Tag Archives: paper and pen

Vroman’s Bookstore: A Filofax Extravaganza

Vroman Doorway 2014Vroman’s Bookstore is a Pasadena institution, a literary landmark, and a wonderful old-fashioned bookstore tucked away behind a huge Office Depot. Once you find your parking, you descend a staircase decorated with colorful tiles past buskers who play their instruments. This day, a spry elderly man in jeans and a coat that was in fashion two decades ago played classical music on his oboe, much to the delight of a little girl and her parents that stood enraptured before him. He had a twinkle in his eye as he finished his tune, an expression that turned into a delighted smile when the little girl asked for another song. That smile had more to do with their shared love of music than any dollars that landed in his open instrument case. At the ground floor, a trio of young music students were practicing their violins. They were not busking, but instead taking advantage of the excellent acoustics of the outdoor courtyard. The discordant sound of their practice was a distinct counterpoint to the lovely strains of the oboe on the steps above them.

When you first enter via the double doors of the bookstore, your first impression is one of surprise. Vroman’s Bookstore seems far larger on the inside than what you might guess from the unbroken stucco walls on the outside. The sensation I felt reminded me of how Dr. Who’s companions might feel when they enter the TARDIS for the first time. There are two floors in the bookstore and several departments on each level. On the first floor, there is an area where stationary, fountain pens, ink and other writer’s delights are temptingly displayed. A full case of Filofax binders for sale, along with all the fountain pen friendly paper you might wish for. There is a full gift shop upstairs featuring stickers, scrap booking supplies and artisan styled bags. The rest of the store was filled with paper bound books on stately wooden shelving. However, I was not there to shop, much as I was tempted to do so, I had come to be a guest speaker at the Filofax Extravaganza put together by my friend, Jennifer Reyes. The event was held on January 11, 2014.

Filofax Display 2014

In the center of the second floor of the bookstore, there is a large open area that serves as an amphitheater and community center. Many rows of chairs were set up facing a lectern and a table filled with Filofax binders. At the rear of the area was food, bottles of water, and a raffle sponsored by the Filofax Corporation. Several pocket sized Filofax binders were the prizes of the raffle, along with agenda stamps and a few scrap booking items donated by Jennifer.

After checking in with Jennifer in the back, I found my way to a seat to wait for the event to begin. A few people introduced themselves, recognizing me from my blog, No Wasted Ink. As I shook their hands and took the offered business cards, I was rather astounded. It was the first time that I have been recognized as a writer in public and to hear so many positive comments about my blog was heartwarming.

Jennifer Reyes 2014The presentation was moderated by Jennifer Reyes. She spoke about Filofax the company and the history of the binders through the past several decades. Filofax was very popular in the 1980s. I remember that most of my friends had them in college and I was urged to “fit in” by purchasing one myself. This was before electronic PDAs and then later phone apps became popular as agendas. In the last few years, Filofax has been gaining popularity once again as many people are turning off their phones and returning back to paper when it comes to scheduling their lives. She also gave an extensive demo on how she uses washi tape, stamps, and other scrap booking techniques to decorate her Filofax planners.

Rebecca Moore BoverThe first guest speaker was Rebecca Moore Bover. She spoke about her role as an admin for a Filofax group on Facebook called FiloRAKs. As an admin, she has far more duties than simply adding and booting people from the group, she also needs to schedule events. Her Filofax is instrumental in helping her track all of the extra duties she does for the group. Being an admin to a Facebook group is hard work and is often unrewarded. I hope Rebecca knows that her volunteer work is much appreciated.

Karen Massie

Next was Karen Massie, a collector of rare and limited edition Filofax binders. She brought her snake Filofax and an A5 purple Malden that she has filled with her personal, teaching and doctoral studies paperwork. Karen’s collection is truly a marvel to see. Many of the rare Filofaxes are more luxurious in person than how they appear on catalog screens via your home computer. Many of the nuances of the leather are simply not captured and it takes seeing the Filofax in your hands before you can appreciate its finer points. Some of Karen’s binders are worth hundreds of dollars. She has much to be proud of in her extensive collection and I hope she can be persuaded to bring them to future Filofax events in the area.

Wendy Van CampI was the third speaker on deck. Before driving to Vroman’s, I had stuffed my Crimson Personal Malden into a bag and I always carry my Brown Slimline Holborn with me as a wallet. This gave me a few items to display as I spoke. The Malden is what I use to track all the posts and marketing I do on my writing blog, No Wasted Ink. I explained my tracking system and how I interface what I have written in my Filofax with the various online systems I use. The main online systems are: Hootsuite, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. I also pulled out my wallet and explained why I like using the slimline Filofax as apposed to using a pocket size.

