A pen for each book

That’s right. I’m a nerd. A big nerd who loves pens and pretty things that will hopefully last forever.

I’m a sentimentalist. I like things that remind me of past things. I’m also a bit – against my own better judgment – perhaps a bit superstitious.

I’m also a fan of rewarding myself when I’ve worked hard.

Aside from a bar of white chocolate Lindt and a glass of my sweetest mead, I don’t usually do a lot to celebrate the writing of a book. I know I should. But by then, I’m already thinking of the next thing, the next wall to climb. It’s punishing, but productive.

Besides, new beginnings can mean rewards, too.

Whenever I start writing a new book, it takes a while for the land to settle. For me to really know what it’s about. How it feels in the mouth. How it lingers in the brain. Usually, this is either partway through draft one, or when I begin draft two. And then when the pieces do fall into place, that’s when I choose a new pen.

Sentimentality or superstition?

Frankly, I have no idea. I have a few author friends who like to buy a new notebook or two for each project. It’s something about evoking a particular feel when you pick it up – maybe it helps us keep the threads of a story coherent or aids us as we slip into our fictional worlds after another busy day.

As for me, I choose pens.

If you’re thinking “Any old excuse to buy new stationery!” you’re partly right. But then, unlike the notebooks, I’ll have these forever. And each one is a reminder of a story I’ve written and a part of human nature I’ve explored.

So, partly because I’m self-indulgent, and partly because I thought it’d be fun, I thought I’d do a tour of my bookish pens, just for you.

Bone Ovation

I suppose this book was written very much at the beginning of my stationary fascination. Exploring bones in all their contexts – whether they’re running down our spines or at the heart of a mountain.

As it was early in my pen journey, I chose something affordable and easy to look after. This Noodlers Ahab Flex Fountain Pen in Ahab’s Pearl felt lovely in my hand and shone as clean as a bone. It’s not my most reliable pen – it’s a bit leaky – but to be honest I’m sure it’s tweakable with a bit of effort.

Little Quakes Every Day

This poetry collection, very much rooted in history and future inventions, ties together stories of human endeavour.

For this pen, I chose something that brought together the past and future, and this Faber Castell e-motion Fountain Pen in Pearwood is crafted from the shiniest chrome and wood. The grain is stunning, and it’s aged so well. I’m sure it’s getting darker and more luscious.

Composite Creatures

So this one is one of the first and finest I ever bought. A Sailor Pro Gear Slim Shikiori Fountain Pen in Snow Camelia (sometimes the names of these things are a mouthful!)

The book begins and ends with snow. And quiet. And loneliness. And this pen seemed to embody this. The gold means opulence but the white speckled with blood-red was peaceful and yet sinister enough for me to make the connection. It just felt so goddamn right.


Of all the books I’ve written, Mothtown probably has had the wiggliest route to finalisation. While to core of it has always remained true, it’s been through a series of transformations (which seems perfectly apt for the story as it is now, in its final form).

There was only one pen that could match it. This Conklin Duragraph Fountain Pen in Abalone Nights is made from mother-of-pearl and abalone shells. Depending on which way you turn it, you’ll see many shades of blue, turquoise, green and yellow. For me, it’s all the shades of moths and winged things that creep about in the dark.

*Undisclosed project that I can’t name right now*

This book – while strictly neither straight poetry or prose – is currently being read by editors, so I can’t say too much.

BUT, when I first saw this pen, I saw the story’s landscape reflected there in the bloody sky. The whole story takes place between dusk and dawn, and there are a lot of dark and mythic things that happen in-between. This brooding, mysterious, and frankly witchy pen fit the bill.

I so hope this book finds a home soon so I can actually talk about it!

My current work-in-progress

This was a tricky one, as it’s a book with a particular focus that’s frankly too specific to embody in a pen. But then, as I kept writing, I realised that this model, the Benu Talisman in Eidelweiss captured the darkness and light existing side-by-side. Light is a very important symbol in the story, as is another substance which exists in the air, and is reflected by the tiny silver particles here. It couldn’t be any more perfect.

And in a practical sense, my hands get stiff and achy when I write for a long time now. And Benu pens (especially with medium nibs) are so soft and easy to write with. The ink just flows. It’s so much easier on the muscles and joints.

And that’s it! I have been working on an ongoing project over the last year or so too, but I haven’t indulged for that one yet. It doesn’t feel quite right. Perhaps when I’m nearing the end and I have more of an idea for the fate of that project I’ll be able to commit. 😊

Writers! Do you collect anything in this way? I have friends who buy a new pricey notebook for each book, and friends who buy a new piece of jewellery for each book deal. I’d love to know in the comments if you do.


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