Updates Before the New Year

Nothing stays the same, not silence nor a blog.

yearcompass cover

cover of YearCompass

This is the time of year to pause, reflect upon the last many weeks, and ponder and plan for the year ahead. Recently, a post caught my eye about the YearCompass. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear everyone else already has heard about the little booklet. If you’re like me and you haven’t yet, check it out! The booklet’s a succinct, meaningful way to look at the closing and coming year.

The Novel

It’s not finished yet! Truthfully, I’ve reached “the end” several times. I’ve lost count of how many drafts I’ve written of my story, RECKLESS JOY.

Earlier this year two things happened to slow progress down.

First and most daunting, I made a major change in the story. And so… rewrites are currently in process. Fingers crossed that I’m on the final draft.

Second, a change of place! All of a sudden, we moved to New Mexico.

Moving takes its toll on you, even when you’re happy. There’s the giving away stuff, packing up of one house, the finding the new place to live, and then the unpacking, giving away more stuff, and adjusting to the 7,000′ altitude found in Santa Fe.

morning sunrise

Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. ― Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

I thought the novel would be finished by last Thanksgiving, but here I am—not yet done. I love novel writing, although IMHO, a play or script’s easier to gauge the length of time needed to finish a draft.


My fountain pen collection remains small enough for me to rotate pens easily, happily. Currently I have three inked. Three is plenty for moi.

Daily Carry

Pilot Decimo (Pilot BB), Platinum #3776 (Sailor Sei-Boku), Platinum Kanazawa-Haku (Platinum BB)

My carry around town note-taking pen, however, is my trusty old chrome Fisher Bullet ballpoint pen. This pen has never failed to write, never leaked nor blobbed ink on me. It’s the best pen for writing down story ideas that must not be forgotten.

Fisher Bullet Pen

Chrome Fisher Bullet Pen

After we moved to New Mexico, my wife and I visited Santa Fe Pens. OMG! A local pen store!

Owned and run by Neal Frank, it was lovely to meet him while visiting his legendary store. He carries modern and vintage pens, along with inks, accessories, and of course stationery.

My beloved gifted me Santa Fe Pen’s 21st anniversary edition: a Montegrappa engraved with chile peppers. The color is a classic coral red, with a Zia symbol on top of the cap. The nib is black steel, matching the pen’s band and clip. I love it and use it frequently. The only flaw is the steel nib which is de rigueur in today’s fountain pens.

Chile Pepper Pen

Santa Fe 21st Anniversary Montegrappa Chile Pepper Fountain Pen

I should explain the “flaw,” ay? The nib writes perfectly, it’s smooth and consistent. If I let the pen sit for three or four days without using the pen, however, it does what, in my experience, steel nibbed pens often do—it takes a bit to start back up again. None of my gold nibbed pens act that finicky. And so for the Chile Pepper pen, I remember never to let it sit for more than overnight when it’s inked.

Thus, a steel nib is not a real flaw. I just prefer gold nibs. Steel nibs have kept fountain pens alive, and the cost of them down. Much respect.

Chile Pepper Pen

Santa Fe 21st Anniversary Montegrappa Chile Pepper Fountain Pen

The annual Santa Fe anniversary pen is a limited edition. Thirty fountain pens and twenty rollerball pens were made.

Side note on the move: Somewhere in the world there are three gold nibs stubbed by Deb Kinney, an extra cap for the Newton Banana Slug, and a few fountain pen accessories. I cannot for the life of me find these items! I keep hoping they’ll show up, hidden in a sock or a little box within a bigger box. I count myself lucky; our move went very smoothly. In the greater scheme of life, this loss is nothing. But I miss those nibs!

Paper and Notepads

For a long time, I made notepads out of HP Premium Laser 32 lb (uncoated/FSC) paper. That paper has changed and is no longer consistently fountain pen friendly. I no longer recommend the Premium Laser 32 lb paper, unless, uh, you’re using it as printer paper.

Side note on HP paper: A lot of pen folks seem confused about HP paper. For me it was always very specifically LASER 32 LB UNCOATED paper which had been recommended by some old time fountain pen folks. (Sometimes I got away with 24 lb.) COATED paper is bad for your pens.

The change away from HP paper brought me back to ye old Rhodia notepad, specifically the #18 top-wire bound version. It’s quality paper, and more importantly I can buy it locally at my neighborhood fountain pen store.

This Rhodia notepad is waiting for me to be finished with my novel. Its blank pages will be turned into a new story.


Rhodia No. 18 Top-Wire Bound Notepad

For a long time, my favorite pocket memo pad has been the Kokuyo Campus A7. It has a plastic sheet over the cover which helps the pad keep its shape when it’s in my back jeans pocket.

Kokuyo Memo Pad

Kokuyo Campus Memo Pad survivor of my back jeans pocket


After three years, the Hobonichi planner remains enjoyable to use. In 2019 I tried the Weeks version along with the Techo A6. The Weeks has won me over for keeping track of appointments, events, and brief thoughts.

Instead of being used as a planner, the Techo ended up being used as both a gratitude and a Qigong and Tai Chi journal, helping to keep track of my progress in learning new routines, as well as the changes in my health as a by-product of practicing qigong and tai chi every day.


Hobonichi Weeks Cactus print, Techo in Pineapple cover that’s well used

For 2020, I’ll continue using a Hobonichi Weeks. The thin, long format satisfies me, and it’s easy to carry. For my gratitude/qigong/tai chi journal, I haven’t decided which notebook to use. It’s between a plain A6 Hobonichi Notebook or a Stalogy 018. We’ll see. I don’t need a planner for journalling, ay? My old Techo cover will fit almost any A6 sized notebook.

Weeks, Stalogy, Plain Hobonichi Notebook

2020 Weeks “Strangers No More” pattern, Stalogy, Plain Hobonichi Notebook


Pilot Blue-Black remains a staple. I’m still using Platinum Mix Free inks, although always the same couple of mixes. Regular Platinum Blue-Black sees plenty of paper as well. Preparing to move, I came across a bottle of Sailor Sei-Boku which I’m using up. I still keep a bottle of Waterman Mysterious Blue ink, and it gets used in the new Chile Pepper pen.

A proper writer’s stash of inks!


News reached me only recently about the passing of a couple of fountain pen friends. Richard Einwechter was a wonderful pen pal who lived in Kingston, Ontario. He had a great sense of humor, and was a caring, generous, sweet man. He passed away in March 2018.  I was very sad to learn of his death, having lost track of him when he moved from one hospital facility to another. I miss him. Richard taught me that it was okay to use color in letters, and that broader nibs were better for those folks struggling to read tiny print. Changes in vision happen to all of us.

I was also saddened to hear Chris Chalmers passed away in 2018 while living in Cornwall.  She was a long time pen collector, and very supportive of others. She was very kind to me sharing information and photos about pens. She had the most gorgeous Hakumin Parker 51 pen. I had so many questions when first collecting fountain pens, and Chris was one of my favorite sources.

I suppose it’s appropriate that news of the passing of “snail mail” folks comes to us slowly at times.

The deaths of friends and family are the hard losses, ay? All we can do is pour our love and kindness into those still with us.

Wishing you all a happy holiday, and great adventures in the days and weeks ahead.

Be generous out in the world, and stay kind and curious, dear friends.

See you soon.

Peace, Julie

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2 thoughts on “Updates Before the New Year

  1. Best wishes for a Happy Holiday to you and your wife as well. I like the ‘pepper” pen steel nib and all. But I am not a fountain pen aficionado so I would not have knows the finer points without your explanation. May 2020 be a healthy and happy one for you.

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