Le Plume

I just attended the ever-phenomenal Writers’ Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. When not hosting a session, I made a point of meeting people. A diverse group, I’m confident that every literary genre was represented at this heavily-attended event.

One of the things that all of the attendees had in common is their interest in writing. Another similarity is their love of writing implements! I saw pens from:

  • disposable to incredibly expensive
  • ballpoint to roller ball, gel, and fountain
  • retractable to cap-top
UW-Madison's 27th Annual Writers' Institute

UW-Madison’s 27th Annual Writers’ Institute

I saw two left-handed pens (not kidding), and one pen that wrote with an antiqued brown (think sepia tone) inkAmazingly, one author/speaker, Bradley Beaulieu, did his book signing in calligraphy!

My favorite is the Jetstream pen made by uni-ball. Simple, I like its retractable style and the quick-drying ink leaves a smooth writing line. I’d go to the mat for my pen!

Do you have a favorite pen?

© lauriebuchanan.com

89 thoughts on “Le Plume

  1. I used to have a handmade wooden pen and I recently found my Cross pen which needs a refill. Truthfully I hardly ever write a pen these days and if I am taking notes I use the Pens from TD Bank. My handwriting is almost eligible.
    Morning pages are done on the computer !

  2. I do love pens but I’m also another one who hardly uses them these days (I used to at work but then all records became electronic). I do like fine pens…

    • Olga — Isn’t it funny how 30 years ago hardly anyone had a computer; now hardly anyone has a pen! Generations from now they’ll be shown in museums as something from “the olden days.”

  3. I like pens, but since there is a Cat Rule that all pens must be knocked from the table, multiple times if necessary, I find it best not to get too attached to any. 🙂

    So glad you had a great time at the conference!

    • Merrill — When we had our two tuxedo cats (they lived to be 18 years old), they enforced the same rule as yours: smack anything and everything onto the floor and then bat it around until it’s lodged where you can’t get it (usually under the over or refrigerator) 🙂

  4. Laurie, I’m so glad you had a wonderful few days at UW-Madison! That’s like putting a child in a toy-store! I’ve had one favorite pen since about 2004, the Pentel Energel rollerball. .07mm with black ink. It’s perfect for either writing or drawing. It glides over surfaces like Teflon with no skips or blots. I say one pen, make that one type of pen. Once I had located and bought all that were locally available, I simply started buying them on-line by the box/dz.. I found that loaning them for “just a minute” usually resulted in my needing a new pen and wanted to have at least one always available. Two or three in the truck, a couple or so on my desk and some on my drawing table. And one in the chamber, just in case!

  5. I don’t have a favorite pen YET. I have found that my nearest writing instruments ( chalk, highlighter, napkins, matchbooks, etc.) are the most valuable when the urge to convey words to paper suddenly occur in a flash of insight.

    • Lisa — When I get one of those “flashes of insight,” I grab my cell phone and speak it as a text to myself (this way, it doesn’t get irretrievably lost in a black hole while I scramble for a pen and paper) 🙂

  6. Pens, the greatest metaphor for writing ever, Laurie. When I graded essays, I had a 4-color BIC pen made in France. I gave students suggestions in green or purple, never red. Now the quiver on my desk features ball-point pens, pencils, even a fake quill pen. When I write personal notes, my pen of choice is a flow-y ink pen imprinted with the words “Enjoy writing.”

  7. I gave up on favorite pens. I’d either lose them or they’d lose ink. So now, my ‘favorite’ pens are the least expensive ones: from the bank, the dry cleaner, the little bed & breakfast my guy and I slept in a year ago. They seem to never get lost or run out of ink. Go figure. 🙂

  8. I am so happy that writers are still passionate about pens – instead of keyboards. In my opinion, some of the most inspired writing flows through the hand to pen to paper, rather than to a keyboard.
    I don’t have a favourite pen, but I will give your recommendation a try. Ink that flows freely is super important.

  9. I am so glad you had a wonderful time during your trip to Wisconsin. What a fun gift you give yourself and others! I do not really have a favorite pen. I do like fine-points, and there is one that is made out of recycled water bottles that is cool. Usually we get free pens at the school where I work and some end up coming home. Barry likes the opposite kind of pens. He likes Bic medium points or something. Go figure.

  10. I love fountain pens, but they’re expensive and I always get ink all over the place. So I too use cheap pens when I write in my journal or should I ever decide to pen a real letter to someone. I like Uniballs the best!

  11. Laurie I am happy with any pen I pick up that works and doesn’t leave ink on my left hand as I drag it over what I have just written. But here is a little known fact, if YOU have a favourite pen, hang on to it tightly if I am around. I am unconsciously a pen thief! I have in this manner ended up with some really lovely pens, until their owners come and claim them.