Karine TovmassianThe final guest speaker was Karine Tovmassian. Karine is spreading the word about how analogue planners such as a Filofax can be superior and more accessable for planning purposes, yet can also interface with the digital parts of our lives. Her company ThinkerExtraordinaire, is helping people all over the nation learn to use their time and energy more efficiently.

After the event, I felt the need for a hot cup of coffee and took the elevator downstairs where a small, somewhat posh coffeehouse is located just off the main street and tucked into a corner of the bookstore. The pastries looked divine and the coffee was smooth. I was lucky enough to find a chair by the window and was able to relax and people watch. There was a foursome playing a game of cards with what appeared to be an aged and weather antique deck along with the usual assortment of laptop and iPad users scattered about.

Visiting Vroman’s Bookstore is a unique experience, even without the Filofax Extravaganza to attend. If you are in the Los Angeles area, it is a literary landmark worth paying a visit. The bookstore is mere blocks away from the freeway and there is plenty of parking in the back. You owe it to yourself to take in the atmosphere of this book lover’s destination.

Filofax Extravaganza Attendees

Guest Post: The Jewelry Project Part 2

Jeweler's Bench - Indigoskye Bead Fashions

I received a beautiful leather A5 Burde Binder that I am turning into a project binder. I will be writing a five part series about how I am turning this binder into a design journal for my artisan jeweley business. In this second edition, I explain what a design journal is and why they are useful to artisans like myself. Please, stop by This Bug’s Life and read part 2 of my post series.

Preparing Your Nanowrimo Writing Kit

Writing Kit 2013Every October I prepare for National Novel Writing Month. Nanowrimo promotes the act of writing 50K words toward the rough draft of a novel. People join together all over the world to support their fellow writers and to help all of us cross the finish line toward success. Most of the writers of Nanowrimo are beginners. The participation in Nanowrimo can be a submergence learning experience where new ideas, techniques, and tools are all explored at a rapid rate to get the beginner writer off in the right direction. Although I am now a published writer, I still look forward to Nanowrimo because it gives me that huge energy boost and camaraderie that keeps me going on a new project.

One of the main things that I do to prepare for the event is to put together a writing kit. It allows me to participate in the local write-ins that take place at various hotel lobbies, coffeehouses, and libraries. Every writer has a unique kit that they assemble to aid them in the writing process.

I start out my writing kit with a designated bag. I will keep this bag packed with all my writing gear at all times. It allows me to pick up the bag and go on a moment’s notice. I know that everything I will need will be available in the bag. I’ve used everything from a grocery sack to a cloth tote bag. My current writing kit bag is a Solo Laptop Tote. It looks like leather and is stylish, but not extremely expensive or heavy. It is large enough to hold all my gear and offers my electronic devices a bit of padded protection. Any laptop bag or backpack should work for this purpose.

Next, I pack in my Alphasmart Neo. I prefer the Alphasmart to a laptop for drafting. An Alphasmart has been my go to device for Nanowrimo for the past four years. I started with a $30 Alphasmart 3000 for my first Nanowrimo write-ins because at the time I could not afford a laptop computer. The AS3K has a run time of 700 hours on 3 AA batteries. Basically, I pop in the batteries and I’m good to go for the year. The screen is LCD and easy on the eyes, unlike bright computer screens or tablets, and it has no Internet capability. Unless I deliberately turn on a device to access the Internet, such as my cell phone, I am not distracted by Facebook or other on-line time wasters. I credit the AS3K for helping me reach my 50K word goal for the first time. The following year, I upgraded to the Alphasmart Neo. The Neo has a more ergonomic keyboard, the 8 built in files can hold more data and the screen is somewhat bigger than the AS3K. I find that my typing speed is faster on the Neo. It makes a great keyboard for computers and tablets, needing only an USB connection to operate. The Neo is about the size of a small Mac Air laptop, but is much lighter in weight and far more durable.

