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Waterman Carene

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This road to disaster was started by my husband. Yes, he had good intentions when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas. After a moment of thought I told him: I wanted a nice loupe so I could look at fountain pen nibs and do some alignments and adjustments. You see where the slippery pavement starts, don’t you?

Three weeks ago, with my brand new loupe in hand, I decided to check out the nib on my beloved Waterman Carene. I had bought the Carene back in the summer, a NOS pen in excellent condition, a rich metallic brown with a medium nib to die for. The Carene drank Waterman Havana Brown and looked sharp doing it. It went formal with Private Reserve Midnight Blues and into stealth mode with Aurora Black. As much as I love my other pens, this one quickly became my daily pal, my constant companion. It dressed up, it dressed down. I wasn’t afraid to take it anyplace.

However, the nib did tend to skip on initial down strokes. I suspected it had the baby bottom curse, the tipping on the tines a little too fat and rounded to allow the nib to make good contact with paper. Decided to check it out myself. Sure, I couldn’t grind the nib down myself, but I could at least confirm my suspicions, right?

My Belomo loupe in one hand, Carene in the other, I raised both to make a meeting and .. dropped the Carene flat on the floor. It must have landed nib downward, because the nib was bent like a hooked nose. I was in shock. So much in shock that I fell further along that slippery road to hell that started with my husband’s kind intention. I tried to adjust an inlaid nib myself. Amateurs do not fool with the inlaid nibs on Waterman Carenes. The nib on a Carene is attached to the section by little grips set into the section. Glue is also involved. Adjusting them is a tricky business, not meant for a mortal like myself.

I made it — worse. Looked at the sucker and thought, Lewertowski sells new sections and nibs for $70 plus $20 shipping to the United States, so my bargain $130 pen would become.. well, a $230 pen. I put the pen down and had a glass of Martini & Rossi 1738. It helped my nerves but the pen was still shot.

The Carene is now safely in the hands of nibmeister Michael Masuyama of Mike-It-Work in Peachtree City, Georgia. He told me in a pleasant email that he thinks he can adjust the nib. The cost will be around $40.00 plus the $15.00 handling fee he requires for shipping the pen (priority, insured with delivery confirmation) back to me.

I should have the Carene back in three to four weeks. I miss it terribly. I’ve also learned a lesson–keep a tight grip on a pen when looking at it with a loupe, and think twice before you make a really dumb mistake.


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For several years I was a member of one of the best writing forums I’ve ever seen on the Internet.  It was large enough to create synergy, but small enough to be personal and friendly.  I became a moderator of the forum, and then an administrator.

The experience just about ruined my writing.

When I first joined, the forum was relatively new.  The excitement was still there and the membership actively reviewed critiqued work as well as posted their work for review.  The forum had a 1 to 5 rating for work, so people would know what kind of critique the writer was looking for.  Someone who wanted a “1” review was looking for nothing more than encouragement to keep working on their story, and maybe one or two hints on something to review.  Someone who asked for a ‘5’ review wanted a heavy-duty, give-and-take critique, no holds barred!  These were people serious about getting their short story, novel, poem or essay published.

It worked well—for a time.

During my first year with the forum, I received a lot of good help and encouragement for one or two stories I was writing.  Some of the members had real talent in critiquing, which is harder than you think.  I revised some of the chapters with their suggestions in mind.  When I disagreed with the suggestions, it led to good discussion.

Heavy Lifting

Heavy lifting, that was the problem.  After the bloom had worn off, more and more of the reviewing fell to fewer and fewer people.  Those people were (mostly) called Moderators and Administrators.  The membership continued to grow, but more people posted simply to be seen and get a quick pat on the back.  They would “review” a piece that someone had requested a ‘4’ or ‘5’ level review with “hey, looks good to me!”  That was what they called paying back to the forum.

When I was asked to moderate two sub-forums, I felt more responsibility to review and encourage others.  Combined with the responsibilities of moderating, my own writing time suffered.  I vowed that I would take the time to write from some other activity in my life.  Still—heavy lifting.  There were a few of us doing the lifting, and a lot of people getting free rides.

