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July 22, 2009

Summer Shopping

Summertime Shopping

by Nancy

In late July, there are only two kinds of shoppers browsing the back-to-school supply displays.  None of them are happy families eagerly loading up on Hello Kitty backpacks and sparkly pencil boxes for the first day of school. No, the first group is made up of hot-eyed, if slightly obsessive writers in search of the latest office supplies to make our work more pleasant. Just a couple of days ago, I bumped into one of my local writer friends at the Target just as the latest writing implements were being pulled off the pallets and arranged on the shelves.  We were overjoyed at our timing and spent twenty minutes exchanging opinions about ballpoint pens.  (She's a gel girl, though.  I have my own fave.)


I have yet to meet a writer who isn't nuts about some specific item or other.  From the lunatic who still laments her Apple II that gave up its motherboard just a couple of years ago to the---okay, me--who adores the Bic XXL pen which--if you're also a fan, I am deeply sorry to be the one to break the news that it seems to be--sob!--slowly disappearing from the shelves of our local stores (I can still buy it online--whew!)--anyway, we all have our peculiar attachments to some product or other.

The other shoppers at the back-to-school department seem to be mothers of Indian descent escorting their pudgy and unenthusiastic sons through excruciatingly detailed tours of the notebooks, protractors and packs of mechanical pencils. (Does anybody remember actually using a protractor in school? For more than stabbing each other, that is?) The mothers were loading up shopping carts.  The boys seems resigned. I felt a little sorry for all those future cardiologists until one of them dropped a huge wad of gum on the floor, which I did not notice until it was attached to the bottom of my BRAND NEW JOAN AND DAVID SANDAL, after which I figured he deserved what he got plus some extra math tutoring.  Except I'll probaby be paying him a small fortune in twenty years, so let's forget I mentioned it, since I'm bringing bad karma down on myself, right? 

To be honest, I only saw two such mother-son shopping combos, but that was enough to get me thinking about racial profiling at the Staples store.  Was I guilty?

If you're a writer, I want to hear about your favorite office supply.  Me, I like to invest in legal pads (white, the 11x8 size) and my beloved Bic XXL.  You?

Here's a stumper for you: I just finished my annual copy-editing project.  The writer gets a nicely copy-edited manuscript, and we're supposed to go through all the marks and add our own in a color of pencil not used by either the editor (who generally claims black) or the copy-editor (who uses a red pencil.)  The writer is supposed to use a third color of pencil, and I have lost my trusty blue-leaded mechanical pencil.  I was reduced to using a child's colored pencil, which is very soft lead, so I had to keep grinding it into a pencil sharpener, and naturally, I spilled shavings all over myself (twice) so I'm really wishing I could find another blue mechanical pencil.  Any thoughts, dear backbloggers?  I could probably get one online, but when that copy-edited manuscript arrives, it usually needs to get back to New York fast, so I don't have time to order an online order.  I need a pencil from a local store.  I made the rounds over the weekend, but gave up after a handful of stores.  Suggestions?

The other kind of shopping that gets really good this time of year is in the farmer's markets.  My neighborhood has a good one on Monday afternoons.  Until now, I was buying mostly baked goods (the raspberry pies--to die for!) and berries (fresh strawberries--OMG!) but right about now, the sweet corn comes in, and is there any better eating that sweet corn right out of the field? (My husband's family believes that the corn must be very freshly picked.  Their joke is that if you fall down while running to the kitchen from the field, you must go back.)  Also, the local tomato guy is getting rich, and I don't begrudge him a nickel. 

My local supermarket has invited local farmers to sell produce in their parking lot on Saturday mornings.  This seems big of them, but I suppose they're hoping we'll buy a head of lettuce outside, then come into the air-conditioning to pick up butter (for the corn) and maybe some tonic and limes.

Who needs to shop the department store sales right now?  Not when there are writing pens and sweet corn to be had!


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Nancy, I've only just discovered you via my small town library and... you're my kind of gal. Altho we don't have stores in the area (I live 30 miles from civilization, on a ranch in the "true" heart of texas), I highly recommend two things: a blue or green Pilot pen (NOT the fine poin, the editor's won't see it clearly enough). It's worked wonders for me over the years to my Brit publishers (I'm a 35 year veteran advance technology journalist, recently retired and trying to motivate myself to exploit my fiction side). And I also recommend WHITE CORN! It's even better than yellow. Really. Trust me, my Uncle Orv Fisher was "The White Corn King" and his newsletter lives on after him. Good stuff.

