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A few of my favorite things

 

I think we can all agree this has been a tough year.

What has gotten me through it is taking steps to make my everyday routines and rituals a little bit more enjoyable.

Whereas other years I’ve traveled, this year I’ve found some brightness in treats that liven up my writing routine.

In other words, I’ve become even more of a stationery junkie than before.

Working through the rewrite of my novel during lockdown meant I spent a ton of time at my desk, and seeking out rewards at milestones made a huge difference to my motivation.

This enthusiasm must have been noteworthy beyond my house, because last month the lovely brand Galen reached out and asked if I might like to have a couple of items from them to try out in exchange for an honest review. I was ecstatic to have this chance, as they had been on my radar already, the folio pictured above in my wish list.

As stationery has taken such a huge place in my heart, I expect to have numerous posts to come on this topic. All of the items mentioned in this post I purchased myself, with the exception of two, which were gifted by Galen: the leather folio and the Writer’s Box, which appears later in the post. There are no affiliate links in this post for any product.

When I wrote the earliest drafts of my current novel, I did so longhand, in a notebook.

This experience was helpful and made the story feel more physical and grounded. As I am wrapping up edits on this novel and the next one is starting to glimmer in my mind, I began fantasizing about returning to a notebook for the next draft. Some students in my course Dream to Draft opted to write in notebooks and this worked quite well for them. But, the choice then follow: what is the ideal setup for drafting a novel?

I prefer fountain pens both for ecological reasons, there being less plastic waste, especially when using bottled ink, but also for the variety of colors of ink to choose from. (Stay tuned for a whole post on this) I would absolutely plan to draft with a fountain pen, so the notebook would need to have paper that took ink well. After all the testing I’ve done, there was really only one choice: Mark + Fold. Their beautiful paper presents no friction at all to my pen, absorbs my wet medium nib beautifully, and doesn’t blot. I had bought this Another collab notebook from M+F a while back and had been saving it… when the cover arrived from Galen, after trying several A5 options out in it, this one felt like a match made in heaven.

Here’s a shot of the leather cover before I packed it up for comparison:

empty leather folio sitting on windowsill with view of rooftops

The leather is absolutely beautiful. I went for the undyed natural color, but they have many lovely options to choose from. I enjoy seeing the surface age and darken over time, however I must admit that I am still hovering over this one like the mother of a newborn because it is so gorgeous and pristine.

You can use any A5 notebook you like in this cover- I put in a Stalogy A5, a Midori MD, and a hardcover Leuchtturm 1917 easily – the insert has a horizontal split as well as the vertical sleeve opening, which makes it easy to get a cover in without having to struggle. The entire inner ride panel and inside cover is suede, which is a delicious texture, but one that also makes inserting and removing notebooks a cinch.

When I wrote my early drafts of my current novel, we lived in a very different world, and I loved sitting in a cafe with a cappuccino and piece of cake to write. Remember that? I can easily fantasize about bringing this cover to a cafe to write sometime in the future, but even in the current reality, the convenience of having multiple pens, pencil, and being able to tuck some notecards into the slots on the left would allow me to move throughout my apartment, just going to write on the balcony or in a different room, with ease and all my supplies together. The slots on the left aren’t the full depth of the index cards- more credit card depth, but using the lowest slot and the top one was possible. There’s also a full slot behind this panel that would hold more cards, or even stickers or other things you might want to have with you.

The elastic loops in the center held more pens, but would also hold looped cables if you were out, or wired headphones. I was able to get the case for my AirPod pros into the larger lower loop. Getting a travel inkwell might be an option for the top loops, although I am unlikely to be out long enough these days to have it.

I am thrilled to find this a gorgeous home away from home for drafting and can’t wait to start my next book to really break this in. As compared to others I had considered, among them one by The Superior Labor, which I found prohibitively expensive, especially with import duty in Europe, I feel this one is its equal in quality at a much more accommodating price. It’s worth every penny, and also the wait while they make it.

Here’s a view of the pristine (for now) outside. I just need to let it get beat up, but I know that first mark is always painful…

Closed leather folio sitting on windowsill with view of courtyard and rooftops with red tile

Other items pictured in my setup above (all purchased by me):

  • Mark + Fold Another Notebook
  • Foglietto index cards from The Journal Shop
  • Rotring mechanical pencil
  • Lamy Safari fountain pen (white)
  • Ystudio portable fountain pen, copper
  • Baron Fig limited edition proofreader’s pen
  • Pilot Sign brush pens (black and purple)
  • Lamy 2000 fountain pen

The second item from Galen was one I wasn’t entirely certain I needed, but wow have I been won over:

Wooden box with plaque on top of grey throw blanket on ottoman with edge of patterned carpet below

The Writer’s Box

While I was taken with the beauty of this box, I wasn’t sure how it would integrate into my already packed desk area. However, I couldn’t resist the challenge.

Upon its arrival, the dramatic woodgrain and the quality of the clasp and hinges were immediately noteworthy. The insides are lined and as soon as I started to play around with it, I realized that it was the perfect size for something that’s long been an aspirational goal of mine: notepaper and cards for writing letters.

