Time management Monday: Planning for distraction

Posted July 28, 2014 by
in Editorial, Planning Tips | Add your comment »

In my experience, the question of how to deal with digital distractions is a bit like the question of how to get your baby to sleep through the night: a big question, with lots of answers that work in part or work for other people, but seemingly no satisfying one-stop solution other than “try a bunch of things, give it time, and if all else fails, do your best to accept the situation and keep a positive attitude.”

Except that in the case of baby sleep, it does eventually get better, whereas digital distractions only seem to worsen as the years go by. My most recent experimental strategy is to go beyond acceptance and actually try to set aside time to be distracted.

By this, I mean much more than scheduling when I check email or catch up on the news. Say, for example, I know that I need to research refrigerators for a kitchen renovation we’ve got planned. That topic is now stored on a special list on my phone, and if, in the course of my workday, I think of something else I’d like to know (what flowers work well as companion plants for apple trees? what kind of pests have been munching on my dogwood?), I add it to the list, rather than letting myself get seduced by the idea that it’s small and therefore not hard to tackle that very moment.

Then I can try to figure out when the best time is to do a whole batch of Internet investigations, and dial up AOL style.

I’ll report back in a few months.

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Friday roundup

Posted July 25, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People | Add your comment »

Here’s an eclectic assortment of pen, paper, and creativity-related pieces to chew over on a hot summer weekend…

  • What’s left for print? David Carr describes a train ride north: “I was having a moment, one without informational angst or FOMO (fear of missing out). And when I finished something, I spent time staring out the window at the unspeakably pretty Hudson River.”
  • Is the pen dead? Not around these parts, certainly, though Nick Bilton seems to think so: “For me, the pen has finally lost its usefulness to the finger and the touch screens it controls.”
  • Feeling uncreative? Take a vacation: “That’s the claim of a new study, in which Dutch researchers gave creativity tests to workers before and after they took a trip and found they scored better afterward.”
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Writing Wednesdays: Taking chances

Posted July 23, 2014 by
in Where to Go? | 1 comment »

In grade school and creative writing classes, it’s not uncommon to be asked to experiment with different forms of writing: memoir, sonnet, reported essay.

Beyond that, I’m wondering how many of you continue to make those experiments. I haven’t written a non-satirical haiku since high school, or any other sort of poem; instead, I focus my non-professional writing activities on narrative fiction and the very, very occasional journal entry. And yet I remember those early efforts quite fondly, and I suspect I would learn a good deal if I forced myself to try to write in a different genre.

Do you still take chances writing in different genres, or do you stick to your chosen niche?

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Sneak Preview: Clairefontaine “Trophee” Sketch Pads

Posted July 22, 2014 by
in Announcements, Beautiful Creations, Editorial, Pens, Paper & People | 1 comment »

Trophee (3)


We were all wow’ed when we saw these snazzy pads the first time.  We have some in stock for the New York Gift Show, and MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York has expressed interest in them. We have ordered more from France, and plan to include them in our next catalog.

The three designs are limited edition — 2013 winners from a Clairefontaine student contest. The embossed cover is available in white or black. The pad features 50 sheets white paper, 90g, acid-free and pH neutral.  These staplebound pads have a stiff backboard for drawing on the go.

They come in three sizes:  6 x 8 1/4″ ($4.50); 8 1/4 x 8 1/4″ ($8); and 8 1/4 x 11 3/4″ ($6.50).

I will raffle off our NY Gift Show samples on Quo Vadis Blog after the show.  Stay tuned!

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Congrats to our winners!

Posted July 21, 2014 by
in Where to Go? | Add your comment »

Many thanks to all who entered our Bastille Day giveaway! We had a lot of interest in this year’s contest, and I’m pleased to report that we drew the following names were out of our lucky digital hat:

  • Dee M.
  • Brad H.
  • Kira L.
  • Fernando P.
  • Kathleen S.
  • David B. C.
  • John T. D.
  • Sam K.
  • Janel G.
  • Bonnie C.
  • Ashli K.
  • Sateria J.
  • Cary L. T.
  • Shelley E.
  • Wendy F.