Keep up the good work. I'm slightly addicted to your series.
Jo Ann McDonald
Placid, Texas

P.S. I'm looking for a young author to team on my stuff. It's in the same vein as your series. Any young chic friends looking for more series ideas? I also have a stockpile of kids stuff. Samples are on www.LegacyRanch.com/adventures

I am addicted to notebooks. My books always start off with lots of scribbles in a book, and no, I can't just grab one from the stack of them we keep for the kids schoolwork. First, it must be wide ruled. None of this space-saving college ruling. I need space for those wild ideas. Also, the book has to suit the project, which means multiple trips to various stores until I find the one that seems to catch the right tone. You can call me obsessive, but I dare you to not find inspiration in my purple striped composition book.

Speaking of purple, try that for your next copy edit. Far more soothing than red, and in feng shui, it's supposed to be a color of prosperity.

Fresh corn is proof that God loves us. So are fresh tomatoes and berries and crisp apples straight off the tree. Fresh peaches are proof that life is meant to be savored.

Jo Ann, welcome! How nice to see a new face---er--voice around here. I love the idea of your Pilot pen, but is it erasable? I need a mechanical pencil, I think.

Kris, just your mention of peaches made the saliva gush. Mmmmmmmmm!

Journals, and TUL pens from Office Max. Which are teh expensive. I'm currently down to my last one, and praying it lasts until next week when we have our back-to-school tax-free shopping weekend.

I love office supply stores---what I've been using lately (I'm in the final draft-read through stage) are gel pens to write notes in the margins and those little colored post-it flags. My MS now looks fringed!

But, once this one's done, I'll need to start the next one with yellow legal pads and medium point roller pens.

Sweet corn and office supplies ... two of my favorite things! Silver Queen corn - if you ever get a chance to try it, do!!

I always knew you were a woman after my own heart.

Although I love Silver Queen and white corn varieties, I must put my lance in the ground.-I'm a butter-and-sugar girl all the way.

Thanks, Holly. I should have known you'd come through!

I was going to suggest an art supply store (instead of office supply) or any place that has a big inventory of architectural supplies. I love wandering through there and just drooling.

I'm not much of a fruits n veggies person, but I dearly love corn on the cob. There is nothing better than butter dribbling down your chin in July & August. Our local grocery store has just brought in the locally grown produce and it is wonderful.

This past weekend I helped a friend pick beans in her garden. Not much better than fresh green beans. Except for the Silver Ice corn she gave us--omigod, it's so delish, a new hybrid out of Silver Queen. Slathered in butter that I made myself, yum. One of these days we'll have fresh tomatoes, but our cool nights have not ripened the hundreds that have been on the plant for weeks. And no hot nights in the foreseeable future, either, drat it.

When I was in first grade there was a wonderful office supply store (called a stationery store back then) right down the street from my school, and across the street from my mom's office. I can still smell the rich aroma of pencils, pink erasers, and fresh paper of that little store. They also had calligraphy supplies, which began my lifelong love of fancy writing.

Favorite writing implement: Someone left a Zebra Sarasa 0.7 pen here once, and it immediately became my go-to pen. Very fluid ink flow, and so, so easy to write with. Plus it has a soft grip, which is soothing to my poor callused third finger.

And count me in the notebook column. I have dozens of them, sometimes full, sometimes only partly full. I love reading them years later, it's almost like a diary, but in code that only I can read.

Not really a hijack . . . run don't walk to get the fresh raspberries needed for this easy (I made it already this morning!) and to-die-for pie:


Nancy, How about a blue artist's pencil? I think Michaels and Joanns has them sold individually. And I think they have special eraser's for them as well......

Being a reader and not a writer, I'm a little confused. You send the manuscript back with comments and someone else makes the changes? I thought the writer would make all the recommended changes, and your own and send a new copy back...

Wait---Karen, you make your own butter???

JanetLynn, you'd be astonished how many people get a chance to make changes on one manuscript. I "approve" everything, but so does my editor, the copy-editor and probably a few more people I never communicate with.

My current concern is the proper spelling of Walmart. Or is it Wal-mart? Or Wal-Mart? I seem to recall a recent change made by the company itself, but that info hasn't reached all quarters yet. And really--does it matter?

