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Guest blogger Janet Salmons is an online professor, scholar, and writer about research and collaboration in the digital world -- with a collection of fountain pens close at hand.

Guest blogger Janet Salmons

You carry your groceries in a canvas bag, and your water in a re-usable bottle. You use compact fluorescent bulbs and dutifully separate paper and glass from trash for the recycling pick-up. But what is that in your pocket? A disposable pen? Why throw away the entire pen, when you could refill the ink?

The most common answer, I would guess, is that disposable pens are inexpensive. You are not worried about losing them because the replacement cost is low. Indeed, they are freely given away as advertising for businesses or hotels. It is hard to attend a conference or meeting without finding one or two of them have hitchhiked a ride in your tote bag. But like most disposable items, there are costs, even if not reflected in the purchase price. In the US alone, at least 1.6 billion pens are thrown away each year. While some pens do get recycled, or donated to organizations like the TerraCycle Writing Instrument Brigades, the majority of these disposable pens are simply contributing to growing landfills.

Wouldn't it be better to consider a refillable pen that you can continue to use for years? Like your favorite wooden spoon that conjures up pots of soup from dinners past, or the hand trowel you reach for every spring to plant the first flowers, your pens will become your trusted go-to tools. Pen manufacturers have created refillable roller ball, ballpoint, gel and fountain pens at prices that are competitive with throw-away models, and many of these new pen models even get extra points for being made from recycled material!


March 7, 2014 - Posted by Elaine to Posts by Guests

Guest blogger Janet Salmons is an online professor, scholar, and writer about research and collaboration in the digital world -- with a collection of fountain pens close at hand.

Guest blogger Janet Salmons

Information overload is everyone's complaint now that text messages and emails are inescapable, following you from computer to tablet to the smartphone in your pocket. How can you break through the inbox and catch someone's attention when you want to convey a meaningful message? With a hand-written note, of course!

As Philip Hensher observed in The Missing Link: The Lost Art of Handwriting, "handwriting is what registers our individuality... it has been seen as the unknowing key to our souls and our innermost nature" (p. 17). When the note is scripted with a fountain pen, you have the chance to personalize it with your favorite color, and in wispy fine or boldly broad strokes to create a signature that is uniquely your own.

The same principle applies when communicating with yourself: while the keyboard may work fine for the left-brain workday writing, when recording thoughts, reflections or ideas the pen seems to release the right-brain's creativity. Or, you may just enjoy the sense of a pen in your hand -- even when the task is mundane. Luckily we don't have to choose between whether we type or script.

If you are thinking about tiptoeing into the world of fountain pens for the first time, or you like the possibility of owning several with different inks or nibs, you will be glad to know that modestly priced pens do not require you to sacrifice quality. Whether you are contemplating a love letter, soul-revealing memoir or a grocery list, what fountain pen might you choose?



John Skoyles writes the column "Pen and Ink" and is a professor at Emerson College, a poet, and author of the memoir, Secret Frequencies: A New York Education. Find out more about John and his work at www.johnskoyles.net.



For the last six months I’ve been writing this bi-weekly column, and I think it’s time to put down the quill before the ink runs out. So this will be my final piece, or you can think of it this way: the rest of these entries will be written in invisible ink…
October 11, 2012 - Posted by David to Posts by Guests

John Skoyles writes the column "Pen and Ink" and is a professor at Emerson College, a poet, and author of the memoir, Secret Frequencies: A New York Education. Find out more about John and his work at www.johnskoyles.net.

When I was in college, I enrolled in a painting class taught by an eccentric Eastern European artist named Palko Lukacs. He had a heavy accent and smoked a pipe. I recall one of his self-portraits: an empty armchair with a cloud of smoke above it.

He set up bouquets and fruit platters in the front of the classroom and brought in live models.
September 27, 2012 - Posted by David to Posts by Guests

John Skoyles writes the column "Pen and Ink" and is a professor at Emerson College, a poet, and author of the memoir, Secret Frequencies: A New York Education. Find out more about John and his work at www.johnskoyles.net.

A few years ago, I was reading a literary magazine, The American Poetry Review, that profiled my friend, Chris. The piece featured a photograph of his home office, which he said housed his collection of fountain pens. I hadn’t known of this interest on his part, and immediately sent him an email. He replied that he became hooked on the hobby under the influence of his college teacher, Philip Levine, a Pulitzer Prize winner and owner of hundreds of fountain pens that he frequently gave away.

Chris and I began exchanging emails on the subject and soon we were trading pens. I have on my desk an Omas 360 and a Pelikan M1000 I got from him. He said he traded pens with other students of Levine, and he named several writers I knew. He had also presented his own students with pens. Some were immediately taken with the gift; others indifferent.