Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘writing

(Crossposted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian)


Here is this week’s collection of stories about reading and the reading life for this week. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary.

  • I am not sure that tossing in a few books a nice looking room can really be called a library. These seem to be more reading rooms. However, at least in one case, there is a lending program arranged with a publisher (Penguin) for some kind of book lending. Does that make it a library? Maybe. I will let readers decide on this story: “Hotels Add Libraries as Amenity to Keep Guests Inside.” In the end, like much anything else, it is about making a little (or a lot more) extra money. Via The New York Times.
  • This article, “Ebooks v. Cigarettes,” asks us an interesting question: how much do we spend on our books and reading? I will admit I have never really sat down to calculate how much I spend on books, though I can say I borrow a lot from libraries (my academic library where I work as well as my local public library). However, I also buy books, especially things I know libraries might not have, like certain graphic novels, erotica, and other more rare things. I think I may have to try to keep track for a while of what I spend on reading to see how I come out. On an additional note, this is the year I have gotten to use my iPad to read, although I pretty much read free items on it; I don’t buy e-books. The e-books I do read I either get as review copies from NetGalley or Edelweiss, or I borrow from my local public library on Overdrive. I will probably write more on that later. I found the story on Salon.
  • Via Kaizen Reading, an article on “9 Reasons to Keep a Reading Journal.” For folks who would like to keep better track of their reading, this may be a good idea. I think it may work for students and researchers as well. I have kept track of most of what I’ve read in my personal journal, and now I supplement that tracking online. But I have done it as part of my personal journal; I don’t have separate reading notebooks, which is something I have considered. I am not sure I am ready to have more than one notebook. I like having my journal where I can write anything in it from notes to quotes to reading notes. For now, that works for me.
  • Via Kaizen Journaling, here is “How to Keep an Effective Travel Journal.” This is certainly something I would like to do better. I do often write in my personal journal when I travel, though I am not always consistent. I also usually include postcards, ticket stubs, and other small mementos of my journeys, which I attach to pages in the journal to go along with my writing; this is something the blogger suggests.
  • This item is a bit older. Via Fine Books and Collections blog, highlights of the 2012 report on most coveted out-of-print books. I did try to see if (link to their report), who does the list, had an update for this year, but apparently not (at least not as of this writing). What can I say? I always find trivia like that interesting, specially given that Madonna’s Sex book has remained at the top of this list for a decade or so, not bad for a book many derided then and try to forget now. I guess sex always sells.

A little bit of everything this time around. There are some newer items and some things I am now catching up.

Items about books:

  • The Good Vibes blog features a review of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthology Best Bondage Erotica 2012. The review mentions that “a wide variety of bondage styles are showcased, from heavy chains to characters who can be silenced with only a stern gaze. All genders and sexualities are represented, leaving the collection feeling diverse but still focused on erotic bondage.” By the way, the 2013 edition of the book is also out.
  • Another erotica anthology. This one is Say Please, which is a collection of lesbian BDSM erotica. It is edited by Sinclair Smith, and it is reviewed in Kissin Blue Kraken (warning: this blog is an adult content blog, so may be NSFW).
  • Via Yes! Magazine, a review of Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power.
  • Lambda Literary reviews a new history of the gay press. The book is Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Papers in America edited by Tracy Baim. It is one of those books someone publishes on Amazon, so it may be a while before I see it, or the book makes it out into mainstream so to speak. But it does sound interesting.
  • This is a manga series I was not sure whether to pick up or not. To be honest, the whole librarian suddenly becomes some hero or heroine genre seems cheesy (and I don’t mean that in a good way). In fact, I find that stupid The Librarian series of television movies annoying and dumb, like a very poor librarian’s Indiana Jones wannabe,  in spite of the fact a lot of my professional brethren somehow like it. Go figure. Anyhow, this manga seems like it might be entertaining to read. The Manga Critic is reviewing volume 9 of Library Wars  (link to volume 1). Sounds like I need to catch up. It’s a series with “slight goofy premise of librarians becoming a paramilitary force to fight censorship.” Now that sounds better.
  • A Case for Suitable Treatment has a review of Battle Angel Alita: Last Order, Omnibus 1.
  • A discussion of the novel Magic Words and the topic of Jews in the American Wild West at The Prosen People. Here is a bit more on the novel’s author’s work.
  • A different idea: taking Medusa the gorgon and making a sympathetic love story out of her tale. That is what Sasha Summers did in her book Medusa: A Love Story. The book is reviewed at Bending the Bookshelf.
  • A YA steampunk fantasy novel reviewed at Ninja Librarian. The book is Innocent Darkness. I have mentioned before that I am not a big YA reader, but once in a while I am willing to take a chance.
  • Via Bending the Book Shelf, a review of Adventures in Fetishland, which is a BDSM retelling of the Wonderland tale. I do find some retellings or expansions on Wonderland of interest, so we shall see on this one. It is an e-book, so again, not something I may get to right away. The book’s author describes the book’s inspiration sources here.
  • And speaking of Alice in Wonderland retellings, here is Alice in the Country of Hearts  (Link to first volume in the series). The third omnibus edition is reviewed at A Case for Suitable Treatment.
  • The Liquor Snob reviews The Brewmaster’s Table, a book about pairing beer and food. When it comes to liquor and food pairings, most people think wine, so this book may be a way to expand horizons.

