I am the sort of person who collects odd things that catch my fancy. Usually practical, anachronistic things that are ‘obsolete’ by modern standards. I have a collection of several nice hats for example (and I recommend all of you stylish cats out there take a look at Goorin Bros.). Or typewriters–which I also collect and use.
Pens–in particular fountain pens–fall very neatly into this classification and intersects with my pursuit in writing. And so I have a nice little collection of fountain pens and several lovely ink colors.
Neil Gaiman also collects fountain pens. Although Neil Gaiman’s fountain pen collection most certainly dwarfs my own small handful. He uses his fountain pens to write his novels and, more relevant to this post, for book signings. Currently, he is in the midst of his Last Ever Book Signing Tour and is swamping poor unsuspecting bookstores with thousands of people. Most recent stop on this bookstore massacre? The Tattered Cover, right here in Denver.
And so, this Tuesday night I was one of the thousand ticket holders standing in what counted for a line but was more accurately an outline of the Tattered Cover, Neil Gaiman’s latest act of willful imagination in my hands waiting my turn for a signature. Before I went, my wife suggested that I take one of my personal pens and ask if Mr. Gaiman would be kind enough to sign my book with it. The simple brilliance of this suggestion nearly knocked me to the floor. I chose my blue TWSBI Diamond 540. It was a Christmas gift and my first ever fountain pen.
When it was my turn, I brought my books up, along with my oldest son who I’m proud to say was as excited as I was to get his copy of The Graveyard Book signed. I asked if Mr. Gaiman (or Neil, for those of us who are close like that) if he would sign with my pen and he said “Sure.” He looked my pen over, said “Oh, a TWSBI!” and nodded approvingly.
We got our autographs, and my son was so excited he started reading the Graveyard book all over again in the car. When we got home, I showed off my autograph and the Pen Which Neil had Held. Took pictures and sent tweets.
Later, when it was time to do some writing, I took the old and new again pen and examined it. It didn’t look any different. It’s partly transparent too, so I held it up to the light. Aside from the ink swishing around inside, I couldn’t see anything. I took the cap off and looked at the nib. About the same. Maybe the slightest glow? But no. Still normal.
I put the tip down on a sheet of paper and waited to see what would happen. The pen sat there immobile, point down on the blank page. Perhaps I had to give it a little start? I moved the pen in a straight line, then squiggles and spirals and messy scrawls. Nope. Absolutely nothing had changed about my pen. It still required that I do all the work. My faint hope that tactile contact with Neil Gaiman would impart some supernatural properties to my writing instrument–not unlike something which may happen in one of his own stories–was in vain.
It is still a very nice pen. And now it has extra reason to be my favorite. Also, on the plus side, I am enjoying very much his latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My writing will have to continue to be my own, but I can at least find inspiration in good writing.