My guest today on Stationery Love is Julia Lee.
The habit started young. My earliest stationery memories:
1) on holiday aged 4 or 5, begging my mum to spare a page from her blue Basildon Bond notepaper so that I could draw. I had to make the pictures very small and cover both sides. Questions: why did she take writing paper on holiday with her, and why didn’t someone just buy me a colouring book? (Not that I liked colouring books much – I was more free-form.)
2) At five, I was given a ball-point pen with four colours: red, blue, green and black. You slid a tiny lever and the chosen colour slotted into place. It was a bit chunky to hold, but I loved it. I wrote and illustrated my first book with it and my mum stitched the pages together on her sewing machine. I still have it!
Inspired by blue, black, red and green!
(How wonderful is this?)
Looking back, it’s clear that the two main strands of my stationery addiction – acquisitiveness and hoarding – were there early on. I always loved drawing and writing, but I was fussy about the paper; hated having to draw on rough sugar-paper at school, or those shiny, crayon-unfriendly sheets of butcher paper. So – forget the toys and sweets – I used to drift around Woolworths yearning after packets of snowy-white typing paper. Then an uncle who worked at a printing firm brought me off-cuts: stationery heaven! Stacks of quality white paper in all weights and sizes, from huge sheets to slips no bigger than bookmarks. Even then, I didn’t go crazy but hoarded some in case the supply should suddenly dry up. I’m the same today – I get twitchy when the pack of white A4 runs low.
As for drawing, what was more pleasing than a giant pack of rainbow felt-tips or beautiful soft Lakeland colouring pencils in subtly-graded tones? A set of six or ten just wouldn’t do; the whole point was to have the entire colour range to choose from.
These days I love wandering in proper stationers and art supply shops, and fall for things I’m unlikely to use. Scriptum in Oxford sells quill pens and inkwells. Do I need one? No. Do I want one? Of course. In Brighton’s Pen to Paper I bought a dip pen and various nibs, even a little tin to keep the nibs in, all because I can’t resist Windsor & Newton coloured inks, with their wittily-designed boxes. Confession – I had to throw out my wider selection of colours because they had all dried up, and am restricting myself to black Indian ink…for now.
My favourite shop is Paperchase. Everything I need, from envelopes to whoopee cushions (in season). I love their very practical notebooks: with pretty covers, funky covers, jokey covers, with elastic bands to keep them closed, with dividers, with pockets inside the covers. With clear pocket pages every so often all the way through! You can keep things in them!! I don’t know what, but I had to have one, all the same.
Paperchase notebooks with added extras.
Which brings me to the trait identified by others here in Stationery Love: owning notebooks that are too nice to use. Saved for that utterly special piece of writing you haven’t begun yet, but will, some day. Mine tend to be covered in fabric too fragile to carry around, too precious to be stuffed into a bag and later spill coffee on. I’m also drawn to sketchbooks and plain pages, but my writing is very scrappy and sloping and I really need the discipline of lined paper; wide lines and preferably a margin. Hell, that looks organised!
Too lovely to use?
I have numerous notebooks filled with observational jotting and part-written stories, or used on writing courses I‘ve attended and the courses I run. Some are tiny and portable, some generous A-4 sized for generous open-minded writing. I can’t throw them away: there might be a gem hidden in there somewhere, even if the writing is almost impossible to read. And I can’t help acquiring more.
My notebook shelves – spot the old blue exercise books that germinated novels.
Although I’m far happier on the keyboard than writing by hand, I use a separate notebook for each full-length book, for ideas, planning, and middle-of-the-night scribbles. I began with a dull blue hardback exercise book with a cloth-covered spine. Having actually completed a novel by this method, on the basis of “lucky pants” I continued with the same style of notebook for the next one and the next. But enough is enough, and I’ve broken out into larger and more beautiful notebooks now. Because I’m worth it?!
As for pens, that stubby 4-colour ballpoint wouldn’t suit me now. I prefer slim ones with fine points that write smoothly. A good gel pen can make even my scrawly handwriting look elegant, and a thin nib makes me think I’ll be able to draw accurately. I’m even quite fond of a classic yellow Bic, fine point, of course. On the whole, I like pens to be sleek and stylish, but I did give in to a novelty Christmas pen once, with a green felt tree and a bell on the end of each branch. After about two minutes writing with it I had to apologise to colleagues and stop, as the jingle bells were driving me – if not them – mad. It’s still there in my pen pot, though. My sleek, clear Perspex pen pot.
Thank you for sharing such fabulous goodies Julia!
If anyone has seen my Facebook photo of my creatively decorated desk,
You may have noticed the pens in my pen pot … totally impractical and never used 🙂
Julia grew up in London, studied English lit. at university, and has an MA in Creative Writing. She worked in education and for children’s charities, and has taught pre-schoolers and post-graduates. Her career has been a series of accidents, falling into jobs rather than choosing them, because all the time she really wanted to be a writer.
As Julia Widdows she has written prize-winning short stories and fiction and non-fiction for adults. Her novel Living In Perhaps (2009) is published by Black Swan.
Julia has two sons and lives in Sussex with her husband and an unhelpful cat.
Find her on Twitter @JuliaLeeAuthor
Julia Lee’s first book for children, The Mysterious Misadventures of Clemency Wrigglesworth, is published by Oxford University Press on 1st August 2013.
Clemency is utterly penniless and entirely alone, until she’s taken in by the marvellous Marvels – a madcap family completely unlike her own. But it’s a surprise to them all when she’s mysteriously bundled from the house by the frightening Miss Clawe.
Concerned about her fate, the Marvels set out to find her. Enlisting the help of some not-quite-genuine Red Indians, it’s a calamitous race across the country. But Clemency’s misadventures are more dire than her rescuers suspect . . . will they reach her in time?
A thrilling adventure mystery with skulduggery, magic, and dark family secrets.