Bibliographies and lists:

This post was inspired a bit by this post on “5 Reasons Why You Should Comment on Blogs” from the Journal Addict blog.

I was recently rereading this post, which I had saved in my feed reader’s cue, and I got a moment to ponder on my own practice on how I comment on other people’s blogs. It also made me consider when I choose not to comment on other folks’ blogs. While I would not say that I have a consistent pattern to how I comment, I can say that there are some small informal rules or reasons in how I comment or not on blogs.

For starters, I do not bother commenting on large, famous blogs with tons of traffic. The idea of adding yet another comment on a thread that may already contain hundreds of replies seems a bit futile to me. This goes along with my blogging philosophy in librarianship (and to some extent in my casual and personal blogging too), that if a topic in the profession has been beaten to death by the celebrity librarian bloggers then I don’t see a point in adding a blog post or commenting. This may lead to my next point: I don’t care for drama or less than bright arguments in the blogosphere.

My  four readers may notice that in my blogs I keep politics to a minimum. I may  have started to address some issues of concern recently, but the current climate of misinformation, repression, ignorance, and regressive attitudes mean that I can’t really stay quiet. However, I write about such things in my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian. I never bring such things up in my professional blog, The Gypsy Librarian. By the way, for me, this blog here is more of a commonplace book and a place for half-baked ideas not quite ready for prime time. So, this is where the topic of comments returns: I never really comment on blogs related to politics or religion. In other words, I don’t really comment on blogs that deal in topics not discussed in polite company. People on those blogs are more interested in parroting their agendas, simply spreading talking points from some pundit who likely knows less than they do, and all this regardless of actual facts, evidence, or reasonable argumentation. Such places tend to be examples of the worst in people, and I would rather stay out of such muck.

So I usually comment in smaller blogs where the odds are better that the actual blogger will read the comment. I do like showing some appreciation when a blogger wrote something I found  useful or insightful. If they visit my blogs, it’s nice, but I certainly do not expect it nor feel entitled to such reciprocity. For me, commenting on a blog is about thanking someone for sharing some good writing and maybe responding to something they said if I am so moved.

I guess in the end there’s not much to it for me.

I wrote this draft some time around 2007. It has been sitting in the draft cue of my blog for a while. Recently, I have been thinking a bit again about the topic of handwriting. So, I think this is a good time to share this small reflection with my two readers. Plus it may help me reflect a bit more. As an  update note, my daughter is in 10th grade now.