The Life and Death of Forums

The forum was no longer fresh and new.  Both content and reviews weren’t up to scratch.  Membership began to lose interest, moving on to other things.  The forum lost that synergy that made it spark.  In an effort to bring some life back to the forum, the lead administrator began writing more content for the General forum—quick bites of information on entertaining subjects.  The moderators, those who were still around on an occasional basis, were encouraged to join in.  Some did, but any time they spent writing for the board was time they took away from their own work.

After a few months, I was asked to join the administrative team.  It would be a chance to help oversee changes in the forum and direct its future.  Since I wanted to see the board return to some of the spark it had when it was new, I accepted.  Quickly, I found that my role wasn’t so much as a member of a three-administrator team, but to serve as a buffer and sounding board between the board owner and her co-administrator, who locked horns and stomped off in huffs about every other week.

Naturally, in reading the board owner’s two page email complaints about the other administrator, and answering same, I got no substantial writing done.

Forum Meltdown

You knew it was coming, didn’t you?  In an effort to revive the forum, the administrators revamped it.  We gave it a new look.  We culled the membership and invited the best writers, the most active participants, the best reviewers, to join the new club.  It required weeks of work to develop the new board.  This was going to be a real critique forum!

So, what if you gave a party and no one came?  Well, they came, but nothing much happened except what had happened at the first board.  The synergy never returned to the revamped writing board.  The board owner, who had insisted that with the new board the administration would not spoon-feed the membership with new topics, games and original content, went mad to provide the membership with—you guessed it: original content, games and new topics.  For a time, we considered moving the board to another hosting facility.  I spent hours testing Invision Power Board, Vbulletin and Pro-boards.  The board owner never looked at the test boards I set up.

The board closed a few months later.  We couldn’t find a way to reengage the membership, the board owner encountered serious family problems, the second co-administrator did another vanishing act, and the third co-administrator (me) realized that far from helping with her writing, the forum was a weight that wasn’t getting any lighter.

In Retrospect…

…are writing forums a good idea anyway?  If you’re writing a long story or a novel, you post chapters at a time for critique.  Essentially, you’re asking reviewers to critique a work that isn’t in its final form.  You could receive great critiques on chapter three, and write something in chapter eight that means you have to substantially rewrite chapter three.  Published authors also warn writers not to talk about their work too much; there’s too much of a chance you’ll lose that excitement you have about a story if you talk about it.  Forum reviews might work for short stories, when you post the entire work for review, poems, non-fiction articles, but I’ve become wary about revealing too much of a long piece of work.  Sometimes you need encouragement and a pat on the back, but you have to be careful not to lose the spice that makes you want to write that long story or novel in the first place.

I was a member and then an administrator of a very good writing board.  I joined when it was on its upswing and I was there when it died.  The forum was as good as its membership, and the membership was very good in the first, early, days.  In some ways, it was a victim of its own success.  The quality of work and reviews drew more people to the forum, but too many of those were only interested in collecting raves on their own work, not participating in the review process.  Heavy lifting—that’s what a few of us were left to do.  The weight of that heavy lifting exposed other problems in the forum and, eventually, it closed.  The experience has left me with this belief:

When you write, you  have to be your own best reviewer.  There will come a time when you need to get other people to give you an independent critique, but in the beginning—you do your heavy lifting for yourself.



Note: This entry was inspired by a post on Digital Dame’s Filling Spaces blog, about the helium.com writing forum, and her comment about writing forums that a few people do all the heavy lifting. 

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Reservoir Road

Ever listen to a song and have a feeling of epiphany? You not only know exactly what the song is about, but you feel like you’ve been there youself? Reservoir Road is named for a experience I had on first hearing Last Time by Moon on Enya’s And Winter Came… cd.