Mighty Brite Duet LED LightI store the Neo in the laptop portion of my bag and I bring along a few accessories to go with it. I keep my USB printer cable in the bag, it is the way that my Neo accesses my computer at home. I use it to upload my writing at the end of each coffeehouse session. I also have a Mighty Brite Duet light system that I clip to my Neo in dark situations or to write at night when I’m camping. The Mighty Brite has two LED lights that can light up my keyboard evenly. It was originally designed to be a music stand light for musicians, but many Neo owners equip their digital typewriters with this light because the clip is strong enough to grip the back of the Neo’s housing. Finally, I bring along a rubberized lap board. It provides a grippy place to perch my Neo if I’m writing on my lap or gives a more stable surface for my device when writing on a table. The Neo never gets hot, but the bottom is a little slick. The board keeps my Neo from sliding off my lap. The board I use is a Logitech Portable Lapdesk.

Logitech Lap Board

I bring several paper bound books with me. First is a composition notebook with the outline, character sketches and other notes for my novel. With it I have a pouch with a fountain pen and a Coleto Mult-pen for color coding. Perhaps it is old-fashioned, but I find that when I’m brainstorming new ideas, I do it better on paper. I index the front of my notebook so that I can easily find the sections inside where my notes are and I always have blank pages available for writing down new ideas on the fly. The other two books I bring are a Pocket Webster’s Dictionary and a Pocket Thesaurus. I like having the means to look up words without having to rely on electricity or wifi access in a pinch.

The final device I like to bring is my iPod Touch with earbuds. Usually, the general din of the coffeehouse is fine as background noise, but sometimes the PA system is not playing something that I find pleasing. When you put on earbuds or headphones, people also take this as a signal that you do not wish to chat and you can carve out more writing time for yourself that way. My iPod Touch is set up with several apps that I use for research, including a dictionary, thesaurus and an app called Lists for Writers. I also carry a cell phone, but I tend to not bring it out unless absolutely necessary because it is too easy to pull out a game or to read Facebook when I do so.

All writers have unique items that they like to bring to write-ins during Nanowrimo. The key is to keep all the items in a single, portable, bag and only bring what is necessary to promote good writing habits while you are away from home. Do keep in mind that local write-ins are a great place to talk about writing and gain advice from your fellow writers. Do not close yourself up completely when you attend a write-in. Most of the habits that I have as a writer were learned as a Nanowrimo participant. Open yourself up to the information available during the November writing push and most of all, have fun!

Tea Rose Garden: A Filofax Adventure

Filofax and NotebooksAs a writer, I use agendas and composition books to organize and brainstorm my novels and short stories. The act of putting a pen to paper helps my creativity. When an English friend showed off her Filofax agenda and explained how she used it to organize her novel, a larger Filofax to keep her notes, timeline and other details organized and a smaller pocket sized one to hold all the index cards that she used to outline her novel, I became intrigued. One look at the luxury leather, the metal snaps and all the little stationary accessories that could be used with it, I fell in love. My first Filofax was a Crimson Personal Malden. The leather was soft, the agenda opened flat and I found that I could keep my novel’s notes at my fingertips.

I discovered a community of Filofax users and collectors at a blog called Philofaxy. There I discovered a myriad of tips on how to become better organized by using the planners. Filofax owners used their scrapbooking skills to create dividers, decorate their diary pages and attached charms to the rings of their binders. Each luxury binder became a unique expression of the owner’s artistic vision.

Filofax is a United Kingdom based company and most of the owners of the agendas live in Europe. When the members of Philofaxy met in order to show off their personalized binders to each other, these gatherings were held in London. Filofax agendas are difficult to find in the United States, only a few specialty shops carry them, and a meet up would be the only way that I could see one in person before I purchased one from an online catalog. Since the meet ups were only in London, an opportunity to hold a Filofax that I was interested in before purchasing it was nil. The United States Filofax owners decided to change that. One of our Philofaxy members decided to see if there would be any interest in setting up the first Filofax meet up in the Los Angeles area. A dozen ladies RSVPed on Facebook, a few committing to travel in from other Western States, and the plans were confirmed.

When the appointed Saturday arrived, I set off in my car to Old Town Pasadena. The freeways in California were busy even on the weekend. My google map app sent me in the wrong direction once I made the city streets. It was good that I had tucked a few paper maps of the area into my glovebox. I ended up parking at a nearby metro station and then walking. I passed by many small boutiques, including stationary and art supply shops. It was amazing to see so many of these types stores all in a single city block. At last, I found myself in front of small shop with large windows and a cloth awning over the doorway.

