Late Adopter Chronicles: the Kakuno fountain pen by Pilot

Best fountain pen on a budget, even with its (his?!) weird anthropomo branding. 

Wow, the Kakuno with fine nib totally outperforms my longtime go-to fountain pen, the Lamy Safari with extrafine nib—for a third of the price. I got mine for the stunning price of 1200 yen, but it can be had in the US for about that much ($10-12 on Amazon, for instance). Writes smooth to give a generally crisp line of ink. Just wish the cap had a clip on it to secure the Kakuno to pants or backpack pockets.
Kakuno fountain pen on a Baron Fig Apprentice notebook
The winking smiley face on the nib may add some playfulness to the pen for some, but I don’t like the idea of writing with ink coming out of the top of someone’s head.
information sheet accompanying the pen

Prepping for The Muse & The Marketplace 2015

I am so ready for this weekend, and I am psyched to be helping GrubStreet get ready for a weekend of extraordinary literary energy at The Muse and The Marketplace 2015! It’s been wonderful working with GrubStreet staff and fellow volunteers on some of the behind-the-scenes operations.

If you’re attending this conference on craft and publishing, I may have handled your mini-program/badge, amid the piles of them here, which we’ve been painstakingly yet lovingly attached color-coded lanyards to…

Writers Need Mission Statements Too—Lessons from The Muse and The Marketplace 2014

muse2014posterPushing us to take a hard look at the pursuit of writing as a career, the conference session “The Strategic Writer” provided some realistic, practical perspective for writers in any stage of their development. Led by literary agent Eve Bridburg, the session took us through a framework for approaching writing with clearer purpose and direction, ultimately allowing us to find the viable paths and then select the best ones—reminds me of the quote from Émile-Auguste Chartier shared in Do More Great Work, “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one you’ve got.”

Two major components of the framework are

  • Define Your Mission: Why do you write? What do you seek to achieve? What impact should your work have?


  • Define Success: Qualitatively and quantitatively describe how you’ll know you’re achieving the mission. In doing so, think about what gives enriches your life and you energy; don’t set a target that doesn’t resonate with you (e.g. having 2,000 followers on Twitter when you hate tweeting). For example, if knowing you’ve connected with readers helps sustain your spirits and work, make sure you have at least one way to hear from them that works for you; as one attendee said, a handful of positive emails can actually be powerful indicator that you’ve achieved or are on your way to achieving your mission of sharing valuable perspectives.

These points Eve discussed immediately reminded me of concepts from the invaluable books Made to Stick and Switch, especially

  • the core: clearly capture and convey the essence of your idea


  • point to the destination: have a picture of what the near future looks like if your goal is achieved.

The session also resonated with points made in Kevin Starr’s PopTech talk “Lasting Impact” which I require all of my Intro to Environmental Science students watch and apply. Clarity of mission can make all the difference.

Kevin Starr: Lasting Impact from PopTech on Vimeo.

The Hippocratic Oath of Writing and Other Perspectives from Steve Almond

From This Won't Take But a Minute, HoneyEver since Harvard Bookstore started printing it, I’d been meaning to read Steve Almond’s chapbook/mini-book This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey, and a few years later (after acquiring a copy from Steve Almond himself for a not unreasonable price paid in cash), I finally did. It’s a very readable, compact collection of flash fiction and views on writing, with the latter severely grabbing my attention with pithy, punchy perspectives. Though often stated with an air of certainty, authority or almost sarcastic sagacity, there’s almost a challenge implicit (then finally explicit) in these perspectives/pieces of advice—a dare to one up what Steve Almond stated, and the consideration or even debate that this work may provoke can be valuable to a variety of writers and readers.

Here’s one idea I wound up with after the chapbook ran its course.

Steve Almond’s “Hippocratic Oath of Writing” (shown below) led me to consider a potential Hippocratic Oath of Teaching: Never confuse the student, in the end. I think learning involves a degree of confusion, of exposing and messing with knowledge gaps, to borrow from Made to Stick. But confusion in the service of understanding. By the end of a topic discussion, semester, college, whatever, a student should not leave confused about an essential truth their teachers/mentors/facilitators have been entrusted with guiding them to. For those of us in education, Never confuse the student, in the end, that is a stupendous charge, and while we can’t ever fully ensure that, it’s an imperative that is essential, always posing the critical question to us as we’re trying to explain something: could this be clearer?

Looks like you can still get this book from the Harvard Bookstore, but if you can get one from Steve Almond himself, that will make for a much more memorable experience.

NaNoWriMo kicks off today!

NaNo Poster2.47

It’s now National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)! Although I won’t be taking part this year (to preserve the quality of other projects and the mental energy they need—though admittedly, frenetically writing a novel could be highly invigorating and re-sanitizing…), I am once again excited to find out what happens and am generally thrilled about the very idea of writing an entire novel in 30 days in the company of other literary creatives; it’s invigorating to know there’s a chunk of time proclaimed for a collective challenge to craft substantial fiction. And there’s so much great stuff on, like listings of local events, fun posters and ways to get encouragement from fellow novelists.

Good luck to all you November novel writers out there!