We’re always up for a little office design inspiration! Check out our friend Ana Reinert’s Well-Appointed Desk Pinterest board, and shop our favorite colorful must-have, Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, datebooks and accessories »
Just for kicks, why not dress up in your collection of Rhodia Notebooks? Anyone daring enough to try, please send us a picture, and we’ll feature you right here on our blog. Happy (almost) Halloween everyone! Shop Rhodia Notepads »
And if you’d love a coupon, check out our #TravelingRhodia call for entries »
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November. The entire purpose of this fun, funky non-profit project is to encourage people to write a draft of a novel—50,000 words—between November 1 and November 30. It costs nothing to sign up at http://nanowrimo.org/ and roughly a half-million people on all continents (including Antarctica!) are expected to take part this year. The goals are enthusiasm, determination and a deadline—not gorgeous prose—but NaNoWriMo is responsible for germinating bestsellers Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. We turned to a NaNoWriMo veteran, Yu-Han Chao, for her best advice on tackling a novel-in-a-month.
1. Start with a title or opening lines: Sometimes a title or opening line comes to you; imagine the story that would go along with it.
2. Read a book, magazine, or newspaper: There’s probably a good story in there, and if not, ask “what if?” about something or someone so it becomes a good story.
3. Character: Visualize a character, then imagine the worst thing possible happening to your character.
4. Passion: Write about what you are excited or passionate about.
5. Steal: Rewrite another plot/story, but avoid clichés.
2. Develop Your Character, Central Conflict, & Setting
1. Develop your characters into round, not flat ones, by asking yourself questions about them: What does my character look like? What is my character’s background and psychology?
2. Decide on the central conflict of the story: Main Character + Goal + Opposition = Conflict. The main character wants something, the opposition thwarts your character’s plans and raises the stakes, and this allows your story to rise to a climax.
3. Decide on the setting: When and where. Jot down some notes about important settings, and later work these skillfully into action and dialogue (avoid boring, clunky paragraphs describing nothing but landscape).
Why outline in the first place? It saves time, something you can’t afford to waste during NaNoWriMo. Making plans ahead of time can be hard work, but it will save you the major writer’s block and possible inconsistency that may result from deciding on these things WHILE trying to write your novel. Not to mention, if something sounds like a bad idea, you can fix it right away in the outline, and not everywhere in a 100k word draft.
So plan and plot ahead. Try Aristotle’s three act structure–it’s old, but it works.
Act I. The Beginning: Present your world, establish the tone of the novel, introduce your main character & opposition, and have some kind of disturbance/conflict happen that pushes your main character across the first threshold.
Act II. The Middle: Confrontations happen, relationships deepen. A second threshold leads your story inevitably towards the climax.
Act III. The End: After that long awaited climax, pick up broken pieces and tie up loose ends for closure.
4. Maximize Word Count
Since writing an outline for your novel helps at the macro level, try it at the micro level as well: spend five minutes at the beginning of each writing session deciding and summarizing in a few sentences what will happen in the scene you’re about to write.
Basically, plan what you will write, then write it.
If you still feel stuck, read something awesome, something you love, something similar to the novel you’re writing, for inspiration. If you’re genuinely stuck, there are two common reasons:
1. There is something wrong with your plot/scene/character/story.
This is difficult to admit to yourself, but deep down in your gut you know that something in your novel or story isn’t working, and that’s why you’re resisting. Try to diagnose what is dragging you down, fix it (which may be hard work, but so worth it), and write on!
2. You are lazy. (We all are sometimes!)
Try forcing yourself to sit down and write for five minutes—tell yourself to just try it for five minutes—and often that’s all you need to get started.
Yes, you are brilliant and talented, but your first draft is nowhere close to its full potential. Before sending your completed NaNoWriMo draft to a beta reader or agent or publisher, read through it and fix things that need fixing, ideally several times. This may take months or even years, but you’ll be glad you did.
7. Know the Industry
Please do not self publish or query an agent until you’ve not only finished your novel, but made it as good as it can be. At that point, you’ll need to research and make decisions about publishing (self or traditional?) and querying agents. But you can worry about all that later—for now, plan a little before you write, have fun, and happy noveling!
