The Written Word In Longhand

The link below is to an article that I bookmarked a few years back. Most of my family and friends know about my love of vintage fountain pens, ink, paper and the handwritten word. Now, I am sharing that passion with my readers.

After I recently wrote a post on this blog about the possible demise of cursive handwriting, I remembered I had this article saved. Surely, there are many of us writers out there who still like to use pen and ink or even pencil to compose the rough drafts of works in progress, make outlines and lists or notes.

Handwriting seems to enrich the experience the writer has with the creative process. How about you? Please let me know if and how you use cursive handwriting as part of your writing regimen.

A Defense of Writing Longhand | Patrick E. McLean.

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Cursive Writing Endangered?

I am on the back side of my sixties so I was taught cursive writing early on in school. That means that I also have been around for the transition from handwriting to typing and now to keyboard or screen entry onto electronic media. Unfortunately, to my way of thinking, this may signal the decline and possible extinction of the use of cursive writing as a means of communicating. Most scary to me is that future generations may not be able to read historical and ancestral handwritten documents.

This following re-post is an excellent piece on the current state of Cursive Writing.

Let me know what you think!

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Short Cord & Fang

Today, as I was writing a chapter for a new novel, I remembered one of the favorite people who I met many years ago. Although I don’t remember his name, I do remember his story. For now, let me just call him Woody.

He was in his early twenties; a rough-hewn man living in one of the premier surfing towns in southern California. His dress was usually just a matter of dirty worn jeans and a sports themed tee-shirt. In colder weather, a vintage leather bomber jacket was thrown atop his lanky frame. Brown hair, longish and tousled, was partially hidden under a Caterpillar ball cap. Dental hygiene was not one of his highest priorities. Please don’t let my physical description of this man throw you off. He was very intelligent and well spoken with a smile that promised laughter would soon be heard.

We met in the coffee shop where I took my meals back then. Being a counter sitter as opposed to a booth or table guy, I often would have company on either side of me. Woody was my dinner company on many occasions over the years. During meal-time conversations with him, I learned much about his life and the work that he did. He was married, no children. He and his wife ran a firewood business from up in the nearby mountains. He had obtained a permit to take wood from a federal forest area and then he sawed and split the logs into fireplace sized pieces. These he trucked down to the local homeowners and a few beach town businesses who sold wood for the fire rings on the beaches. Woody’s wife usually stayed up at their mountain place when he came down with a truckload of wood. One day as I was having lunch at the counter, Woody came in with a woman and introduced her to me as his wife. Again, I have no idea what her name was, but I sure remember her appearance. She was dressed almost exactly like Woody – Raggedy Andy and Ann for sure. Her hair was long and tied into a ponytail held in place by a rolled up checkered bandana. Even their ball caps were the same. They looked alike in many ways, except for one glaring feature. Woody’s wife had only one tooth visible in her mouth and it was right there in the front. As hard as I tried, I could hardly stop myself from staring as they sat down next to me. Woody told me that his wife came down with him to help with some “make good” wood deliveries. He explained that he sold firewood by the cord, but since his truck only held about three-quarters of a cord, each delivery was about a quarter short of wood. He would then have to make several trips to deliver the remaining wood to his waiting customers. When I asked him why he didn’t just sell by the load instead of the cord, he told me that he just couldn’t make any money by selling in smaller quantities. I was astounded by the logic of his answer.

Our relationship continued for almost a year. During that time, I can honestly say I was amused, informed and genuinely entertained by his stories. Maybe I should include the characters Short Cord and Fang in one of my own short stories.

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War Council

The diner itself probably dated from the mid-fifties or sixties and had not seen many upgrades since then. The same could be said for the assortment of employees and customers in attendance. Looking in from the sidewalk, through the foggy windows with the specials of the day that were written boldly in washable paint, it looked like an everyday business that was doing a steady trade.

I pushed open the outer metal door and then an inner wood door, passing through what served as a transition zone – in the winter to keep the warmth in and during the summer to keep the heat out. There was one seat left at the far end of the counter, closest to the restrooms and payphones. Seated at the counter and facing the kitchen with the food pass through and shelf, I could watch as the cook moved back and forth over his grill and griddle.  This seating position is not optimal for many reasons, not the least of which is that you cannot see what is happening behind you or the people coming in the door. Besides the long counter and seats, there were several booths clad in faded red vinyl with a variety of odd shaped patches and repairs evident. Seemingly, out of character, a single large round table with seating for eight was positioned in the far corner from where I sat.

Sitting at the counter with a steaming cup of black coffee that immediately appeared in front of me, I thought, what could possibly be better on a bitter bone-chilling winter day. I read through the single sheet, two-sided menu, all text and no pictures – pretty much standard grill and fry food offerings. When the waitress reappeared with her order pad, out of habit and in deference to my paranoia of the first meals in new eateries, I asked for two eggs over easy, ham steak, hash browns, and wheat toast. I thought this was safe, yet still a hearty meal for a hungry man.

While I waited for the cook to put together my breakfast, I glanced down towards the round table and started to take in the five men that were seated there. They were deep in conversation over cups of coffee and remnant dishes from recent meals. Above them hung a cloud of blue-gray smoke just barely moving in the draft of the heater vent. The indistinct murmur of their voices increased in volume when the laughter started. Now, I was wishing I had sat at the other end of the counter in close proximity to the table. My curiosity was insatiable under most conditions and these people were definitely piquing my interest. Looking over my shoulder, I could see that two of the booths were occupied, one with a man and woman sitting on one side of the booth and the other by what appeared to be three businessmen, judging by their suits and ties. The round table discussions continued and  my imagination was starting to go into overdrive about that group.