* * * *

I often tell my Better Half that I may be a member of the last generation that ever learned penmanship. Reading danah boyd’s lament on “my long lost handwriting” made me think of that remark again. In my case, I learned penmanship in school; I am the product of Catholic education (three years with the De La Salle Brothers, and three more with Benedictine monks). Her post takes me back to seventh grade religion class. In that class, not only did I learn the tenets of the religion, but I also learned penmanship formally. True, I had been learning it earlier in school, but not to the formal degree I did starting in seventh grade. I can still remember Brother Cesar’s deep voice and wooden ruler; it was a well-used wooden ruler, which he would use to slap on the desk to get our attention as needed. It was basic drill. We took dictation of questions and answers from the catechism. After some writing, we had to look up as he explained the concept of faith, then we wrote some more. I had to memorize those items as well as other items such as the school song. To this day, I can sing the song on cue and even write it out. I don’t remember as much of the catechism itself, though I do recall the basics.


This brings us to this day. I still write a lot of my drafts by hand. I took the time to write this out before typing it in. I will note that I also keep a written journal. I don’t write on it as often as I would like, but I still write on it enough. Writing by hand is not just an art to me. It helps me reflect and plan in a way that typing just can’t do. As I think about it, I would have to say that writing by hand puts me in a bit of a contemplative mood. I am sure some of it has to do with the discipline I learned back then. But writing by hand has a certain ritualistic element. Even for something as simple as writing a letter or a note. You have to get ready for it. Set your time to do it, and you have to put some effort. It takes practice as well. danah remarks that her wrists hurt when she was trying to write that letter; she does note that she learned to write at one point, but she has not written by hand in a long time. It shows the skill does decay. In my case, my cursive is pretty decent, but it certainly lacks the small extra curves over letters like “c” and “e” that Brother Cesar would insist on. My notebooks back then were immaculate (they had to be, or else my grades would suffer). Handwriting will change over time; people change over time. Today, my journal is a bit less formal, but it is still very legible. Part of the reason that I continue to write drafts by hand, besides the fact it can be relaxing, is to practice the skill.


Handwriting has also been useful in other ways. For one, it enables me to keep good notes. For something as simple as jotting down a title and a call number for a student, good handwriting is useful. Some of my brethren in librarianship, and I won’t name anyone in particular, have terrible handwriting; we could call it chicken scratch. Without a keyboard, they can barely put a note together, and they are very smart, capable people. They are pretty well organized overall; they just can’t write a short note to save themselves. Two, it helps me in writing thank-you notes and other personal messages. I do use e-mail a lot like many people, and I use instant messaging now and then. But those methods lack the warmth and immediacy you can find in a letter or a small personal note. Now, I will grant it has been a while since I have written a full letter. But I still make it a point to send a thank-you note written by hand. It just looks better and conveys your gratitude well.


Finally, I look at my daughter’s handwriting. She is in sixth grade now. She was taught some writing in school, but nothing near the formalized lessons I had. Sure, she can write well enough, but it is leaning into chicken scratch terrain. And it is the result of actual penmanship not being taught anymore. The constant emphasis on testing leaves little room for anything else. When you read her planner, and most of the assignments are TAKS check for math or for reading, you know all she is getting is the stuff for the standardized tests. I will note my daughter can type very well. But I can’t help but wonder, as she gets older, if she will have difficulty in writing something like a small note as time goes on. And then I end up feeling like my generation was the last one to actually learn to write by hand.


I definitely prefer to write notes on paper. I prefer to write drafts on paper before I put words online as much as possible. I like the feel of pen or pencil on paper. I feel that my thoughts flow better, maybe even more gracefully when I put pen on paper. I do find the ritual of writing by hand to be soothing, a bit more relaxing.

Even this prompt, which I am now posting online, was written first on paper. In this case, I jotted down my initial ideas in my personal journal. For me, it’s just the natural thing to do. I first develop and expand my ideas in paper, then I copy them, maybe with some minor editing, onto the online medium. That’s what has worked for me for years. It still works for me today. It is an approach that allows me to reflect and think.

