A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Hello, lovely readers. My name is Zoë Marriott and I am a stationery addict.
Pens of all colours and types, highlighters, propelling pencils, Post-Its of every shape and size, paperclips and mini-bulldog clips, pins, staplers, stickers… I go mad for it all. And I use the word ‘mad’ advisedly there, because I’m the first to admit that my stationary habit may be a tad out of control. More on that later.
I blame this obsession on my late great father, who was an electrical engineer and the manager of an office supply company. It was he who, upon being told that I intended to grow up to be a writer, brought home a miniature, royal blue typewriter (with dinky carry case!) for me to have for my very own, so that I could learn to touch-type. It was he who took me into his office one memorable day and, after the mandatory spinning around in the office chair, allowed me to pick and chose from his supply cupboard in order to create my ‘book creating kit’ (how to staple the pages together was a real stumper at first, but I figured it out). From him, I learned that dreams are so much more easy to capture if you can lure them in with neatly organised paperclips and colour-coded sticky tabs.
But fond as I am of pretty much all office supplies, there is one item which holds the savour of magic for me, and that is the not-so-humble notebook. I wrote my very first YA novel in a cheap blue spiral bound notebook, during bus-rides to and from my job. I still have the notebook, even though the novel itself was never published. I also still write everything longhand first. Experience has taught me that scribbling the first draft and then revising while typing up works out a huge amount of problems with everything from spelling to prose to plot to characterisation.
When an idea has been stewing away in my brain long enough to feel substantial and real, I head into my study and chose a notebook, and write the working title and date on the front page. From that point on, any random scraps of inspiration, barely legible Post-Its, or pictures torn out of magazines relating to that idea go into it, to keep the idea alive in there while I’m waiting for the opportunity to write it for real. But it’s really, really, REALLY important to me that the notebook itself feels right.
By that I mean – that it feels like the right notebook for this story, this main character or characters, this mood or atmosphere or world that I want to create. I’ve gotten really spoiled over the years and while I still keep a selection of every day paper pads and spiral bound notebooks around the place for spontaneous scribbling, I now have a collection of just under seventy (did she say seventy? Yes. Yes, she did) notebooks in my study, each one different, just waiting for the right idea to come along to inhabit them. Some of them are embarrassingly expensive. Others were cheap but happened to have a texture or a colour or pattern that tugged at something in my brain. Some were gifts. One was custom made just for me. Some have been there for a decade. Others… were bought like a month ago because even though I have so many I still can’t quite seem to stop buying more (send help).
After all this rambling it seems only fair to share a few pretty snapshots of my favourites, right? First up… the florals. Most likely to be selected for high fantasies and fairytail retellings, or stories that have some sort of focus on nature. The top one is a cloth-bound notebook which I bought for a few quid from a supermarket, but it’s nevertheless a firm favourite. I love the colours and pattern. The others are Paperblanks or Paperchase magnetic wraps.
Next up – the Moleskine or Moleskine-ish notebooks. These are great because they’re so slim and light and feel very business-like. But that can also be a problem, as I found while writing FrostFire in the black Moleskine you see there. The book was about wildness, passion, hatred and love, and I felt weirdly like I was messing up that notebook with it! It didn’t match (and as a result I ended up writing most of the novel directly onto the computer, which I paid for big-time in the revision process). So I generally only buy these kinds of books now if they have a colour or a pattern, something that feels like one of my characters might be attracted to it.
These are the metallics, which activate my magpie tendencies like nobody’s business. My favourite of this pile is right at the bottom – the blue and gold journal, which is extra large, with gold-edged pages. The cover has suns, moons, stars, and old-fashioned sailing ships, and reminds me of a book that I used to write poetry in as a teenager. I already know what story belongs there, but it’s going to take a while to work my way around to it.
And finally, the handmade leather journals, which are from an artisan on Etsy. Each of them is made to look like a volume of one of Shakespeare’s plays. One of these was given to me as a present by a dear friend (hey, Liz!) and the other one I commissioned myself – I think, if I remember correctly, as a way to celebrate getting the book contract for Big Secret Project aka The Katana Trilogy aka The Name of the Blade series. These are so, so gorgeous that they count as objet d’art as far as I’m concerned, and I keep them in the little shelves of my secretaire, where I write each day, just to look at (and sometimes smell) them. I really hope I’ll be able to muster up the courage to write in one or both of them one day…