Friends meet at the Tea Rose Garden

The front of The Tea Rose Garden was an indoor atrium with stone tiles on the floor, rustic iron furniture painted in distressed cream, and hanging plants. In old-fashioned cupboards, an abundance of bone china plates and teacups were on display. In the rear, behind the restaurant area, was a functional florist shop where several short women were busy creating arrangements with roses, daisies and carnations. Our Filofax group gathered around several tables in the front beside the large windows. The women were of a variety of ages, from a young child all the way to seniors, each one present due to their love of Filofax and stationary. All the ladies had brought their collection of Filofax agendas. I had considered myself an addict with four of them, but there were ladies with far more in their bags.

Jennifer Reyes from PhilofaxyOur coordinator, Jennifer Reyes, gave a short lecture about Filofax agendas and held up the various binders that we had brought with us, discussing the different colors that each range came in and the variations of the different sizes. This helped to break the ice and soon we were freely passing around the Filofaxes that we had brought. We examined the various agendas with their myriad of pockets, felt the leather with our hands and were able to compare the construction between the models of the ranges.

I was astounded by the creativity that these ladies showed via the paper arts. Some had taken photos, glued them onto cardstock to make dividers, others had used a criscut to create paper shapes to jazz up and personalize their dividers and pages. Washi tape was placed in their agendas and various stamps were used to not only help organize their Filofaxes, but to decorate too. Their skill made my simple attempts at patterned dividers seem quite humble.

Filofax and Coleto Multi PenOne lady passed around a Filofax with a Coleto multi-pen inside the rings where it nested until needed. I happened to have brought my own Coleto, that I use during editing, and put it into my Personal Malden as an experiment. The clip on the Coleto seemed to mold around the rings and it gripped them securely. It was as if the space were designed to fit the pen. I can take the Coleto with me when I wish to color code in my agenda instead of in a separate pen holder, which makes the Filofax more user friendly.

Soon the English tea was served by the wait staff. We had a choice of iced tea or a private blend of hot Earl Grey Tea served along with platefuls of tiny crustless sandwiches, fresh fruit and scones with Derbyshire cream. We Americans thought that having a English tea was appropriate for a Filofax meet up since most of the gatherings were held in London. This idea was spoken of with mild amusement by our modern day members across the pond. However, we all enjoyed our lunch at the Tea Rose Garden and the Filofax fellowship that we participated in.



English Tea Is Served
English Tea Is Served




Filofaxes and Friends at the Tea Rose Garden
Filofaxes and Friends at the Tea Rose Garden

Beach Party Author Write-in

newport beach pedestrian walkNewport Beach in California is a well-known tourist attraction to most of the United States. People come here to enjoy the sparkling white beach, the cold waves of azure water, and the beach community that hugs it. There are over ten miles of beaches in the public park system in the city, including the Balboa Peninsula where my writing group decided to hold a Saturday write-in, complete with a bonfire, hot dogs to roast for dinner and inspiration to write. I do not go to the beach often, even though I live a scant forty minutes away, and I felt enthusiastic about the write-in because I had intended to visit the beach at least once this summer, but had not gotten around to it.

I did not want to bring my laptop or Alphasmart Neo to the beach. The idea of sand blowing into the keyboards of either of my machines worried me. Instead, I pulled out my composition notebook and loaded up my leather pen case with a fountain pen and a Coleteo multi-pen. As a backup, I brought two Pilot G-2 pens, one in black and the other in red that I popped into my flashlight’s case. I have a rubberized lapboard that I like to use when I’m going to be balancing my writing on a chair and I thought that it would provide a good writing surface at the beach. It took time to figure out how to carry it. I ended up stuffing it in my lime green, soft-cooler bag.

I arrived at the Balboa Peninsula in the late afternoon. I drove through the parking lots that were near the pier, but there was not a single space to be had. It was late June and a Saturday, so the beach was packed with tourists and locals out to enjoy the coolness of the day. After driving around the parking lot for forty minutes, I gave up and headed toward the residential area a good mile distant from where my friends gathered. I found a free parking spot in front of a house with a ceramic plate featuring hot chile peppers. I unloaded my vehicle, holding the two tote style bags in one hand and putting the straps of the encased folding chair and umbrella over my other shoulder.

California in the summertime is often called paradise. The sun caresses you while the salt laden wind cool your skin. Overhead, palm trees rustle in the sea breeze and the scent of BBQ combined with spice competes with sour stench of seaweed and salt. As I wandered down a pedestrian and bike path along a row of beach front homes, I was striding by private rose gardens full of delicate pink blooms, beige stucco walls covered with magenta bougainvillea and picket fences of wind distressed grey wood. I smiled to see a tiny hummingbird dancing in among the flowers, drinking in the nectar while it defied the brisk seawind. On the other side of the path were the azure waves of the Pacific and the white sand that the city of Newport Beach is famous for.