Plus, writing on paper let’s me decide if I really want to publish online or not. It is a small precaution against publishing impulsively online. If it is a journal entry, it may stay in my journal. If it’s just a rough draft written on loose paper, and I deem it not worthy of publication, it is very easy to destroy that rough draft and leave no evidence behind. You can’t say the same thing about online publishing. In the online world, once it’s published, it’s pretty much permanent. So there’s another advantage to paper: in a pinch, it can be destroyed,

And yet paper, as long as some care is taken, can be more permanent and accessible than electronic devices, All it takes is a loss of power, and no more electronic notes. With paper, as long as I have a candle, a working pen or pencil, and paper, I can still write, and I can choose whether to share what I write or not. This idea applies to books as well, but that is another note for another time.

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New Pen Holder

I do some pen collecting. I saw the question–do you collect pens, and how do you collect them–in a blog a while back. I gave it some thought, and I realized that I do collect pens. Now, I do not collect expensive or high end pens. Those are too expensive, and I do have to live on a librarian’s salary.

I like pens that work for me. As I think about it, I collect two kinds of pens. I have a few nice pens that I use as my personal pens, signature pens. Then I have pens I use on a daily basis as my work pens. I use my work pens for more extensive writing, such as writing on my personal journal. Now, I may use one of my nice pens to write in my journal, usually when I am not at home, but overall, I use my daily use pens as my basic writing tool.

I have gradually built a small collection of the personal/signature pens. I keep those in my jewelry box, and I try to rotate their use. Currently, I am favoring my Waterman Harley Davidsons: one is a fountain pen, and the other one is a roller ball with a nice wolves scene on the barrel. The fountain was a lost and found unclaimed item in one of the libraries I used to work at; it was going to be discarded. I claimed it. It is a bit worn, but with new ink cartridges, it has been working well for me. In fact, I’ve used it to write in my journal a few times. It has become a favorite pen. The roller ball was a present from my better half a while back. I do have some nice ballpoints as well, but I do not use them as much.

As for my casual/daily writing, I tend to prefer gel pens or roller balls. Pilot G2’s (like the ones in the photo), ones in different colors, are ones I do like. They have a nice point, thin, the ink is usually smooth, and the color variety is nice too.

So, that’s a bit about the pens I collect and use.

A hat tip to the Goldspot Pens blog, which gave me the inspiration to write this. It was a nice bit of serendipity that Plinky had a prompt asking about stuff I collect too.

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Short addition: The link from Goldspot Pens on “How Do You Collect Pens?” Found via this carnival. Plinky is not very good about placing links in replies.

Here goes another link post of my semi-regular (as in when I get enough clips together to make a post) series of post collecting clips about blogging and writing. My small way of keeping track of things that inspire me or just give me ideas for things to try out in my blogging and writing.

Though I do not blog professionally, or at least with the intention of making money, I always find many of Darren Rowse’s posts to be useful and informative. I always find myself clipping them to look at later for ideas on how to improve my blogging. And who knows, maybe someday, I might make a penny or two from my blogging. In the meantime, hear are some items from ProBlogger blog,

Write to Done is another blog I find useful when it comes to writing advice. From Write to Done,

The folks at Dumb Little Man do more than just blog about writing and blogging. I always find something interesting there. From Dumb Little Man,

  • 10 Hard Truths About Blogging.” A few important reminders that I think, as a blogger, I need to hear once in a while.
  • Five Reasons to Keep a Journal.” Even when I take long breaks from blogging (voluntary or otherwise), I always go back to my personal journal.  And though I do not write in it as often as I would like, I do write in it, and I always know I have it there.


From On Techies,

CW, at Ruminations,

  • Wondering how to increase her professional blogging. I know I am wondering that question right now, up to and even considering whether I want to increase it at all (or decrease it). Some food for thought and useful links.
  • A short exercise I would like to try out sometime. I may even consider using the result for my About page in the blog, which I am considering how to redo. She writes “Life in 100 Words.” Writing it may not be as easy as it sounds.


February 2020
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