Meet the Writer: Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, Yu-Han (Eugenia) Chao received her MFA in fiction from Penn State and teaches a novel writing class at The University of California, Merced. She made a yearly event of NaNoWriMo until she had a baby and no longer had time. Her stories have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Zyzzyva, and other venues. The Backwaters Press and Dancing Girl Press published her poetry books and chapbooks. Her website is www.yuhanchao.com.
Dogfish Head calls their brews “analog beers for the digital age”. Nowadays, when there’s an app for everything, even recording your impressions of a beer or a style you want to try brewing, the Moleskine Beer Journal is a fun and rather unique way to record all things related to beer, much like Dogfish Head’s fine ales.
I wanted to put this journal, one of Moleskine’s Passion Journals, through the paces to see how it held up. Fortunately, the perfect event was just around the corner on the calendar: the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado – the superbowl of beer festivals, known to sell out in a half-hour or less. The festival features more the 3,100 different beers from 624 breweries. While there are beer festivals that put out more volume (Oktoberfest in Munich), few can match the GABF for sheer variety.
Indeed, the variety of beer presents a great challenge for a beer nerd like me. The GABF serves beer a single ounce at a time. This means that over the course of an evening you can easily sample dozens of beers. For me the question is: with such a number of beer styles from across the country, how do I ever keep track and remember what I liked the next day? Enter the Moleskine Beer journal.
The categories on the tasting pages are similar to the judging score sheets used by the American Homebrewer’s Association for judging beer competitions. There are spaces on the tasting pages for noting style, colour, appearance, nose, taste and overall opinion. But the tasting sheet also includes places to mark the ABV, information about the brewery, how it was served (draft, bottle), where & when you tasted the beer and what you think the most appropriate glass would be. One of my favorite features is a sort of “taste wheel” where you can quickly mark the intensities of common flavor elements.
At first using the journal was a little frustrating – entering the floor of the GABF is like releasing a kid into a candy store with a blank check. You want to try everything. Right. Now. It was hard to take my beer, get out the journal, sniff it, write, hold it up the light, write, taste it, write and then record my overall thoughts. Then I realized that this was the journal doing exactly what I ultimately wanted it to do: slow me down and make me truly consider and really enjoy what I was drinking. By the end of the first session I had tried 35 one-ounce samples (or the rough equivalent of three bottles of beer). What’s more, I had a good record of what I liked and would buy if I saw it in the store or on the route of some road-trip. And the next morning? I woke up without a hangover, ready to return for GABF’s Saturday session.
This Moleskine Beer Journal also has tabs for tracking beers in your “cellar”, beer recipes, brewpubs and bars you visit and homebrewing. I haven’t yet had a chance to try out the homebrewing or cooking recipes, but I did receive the beer journal right before a whirlwind trip to the French Quarter in the Big Easy. They had a fun little place called Crescent City Brewpub. If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, I can tell you what beers you should zero in on at this pub.
Finally it was time to take the cellar tab for a spin. While most beers are best when tried fresh, certain high alcohol and sour beers, much like a good wine, benefit from a few months of aging. Trying the cellar tab meant I had to delve into my special beer collection (oh the things I must do to write a blog!). Since it was October I pulled out the Smashed Pumpkin from Shipyard Brewing from my home state o’ Maine. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten when I bought the bottle, so that space remained blank but I was still able to record the pumpkin, clove and nutmeg smells in the full-bodied brew and give it a 4 of 5 stars.
There are still many pages left to fill in this beer journal. Someday I may ditch my 2006 cell phone and get a smartphone with beer apps galore but, for now, I will deeply enjoy being analog in a digital age. Isn’t that what following your passion is really all about? Cheers and happy sampling.
Meet the Writer : Knud Hermansen is an engineer, marathoner, beer aficionado and five-time volunteer at the Great American Beer Festival. Originally from the great state of Maine, you can usually find him racing along one of the many trails around Boulder, trying his hand at a vegetarian recipe, or working to make your utility companies run a little greener.
Something else we love from Gandhi? This stunning Paperblanks Embellished Gandhi Manuscript Wrap Journal. – Makes a wonderful gift for aspiring masters!
Happy Weekend from the European Paper Company.
