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Blog Review: Pocket Blonde

Once in a while, you come across a pen geek – and we use that term with the utmost affection – who is more than just collector, reviewer or aficionado.

We're talking about someone who is all of those and more...a pen explorer who revels in the hunt for obscure new pens, who acts on impulse and curiosity whenever an unusual or untried pen presents itself. Someone who gets us excited about what we'll find the next time we spy a pen tucked away in a shop corner.

That's why we love following Diane at the Pocket Blonde blog, because she is just such a pen geek.

She lives in and writes from New York City, where she is always on the prowl for new pens. Her blog chronicles the finds she makes online and in the various shops she ferrets out close to home.

And the lovely thing about her blog is that she also peppers it with diverting extras that we really enjoy – amusing cat videos, interesting tidbits about notebooks and related items, and even the occasional political rant, delivered with restraint.

When we asked Diane if she would mind a few interview questions, her response was immediate and gracious and quite fascinating. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Q: How did you first become interested in pens?

A: A friend who died over 15 years ago had a really unusual ballpoint pen that the bunch of us around her all thought was amazing. We could never figure out the maker, but we loved the way it looked. At her death it came to me, and for a number of reasons  I put it away. A few years ago I found it, and I was curious as to what kind of pen it was.  Doing a lot of research and with a few missed I discovered it was a Rotring 900, and that a fountain pen version could be found on eBay.  After several tries I finally won a bid for a 900 fountain pen, and that got me hooked.

Q: How big is your pen collection?

A: I have about 80 pens, mostly fountain pens but a few rollerballs and ballpoints as well. My first really expensive fountain pen was a Faber-Castell Ambition, a black matte pen with a medium nib that I bought at Art Brown three years ago.

Q: What are your top 5 favorite pens?

A: My "in case of fire, grab this pen" example is a Namiki 823 clear demonstrator with a fine nib.  It's got one of the most beautiful profiles ever on a pen.

The desert isle pen is a Monteverde Artista fine clear demonstrator I just got from Art Brown. The feel of the nib is smooth and elegant, I love writing with it.

The next three are all vintage pens:  a green striated slim Sheaffer Balance I bought at the New York City Pen Show a year ago from Ron Zorn; a tiger's eye Sheaffer Balance White Dot military clip I bought from eBay and had repaired (also by Ron Zorn, who replaced the clip and band as well as repairing the plunger); and the third is a Parker Sub-Deb Vacumatic in Azur I bought at the Long Island Pen Show this past March.

Q: What are the advantages of living in NYC for a pen collector?

A: There is almost nothing you can't find in New York, so much so that I have to remember that other people don't have the variety that I do.  Going into a store filled with Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Miquel-Rius, and Whitelines among other lines isn't something everyone can do, and I really do keep that in mind when I'm thinking of a review.

Q: Where is the best place to find pens - new or antique - in NYC?

A: New pens you have two great options:  Art Brown and Fountain Pen Hospital.  Each offers great variety (and some good discounts) while retaining their unique character.

Art Brown is near Grand Central Station and while the area is loud, fast, and busy the Pen Shop itself is elegant, understated, and  quiet.  You enter the store like you would a chapel or synagogue, softly and with a hush.  The back of the store is devoted to notepads, journals, memo books; the middle is lined in inks of all kinds (De Atraments, Diamine, Noodler's, Iroshizuku).  The front is pen heaven, with a lot of space between each brand so you can really get to know a pen.

Fountain Pen Hospital is downtown, across from City Hall and in the midst of all the court buildings.  The space is very edgy, crowded, and hip.  Pens and Noodler's inks abound, paper and stationery not so much.  FPH also had a great selection of vintage pens right next to their modern offerings, and the prices are in line with what you would expect.

Q: What was the best pen event you've ever attended?

A: Last year's New York City Pen Show, for two reasons:  first, I actually knew what I was looking at and for, having spent the year between shows reading up on fountain pens; and second, because I got to meet up with pen friends @Mabeloos (from Twitter) and Julie Okami (the Whatever blog).

Q: What led you to start Pocket Blonde?

A: I started reading the Pen Addict's blog and wondered how difficult it would be to start a blog.  Then I spent a few weeks wondering what I would actually say if I did start one.  Then I got depressed because there were so many great blogs already on pens and pencils and other stuff, and I thought it would be foolish to add another.  Then I went ahead and did it. :)

"Pocket Blonde" as a name came about because I was trying to thing of something easy for a moniker, but every time I typed in a name it was taken.  I wanted Blonde in the title as I am one, and I happened to look over at my book shelf and caught the title "The Pocket Herbal."  And so I typed in Pocket Blonde and got the okay from Blogger.  The rest is history. :)

Q: What have you learned about pen collecting from having a blog?

A: Be careful not to let it get away from you. One pen will lead to two, and like rabbits that will lead to a dozen in no time.  My brother bought me a vintage fountain pen at Christmas, then tried my Sheaffer Slim Balance and found he loved it.  He's not up to 5 or 6 pens, and only his willpower keeps him from pressing the "add to cart" button on a few websites where he likes to window shop.

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has ever happened to you because of your blog?

A: Both times were at the National Stationery Show:  last year, several of the people at Ecosystem actually knew the Pocket Blonde blog, which floored me.  This year, I got to meet Karen Doherty at the Exaclair booth, and she recognized me from my picture on the blog.  Both times were strange and really nice.

Q: How much time do you devote to the blog each week?

A: About 2 hours or so tops, from coming up with a blog post to taking the pictures.  It's not that difficult, but finding something to write about can take forever!

Q: What would you like to accomplish with your blog?

A: Ultimately Pocket Blonde is for my own amusement, so I'd be happy if a few others found it as entertaining as I do.

Q: What can we expect to see in the future from Pocket Blonde?

A: I'd like to include some book reviews (I'm a big urban fantasy reader), more guest posts, and maybe some electronic gadget profiles.

She added, "DianeB is originally from Pennsylvania, and moved to Manhattan to attend graduate school  Having gotten that out of the way, she spends her days working, knitting ,writing, and herding her three cats."

We thank her for the great work she does on her blog and wish her the best of luck with it in the future – as well as luck with herding those cats.


3 thoughts on “Blog Review: Pocket Blonde”

  • Yochanan

    Thanks for the review. Diane has one of the most interesting blogs out there, always keeps me coming back.

    Reply
  • Trixie

    Nice review - I've been reading Pocket Blonde for quite a while now and it's one of the few pen-related blogs that keeps me interested over the long haul because of the variety and the fact that she's a fanatic about ordinary pens as well as the more expensive stuff.

    Reply
  • Jack/Youngstown
    Jack/Youngstown October 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Nice interview! Diane's been nice enough to give me some occasional guest posts. Plus, she posts almost daily, something that seems important to me in a non-institutional blog.

    Reply
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