    • Terrill — I’m sitting in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport grinning like an idiot. People simply think I’ve gone “round the bend.” They don’t realize it’s in response to your pen thievery comment! 🙂

      • Laurie, David hides his pens once I have misplaced fifteen of the twenty that I have purchased and divided between us. If I plead he will loan me one of his last five but stands over me while I use it so he can snatch the writing implement directly after the final period appears on the page. The worst part is I feel he is right to do so or in a matter of days neither of us would have any pens left to misplace. So, not only am I a pen thief I am also careless with my loot once it is lifted.

        Safe travels home 🙂

  12. It looks like there was overflow turnout for the Writer’s Institute. Very exciting. I look forward to hearing more about your experience and insights.
    I most often use the TūL fine and medium point ball point pens; moderately inexpensive. What I especially enjoy is the sense of smooth flow. Oddly, there is some pleasure in writing with it!
    In grade school I remember it was a privilege to “move up” to using the fountain pens. I did also enjoy using them. However, those cartridge fountain pens could be very messy.
    I will check out the Jetstream. I may have used it. I like the uniball pens.

  13. I’ve always loved fountain pens, but haven’t had one in years. I definitely gravitate toward colorful ink pens now, pin and purple and green. Like some mentioned, however, I don’t use a pen to do my extensive writing … but when I want to do my best thinking and processing I absolutely still use a pen .. and the notebook is VERY important! 🙂

  14. Some year I hope to lose myself among those avid writers in Wisconsin, Laurie.
    My local hardware store sells a package of vivid coloured pens. They’re cheap and the ink cheers me as I write. Like Terrill, I drag the side of my hand through my writing. But, unlike Terrill, I relish the ink stains. Like paint spattering a visual artist, the ink marks me as a writer. : )

  15. While this seems like it would be a “small” topic, it really is huge! I only use medium tipped pens and blue ink. I don’t know what it is about black ink, but I dislike using it and I feel like my penmanship is worse without blue ink. I have a few Cross pens sent to me over the years as gifts and they all are collecting dust in my office as I prefer the BIC Soft Feel medium blue ink pen.

    On a side note it’s sad to see that cursive and penmanship are not so important in this generation. Since 1st grade my children have had to type essays, homework, reports and so on. My son (11 years old) had to actually think before he could sign to renew his library card on our last visit as he hasn’t used cursive in a long time. But I did make sure to give him a blue inked pen 🙂 Tina

    • Tina — Here’s a perfect example of how our differences make the world go round. I prefer black ink to blue (but man-o-man, you should have seen the BROWN ink at the Writers’ Institute—gorgeous!).

      I don’t know about other states, but the state of Idaho has removed (altogether) cursive from writing curriculum. They only teach printing. Period. End of story.

      Some days folks my age will be able to use cursive as “secret code” because only we will know how to “decipher” it! 🙂

      • I don’t know why that makes me feel so sad with the loss of cursive. Maybe because I remember feeling so proud as a child when I mastered it and I loved/still love analyzing the different styles of cursive from my family’s older relatives handwriting to today’s style. I have old letters, cards etc. from my great great grandmother and some recipes from my paternal great grandmother and I can look at those all day!

        And as for secret code I fall back on the shorthand I learned in high school. No one can read that, not even me sometimes lol!

      • Tina — I remember my childhood pride in mastering cursive too. It was a wonderful accomplishment.

        I had to laugh at your comment on shorthand 🙂

  16. Interesting about all the people using pens in this electronic age. Although I do have a laptop, I still prefer to take notes at workshops and conferences using a pen. Not just an age thing, but that’s what I did when I was a journalist. When I interviewed someone one-on-one for newspaper or magazine article I added in a recorder.

    As for what type of pen I like best – one that continues writing on and one for a long time, provides clear print, and one that doesn’t “walk.” As mentioned in other posts here, we writers know that pens have a habit of disappearing.

    I, too, love the rapport at writing conferences – meeting and chatting with other writers and getting valuable information from speakers. I have also been a speaker or panelist at workshops and conferences and will be doing that again April 26 on a self-publishing panel for the Editors Association of Canada. I’m sure I will learn lots from the other two panelists. See http://www.editors.ca/content/april-2016-program if you are curious.



  17. Madison, Wisconsin is a pretty cool place I hear, sounds like quite the diverse group. This is a first for me reading a blog about pens. I like it, can you spin this off into “Pen of the Week?” Mr. Skipah, when he isn’t annoying the hell out of everybody on his blog and is actually at his “day” job loves his black noir Uni-Ball Vision Elite to sign off on eight figure mega deals and green light future construction projects. Or he might use it also to sign his name and keep his schedules organized.

