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One Editor's Perfect Pens – A Q&A With Literary Agent Janet Reid

Janet Reid writes a brilliant blog providing advice and chastisement – in more or less equal parts – to would-be novelists learning how to approach a literary agent. She also has fierce feelings about her ink pens, which she keeps in mint julep cups in her office.

We, of course, wanted to know what she thought about finding the perfect pen for the exacting art of editing. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions. Read on to find out what Janet had to say about her ongoing journey to pen heaven.

Q: What are the elements that make a great editing pen?

A: Fine point so you can slip a quick note in amongst the punctuation, and a color close to but not quite red. I favor purple. But I also like green just to subtly remind my authors that we're in business not just art. It also can't be chunky. A slim pen can be held more easily.

Q: How would the perfect editing pen be different from your favorite writing pen?

A: Not at all.  Editing is like writing a letter to an author to show their work in new fresh light.

Q: What are some of the best editing pens that you've tried?

A: I had a long love affair with a Pentel RSVP fine point ink pen. But then I found the bolder gel colors of a Staples store brand pen called a Z-grip. Then the angels sang, and I found Uniball gel pens in multiple colors. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

The pen gods laughed.

I now had three pen holders (those took me six weeks to find by the way) filled with pens (each brand and style has its own holder of course). Nearly 20 pens. Then I met a a devil of a pen purveyor down at the crossroads one midnight.  He carried Sharpies.  Verily,  I sold him not my sole (needing both shoes as I did) but it was darn close.  Hied to my nearest Staples store and bought Sharpie fine point pens in four colors.

And then I knew I was in pen heaven.

But of course, finding the perfect pen really is a life long quest.  I still try new pens. I almost stole one from the Chatterbox cafe today. Only the sharp look from the waitress kept me on the straight and narrow.

Q: On your blog, you name the Sharpie as the perfect pen. What is it about that particular pen?

A: The ink doesn't smear nor does it dry up on the point or in the pen. It's bold on the page; it's a fine point for making the distinction between which and that. Suitable for carrying on blood feuds about "safety deposit box" (incorrect) and the finer points of getting Lie/Lay/Laid.

Q: How would a fountain pen perform for editing?

A: Not well at all.  And it's not the poor little fountain pen's fault.  Sadly, paper quality has gone to hell in a handbasket and decent paper to take the nib now costs a small fortune and must be sought from the high reaches of the paper emporium storage bins.  Back in the day when all paper had a high rag content the fountain pen was in its glory.  Now when paper is flimsy as a politician's promise, the fountain pen is all dressed up but has no place to go.

Q: New York is being overrun by mutant ducks, and you are forced to flee. You can only carry one pen with you. Which one do you take?

A: I'm appalled to hear the alumni of the University of Oregon (collectively The Ducks) have mutated.  They told us all that rain was GOOD for us.  I would of course take a refillable fountain pen, the great classic. Should I run out of ink, I would use blood, sweat and tears to make ink and write rejection letters till the Ducks come home.

12 thoughts on “One Editor's Perfect Pens – A Q&A With Literary Agent Janet Reid”

  • John the Monkey

    With a fine point, there should be lots of fountain pen inks that'll stand up to poor paper - I'd need to revisit my Moleskine paper tests to pick out a few, but off the top of my head, I think Pelikan would work.

    I assume editing is done on one face of the paper only, as Sharpie (much as I like them) shows through on most papers, ime.

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  • TonyB

    @John Even the Sharpie pen (as opposed to the marker)?

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  • Janet Reid

    Yes, it is of the pen I sing, not the marker. The marker does bleed through. The pen does not.

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  • Stoich91

    This is the funniest blog I have read all week. Kudos, Janet, for standing up for the rights of pens, at large!

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  • Joelle

    I too use the Sharpie pens. They're perfect for signing books because they don't bleed through the page. And they unveiled them right when my first book came out two years ago, so I think they were destined to be my signing pen. Blue for Restoring Harmony, Red for The Right & the Real.

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  • Bill Cameron

    Pentel EnerGel 0.7 Liquid Gel Ink for general writing, and the 0.5 fine point for editing. Victory.

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  • Ali

    Wonderful interview! Excellent wit and humor. I currently favor the bic round stic grip in lavender. I may have bought it in bulk. But I have a pentel energel in purple (.7 point) for editing.

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  • Leigh Covington

    Ha! This is brilliant! I am a sucker for pens and could spend hours in Staples enjoying the wonderful assortment they have as well as stationary and all that other fun stuff. I love to have colored pens and if I have to choose between blue and black it's always blue. Black ink is no fun unless it comes from my printer to the paper. :)

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  • Eileen

    I am a complete pen whore. I have zillions for all different purposes. I have a killer Waterman pen that I got when I sold my first book that I use most often, but the new Sharpie pens have some potential. Much like our shared love of bacon, I am with Bill C on the use of the Pentel gel ink.

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  • Cassandra

    Fountain pens, extra-fine, do fine even on such stuff as school notebook paper, though without the sensual pleasure of writing on real paper, which in its (or their, as grades vary) turn does not compare with writing with a goose quill on parchment or vellum. Pelikan or Waterman especially recommended, though very expensive. And, with a converter or empty cartridge and a hypodermic needle and syringe, you can mix your own colors of ink ...

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  • John the Monkey

    @tony @janet - Mea culpa, the only Sharpie I know is the marker type!

    Reply
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