Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Retro Chic

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Since the first of my blog entries here dealt with new technology, I think it's only appropriate to give equal time to old technology.

I've already admitted to being a bit of techno-weenie, but I also have a secret side that loves older things, too. I enjoy having nice books, not the ones that are cranked out by the hundred thousand, but the tomes that an actual craftsman has worked over by hand.

Being a relatively unknown author, I don't have the big bucks to spend on these pieces of art, but I do have a few. They're what I turn to when I've had a really bad day and feel the need to baby myself a bit. They also call to me when I'm sick. Many have been ready countless times.

But my deep, dark, non techno-weenie secret is my love of fountain pens.

My parents gave me a pen and pencil set when for my twelfth birthday. It was from Sheaffer, they were a dull green colour and not all that fancy, but I loved fooling around with them. The pen used bottled ink and they had bought me some blue-black Scrip. Sometime after I left home, the pen and pencil disappeared. I keep hoping they'll show up in an old box of forgotten junk.

About five years ago, I bought another fountain pen from a company in Florida called Levenger. It was one made to their specifications by the Sheaffer pen company. I suppose that's what made me buy it. Well, the colour was also quite fetching.

Now there are collectors who have hundreds of fountain pens. My assortment of pens (now up to a whopping eight) is just that: an assortment of pens I like to use. Each is filled with a different colour ink (I have a drawer full of the stuff now), and each is completely different from its mates in the way it writes -- and that's what really attracts me.

I have one pen I favour for signing books. It's a Pelikan, and the rarest pen I own since it was a limited edition. It also contains my fastest drying ink. That's very important to me since I'm a lefty and write overhand. (There are some photos on my website of me signing if you care to look, and even I don't believe the way I hold a pen!)

I have another that's fat and very light, and this is my favoured pen for when I'm working on my novels. No, I don't write the entire book out longhand, but I do like to sketch out scenes, make extensive notes, and will actually write the book in a leather-bound journal when I'm traveling without a laptop.

Most of my pens seem to be suited particularly to one specific task.

The other interesting thing is that fountain pens are chic again. They're "the new jewelry" for a lot of people, primarily male. Believe me, everyone stops to look when you pull out a particularly beautiful pen, unscrew the cap and begin writing.

You should try one. Whether you haven't written with a fountain pen before or picked one up in many years (for those of us of more advanced age), drop into either Laywine's in Yorkville or Sleuth & Statesmen in the Bank of Montreal building downtown and ask to try out a pen. Both have an excellent selection. You don't have to spend a king's ransom, either. You can get a nice writing fountain pen for under $30. Of course, those beauties at several hundred dollars a pop will be calling out to you. You have been warned!

But I must go back to the fact that each pen is very different. Even if it's an identical model pen, because of the way this technology works, it will feel different. One nib is never just like another.

Maybe it's uniqueness that I like.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Rick Blechta

Rick Blechta is the author of the novels Knock On Wood, The Lark Ascending, Shooting Straight in the Dark, Cemetery of the Nameless, and When Hell Freezes Over. A Case of You, his latest novel, will be published in the spring of 2008 with Rendezvous Press.

Go to Rick Blechta’s Author Page