  18. My favorite pen is my father’s antique Parker fountain pen. The pen has a beautiful silver filigree over-lament on the cap and pen, which has a space where my father’s initials “A.I.N.” are engraved. My father’s pen is a cherished family treasure! It resides in one of my mother’s antique women’s hand painted wooden shoe lasts in an honored space on my desk, where I can see it and use it every day.

  19. Oh my! What a question to ask a school teacher. That’s like asking a carpenter to pick his favorite saw or a sultan to choose his favorite wife. But I’ll give it a try. For grading, a trusty red Paper-Mate pencil. For signing cards, a fountain pen a missionary friend brought me from Japan. For taking notes in a class or a conference, my Cross mechanical pencil, never have to stop to sharped it. But my all time favorite pen, The dependable and trusty Pilot G-2 07. It flows nicely onto the paper, never skips, affordable (downright cheap actually) and it’s always in stock at Wal Mart.

    • Dennis — And while mechanical pencils and I don’t work well together (I tend to “snap” the lead right off), I do love the sound of your trusty Pilot G-2 07. I’ve added it to my list of must-try writing implements. Thank you for the tip! 🙂

    • Carol — Like you, I appreciate it when a pen is handy if the need arises! I can use either pen or keyboard, but I’m much faster (and it’s oh-so-much-more legible) when I use the keyboard 🙂

  20. I LOVE a good pen. I’m cheap, so I usually buy them at CVS or Walgreens…currently using a Uniball Signo. lol. But, the Pentel Energel mentioned earlier and the Jetstream, I will try out. #HappyInking 🙂

  21. My real favorite pen is the “fancy” one my grandparents gave me for my college graduation engraved with my name. That’s the pen I treasure.
    As a high school English teacher, however, my favorite pen is the pen that survives the day without being taken from my students. Sadly, my pens walk away on a daily basis even though I try hard to prevent the pen-stealing. I just have to laugh!

    • Paula — The pen from your grandparents sounds like a sentimental treasure, indeed.

      You’ve got a great attitude regarding the pens that grow legs and walk away on a daily basis from your classroom—laugh! 🙂

  22. Sorry Laurie , you really shouldn’t have asked the question . This is a poem I wrote in poetry group …sorry if it goes on a bit …oh and yes I ‘QUITE’ like pens .

    I have a jam jar that sits proudly ,
    In the corner of my world .
    Full to the brim of ,
    Feathers, paintbrushes ,nail files , toothpicks ( ugh) , old eye glasses,
    pieces of chalk, wax crayons , felt tips …
    And …pens …mostly pens .
    Tall ones, short ones, stubby ones ,
    red , green and ambre traffic light ones
    girly pink, posh Parker, chewed at the end ones ,
    Charity , freebie bank ones ,
    student son’s ones ,
    All mostly …stolen
    Ok it’s out I’m a pen thief .
    I steal pens from ,
    down the sides of cushions, hotel rooms, under seats on trains,
    ,buses, planes, best friends houses, husbands fishing baskets ,
    son’s backpack and behind the ears of an unsuspecting carpenter.
    Oh yes I love pens .

    Ahhhaaa so Laurie your not the only writer on ‘Tuesdays With Laurie ‘

    • Cherry — Oh my blessed word, I love it. Absolutely LOVE it! I would say that you “quite” love pens is an UNDER-statement 🙂

      [In trying to respond to post comments on my iPhone while traveling (as opposed to my laptop], your comment (along with three others) slipped through the cracks. I do apologize for the delayed response].

  23. I do! So glad you asked, Laurie. My all-time favorite pen is — no, alas, was — a retractable four-choice ball point from Franklin Covey. It gave me a choice among red, blue, black ink and pencil. But sadly I can no longer find refills. If any of your readers know how I might find them, that would be a great bonus.

  24. I do not have a favorite pen or pencil. I do have a huge pottery blue jar covered in ascending doves of peace full of all the pencil stubs and partially used pens which my husband, and 3 daughters and 8 exchanges students left me to deal with. I threw out a whole bureau drawer full when we moved last October. I did give to an art teacher the Rubbermaid dish tub I had full of markers and the second tub of old crayons. She was delighted. Since my hands are sometimes so useless My oldest daughter bought me a retractable “GRIP” pen which rolls the ink out smoothly and that is good – though my husband often takes it away. I write best now with the computer keyboard resting in my lap. Many of the writers I have reviewed do have a favorite pen they like to write with and then their first revisions are when they dictate their writing into their computer. When I get my braces off from the fractured jaw, I am going to try that method also. !!! I truly am not falling apart – but severing the end of a nerve off your spine makes such a difference in life! I accomplished 3 miles of walking today without the walking sticks!!!
    Sorry this is a long reply, but your question made me thing about how I wrote so much poetry with a pen and paper and now with the tremors in my hands I don’t write any poetry for over a year now and still working on being able to sing again…sigh. Find me a pen!