It was November 6th. And Winter Came… was due for release on November 7th in several European counties. I logged onto Unity where I function as an assistant grand poobah, and all the alarm bells went off. And Winter Came… had been leaked to YouTube.  The global moderator was contacted, Aigle was contacted–though they and Warner were already on the look-out for illegal uploads prior to the album’s release. I spent the next few hours of the evening at YouTube, with a friend nearby, watching the tracks come down, one-by-one. I realllly didn’t want to listen to an illegal upload, but I couldn’t help it with a song titled Last Time by Moonlight.

I had this epiphany with the song. Once upon a time, I would spend winter nights walking with friends around a lake deep in the country. The moon would be out, shimmering on the frozen lake. The high grasses along the road would be rimmed with frost, and our feet would crunch on the frozen ground. Hands shoved deep in pockets, we would talk and laugh and share dreams. As cold as the nights were, we never wanted to break the spell and go home.

Enya was born in County Donegal Ireland, and Last Time by Moonlight is one of the most touched-by-the-country songs I’ve ever heard her sing. It’s likely the most beautiful song on the album.

Last time by moonlight

Lyrics by Roma Ryan

The winter sky above us
was shining
in moonlight,
And everywhere around us
the silence
of midnight.
And we had gathered snowflakes;
the soft light
of starlight on snow.

Oooh, remember this,
for no-one knows
the way love goes.
Oooh, remember this,
for no-one knows
the way life goes.

We walked the road together
one last time
by moonlight,
as underneath the heavens
the slow chimes
at midnight,
but nothing is forever
not even
the starlight
at midnight
not even
the moonlight…

Oooh, remember this,
for no-one knows
the way love goes.
Oooh, remember this,
for no-one knows
the way life goes.

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These are a few things I like:

Writing: I’ve got one supernatural and two mystery-thrillers going at the moment.

Fountain pens: There’s nothing like writing with a good fountain pen. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a expensive one or a $12.00 cheapie, as long as it writes well and it fits in my hand. I have a Prussian Blue Waterman Carene with a custom-ground cursive italic nib that’s a dream to hold and write with. I have cheap Pilot 78G’s that are surprising in how well they write straight out of the plastic bag from whatever seller I buy them from. In between, I have a gorgeous ivory Waterman Charleston, and a copper/bronze Waterman Expert II, that I think could be the best writing pen I own. My heart though, belongs to my 1951 Parker 51 in midnight blue with gold-filled cap. Writing with this 56 year old pen is writing with history.

..and paper: I’m currently addicted to Apica notebooks from Japan. The CD-15’s are my project books. The paper is a soft ivory and very smooth. Ink flows onto this paper. My journals are now kept on Apica A610’s. The paper is soft and grey-ish in color. It takes almost every ink I have very well. The notebooks are reasonably cheap: $3.78 for the CD-15 and $5.99 for the A610 at the local pen store. I also like Rhodia and Black n’ Red notebooks, and Ampad legal pads.

…and ink: Private Reserve Midnight Blues. I love the blue-gray color; it’s sophisticated; it’s … enigmatic. Also in use are Waterman Havana Brown and South Seas Blue, Private Reserve Black Cherry; Mont Blanc black and Mont Blanc bordeaux.

Music: Mostly Irish, mostly by the Brennan family–Clannad, Enya. Enya’s new album, And Winter Came… is the best seasonal album to come out in 2008. I was listening to Enya’s family (Clannad) a year before Enya released the soundtrack to The Celts documentary, and their Dulaman album gets played regularly around here.

I’ve got a new pen to try out tonight–a Cross-dressing Parker Big Red. A bunch of years ago, I bought an orange Big Red rollerball. When I took up fountain pens a few years ago, I eyed the rollerball and wished it was a fountain pen. Mostly because vintage Parker Duofolds, on which the Big Red was modeled, are way out of my price range. A few months ago, I found out that the nib and section of a Cross Solo could be used on the barrel of a Big Red. This week I got my Cross Solo (with a nice broad nib!) and sure ‘nuf, the nib fits on the Big Red. The nib was made by Pilot and true to Pilots, its quality is extremely good. It puts down a nice, even wet line without a skip or hiccup. I like the idea of giving my 25 year old Parker Big Red a new lease on life. Writing with it this evening is going to be fun.

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