Hi everyone. As I return from my hiatus, I just wanted to highlight the importance of Black Lives Matter. I know that I should’ve written this post earlier but I was worried about my words coming off wrong and I wasn’t quite ready to return to my blog.
Black lives matter. Even if the news cycle has died down after two months, systematic racism and police brutality still exist in the United States. I fully support the BLM movement and suggest that anybody who hasn’t already, should donate to relevant charities and look for educational resources. I’ve been doing a lot of reading over the summer and there’s so much more I need to learn.
The stationery and fountain pen community is so kind and welcoming and has been my refuge this entire hellish year! However, there’s still work to do to make it a safe space for everyone, including POC, LGBTQ and disabled folks. As I continue to participate in the stationery community, I would love to see more inclusivity. Here are some amazing Black creators and store owners I would like to highlight.
The Calligraphers of Color instagram account, created by Amanda Reid, has such talented artists highlighted in its posts. Chandra Greer owns the terrific stationery shop GREERChicago which has a great selection of boutique papers, pens and letter sets. Kalyn Johnson Chandler owns Effie’s Paper, a NYC store that has unique stationery and desk accessories. Dominique sells quality Midori inserts with Tomoe River paper at PaperPenguinCo. Alisa L. Brock of DramaMama Bookshop makes notebooks with incredible laser-cut designs and fountain pen friendly paper. She’s been going to the Baltimore and DC Pen Shows for several years now and I love buying a new notebook from her each time.
On March 28, 2018, I wrote my first blog post! I’ve been on and off writing my blog since then, taking breaks to focus on schoolwork. I’m so fortunate to have bloggers like Pen Addict and Well-Appointed Desk feature me in their links! I also tried to increase my presence on Instagram with my account @notebook_joy.
My most popular post was my Hippo Noto review I wrote back in 2018 with almost 2,500 views. I’m glad that I helped so many people learn more about these notebooks! Some of the initial concerns I had about the notebook weren’t such a big deal in the end. However, the binding is still a little flimsy. I actually backed the A5/B6 Hippo Noto Kickstarter but I still haven’t received a notebook yet. This time I’m prepared for the long wait!
I also received a lot of views on my Stationery Shopping in Japan series when I visited in 2018. It was such a great time and those posts still get consistent views. Now it will be easier for people visiting after me to find these stores.
My favorite part of blogging is that I can help people to make informed decisions when purchasing stationery. I also love to post about my favorite notebooks and inks. In the future, I hope to post more, improve my photography skills, use my Instagram consistently, and hold giveaways! I should have more time to work on my blog now that I’m home for at least several months.
For whoever is still reading this, thank you for looking at my blog! I hope that I’ve spread some joy through my posts.
On Saturday, I’m going to the Baltimore Pen Show. This definitely isn’t my first show, but I thought I’d offer some tips for first-time visitors or anyone thinking of going in the future. First, what to bring:
Dip pen and notebook for ink testing
There’s usually an ink testing table with dozens of bottles and nibs, but I prefer to bring my own accoutrements. My glass dip pen is really light and easy to clean. The notebook is essential, I use it to compile all the inks I test and what inks are currently in my pens. Both make ink testing a lot easier.
Some of your favorite pens in a pen roll
You never know when you might want to show pens to other people! I still remember when a guy showed me his flex nib pen and let me write with it when I was talking to a vendor about wanting one. It was so nice of him! You could be that person for someone else. Also, pen shows are a chance to see unusual or expensive pens in person, instead of online. As long as you’re careful, bring that Pelikan with you!
I like bringing a small tote bag to carry all of my purchases. If you end up buying a lot of heavy inks, as I do, then you’ll be grateful for a sturdy bag. However, they are usually offered for free as you enter the convention.
It gets hot walking around a giant room. Remember to stay hydrated!
People often gather at the hotel bar after the pen show is over. You can meet some nice people that way!
Making plans in advance is also fun! For the DC Pen Show last summer, I went to dinner with the local DC Metro Pen Crew. It was a blast and I enjoyed seeing friends from previous meetups.
Go to the panels! They are usually free or have a minimal cost.
Don’t be afraid to talk to vendors! Everyone is really nice. Some of them remember me from previous years (Hi Lisa Vanness and Frank from Federalist Pens!). Also Brad from the Pen Addict is awesome and I love visiting him at Nock Co. 🙂
Those are my tips! I hope you enjoyed reading and you’ll have the chance to go to a pen show one day if you haven’t already. I’ve been to anime and comic conventions before but the fountain pen community is truly the kindest group I’ve been part of. I love that I share this niche hobby with so many other passionate people. I’ll write a follow up about how my day at the show went soon!