If your name is on this list, please be on the lookout for an email from us. If not, check back later this summer for more great giveaways!

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Friday roundup

Posted July 18, 2014 by
in Cabinet of Curiosities, Pens, Paper & People, Where to Go? | Add your comment »

It’s a mid-summer weekend — almost! Let’s have some fun.

  • The last time I thought about Weird Al Yankovich, the Internet was in its infancy, and his 1996 parody of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” was playing on… it must have been TV. Now, Weird Al is back with a parody of last summer’s ubiquitous hit, “Blurred Lines.” In “Word Crimes,” Al riffs on the familiar pet peeves, from less vs. fewer to its vs. it’s. I rolled my eyes at first, but I was laughing within a few seconds.
  • Speaking of the nineties, this picture from Faustine had me thinking of that old Tribe Called Quest song: “It’s like butter. It’s like butter, baby. Not no Parkay, not no margarine. Strictly butter, strictly butter, baby.” I guess the Habana/Pilot Metropolitan combination is every bit as smooth.
  • Nothing kills a good joke faster than theorizing about laughter, but Cambridge professor Mary Beard still manages to write a cogent, lighthearted analysis of philosophers’ attempts to wrangle the subject into submission. Worth a read.
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Tools of the trade: Squid ink

Posted July 17, 2014 by
in Beautiful Creations, Cabinet of Curiosities | Add your comment »


I’ve had — and adored — squid ink in pasta and rice, but it wasn’t until I read a review of Matthew Gavin Frank’s Preparing the Ghost, about amateur naturalist Rev. Moses Harvey’s quest to understand the mysterious giant squid (which wasn’t even photographed in the wild until 2012), that it occurred to me one might write with the substance, as well. Per reviewer Jon Mooallem:

Because squid ink is “invulnerable to decay,” people in 19th-century England were able to use the ink of a 150-million-year-old squid to make drawings of its carcass.

Sure enough, here’s an article in Make magazine that explains how to harvest and use squid ink, and a video in which someone writes his name with freshly extracted ink. The Boston Globe also has a nice piece that gives a little more context about the composition and historical uses of various cephalopod inks.

Cool, huh?

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Writing Wednesdays: D&D and the art of storytelling

Posted July 16, 2014 by
in Where to Go? | Add your comment »

There was an interesting piece in the New York Times recently about the classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons — now turning 40! — and, in particular, how it influenced a generation of writers.

The game functioned as “a sort of storytelling apprenticeship,” according to Junot Díaz, who’s quoted in the piece. The narrative is improvisational, interactive, and fluid. Plots unfold collectively.

As a D&D player, “you have to convince other players that your version of the story is interesting and valid,” said Jennifer Grouling, an assistant professor of English at Ball State University who studied D&D players for her book, “The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Role-Playing Games.”

I never played Dungeons & Dragons, but I certainly had friends who did, and from what I know about the game, it makes perfect sense that it served as an incubator for creativity. What about you? Did D&D, or games more generally, help shape your creativity?

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Sold Out!

Posted July 15, 2014 by
in Announcements, Editorial | Add your comment »


The Academic year editions with Python and Noir covers are completely sold out.  It is good news; but also bad news for disappointed retailers and fans.




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Bastille Day giveaway!

Posted July 14, 2014 by
in Where to Go? | 5 comments »


It’s that time of year again! Bastille Day, which is celebrated in France with parades and fireworks, is celebrated here by us with red-and-blue themed giveaways.

This year, we’ll be giving one 3.5″x5.5″ Clairefontaine Basics pocket spiral notebook in blue and one 10-ml bottle of J. Herbin’s Rouge Caroubier ink to 15 lucky winners.

Winners will be chosen at random; to enter, complete this form by Sunday, July 20 at midnight EST.

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