Yes, it does. To somebody, somewhere. Otherwise, guess who gets the letter of complaint?

Nancy, making butter is so ridiculously easy, and it tastes amazing. And it was a fun project with my four-year old grandson. Then we made the most delicious chocolate chip cookies EVER from it. I've only done it once so far, but when this batch runs out I'll definitely make more. The only problem with it is that it goes bad faster in the butter bell than storebought stuff does, but that's a minor complaint.

Here's the info on how to make the butter (scrupulously heed the warning about wrapping the mixer in plastic wrap, it really does splash like crazy):


And it's Walmart, but you could make it Walmart* The asterisk is part of the name on their website. Much cuter that way, n'est ce pas?

Ditto Pam, the art supply store will have a much broader selection of pens, and you can usually buy singles, not four or dozen packs. The pilot pens come in a nice selection of colors. The art supply store will also have a wide selection of leads for your machine pencil.

My pen tastes are a little esoteric. I started using fountain pens about ten years ago. I have several and use a Waterman Phileas , Ferrari and a pair that were made by my brother. One of those is a beautiful synthetic granite. Some where there is a kitchen counter top that matches. I also use a Pilot Varsity. It is a disposable fountain pen. I also like the Sharpie pen. It comes in nice colors and has a nice line. It does not soak through paper like a regular sharpie.


Read http://www.walmart.com/catalog/catalog.gsp?cat=538449

"The Walmart.com names and logos and all related product and service names, design marks and slogans are the trademarks or service marks of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc"

There you go, from Wal-Mart's lawyers, two capitals and one hyphen.

I don't buy many office supplies anymore. I do have favorite pens, and prefer mechanical pencils. My haunts now are usually gel pens or watercolor pencils that I use in making cards.

Our season has started with the CSA farm, and I'm bringing home lots of fresh produce. Picking fresh raspberries - there's nothing like it. I'm definitely going to try that recipe, Judy! There's also a farm stand nearby that sits literally on the edge of the corn field - I've gotten corn that just came in the door. It's amazing.

Nancy, I'd rather shop office supply stores than malls any day. I love pens. When I lived in Washington DC, I was a Fahrney's junkie. When I got my first contract, I bought a Waterford rollerball there. I don't take it out of the house because I lose pens too easily.
I like plain blue Papermates for signings.
Many publishers are switching to computer copy-editing. It's a Word program. You type your comments in little balloons. The computer choose the color. Easier to read and fewer mistakes.
Elaine Viets

I love the Uniball Vision Elite, although the name definitely gives me, uh, visions.

I'm going to leave the racial profiling thing alone, although today is certainly a day where one is tempted to hijack and discuss it.

Alan, you're right. My mistake.

I still like the asterisk. ;-)

The only problem with picking wild berries, at least in this part of the country, is that you usually also pick up a case of chiggers unless you prepare accordingly. But the berries are so worth it.

My publisher has now gone to copyediting on the computer. No more looking for colored pencils for me. It's actually much easier to do it on the screen than a hard copy.

I like post its. And regular mechanical pencils.

And sweet corn. Of course.

MMM, bi-color corn!! . . . and leave it to Karen to make her own butter!! Yum!
I can't buy the pens with rubber (latex) grips, but I may be looking for purple. Prosperity sounds good right now.
I Googled Walmart, Wal-Mart? -- seems they can't make up their minds. This is intriguing, though --
Cole Brown named Chief Diversity Officer, Walmart U.S.
Yes, someone will care. I put down a book because the author said the court scene in _Merchant of Venice_ was in Act I . . . I may pick it up again sometime, but not just yet.

I didn't comment yesterday on your pet sounds, having no pets here. During the winter, though, I did have the frog singing, and since I recorded him, I can incorporate him into my storytelling CD. The frog chorus outside is terrific at night, and the campers at the Y enjoyed seeing the frog I found in the mailbox. "I want to take him home with me!" said one boy, but I told him they were hard to keep alive, and this one was going to a tree.

Graphic Arts stores will have blueline pencils. Used to be a typesetter and always had tons of those. Only problem is the blue won't show up if you have to photocopy the manuscript.

Corn on the cob is definitely on my shopping list for the weekend. My favourite is Peaches and Cream corn (yellow and white).