I’m finally back from the dead! I apologize for the long absence. This semester was really difficult for me. Between dealing with my student job, annoying roommate, and dreaded homework, it was hard to keep up with my blog. I focused mostly on new extracurriculars and keeping my grades up. Unfortunately, all my creative outlets fell by the wayside, including writing this blog. 😦 However, I did find a fun new hobby: art!!!!
I always liked drawing characters from the stories I wrote. But when I got older, I was intimidated by my amazing artist friends and stopped drawing. I never really improved past stick figures. But this year, I took an intro art class and drew five pages in a sketchbook every week! I was drawing much more than ever before. One of my aforementioned artist friends also encouraged my art. This time, I didn’t let insecurity stop me but kept on trying. In six months, I definitely improved! But I still have a long way to go. Maybe later I’ll show an album of my progress. Here’s one drawing I made recently:
With the paycheck from my job, I also bought Copic markers!!! For those who don’t know, they are alcohol markers that can be blended together to make watercolor-like drawings. They are amazing but so expensive. I wish I got a whole set in Japan, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase. 😦 So in December I picked out 45 individual markers for around $260. Yes expensive I know. But I already had other markers I collected over the years. My collection is now around 75 markers. I’ve wanted them for years now so I think that was a paycheck well spent.
In other news, here are some of my currently inked pens:
My current favorite ink is the Kingdom Note Thysanostoma thysanuran ink, aka the scientific name for jellyfish!!!! It’s a vibrant purple that leans more pink than blue. In my broad Sailor Nib, it shows lots of shading. It even has a hint of black sheen on Tomoe River paper! I’m going to treasure this ink because I don’t know if I’ll ever get it again.
I wrote some stories, but mostly for my creative writing classes. However, I hit the 250 page midpoint of my Hippo Noto! Despite my initial concerns, the spine did hold up. Some of the sections felt loose but didn’t fall out. As time went on, it became harder to keep the pages flat. I’m ready to move on to the next notebook but I still have 250 more pages to go. My other journals were 200-215 pages so this sure is a change. Besides the Hippo Noto are my two Field Notes I use to jot down lists and ideas.
Here are the notebooks I filled with school notes! For the first half of the semester, I wrote with fine tip gel pens, then switched to fountain pens. On the left are two 80 page Kokuyo Soft Ring notebooks and on the right are two Kokuyo Campus notebooks. I still need to write a review on the former. I obtained mine on my Japan trip but I didn’t get enough. Turns out the ones I have aren’t available online to ship to the US at all. 😦
I have tons of new blog ideas that I hope to bring to you soon. Look out for a review of a local stationery store and my thoughts on the Stalogy365, Taroko Enigma, Story Supply Co Morning, Studio C and other notebooks!
I’m sorry, but it isn’t happening this year. For some reason, my last two Novembers weren’t busy at all. In 2016 it was the senioritis and existential dread of the presidental election that gave me the motivation to win. And in 2017, my unusually easy classes and lack of a social life allowed me to write a sequel. This year… I’m swamped with school, work, friends, and trying to carve out time for myself. My outline for Nano fell by the wayside. I think that’s a good thing. So here are my reasons to justify quitting Nano three days in:
Instead of focusing on a single, all-consuming task, I’ve diversified. What I’ve improved at this semester:
drawing, thanks to my art class I realized I actually have some skill!
writing short stories, not novels
keeping a daily diary
making friends, going out with them, being a normal human being?
holding a steady job and learning to save my money, banishing micro transactions to the abyss
procrastinating on writing stationery reviews, I’M SORRY OK
Yes, I wish I had time to write a full novel. But that means I would have to put aside my other commitments.
2. I don’t know if writing so rapidly actually produces quality work. It’s been two years since I wrote my first novel and it’s still a giant mess. The prose is choppy, there are gaping plotholes everywhere, and I made the big mistake of starting in the middle of the plot, getting to the end, then writing the beginning. DON’T DO THAT YOU WILL REGRET IT. I think my novel would have turned out better if I slowed down and concentrated on quality not quantity. Right now, the story is horrible and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. As a result, I might scrap or rewrite all 120,000 WORDS I wrote. That’s not going to be fun. O_O
3. I learned how to finish a novel. I proved myself, twice, that I can commit to writing at least 50,000 words. Before 2016, I never wrote more than 10,000 words. My stories fizzled out after a few pages. So I should be proud of how far I’ve come. I don’t need Nanowrimo anymore to inspire me to finish. And that’s the beauty of this hellish month-long torture exercise.