It’s exactly the right size for both A5 notepaper and envelopes as well as A4 Envelopes along the side. It held all my wax seal collection as well as pens, stamps, and a guide I found to help keep my addresses written neatly:

Wooden box open on table with pens, stamps, envelopes and floral paper visible.

Not only is it a brilliant place to store all my supplies for writing notes, there are two wooden supports that flip up in the bottom left and right corners so you can transform the box into a slanted surface to write on. The plaque on the outside works brilliantly as a ledge for paper and made me feel like I’d traveled back in time as I wrote. I am absolutely sold on this magical box, and being stuck at home gives me even more motivation to write letters than ever. As we face a holiday season when we won’t be able to travel to the US to see family, nor welcome them here in Germany, letters are a tremendous comfort to write and to receive.

In the past, I’ve used all my writing energy on books and content for my site and newsletters, but this box makes it such a pleasure to take out a sheet of stationery that I expect my letter writing to take off like a shot this season.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of some new favorites in my writing world, and if you listen to any episode of the Secret Library podcast in November, I’ve arranged with Galen to have a special discount code available the entire month… listen up for that starting on the 1st!

Take good care of yourselves, loves. As you write, don’t be afraid to treat yourself to something that makes the process more enjoyable, especially as a reward for hitting a big milestone in your work.

I’ll be back soon with more fun things to try… Happy writing!

Your Writing Year 2020

We made a planner!

It’s been a dream of mine to create a planner that supports you reaching your writing goals for aeons, but it took a pandemic for us to sit down and create it.

What’t included?

  • Blank monthly templates to track your writing days with stickers or rubber stamps (or drawing or coloring – make it yours!)
  • Goal-setting guidance to take your dreams up to Maximum Juicy level
  • Unit tracker to work towards a big prize over small steps you set for yourself
  • Week on two pages spread to assess your schedule and make sure you fit in your writing
  • Template for a Process Journal that will help you keep track of when, where, and how you write best
  • The tarot spread I use every time I sit down to draft a new scene
  • Plenty of blank space and a minimal design aesthetic so you can color, sticker, and stamp it up to make this planner YOURS.

Share your planner and your progress with it on Instagram via #yourwritingyear2020

Get your copy here:

If you’re stuck

coffee and croissants and tarot cards

Help is here.

It happens to everyone. Sometimes we just get stuck when we’re writing. Here are the episodes that I use as a safety net with things get tough:

Listen to these episodes of the Secret Library if you’re stuck:

  • If you have writer’s block, Jasper Fforde will help.
  • If you don’t have enough time, Natashia Deon understands.
  • If you’re worried that none of this matters, Alexandra Franzen will convince you otherwise.
  • If your critic is killing you and you’re in the trench of despair, here are Amber Rae and Madeline Miller back to back in one episode to solve that.
  • If you need help getting organized, Ryder Carroll has the system for you.
  • If you have trouble getting started in the morning, Amy Alkon has that sorted.
  • If nothing else helps, this one will.

You’ve got this. You are stronger than the forces holding you back.

Take tiny baby steps forward and you’ll make it to the other side.

I’m rooting for you.

 

Memoir

map with hournals and photographs

Greetings, Memoirists!

While there’s a lot that you can take from resources on both fiction and nonfiction, memoir is its own art form.

Here is a roundup of inspiring memoir listening as well as some excellent books to get you started.

Recommended episodes of The Secret Library Podcast about Memoir:

  • Ruth Reichl was brilliant speaking about her most recent book, Save Me the Plums
  • Raynor Winn on living and writing The Salt Path, the runaway bestseller
  • Susannah Conway on the process of writing several books including This I Know, her memoir about the sudden death of her partner
  • Michelle Kuo on writing about her experiences with Teach for America in the deep south in her memoir Reading with Patrick
  • Scott Stabile on Big Love, his memoir on the murder of his parents, and the impact of writing it on his family.
  • Alison Pataki, a successful historical fiction writer on being driven to write her memoir, Beauty in the Broken Places

Essential Reading for Memoirists:

This should get you started, but if you’re still stuck these will help.

Nonfiction

orange typewriter

Welcome, nonfiction writers!

I’ve got a ton of resources gathered for you, as I’ve published both a non-fiction book and co-edited and anthology and know what it takes to complete each of those projects.

We’ve been fortunate to have quote a few amazing guests who are nonfiction authors on the show, so I have plenty of inspiring listening just for you:

Recommended episodes of The Secret Library Podcast about Nonfiction:

  • Susan Orlean is one of my favorite people to speak to on this topic (or in general) so here she is on Making Writing Your Career  and on writing The Library Book
  • A.J. Jacobs is the master of nonfiction projects where he explores topics through his own direct experience.
  • Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn podcast has written numerous nonfiction books for writers, including the wonderful How to Write Nonfiction, which we discuss here.
  • Anne Choma, historian, is the author behind the companion volume to the HBO/BBC program Gentleman Jack. We tackle research and encoded diaries in this one.
  • Elaine Weiss is the author of The Women’s Hour, a riveting book about the race to pass the 19th amendment.
  • Cara Robertson had a winding road to publishing her book on the trial of Lizzie Borden, but she persevered and ended up with a hit.

Essential Reading for Nonfiction Writers:

This should have you up and running nicely with fiction, but try these if you still feel stuck.

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