A long mile of walking brought me to lifeguard station B and a mass of fire pits already ablaze with wood provided by old cargo pallets or supermarket purchased bundles of split wood. Many grills were cooking dinners, scattered out on the sandy beach or on the grassy lawn of the park. My writing buddies were in the center of this sand filled chaos and gave me a hearty wave as I came around the bend on the cement pathway. They were a band of women dressed in cotton clothing, sunhats and sandals, arranged in a circle facing each other, but without a fire in the center. As I set up my folding chair and umbrella, I wondered what had happened to the promised bonfire.

“The school next to us took three of the fire pits for their kids.” The young, dark-haired woman that had organized our event gave me a sheepish expression. She had worked hard to gain us a fire pit, but in the end she was unsuccessful. Looking around our small patch of sand, I noticed that we were indeed surrounded by large numbers of frolicking teenagers in various states of undress. They were all part of the large school group that were having an outing that day.

As I pulled a cold drink from my cooler, I seated myself in my umbrella shaded chair to relax after my long walk. This was the beach after all, a natural place for young people to come and play. No one was bothering our group of eight writers and while a bonfire would be wonderful, we could improvise. I dug my bare feet into the warm, white sand and felt any remaining tension from the walk melt away.

photo by Jennifer Levine
Authors DeAnna Cameron and Rebekah Webb write in their notebooks
“So how long did it take you all to figure out what to write with tonight?” asked the author next to me in the circle. She was a woman of middle years, with two tween-aged children, and a strong personality. “I was at it for hours and couldn’t decide what to bring. ”She held up a notebook into the air. “I went with this.”

Everyone at the write-in was armed with a bound notebook and pen, except for the new writer who had arrived on a motorcycle and seemed prepared to take on the world. She had her hair pulled back in a ponytail and had a black backpack that reminded one of Mary Poppin’s carpet bag; Endless items seemed to emerge from that bag. She wrote on her laptop under a blanket to block out the sun and sand.

I extracted my lapboard, fountain pen and composition book from my bag, but discovered that I had neglected to double check the ink in my pen. It was empty. I was forced to pull out my backup Pilot G-2 pens instead. I was not planning on working on a draft that night, I wanted to brainstorm new ideas to use for future flash fiction projects. I had written down a pair of writing prompts and was going to let the beach inspire me.

Although we did not have a bonfire of our own, the third fire that the school group had built was unused by the kids, and was next to our circle. The kids preferred to cluster around the other two bonfires. We were close enough to the third fire that we stayed warm as night descended on the beach. I used my small pen light to continue writing in the dark. Later, a larger flashlight was stuck in my beach umbrella and pointed up at the material to bounce a soft white light for the rest of the party.

Super Moon at Balboa Beach - photo by Jill Carpenter
Super Moon at Balboa Beach
As the moon rose from the horizon, the two photographers in our group pulled out their cameras. One had a professional looking Nikon DSLR with a lens longer than my hand and a metallic red body and the other woman, a tiny point and shoot Canon. The two ladies razzed each other in a friendly way about the brand of camera they used and why their brand was the better one.

Both of our self appointed photographers took shots of of the “super moon” that was upon us that evening. While I do keep up with astronomical terms, I was unfamiliar with what a “super moon” was. As it turned out, it is a layman’s term for when the moon was at perigee, when a full moon is at its closest point in its orbit to the Earth that year. Near the ocean, the city lights are dim and you can see the stars and moon clearly. Our super moon was very bright, but not large as a harvest moon may appear.

As the darkness enclosed us, one of our party suggested that we ask to borrow the third, unused fire to cook our dinner. We sent our representative teenage writer over to use her sad smile and winsome ways on the school party. It did not take her long to gain us access to the bonfire. Our write-in coordinator strode to her car and returned with a large wheeled cooler. She was trailed by her Mom who had been sitting out in their car, preferring to take an on-line school course on her iPad instead of being out on the sand. However, dinner drew her out to join us authors at last.

The hot dogs were roasted. S’mores were distributed. The women writers fought playfully over a bag of carrots. As the night wore on, we all departed from the beach one by one. I was grateful to be offered a ride back to my SUV, sparing me the long walk back to my car with all my gear.

It was the first time our group had gathered for a write-in at the beach, but I think that it will not be the last time we do this. While most of us did not do a great deal of writing, the camaraderie and the relaxation was well worth the day.

photos by Jill Carpenter and Jennifer Levine