Goodbye, Nanowrimo. I’ve learned so much from you but now it’s time to put you aside. But I’ll always remember that sweet satisfaction of hitting my daily word count.
Lately, the world is feeling more crazy than usual. I doubt I’m the only one that feels this way. But one of the best ways to unwind is to keep a diary!
I have to admit, this is a recent habit of mine. I only started writing in a diary consistently three years ago. There are some failed attempts shoved in the back of my closet, but we don’t talk about those wretched journals. 😉 Here are the supplies you need:
One object in which you can write upon (ex: notebook, stack of printer paper stapled together, the pristine walls of your house)
An instrument to write with (ex: pen, pencil, quill, stick?)
And that’s it! The next step is to write consistently. Your entries don’t have to be daily, but try to set aside a few minutes every week to sit down and write. Use those extra minutes spent browsing on your phone to do something productive instead.
Your diary doesn’t have to be an exact recording of everything you did that day. Unless you really want to???? Instead, here are some other ideas. What’s on your mind today? What are you grateful for? What do you hate? What’s your best vacation memory? Do you have an unpopular opinion? Are there any changes you want to make in your life? I have a great list of writing prompts in this post, if you need more ideas.
A diary is simply a place for you to put down your thoughts, in however form they take shape. I’ve doodled, collaged and pasted newspaper clippings in my diaries. It’s also not a contest of how pretty your pages are. Nobody is going to see it except for you. If you enjoy drawing then go for it! If not, don’t worry.
Diaries are also great therapists. Write something that infuriates or saddens you! Then you have a few options:
Keep it as is
Tear out the pages, dispose of them however you wish (shred em!!!)
Cover up the pages with pieces of paper and tape
Make the offending pages into art. I remember seeing somewhere on reddit that someone collaged and watercolored over an entry in their diary. Turn a painful memory into something beautiful. 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this guide. Happy diary writing!
Note: This is part of a series. Read my other posts here, here, and here. 🙂
I’m sad to say that I’m back home now. Japan was a wonderful experience and two weeks didn’t feel like enough time. Unfortunately, we didn’t go to Osaka so I didn’t see Nagasawa. 😦 I did check out the Traveler’s Factory and Muji in Narita airport though.
I was excited to see this Muji-to-go after seeing all the great stationery stocked in convinence stores. But the selection was small and not very exciting.
However, The Traveler’s Factory sold Traveler’s Notebooks and its accessories. For those who don’t know, TN’s are leather covers that can hold small notebooks, or “inserts”. This allows you to carry around several notebooks in a portable package. I bought inserts with special covers exclusive to this store. I also bought vintage-style Pan Am stickers. My dad bought a brass bullet pencil and ballpoint. He was actually interested by the shop! My plan to convert my family is working. 😉
I also bought some stationery from convenience stores. The most common ones were Family Mart and 7/11. Yes, the latter is apparently very popular in Japan. These small stores actually have good selections of name-brand stationery like Kokuyo and Muji. Some 7/11’s had their own branded notebooks too! The items here were cheap yet high-quality.
I’m still surprised that such nice stationery is widely available and cheap. I’m used to the terrible paper sold in U.S. stores. I spotted nice pens used for signing stuff a few times. I guess Tombow pencils and Uni Sign pens are the equivalents of Ticonderoga’s and Sharpies in Japan!
Found at the Edo-Tokyo Museum
Found at the Meiji Shrine
I hope you enjoyed my blog series! I’ll try to post more reviews but college is starting up for me and I need time to settle in. For those who are interested, here are some non-stationery related pictures of my vacation:
Note: Read my other posts about stationery shops here and here.
So I went to Itoya Ginza and its related shop, K. Itoya, during my last day in Tokyo. Itoya is in the center of the Ginza shopping district, surrounded by luxury stores. Just look for the giant red paper clip jutting out from the building!
Itoya presented the stationery beautifully. It must have taken a long time to arrange all the stationery so perfectly. There were endless rows of letter paper, washi tape and pens. There were 12 floors, so a lot to choose from! Not all the floors catered to stationery lovers. I spotted travel and home good sections. There’s also a nice restaurant!