These new arrivals from Paperblanks are sure to get your creative mojo going. Enjoy the beautiful old world style, sewn binding, embellished manuscript cover, elegant magnetic wrap closure, and fountain pen loving paper with the musings of Virginia Woolf, Mahatma Gandhi, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Pssst – these stunning wrap journals make beautiful gifts for writers, artists, geniuses, and scholars. Shop all Paperblanks Embellished Wrap Journals »
It’s October, finally. The swarm of back to school has abated—and perhaps made us a little nostalgic for long ago days of reading lists—and schedules are beginning to settle back into patterns. The weather is turning cooler, and rain pelts the window. In all, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a cup of tea (or something stronger) and a favorite book. It’s also National Reading Group Month and, we gotta say, sharing the joys of a great book with dear friends is almost enough to forgive the end of Daylight Savings Time.
Are you in a book club already? If not, why? Granted, sometimes book clubs get pegged as wine-sloshing gossip groups—we’ve gone to some like that, and they’re great fun—but they don’t have to be. Book clubs come in every style, from alumni reading groups led by professors, to re-reading children and young adult fiction from an adult perspective, from avant-garde sci fi to military history or memoirs. Just like there’s a book or genre for anyone, there’s also a book club.
Getting in to one—now, there’s the rub. If you’re looking for low initial commitment, we recommend checking out your local independent bookstore or public library. They often host public book clubs, providing the books in bulk (library) or even at a discount (bookstore). There’s seldom a need to RSVP or register; just slip into a chair to learn about and discuss Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone or Barbara Kingsolver’s latest. (See our list of some favorite indie bookstores and their reading groups below).
Other places to try would be that clearinghouse of social groups, meetup.com, or asking around at your office, gym, place of worship or favorite coffee shop. Someone has probably had this great collective reading impulse already, and it’s fairly simple to join a book club that’s already up and functioning; however, you’ll probably have to RSVP, perhaps provide snacks or take a turn leading, and it’s sometimes more difficult to make schedules align.
And if you’ve struck out at the coffee shop and the library? We suggest starting your own book club. It takes a little organization, but there’s also a lot more liberty in terms of location, reading specific genres, and so forth. Before you get started, take a few minutes and ponder what you want from your book club: do you want inciting commentary and scholarly contextualization or a reason to catch up over delicious desserts (or something in between)? To read the classics you only Cliff-noted in college or the fluffy summer fiction you missed? Do you want to read the collected works of one author? To reunite with old friends or get to know the neighbors better? Where will you meet, will you take turns leading and hosting with other members, and how large do you want the group to be (for meeting in a home or quiet cafe, 6-12 tends to be an ideal size)? Decide if you want refreshments and if they’ll be themed, homemade delectables, or simple cheese and crackers.
When you have a decent idea of what you want in terms of tone and theme, start floating it around your own social group and see who’s interested. Ask everyone to bring 2-3 book suggestions to a first, organizational meeting. Set some ground rules about how often (usually once a month) you’ll meet, where, and for how long. Discuss hosting and leading responsibilities as well. Ironing out a schedule can easily be the most difficult part of this process. Finally, discuss book suggestions and see if a clear favorite emerges for the next text. If not, take a vote, take turns or even toss them in a hat and draw the first few months’ of readings.
Next thing you know, you’ll be deep into plot points, authorial perspectives and crudités. You’ll be getting to know your books—and friends—more deeply, and what can better than that on a chilly autumnal evening?
To get off to the right start, you can shop book club tools that will keep you inspired, in-sync with your club, and organized. Try scheduling your chapters by due date in a new 2014 datebook. We’d recommend the planner+notes format - dates on the left, your thoughts of the book on the right. If you’d like to keep notes in an exclusive journal, you’ll love Paperblanks journals, with embellished manuscript covers from great authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and other muses. If you’re into more of a polished/professional notebook, we’d recommend the Rhodia Webnotebook, Moleskine Classics, or the Blackwing Luxury Notebook. Of course, to write all your notes, you’ll love the Blackwing pencils, the preferred world-famous pencil of writers for it’s all around grace, smooth lead, and replaceable erasers. When you’re all wrapped up with your book, check out the unique format of the Moleskine Book Journal, an organized way to record your thoughts for an overall book review, with step by step prompts to draw the most out of your experience. To wrap it all up, carry your book club tool kit to your hip book club meetings in this uber-cool Moleskine Messenger Bag. With the right products, every page turn will bring your well-read adventures in your book club to life!
