I hold on to these journals because when I feel discombobulated and lost, reading through who I was at 14 or 19 or 25 years old helps connect me to myself. Paging through the diaries now, I’m startled to realize how far I’ve come and also how little I’ve changed. In Journal No. 1, I’m a 9-year-old living in Ohio. I’m 4 feet 5 inches tall, weigh 75 pounds and feel a kinship with Curious George. In Journal No. 11, I’m 20, working for my college professor on an archaeological dig in Syria and flirting with a German man twice my age. Journal No. 19 leaves off in June 2009, when, unbeknown to me, life is about to pivot: In a month I’ll become engaged, in six months I’ll be married, and in a year I’ll be pregnant with my first child.

I intend to start contributing to The Cramped more in the coming weeks after having contributed very little since 2019. Accordingly, I’ve updated my section of the “What We Use” page. Things have changed both significantly and not at all since I last updated it in 2018.

My First Pen Show

About nine months ago, after a tragic Kindle Scribe syncing accident in which I lost about 20 pages worth of journaling, I (mostly) swore off digital tablets and returned to paper and pens in a big way. I pulled out the two fountain pens I owned—a black Pilot Metropolitan and a Laban PF-900 Yellow that was gifted to me about 15 years ago—inked them, and started doing all my journaling, writing, and note-taking by hand.

A few weeks later, I bought a Lamy Al-Star (since gifted to a friend because it turns out I don’t like triangular grip sections) and a Bronze Kaweco Liliput.

Today, nine months later, I own 19 fountain pens. And I acquired four of them last weekend at the California Pen Show.

My partner and I moved to Los Angeles almost two years ago, so we were excited when we found out there was a pen show in our new city. We purchased VIP passes, so we arrived first thing Friday morning when the doors opened. My partner actually took the day off so that we could attend on Friday.

The main ballroom on Friday morning.

Going into the show, I knew I wanted to purchase at least one of two “grail pens”: a Montblanc Meisterstück 146 and a Montblanc Writer’s Edition Victor Hugo. The Victor Hugo was my priority, because if I could find one, the price would eat up my entire budget, precluding me from buying the Meisterstück or anything else during the weekend. I read Les Miserables last year, and saw the magnificent traveling version of the Broadway production at the Pantages, and I’ve wanted the Victor Hugo Montblanc ever since. I found at least three sellers who had it in their personal collection, but it must be a stellar pen, because nobody wanted to part with it. Now I’m even more excited to find one for sale in the future.

Failing to find a Victor Hugo freed up my budget for other pens, so on Friday I purchased a beautiful, gently used Montblanc Meisterstück Glacier LeGrand and a bottle of Montblanc Glacier ink to accompany it (the pairing is exquisite, and the pen writes smoothly with just the tiniest bit of pleasant feedback).

The Montblanc Meisterstück Glacier LeGrand (photo by my friend Danny Martinez).

I spent the rest of Friday debating several other pens to spend my remaining budget on. I settled on a new Sailor Cylint, which to me has been the platonic ideal of a Sailor ever since it was announced last year, even though it’s not what most people want from a Sailor pen. I’m very pleased with it.

I took advantage of the show being hosted by Nahvalur and had them fix the piston knob on my Voyage Los Angeles. It took them only minutes to fix. I’m glad to have this pen working again, because I had Gina of Custom Nib Studio regrind it into one of her famous journaler nibs a few months ago, and I’ve been missing using it.

Friday afternoon, we attended a workshop by Joe Crace, The Gentleman Stationer, on Paper for Everyday Writing. We’ll be purchasing some of his recommended papers from his store soon.

Friday evening, at the close of the show, we attended a panel on vintage pens. This is where my partner, Aadrial, who hadn’t yet found anything within budget that piqued her interest, started find her direction for the show.

We spent Saturday at home, catching up on work, enjoying two new pens, and recovering from what had been an exhausting day for two introverts. But Sunday morning we were back at the show, on the hunt for a vintage pen for Aadrial. We spent an hour at the table of Myk Daigle, owner of MaD Mercantile. Myk, by the way, is wonderful. He taught us a lot about vintage pens (and earlier in the morning, he’d bought me a sparkling water at the hotel cafe after overhearing me grumbling about forgetting to buy one). He was also the only seller we noticed who had a chair on the customer side of the table. In the end, Aadrial purchased a restored Waterman W2 from Myk. But later that day, she found two more vintage pens, a Parker 61 and a Sheaffer that we’re still struggling to correctly identify, in a bargain bin in stunningly good condition.

My partner’s acquisitions, including a fun Jinhao I surprised her with because she hadn’t gotten anything with a metal overlay, which was what she’d initially hoped to find going into the weekend.

Also on Sunday, I found a never-inked Laban PF-900 Yellow that I immediately purchased. This acquisition was particularly sentimental for me, because my first fountain pen, as I mentioned above, was a gifted PF-900 Yellow, and it’s been largely unusable due to a leaking section ever since I dug it out of storage nine months ago. I thought I could use the new one as a proxy, or even put the new one’s section in the old pen’s nearly identical but well-loved body. Unfortunately, the new pen struggles with ink flow after being left unused for more than an hour or so, but that issue should be easier to fix than the leaky mess that is the old pen.

As we were getting ready to depart the show, I spotted, quite randomly amongst a plethora of other pens on a table, one that I’d been thinking about purchasing for a while: a humble TWSBI Precision. I hadn’t yet purchased it because I hadn’t been able to find one in person to test out (I must have a thing for pens that don’t fit what most people expect from their respective companies, because nobody seems to care about the gunmetal gray Precision in the sea of TWSBI’s other, far more colorful offerings), and at $80, it’s not necessarily an online impulse buy. The one on the table, though, was only $45. I was more than happy to pay that, but then the seller told me to make him an offer, so I got this unused pen for just $35! Amazingly, after using it quite a bit in my bullet journal this week, it might be my favorite purchase from the whole weekend—and it’s certainly my favorite TWSBI that I own.

All four of my California Pen Show acquisitions.

I rounded out the weekend by purchasing a bottle of Sailor Shikiori Suberakashi from Dromgoole’s. Only two days later did I realize I’d spent several minutes chatting about Kawecos with Ana Reinert from The Well-Appointed Desk, who was helping run the Dromgoole’s booth. Hi Ana! It was great to meet you!

(I’d also like to briefly shout out Jeremy and the fine folks at FLAX Pen to Paper, LA’s best stationery store, who had a table near the ballroom entrance. The only reason I didn’t purchase anything from them is because they’re my go-to the rest of the year.)

The California Pen Show was a fantastic way to spend a weekend. My partner and I met some wonderful people and acquired some wonderful pens. Part of me wishes I could attend a pen show every weekend, despite my introversion (not to mention what such a lifestyle would do to my bank account). We’re hoping to spend the entire weekend enjoying the San Francisco International Pen Show in August.

Shunned in computer age, cursive makes a comeback in California | Reuters

Shunned in computer age, cursive makes a comeback in California | Reuters

Starting this year, California grade school students are required to learn cursive handwriting, after the skill had fallen out of fashion in the computer age… Experts say learning cursive improves cognitive development, reading comprehension and fine motor skills, among other benefits. Some educators also find value in teaching children to read historic documents and family letters from generations past.

Yep. My daughter went to a Montessori preschool where cursive is taught exclusively and it still benefits her to this day.