Wax seals and stamps
Expensive glass dip pens
But most of it didn’t really speak to me. The items was either too expensive or not my style. The service was also quite slow. Compared to Sekeido, Itoya was too upscale and curated for me. The notebook selection was lackluster in the main store. There wasn’t enough variety and everything was full price. I liked the K. Itoya better. It was less sterile, and had a good notebook section. There were also cute school supplies. My favorite part was the table devoted to astronomy-themed stationery!
A notebook making section. I was going to order one, but nobody was at the counter
Love Kokuyo Soft Rings
Life paper is great
Astronomy themed supplies
I did buy a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 in Yama Budo color, a pen I’ve coveted since the beginning of my pen obsession. And I grabbed Pilot Iroshizuko Momiji for 1500 yen!
I had a much better time when I went to Kyoto. There I visited Loft and Tag Stationery. They were two very different stores. Loft was a Target-style store, with many different floors devoted to fashion, travel, home goods, gifts, etc. Tag Stationery was a smaller, specialized shop.
Loft was in a busy part of Kyoto, near my hotel. It had several floors, but it wasn’t all devoted to stationery. The third floor had all the journals, pens, art supplies and planners. There was a rainbow of notebooks in even more colors and types then I’d seen before! This had the best notebook section out of all the stores I visited so far. The Copic marker aisle was small and not as good as Tools. The fountain pen and ink counter was also small. But there were Loft exclusive Pilot Kakunos with magenta, pink or purple pen bodies. I got the purple pen. 🙂 There was even a cute Traveler’s Notebook set up. I even convinced my mom and sister to visit Loft. They both enjoyed it! My sister even bought a Traveler’s Notebook in passport size and some inserts to go with it. So proud of her. 😀
In comparison, Tag Stationery was a small niche store. Apparently that’s where the Tag inks came from. It was in a bustling shopping area. A small temple was next to it. I loved that about Kyoto, finding little shrines and temples everywhere!
I already had Kyo-no-oto Adzuki-iro but I bought Kyo-iro No. 2 Ohara’s Morning Snow and Kyo-no-oto Hisoku. Besides, the store-made inks, I also purchased a pinkish red Sailor demonstrator. There was an exclusive pink Pilot Prera but I didn’t get it. Tag also had a wonderful collection of letter writing paper and envelopes. I bought a nice set with flower patterns printed into the surface. I was surprised by the array of notebooks for young children. It seemed like the type of notebooks you’d buy for kindergarten. It had an unusual ruling, a large grid made up of four squares. They had pop culture references on the cover like Disney and Peanuts and Moomin. I always like finding new rulings!
Although, I didn’t enjoy Itoya as much, the other two stores more than made up for it! Next, I’ll post about the Traveler’s Factory store in Narita airport and other assorted places where I got my stationery.
Note: This is the second blog post in a series. The first post is here.
I’ve been lucky to stay in a hotel in Shinjuku for the past few days. Besides the thriving restaurants and nightlife, there are also many stationery stores! Today, I went to Tools, an art supply shop in the Lumine EST underground mall. I also stopped by Sekaido, a stationery store very close to Kingdom Note.
I heard about Tools from this blog post. My main reason for going there was its large stock of Copic markers! For those who don’t know, Copics are alcohol markers known for their vibrant colors and blending qualities. They are popular among manga and comic artists. The problem is that they’re expensive in the United States. I was slowly building my collection, one $7 marker at a time. 😦 But here, a single marker is 380 yen and 340 with the tax refund. This made them a lot more affordable.
Tools is on the 6th floor of an underground shopping mall called Lumine Est. It’s near the East exit of Shinjuku Station, close to my hotel. It’s one of many stores that sell clothing, lifestyle items, makeup, etc.
Tools is an artists’ paradise! I was instantly bedazzled by the endless rows of washi tape, stationery and pencils. But seeing the Copic marker selection took my breath away. Tools had all 358 colors in the Sketch size, along with all of them in the Ciao and Original type. It also had a variety of Copic-friendly marker paper and sketchbooks and even Copic multi liners. There were small pads for testing the markers.
Copic markers come in every color imaginable, from the palest shadow to rich pigment. They are divided into several color groups and are rated on a scale of how easily they blend with other markers in the same group.
