A couple of weeks ago someone responded to an email newsletter with “Thanks for another great newsletter, Liz!”


And it was so tremendously heartwarming I could’ve melted and died on the spot if I wasn’t holding a very tasty snack because 95-99% of the emails Jon gets back (the newsletter auto-responds to Jon’s email) are comments on my typos (do you not believe in spell check because you like to write with fountain pens?), questions about inaccurate information (I see you said in the November 14th email that you were getting this shipment in and it is now, I believe, April), or conspiracy theories about Covid and the Russians. Most people don’t tell us their thoughts on the conspiracy theories involving the Chinese.


I will take these little spots of cheer while I can get them. Covid seems to be ramping up, and also mutating into a Medusa with all of its venomous variants swirling around literally in the air around us. Schools are closed, shops are closed, people are wearing cloth face masks and hi-tech face masks and ski masks and balaclavas. The good news of the vaccine has been slightly tempered with the reality of the government roll-out of actually getting people vaccinated. It’s been a bit hairy around here. The other day I posted on Instagram one of my most recent failed attempts to get an appointment for a vaccine in my area. I’m in an official postal code hotspot, and there are mobile pop up and community centres offering vaccine clinics for us. The week’s appointments were to be released at 12 pm and I checked around 12:20, only to find a ten hour wait. It was unclear if this was a ten hour wait to get into the website or a ten hour wait to actually get an appointment, and if it had really been the latter, would I have had the mental fortitude to wait that long? Before I had the opportunity to test myself, it eventually moved to 11 hours, and then said “website unavailable,” so I suppose we shall never know.



In any case, where I’m really going with this is that as a result of putting that story up on Instagram, I got a lot of responses. The responses were varied, many of them vehemently chiding me for even contemplating: of course you should get a vaccine, how irresponsible of you to even contemplate! Do whatever it takes! Others indicated similar defeatism and frustration at the futility of trying to get an appointment online, most of these responses located interestingly and coincidentally within Toronto. Some of you gave me locations hither and thither where there might be appointments opening up, suggesting gently perhaps leaving the province or planet entirely might be a safer option. I’m not quite emotionally ready to get into the thick of the vaccine debate; having two young kids I’ve already encountered a surprising number of anti-vax parents when it comes to things like the measles, which I would prefer not for either of my children to have, if at all possible. I’m grateful that both of my kids are fully vaccinated, and I plan to get the Covid vaccine as soon as I can.


But it’s all to say that things continue to be tense and intense here in the city and everyone is anxious about everything. Jon and I are extremely fortunate to be in a position to close the shop for us and the staff and our families, and still operate online and still hum, even if the coal engines are looking a bit smokey from day to day. We sell such innocuous things as bottles of ink and journals and washi tape and mystery sample packs and we see, day to day, in our interactions with customers, that people are stressed out and worried and upset about many other things, and that this can bleed into all of our interactions with people.


As we stumble our way through this final, flogging tail end of the pandemic, I am sending you what little fortitude I can muster (not much) and also good wishes for moments here and there to keep you going while we wait for vaccine supply to keep up with our ambition. You may not have the good fortune to be in my exact relaxing locale, which involves a precipitously sloping fire escape, the slats of which chair legs occasionally, jarringly slip through, half-naked and shrieking children, and a laneway of people shouting at each other and perhaps doing some quasi-legal things, but what a gift it is to take a moment for yourself.


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April 24, 2021 — Liz Chan


Kevin Love

Kevin Love said:

Sorry to read that you are receiving so much negative feedback. So please allow me to counter that.

Your business has brought joy into my life. In the year 2015 I decided to learn Spencerian penmanship. So I bought the theory book, copy books and fountain pens. Mission accomplished, and now I have pen friends around the world. During this pandemic, my family and I may be severely confined, but my letters can travel the world.

It will probably be one or two years before I buy anything from you again. Because fountain pens last forever and I have enough ink to last for the next one or two years. But please know that I am thinking about you with gratitude almost every day.

Kevin Love


Diane said:

Hang in there! I love your writing and your storytelling! Your photos are beautiful. My pen pal and I are writing (she has beautiful calligraphy that puts my scrawl to shame) regularly. I bought Austin Kleon’s Keep Going from you and it changed my life.

This pandemic will somehow eventually end. Life somehow goes on, in many ungainly steps. I’m grateful for your writing, and always look forward to it.


Mags said:

I live in the same area and logged into the “wait room” for that round of appointments 30 minutes early and my wait time waffled between several minutes and several hours. Then at 11:55 I made it to the booking page only to find all the spots already booked – five minutes BEFORE they were supposed to go live! We can only hope they went to folks more vulnerable than us.

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