"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Friday, February 09, 2007

Tools of my Trade

My early novels were all initially written as longhand drafts. Later, I developed the habit of composing on a laptop, which cut out the arduous and time-consuming step of re-typing my handwritten manuscripts, so heavily marked with edits that they were scarcely legible.

But I still rely on the portability, accessibility, and sheer pleasure of pen and paper. For various reasons, I enjoy drafting certain scenes in longhand. And it's really the only way to jot my brainstorm notes on character and plot points, to make outlines or pictograms.

A fountain pen has always been my preferred writing instrument. I started using them at a rather young age, the type using ink cartridges. I remember using green ink, and later a more sedate peacock blue.

The early novels were written with a plain black Parker fountain pen, in pure black ink.

One year for my birthday my husband, the best supporter of my career in so many ways, gave me a supremely stylish and elegant writing tool: the Waterman Le Lady, with a gold nib. It's smaller than the typical pen, meaning it fits my hand beautifully. Gloriously blue, with an 18-carat gold nib, it also has a leather protective holder.

Because my Le Lady is so special, I require an "everyday" fountain pen to drag around with me when I leave the house. At some point I lost the reliable black Parker. So I replaced it with this reddish one, assuming the colour would make it easier to spot.

I've had it for years and years. And years.

Sometimes I've accidentally taken it overseas, forgetting to remove it from a purse. (My November UK trip comes to mind.) A messy mistake, because high altitude results in leaks. Fortunately, the cartridge in the pen was practically empty, so no harm done.

Last week, after using the Parker at the State House, I tucked it into one of the many deep outside pockets of my big black handbag and forgot about it. This week, I realised it was "lost." Looked everywhere. Didn't find it. Panicked. I repeatedly emptied every handbag, plowed through every stack of papers on every surface. No luck.

Heartbroken but resigned after my exhaustive search, I stopped at Staples to purchase the necessary replacement. No such luck. They sell the refill cartridges but no longer carry the pens.

Returning home, I decided to search harder. At some point I remembered which bag I'd been carrying at the State House the last time I used the pen. Plunging my hand into the deep (and seldom used) side pocket, I found the Parker, which had slipped way, way down.

Now all is well.

After the busiest week in memory, I can enjoy a few days of hibernation at the Lodge, contentedly scribbling away with one or the other of my favourite implements.

Seems to me it's a Le Lady sort of day.

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