    My personal journals are all old spiral notebooks that the children did not finish!

    • Patricia — I’m still in “catch up” mode after returning from the Writers’ Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve added the “GRIP” pen to the list of pens I want to check out. I’m tickled pink you accomplished a three mile walk without walking sticks — that’s phenomenal! And I love that you up-cycled your children’s spiral notebooks to use as personal journals. My hat—as always—is off to YOU! 🙂

  25. Ooohhh!!! All the lefties are raising their hands on this one! 🙂 I’m blogging about my favorite conference take-aways, and your workshop is one of them, Laurie! Btw – I’m writing 15min. a day. 😉

  26. Hi Laurie

    I rarely use a pen these days – marking a golf score card is usually about it, signing the occasional cheque – about twice a month.

    Almost everything I write is done by keyboard, or by voice translation software.
    I am watching the advancement of thought to text software with great interest, will likely be one of the early adopters when it does mature sufficiently to be useful – probably two to three years away.
    They’re making good progress with the body movement side:

    And I find it interesting that we still use terms like plume (meaning feather) from where most early writing implements were formed (or Stylus – from the even earlier V shaped tools for leaving impressions in clay).

    The degree of information transfer available today is exponentially increasing.
    Now the limit is the contextual searches.
    Search engines help, and they are not yet sufficiently sophisticated to work with multi-level abstractions, and there are certainly plenty of people working on that problem (Wolfram and his team have cracked it for the tightly defined world of mathematical and logical abstraction, but not for the more general classes of abstraction).

    I am still more interested in exploring the deeply nested sets of unexamined assumptions that lie below all knowledge and abstraction. At times I feel I am getting close to the base of the issues, and Wolfram does seem to be onto something real with his notion of inherent computational complexity present in some classes of reality, even if some of his bounding assumptions are not as general as he thinks.

    So whether its stylus or feather or ballpoint or keyboard or neural interface, I am all for effective use of tools of communication. And it seems that all communication is limited at either end by the depth to which underlying assumptions and heuristics have been explored, and the extent to which higher level abstractions of general principles have been attained. And each level of abstraction seems to be infinite, and all levels seem to have some contexts in which they are capable of dominating all other levels. So irrespective of depth or height of exploration, we are all a close approximation to ignorance, and all sufficiently creative and destructive to be worthy of deep respect.

    My Toshiba laptops are my current tools of choice – the Portege series has served me well over the last couple of decades.

    • Ted — Like you, the majority of my “writing” is done on my MacBook Pro laptop. No muss, no fuss, it’s fast and oh-so convenient. On the occasion when I use an actual pen, I have to focus on what I’m doing or my handwriting isn’t legible. When asked, that seemed to be the case for the majority of the attendees at the Writers’ Institute as well. There were a few who had their laptops and/or iPad type technology with them and their fingers were smokin’ the keyboards.

  27. The Pentel EnerGel RTX medium point with “quick drying ink” has been my left-handed choice for several years. In the past year, finding that pen in a variety of colors, has allowed for colorful additions to my Morning Pages, which I have now written for 20 years.

    A left-handed science teacher told me years ago, before gel pens were widely available, that ball point pens were designed to be “dragged” across the page. Right-handers “drag” pens and left-handers “push” them. It made total sense to me.

    • Sue — I just learned a heckofa lot in your comment. I never know the push/drag difference between north and south paws!

      I’ve just added the Pentel EnerGel RTX to my must-try list. Thank you! 🙂

  28. Looks like a great event. A fountain pen is my daily writing instrument and nothing compares to get the creative juices flowing.

    • Ces Elle — As you can see by many other commenters, many of us look upon the fountain pen with awe, but in trying it, we make huge, inky messes. My hat is off to you for mastering the art of the fountain pen 🙂

  29. Sounds like a fabulous event Laurie! Wish I could have been a fly on the wall! When it comes to pens I rarely opt for gourmet. I’m a long time bic ball point kind of guy! 🙂 Black or blue will do!

  30. I have a bit of a pen addiction, Laurie. Like you, I also like the Uni-ball. My favourite pen though is a Twisbi fountain pen, and my preferred ink colour is sepia or dark chestnut.

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