I use the cheapest Papermate pens at work since they seem to get stolen from my desk at a regular rate. yes, Karen, those Zebra 0.7 pens are wonderful, mine got stolen . . . hence the papermates.

Nancy, I'm in shock over the Joan & David sandals.

Okay, I love blank books of all shapes and sizes, gel pens, sharpies, extra fine point felt tips, highlighters, colorful files (plastic are my new favorites) desks, chairs, and file crates.

Does shopping at Staples qualify as actual writing time? I'm voting yes.

Oh, and yes, I thought I was the only one breaking into my kids' stock of colored pencils for my copy edits and wondered what authors without small children do in an emergency.

The pens I like most are the free ones the pharmaceutical reps leave at the hospitals. One sweet receptionist keeps a box for me so that I can toss them after I interview people on the psychiatric ward. Sadly, many of them live on the streets until they come to the attention of the authorities, and they're also physically sick when they come in. Some even have to be quarantined. So when I'm through with the last patient, I toss the pen. Sounds wasteful, I know, but it's the safe thing to do. Like bio-hazardous waste. Into the red plastic garbage bag they go.

Must admit because of the economy, I've stayed out of the stores for the past 6 months. Why burn gasoline at $4 per gallon when I can get on ebay? You might try there, Nancy, for your blue mechanical pen. One might be closer than you think. Sort by distance and pick the closest seller.

As for fresh produce, I'd love to go to a farmers' market. Instead, I've become addicted to Farm Town on Facebook. Yes, I know it's a waste of time. Yes, I know I should be writing. Yes, I know I spend more time on my virtual "farm" than I do weeding my flower beds, but as I said, I'm addicted. And my avatar, which I named "Dolly" has become something of an alter-ego. Now, shall I tell you about the virtual passes I've been getting on Farm Town? Not bad for a cartoon in men's coveralls...better than in real life. So sad.

Laurie, one of my co-workers is also addicted to Farm Town!

Nancy, if there is still gum left on the bottom of your sandal put it in the freezer for an hour and the gum should chip right off.

laurie...will you be my neighbor in Farm Town? I could use all of the help I can get, lol. I also do MyFarm & Farmville on FB.

You guys are crazy. I'm betting there's no sweet corn at Farm Town. Get some sunlight, for pete's sake!

Because of the conversation today I visited the Marin County farmer's market for the first time today. I signed up for our CSA box, finally. and brought home a little melon, some rhubarb, and two peaches -- the peaches and nectarines were piled in every booth! I'm allergic unless I cook them, which seems a waste, but they taste great anyway. Cut 'em in half and take the pit out, put in a greased casserole. Sprinkle with cinnamon and a tiny bit of sugar, (dot with butter) and back until bubbly at 375 degrees.

Ooh, Holly, have you ever grilled peaches? They are so delicious that way. Add a little balsamic vinegar first, and let it caramelize. Heaven.

Nectarines are my all-time favorite fruit. I sure wish I lived where you could buy them fresh off the tree.

Pam aka SisterZip: "Will you be my neighbor in Farm Town?"

Certainly. And then maybe we can come up with a 12-step program. In one day, I've gone from a 14X14 farm to a 16X16 farm to an 18X18 farm, I still have 135,000 coins and my butt's numb.

I refuse to pay for 'coins'. Silly, true, but I'm cheap. I've gotten to an empty wallet a couple of time, but manage to pull it out of the fire. lol.

Nancy, I checked what's stamped on the 85,000 Walmart plastic bags (most of which I return to their recycle bin, some of which I stuff down cracks in the laundry room walls to keep out unwanted ranch critters in the dark of night) and they all say "Walmart" but the * is actually their registered trademark in shoddy replication. After my rock guitarist husband heroically plugged a rattlesnake between the eyes last night, very near the laundry room, I grabbed even more Walmart bags and stuffed harder. If he wasn't a muscian, I'd probably get the cracks properly plugged too. Ah... life in the Wilds of Texas! Never a dull night (which normally includes the rock star husband--every girl's dream, eh?) Keep rockin', I'm enjoying participating in the dialog as it gets lonely out here where there's a shortage of intelligent life forms.
P.S. Erasable Pilot pen? No. Sorry. Ever try a plain old pencil? (They come with erasers still) And plain grey is beneath editors and copy folks, but not intrepid authors.

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