Here are some of our favorite indie bookstores (you can tell we spend more time in the West: what are your favorite East Coast and Southern bookshops?) and the reading groups they support:
Pasadena, CA: Vroman’s Bookstore
San Francisco, CA: Books, Inc.
Boulder, CO: Boulder Bookstore
Denver, CO: Tattered Cover
Washington, DC: Politics & Prose
Seattle, WA: Elliot Bay Books
Tell us: what is your book club currently reading?
Graduating to the corner office? Preparing for the big pitch? Celebrate with a Palomino Blackwing Luxury Folio Cover and Notebook. This embossed leather-like folio shouts success, in a very understated and classy way. Enthralled, we’ve carried the Large Luxury Folio Cover (7.5 x 10) for a while and now we’re excited to introduce its little brother, the Medium Luxury Folio Cover at 5 x 8.25 inches. You know Palomino Blackwing for their long tradition of exceptional pencils, including the original 602: expand your brand awareness here, and join the elite with these elegant folios, perfectly adapted for the boardroom. Shop the Blackwing Luxury Folio Cover and Notebook »
We just fell upon a rather fitting article on the top 5 notebooks (of the world?!) from Lifehacker.com. We thought it was quite serendipitous that 5 out of 5 of their coveted notebooks are best sellers of ours. Here are a few gems from the article we’d like to highlight :
A little story about an inventive, Swedish-based company who’s dedication to their customers consistently delivers the latest and greatest in high-quality notebooks to support your lifestyle.
The world is changing all around us, and technology has injected itself into just about every facet of our lives. There really is no denying it; just take a moment to look around you right now. People are interacting more and more not only with one another through technology but with technology itself.
Some people think, “What is this world coming to?” with conversations going from in-depth, face-to-face dialogue to an abbreviated texts that takes a mere 20 seconds to compose. There’s an App for just about everything, from the ever popular Candy Crush (which has users’ fingers tied up for hours throughout the day) to Apps that allow users to open and close their garage door from virtually anywhere at the touch of a button on their smart phone. Smart Phone in hand and just about anything is possible.
With all of the latest development in technology and all the convenience it has to offer it got the creative folks at Whitelines thinking. As our lives become more and more entwined and dependent on the convenience of technology why not incorporate this useful feature into all that we do with our notebooks. Whitelines Link does just that.
Whitelines Link takes the accessibility and speed of modern technology and combines it with the classic medium of pen and paper. The latest and greatest product from the innovative company was released early this year and quickly became some of the best-selling notebooks from the company of all time.
Why all the hype with the line? Can’t a picture on your phone simply do the same thing? The cool thing about Whitelines Link is that the App (available for free in the App Store) will recognize, capture and enhance your writing, dropping out the background and keeping only what you have created on the page. Simply open the App on your phone, hover the phone over a Link notebook page, and the App will automatically capture the image- no centering, focusing or click of a virtual button necessary. Once the notes are digitalized, your options are essentially endless.
You can choose to simply store your treasured works in a cloud, which not only backs up all of your important documents should you misplace your favorite notebook at the most inopportune time, but also condenses the volumes of writings you have into a virtual filing cabinet you can have with you at all times with the touch of the button. Have a great idea and just happen to bump into a colleague or potential client without your notebook? Simply pull up your document, explain the concept and attach it to an email to follow up. Horrible at organizing your notes? File them all away and utilize Evernote to allow you to search your database of notesby specific key words and subjects.
Not only does Whitelines Link enable you to have all of your notebooks at the touch of a button, but it also allows for easy sharing. You can push notes to your Dropbox or Evernote account or simply attach the creation to an email and send away. Think of the possibilities this new technology provides. Still a fan of the personal touch of a handwritten letter? Write it out and Link it to your family and friends. Want to digitalize your sketches to share? Classmate miss a 4-pager note day? Whitelines Link makes it easy, fast and convenient to share and connect with others.