I also bought Staedlter fineliners, marker paper and a sticker set of samurai and geisha figures!
I spent so much time in that store, whittling down which Copic markers to buy. It’s truly an experience. It helps that the tax refund counter is on the same floor so I can get my 8% refund back easily. If you’re an artist, definitely go here.
Later, I spent time in Sekaido Shinjuku Nishiguchi, which is only a block away from Kingdom Note. It has 5 floors, and two basement levels, all packed with stationery. And this isn’t even the main outlet! There were painting frames, letter paper, paint and canvases, pens, ink and pencils. It is basically jetpens in a physical location! The price on jetpens is usually higher because it‘s imported. But getting it from the source makes it cheaper. Sekaido also has a permanent 20% discount on all of its stock. The fountain pen and ink floor was lacking, unfortunately. There were some interesting pens but most were Pilot Kakunos or Preras. There was a display of the new 20ml Sailor bottles. It was nice to see the colors but I’ll wait to buy them at Itoya Ginza.
The best section was the gel pens and notebooks! There were a dazzling array of Hi-tech C’s, Zebra Sarasas, Pilot Juices, Uniball Signos, Gelly Rolls and countless brands I never heard of before, in every tip size from .28 mm to 1mm. I restrained myself from getting every single color.
The notebook section was amazing for back to school shopping. There were Kokuyo Campuses, Maruman Mnemosynes, and Maruman Spiral Notes in A5 sizes. There were pocket notepads, letter paper, A6, A5, B5, A4. I was fangirling so much! I wouldn’t use these notebooks for stories or journaling, but they are great for being stuffed into my backpack for note taking.
My mom went along with me to Sekaido and she enjoyed it! She doesn’t quite understand my stationery obsession but I tried to convert her anyways. She got three notebooks for work, two Kokuyo MIOs and a B5 Maruman Mnemosyne. I persuaded her to get a Zebra Sarasa Dry Gel. She got some beautiful origami paper too.
As for me, I got a five pack of 30 page Kokuyo Campuses. They were decorated with little fruits and flowers. There was a Disney princess set that I was tempted to buy… I also got a Kokuyo soft ring spiral notebook. It was amazing to me, as a lefty that hates when metal rings dig into my skin as I take notes. I bought a few Pilot Juices, Hi Tec Cs, Pilot Maica, and bought a pack of fountain pen friendly flash cards.
These two stores are great and I highly recommend going to them if you’re in Shinjuku. I’d like to mention Smiths, also in the Lumine EST map next to Tools. They have a selection of Rollbahns, not really my favorite notebooks though. Also look in the small convenience stores in the subway for Muji notebooks and pens. I bought two notebooks and a gel pen that erases better than the Pilot Frixion does. Here are my pictures of my purchases!
I’m excited to see Itoya Ginza tomorrow, the last leg of my epic Tokyo stationery journey.
Taroko Enigma (not currently available, new edition should arrive by end of July)
Trip to Japan (!!!)
D.C. Pen Show
Currently, I’m using a Hippo Noto, a Rhodia Webbie and a Write Notepads Lawn pocket notebook, as my daily carries.
Onto the topic of meet ups. I first heard of a pen meet up in the D.C. area when I was browsing Facebook. At first, I was nervous to go. Pen shows had been my only outlet for my hobby but I was more interested in purchasing than talking to others. But when I went to the May meeting, everyone was so welcoming!
It’s so strange talking to people that understand your obsession of pens and paper! They know all about the latest inks and trends. I don’t have many people to talk to about my hobby, though I found one fellow fountain pen addict at my college.
Everyone brought inks to sample and let me handle their expensive pens. It was a great way to try out pens in person and see if I liked them. I dodged a bullet with some, now I know the Pilot Vanishing Point and Pelikan M805 Ocean Swirl isn’t for me! Ages ranged from mid 20’s onwards. I was the only college-aged student so I felt awkward at first, but it quickly faded away.
I finally was able to go to a second meeting, this time at Fahrney’s Pens in D.C. This is a great store for buying high-end pens and some stationery. They were kind enough to host our group and even offered Montblanc and Sailor nibs to test. We got little gift bags too! I definitely will visit Fahrney’s more often. There was a table for ink testing and I tried some fun new colors.
Everyone should go to a pen meet up if they can! I had so much fun talking to fellow fans. The fountain pen “fandom” is the nicest community I’ve been in and I can’t wait to meet more people at the D.C. Pen Show.