My favourite pen at school was a fat-nibbed black Sheaffer fountain pen. I took particular delight in changing the colour of my ink cartridges and watching the colour gradually bleed, in one notable essay on the Treaty of Versailles, from blue to purple to pink to purple to pink again. Smelly gel pens make me salivate, especially the grape-flavoured ones, and Pilot’s gold and silver press-nib pens: fat-nibbed, of course. At the moment, my favourite pen is a beautiful wooden fountain pen with a gold nib. Made by Pierro of Reading from a single piece of burr elm with a brass trim and picked up at a craft fair about six years ago, it’s gorgeously heavy, as if it has deep writerly thoughts all of its own. I still have the leaflet to go with it: proof of my nerdish adoration. Every time I sign my name, I feel like a queen.
With notebooks, it’s looks all the way. But looks come with a caveat. The prettier the notebook, the less likely I am to write in it. My favourite – a floppy green nubuck journal printed with brown birds and branches – is still pristine, because I can’t bring myself to make a single mark on its pages. Maybe when I have won some fabulous literary prize – carved out on a computer, where I can type almost as fast as I think – I will take the time to write out the whole thing with my Pierro fountain pen in this notebook. Having first, of course, worked out how to fit it exactly into the number of available pages. I may be overthinking this.
I usually try to make do with the ragbag stationery already in the house rather than buy new stuff. However, there’s only so much that one can do with a yellow-feather quill biro, or a white-ink Smiggle gel pen, or a novelty British Museum mummy eraser. When forced to shop, I go for rollerballs and fine-liners (somehow, my fat-nib obsession permits this deviation). And pencils with stubby rubbers bolted on to their tails. And pretty coloured ink cartridges, see the Treaty of Versailles above. Post-its to litter my desk with odd words and phone numbers in a rainbow of colours. I like folders too, and order different coloured ones for my writing course. But of course the truth is, when sitting in cafes or on trains, I usually resort to sketching out ideas with whatever I can find at the bottom of my handbag, most of which doesn’t bear scrutiny.
I’ve been published for almost twenty years now, with over a hundred books ranging from young fiction all the way through to young adult romance. Much of the past year has been spent on the other side of the writing fence, delivering talks and courses based on my recent John Murray Teach Yourself book, GET STARTED IN WRITING AN ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN’S BOOK. I have a talk at Camberley Library on 7 June, and a writing course coming up 12-13 June in Farnham at a lovely pub called the Fox Inn, which does excellent coffee and sandwiches. I wonder what colour folders I’ll buy this time?
My website is www.lucycourtenay.com, where I post details on my talks and courses, pictures of books and general musings. It once had a pink background, but I deleted something and have no idea how to put it back. There are reasons, in this tech age, why notebooks continue to sell. I’m on Twitter (@LucyCourtenay1), Facebook (Lucy Courtenay, Author) and Instagram (@lucycourtenayauthor). You could probably find me on Netflix too, mainlining old episodes of Gossip Girl.