My breakfast arrived with a fresh refill of coffee, water, and a selection of packaged jellies for the toast. The waitress’ name was Earla, according to her name tag. I offered my thanks and then before I realized what I was doing, I blurted out, “What is the story with the round table and those men? They seem to be having a fine time.”

“Honey,” Earla replied, “That table has been there for over thirty-five years. Over time, some of the men have passed on and new ones have joined. Recently, the group has consisted of about twelve to fifteen men. We are open from five in the morning until midnight every day of the year. The guys come and go as they please, but there are usually at least two or three in residence at any given time and often the table will fill with extra chairs drawn near.”

“Maybe I’ll sit in next time and get to know them. They seem to be having a great time.” I said.

“Oh, Honey, you do not want to do that. It is a reserved table and membership, if you can call it that, is by invitation only.” Earla replied with a smile. “Besides, that group is called the ‘War Council’. None of us really understands all that goes on with that table or the agendas they talk and argue about.”

As I wiped the remaining egg yolk off the plate with the last piece of toast, I was filled with not just curiosity but a burning need to learn more. War Council, huh?


If you enjoyed the beginning of this story, please click the like button and follow this blog. Feel free to leave a comment. I’ll post the next chapter really soon. I hope you enjoy the journey!

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Writing With Style!

“I’ll call for pen and ink and write my mind” ~ William Shakespeare

You may have deduced from the banner of this blog that I love fountain pens. Well, you would be right on the mark. At one time, I owned several hundred fountain pens of every description, pens from the 1920s and 1930s to commemorative collector’s edition recently issued. Not only do I collect fountain pens, I actually use them on a daily basis. It started when I was young and loved playing with my grandpa’s fountain pens and ink while seated at his enormous oak roll top desk. In school, we used pencils and then ball point pens but I do remember having some Sheaffer’s “school” fountain pens in high school. Writing with a fountain pen and ink has provided me with great pleasure over the years, from journals to letters to pen pals and even handwritten drafts of stories and articles. I am in good and plentiful company with my hobby; the Fountain Pen Network  has almost ninety thousand members with nearly two thousand regularly on-line at any given time. A worldwide following and a gold mine of interesting penpals.

When you are really into using the items that you collect, you also need to have all the peripheral stuff that goes with those pens. This stuff is consists of display cases, inks, papers, repair tools and cleaning supplies. Here is where the hobby of collecting starts to rub with the reality of the living space. We live full-time in our RV. A thirty-two foot long and eight foot wide motorhome yields about two hundred and fifty square feet of living space, excluding the engine compartment. The point is that there is only so much storage space and not very much is available for all that pen related stuff I mentioned before. What fit nicely into a sixteen hundred square foot home is not easily absorbed in a tiny house on wheels. I do have my own dedicated cabinet just for pen related things.

Hobbies often turn into businesses and some can be quite profitable. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case when you need to liquidate a collection of pens and do it quickly. It took me over a year to sell most of my pen collection. Most went to other collectors for fair market prices – usually well below what I paid for them several years ago. Internet sites like e-Bay and the Fountain Pen Network were great places to advertise my pens. Wrapping and packing pens for mailing along with trips to the post office became daily activities as did the repairing, cleaning and polishing of pens. Writing samples were made and scanned to post in the ads. Karen took incredible photos of the pens and helped with the posting of ads. One by one, the pens sold and were shipped out. PayPal was the banking solution during this time.

Today, I still have the favorite pens that I use regularly, a few bottles of ink and some really nice stationary and envelopes. My love of words spills over to the hand written word when I write letters to my friends, make a journal entry or sign a document. If you would like to receive a hand written note from me, just let me know. My mailing address is on this blog. Please write me a note!

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A Gift For Words

One of the most important blessings in my life has been my love of reading. My parents, grandparents and teachers taught me from an early age to not just enjoy books but to also really like to read. So many Christmases and birthdays involved books as gifts. Libraries and bookstores became my favorite hangouts. Later in life, coffee shops replaced the libraries. I brought my book or Nook to read and my laptop to write with. Yes, I have spent an inordinate amount of time reading over the years. That is what you do when you are passionate about something.

As far as traditional books are concerned, at one time my home hosted a library way out of proportion to the space available. Picture stacks of books serving as end tables and walls filled with cinder block and wood plank bookshelves. This was before I became domesticated and a husband.  When we moved from a house to full-time RVing, my wife, Karen, and I donated all those books to libraries, thrift stores, and friends. We now use electronic devices to store our reads and have started visiting the library more often.

I have been asked many times about my favorite genre of book to read. My answer is most often – just about anything. Seriously, I read the cereal boxes as I eat breakfast and I read my Bible every day. That is a pretty good range.  In fiction, I love a good thriller or mystery. Biographies and history are in my non-fiction shortlist. Science fiction is about the only genre that I am not fond of and yet, I have been known to read a book or two from time to time. The computer allows for a whole new range of reading materials shelved on blogs and websites of all kinds. Don’t even get me started on all the blog and website reading that I do each day.

My love of reading has evolved into a passion for words. I am fascinated by the English language and how our words have evolved and all the nuances of their usage. I am not a grammar expert, not by a long stretch of the imagination, but even that intrigues me.

The love of reading has also enabled me to write. From a very early age, I loved to write letters to my grandparents who lived out of state from me. Nowadays, my correspondence consists of handwritten letters to a few pen pals around the world and e-mails to on-line friends. In school, I actually liked the essay questions on tests and had a hard time limiting myself to the space or words allowed. In college, the creative writing bug bit me hard and deep. My spare time was spent writing short stories and articles, the bulk of which never saw the light of day let alone a public forum. I have started and stopped writing many times over the years, but today it feels like a fresh new start in my creative process. We’ll see where it leads.

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