Jess is a sucker for our annual gift episode so she's gone rogue this year.

I know. I know. Long term listeners know what’s coming first but this first gift combo is an #AmWriting favorite for a good reason. The three of us own the same journal and nearly identical (save for the color of the elastic fastener and monogram) custom leather Fillion and we love them so much.

Our favorite calendar/journal is, and has always been, the Leuchtturm1917 monthly planner with 136-page dotted notebook pages. We love everything about it - the monthly pages, the number of dotted pages, the weight of the paper, the pocket for stickers in the back - oh, it’s so good. Sarina keeps a very eager eye out each year and two of our favorite days are the “what are next year’s colors?” discovery day and the day Sarina hands over the new beauties in our color of choice. Sarina’s planner is a thing of beauty so here’s a pic of what her month usually looks like (stickers are for completing the day’s word goal):

What’s a Fillion, you ask? Well, about ten years ago I bought a gorgeous tri-fold leather holder for a journal at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas and a very happy love affair was born. I actually met the woman who makes these lovelies, Lesha Shaver (pic below), owner of Little Mountain Bindery, and she’s currently making a custom leatherbound book for a lucky someone on my holiday list this year.

There are tons of options for the Fillion, but ours is the XL trifold with our initials in Huxley font. You can fit two notebooks in there if you want, plus the optional magnetic pocket is great for stickers, ruler, stencils, that sort of thing. I’ve been giving this Fillion to people as a thank you gift for years (for example, everyone who has blurbed my books has one with their initials and their favorite color elastic cording).

In plucking the proper url to link in this post I just discovered Lesha has created a deluxe Fillion box set and now my mouth is watering.

Given that we have our journals, now we need to have a very serious conversation about pens. I have choices, of course, but Sarina has OPINIONS. Her current favorites are:

  1. Uniball Jetstream retractable fine (.7mm) ballpoint pens in black.

  2. Pentel EnerGel RTX medium point (.7mm) retractable liquid gel pens in assorted colors.

  3. Pilot Frixion light pastel highlighter with erasable ink and chisel tip 3-pack.

I happen to love my black Sharpie ultra fine point pens, but that’s just me. They do bleed through most journal pages, so I understand if you are offended.

Here’s the thing about the Pilot Frixion pens: they erase using the heat generated by the friction of he eraser on the paper and it’s a perfect erase. I took Sarina’s Frixion pen obsession to a whole new level and bought the big 24 set. Looooook how pretty….

If our pen choices don’t turn your crank, look around at one of our favorite sources for pens and other addictive office items, JetPens or MochiThings. I apologize in advance.

Other fun things I’ve kept on a running list this year:

Bulk blank notebooks with kraft paper covers (I keep the tiny ones, 10 for $24) in my pocket or wallet at all times because I’m 52 and starting to forget things.

This adorable Kaweco fountain pen in smooth sage. It’s tiny and light, and I love it. I linked the medium nib but it comes in lots of versions. The ink is specific to this pen and comes in lots of colors, too.

I am terrible with glasses. Mine get left all over the place (there are three pairs of glasses in my woods, right now, sitting on stumps or logs I can’t locate) and I scratch them far too quickly. That said, this soft but upright Tät Tat glasses (or whatever) case really helps. I keep it on my nightstand and consequently I’ve managed to hold on to at least one pair of unscratched prescription glasses. Mine’s grey-blue.

Oh, and since people ask me all the time about my glasses, they are Warby Parker Ainsley in Marzipan Tortoise.

Did you know Sarina made her own journal for romance readers? Yes, indeedy. The Kissing Books Journal by Heart Eyes Press. In fact, Sarina told me she even keeps a “Gifts for Readers and Writers” list on Amazon, so here’s that, too.

Finally, since few of us need more stuff, don’t forget about memberships to The Authors Guild or PEN America. Members of The Authors Guild get access to legal services, web services, insurance discounts, all kinds of great webinars and events, and the opportunity to build your community of writer friends. This year, The Authors Guild helped advocate for writers and got Amazon to change its ebook return policy and was instrumental in getting ZLibrary taken down and its creators arrested and indicted for piracy. PEN America offers writer and reader memberships and both are vital to supporting their work advocating for for free speech, fighting censorship and book banning, and protecting writers from online abuse.

NB: some of these items listed at Amazon have affiliate codes on them which means Sarina or I might make a few cents here or there from Amazon’s coffers. I tried to link to smaller retailers wherever possible, though!

Happy holidays to all of you. We appreciate you all so very, very much.

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Entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell'Antonia and Sarina Bowen.