I’m going to be the first to admit it; I’m an avid list taker. There is something so comforting about creating lists and having the ability to check them off. I’ve tried Apps that were created for you to generate and organize lists so that you have them with you at all times, but there is absolutely nothing that will provide me with the same gratification as a pen and piece of paper. Once something is physically written down on a piece of paper, you can do it and cross it off or it just sits there; you can not delete it with the backspace key. And don’t get me started with the satisfaction of that pen sliding across the page creating a clean, long line through your handwriting. With Whitelines Link I can designate a page for each list that I have and always have the most up-to-date list stored. So if I just “happen” to stumble into a Sephora, I’ve got a list of the products I’m currently lusting after at the touch of a button. When the BF mentions some item he’s thinking about buying that I’ve never heard of before, I can jot it down, Link it, and stash the notebook away somewhere safe. When his birthday rolls around, take a guess at who receives The-Best-Girlfriend-of-The-Year award. And from time to time, I’ll pull out my Link, draw a goofy picture (though, let’s be serious, I have not one artistic bone in this body when it comes to drawing) and scribble something clever down to send to a friend to brighten their day.
I’m a child of the 80s (by 10 days) so I am ALL for technology. I love the ability to shoot the rental units a quick text letting them know I did in fact make it to my destination without a bear mauling my vehicle on the way. I enjoy and (embarrassingly) have come to expect speedy and convenient connectivity with those around me. But there are things that simply cannot be conveyed through a 140 character tweet or the confines of typed out emails. Apart from almost completely taking the personal aspect out communication, there are things that simply cannot be put into characters.
Whitelines Link is the new notebook of now. Break free from the confines of Times New Roman. Stay prepared and keep your writings safe and accessible. Embrace technology, but also embrace your creativity.
“Putting pen to paper lights more fire than matches ever will.” – Malcolm Forbes
Meet the Writer:
An avid list-maker and moderate risk taker, Kaylee Bergstrom handles all of the logistics for Whitelines North America and, having never heard of Whitelines prior to her current position, has become hooked on the unique design of the notebooks. Rarely spotted without a good tube of mascara, an A5 or pocket notebook and her Jack Russell / Shih Tzu puppy Russell, Kaylee enjoys spending her free time with friends and family, getting hooked on a good book series or catching a mind-bending thriller.
“I never travel without my notebook – I always, always take my little black Alwych notebook. And pens. And a map of wherever I’m going. And a torch.” – Michael Palin, travel writer and Monty Python comedian
While fascinating in their own right, Alwych Notebooks are but one chapter in a long and intriguing history of Scottish printers and stationers. On the off chance that you get as excited about history as we do, here’s the background. The company—then Nisbet MacNiven—began in 1770 and moved eight miles into downtown Edinburgh, Scotland in 1788 to expand its wholesale stationery. Almost 60 years later, a pair of Cameron brothers joined the business, changing the name to MacNiven and Cameron in 1845. By 1850, another, younger, Cameron brother invented the Waverley fountain pen nib—named for Sir Walter Scott’s popular novels—with a narrow waist and upturned point. This upturned point, which functioned almost as a ball point, was intended to improve writing smoothness and be less appealing to schoolboys who enjoyed re-purposing sharp-nibbed pens as darts. Whether it was effective at decreasing schoolhouse antics or not, the production of Waverley pens was outsourced until 1900, when MacNiven and Cameron bought their own manufacturing facility in Birmingham, England and set about making fountain pens.
Unfortunately, production of the popular nib and other pens began to falter and by the 1920s, the company began shifting back into paper stationery. The classic Alwych Notebook likely appeared by the early 1930s, contemporaneous with the then-produced Greenback ledgers and Denbigh cash books. While production has changed hands a few more times, and the Birmingham factory closed in 1964, the Alwych All-Weather Notebook has remained the same for over 80 years, even down to the styling.
There’s something very Scottish about this notebook. It’s something about the practical, utilitarian quality, made to last despite the unexpected (or quite expected!) thundershower or soft but drenching smirr. Unfortunately for fountain pen lovers, it’s manufactured for slightly less wet inks. But somehow, that too meshes with this notebook’s persona. It’s meant to be carried along on birding expeditions, archaeological digs, backpacking in rural Romania and South Africa, and to jot down notes while surveying, fishing, gardening, or building high rises in the rain. While it perfectly accompanies a morning cuppa, it loves to be out and about. And what do you know, so do we!