I know that just because I don’t like an ink doesn’t mean someone else won’t.
Fountain pen and stationery discussion. Next Friday: A discussion on the best starter pens or one on my everyday carry (EDC)
It’s been years since I’ve had anything close to a blog but I’ve got stuff to say and I need somewhere to say it.
Okay, that’s a little dramatic. I really just needed another outlet to geek out about some of my favorite things: Fountain pens and writing. And puns!
If you’re coming in from the Facebook group, you already know what to expect, only now I’ll get to elaborate more on some things.
If you’re new here, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Hugo Esteban Rodríguez Castañeda (always make sure there’s an accent on the i) and I’m a writer and educator hailing from Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. I received my undergaduate degrees from the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and my master’s of fine arts from the University of Texas at El Paso. Since 2015, I’ve published one book and have 20 poems, stories, and essays strewn around the internet in places like The Airgonaut, The Acentos Review, Picaroon Poetry, Neon Mariposa, Mathematician Transmission and the Texas Poetry Calendar. When I’m not working or writing I’m listening to my Audible collection, going on walks with my dogs, painting, owr writing letters.
I also really like stationery.
About two years ago, which really feels like five years ago, thankyouverymuch, Covid, I figured that I needed a hobby. I was 31 and I felt I needed something “Grown up” to spend money on. I immediately ruled out a car collection because, I’ve never been one for cars. To me, the car gets you from point A to point B and that’s it. People ask me stuff about models and engines and I’m like “yeah my car’s the black one over there”.
I didn’t have enough time to start building a game collection and I had heard horror stories about the hundred-plus games backlog some of my friends had on Steam.
I loved the Black Library books, but wargaming had a very steep admission price.
So I thought — alright, I’m a writer. What are some things that could be connected to the writing aesthetic?
Coffee? Sounds great but I didn’t have the palate. Three years in a call center and you find yourself being able to appreciate coffee that tastes like diesel fuel.
Alcohol? I needed to have the proper dry bar set up at the house but we didn’t have that many people over to warrant creating something like that. I did want something pretentious but I didn’t feel like I had quite the palate for it.
So I went back to square one. What is something I’ve always liked?
Specifically, notebooks and pens.
Never pencils or mechanical pencils…that’s been a texture thing for me. I associate mechanical pencils with fragility and pencils with that red welt on my middle finger that popped up after every scantron in high school.
But pens? I’ve loved them. My mom practiced medicine in a small office in front of my grandpa’s house when I was young. So naturally, we’d have a LOT of pens that had the names of pharmaceutical companies boldly displayed on their side–usually a monogrammed Bic Cristal.
And paper, SO MANY NOTEPADS.
So I filled the first half of so many notebooks with scribbles and ideas and drawings and I just loved the way pens felt on paper.
And then I had my own notebooks, for school, for journaling. And even as I got older I’d still compulsively buy and get gifted notebooks that I’d use sparingly or sometimes just stash and keep around. My current journal, for instance, is a gift from two years ago.
So I found myself browsing reddit one day, thinking about maybe exploring this stationery option. I discovered Bullet Journaling, which for the ADHD mind is a godsend, but I needed notebooks to start with.
I thought I knew notebooks. I thought. It was in Reddit that I saw really how much I didn’t know. Everyone kept talking about gsm/s and whether or not something was FP friendly.
It intrigued me curiosity. Some google rabbitholes later and I found myself exploring tons of fountain pen videos.
It looked so cool and so after a week of vacillating, I went ahead and got myself my first fountain pen (pictured above) and I haven’t looked back.
It’s weird but….I feel like this completes my writer’s aesthetic.
And so I thought I’d start with an ink that just came here today: DiamineWriter’s Blood, a collaboration between Reddit and the good people over at Diamine.
So here are a few ink swatches I’ve made with this ink.
I’d love to apologize about the messiness but it’s my first time doing a full-blown panel like this. Mountain of Ink has some fascinating swabs (and they’re my go-to for swatches)
I’m partial to darker inks and this fits the bill quite nicely. I was journaling with it earlier and it’s a little bit of a wet writer on my Diplomat Magnum F but not to the degree some my other inks are. Here’s how it looks like compared to my other red inks.
And here’s how it’ll perform on different types of paper.
The ‘tests’ I ran the ink through featured different types of paper, a quick scribble with a glass dip pen, a drying test (the 5, 10, 15, 20 marks), and a water test to determine how it’ll handle with water on it. Now if I flipped them on their back…
The Clairefontaine took the most punishment and remained unchanged on the other side because it’s better paper, but the ink didn’t perform too bad on the regular old notebook paper either,
I think looks best on the Leuchtturm but I’m partial to slightly off-white notebooks. I don’t conduct tests on Moleskine because honestly Moleskine is wrapping paper with an incredible marketing arm. It’s not fountain pen friendly and it’ll ghost like crazy so if you take notes on one side of the paper and you’re trying to have something super legible on the other side you’re out of luck.
I do recommend the ink. I purchased mine from Goulet Pens.
A proper blog schedule will follow in my next update.