Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Junk for Writers

This is going to be a week of ten lists, it seems. But today I have for you a list of office supply products that are either helpful, wonderful, or unusual; sometimes all three -- what I call writer junk, of which we can never have too much, naturally.

1. Book Repair Tape by Scotch -- I don't recommend this for rare/expensive book restoration (get an antique book expert restorer to fix any genuine old treasures) but for every day repairs it works well. I use it on magazine covers that get torn up going through the post, too. Does not work on mouths, though.

2. CD File Folders by Vaultz -- I bought these rather than jewel cases for the disks I use frequently (mainly because I have trouble opening jewel cases.) Like CD envelopes, they are great at preventing scratches and dings, but here's the truly brilliant part -- they're tabbed like file folders, so I can alphabetize/organize them in my CD storage box, and I don't have to take them out to know what they are. Genius!

3. Desktop Writeboard -- a dry erase whiteboard you can keep on your desk? Yep. It comes with templates you can slide under the clear top so you can use it for a variety of purposes. This saves a ton of paper and is highly convenient for anyone who would rather not work from a wall whiteboard. Whoever came up with this little beauty should get a big honking raise.

4. File Folders by Target -- file folders are usually as dull and boring as an SFWA meeting, but Target offers some with different designs, colors, prints, etc. If you like the chicky/retro look, these are great (personally I prefer the Old World map file folders I used to get from Levenger, but I'm not allowed to touch that catalog anymore.)

5. Frixion Erasable Roller Ball Pen by Pilot -- the ink erases with friction you create by rubbing the end of the pen over the paper; no rubber eraser bits or mess. And they actually work! It is beyond neat how well they do. I can't erase my fountain pen ink, so these are really handy for me when I'm not writing something set in stone. Here's a very good explanation of how the friction-erasing technology behind them (and I tried the freezer thing, and a ghost of the writing does reappear.) Not recommended for check-writing, contract or prenup signing purposes, obviously.

6. HP Deskjet D4160 Inkjet Printer -- I've been through a lot of cheapie printers in my time, and most of them are ink hogs that produce poor quality print, especially anything in color. This HP model has turned out to actually be worth the money; it produces about thirty pages per minute and doesn't suck dry the toner cartridges too fast, does a nice job with color prints, and handles all the different types of paper. The toner cartridges it uses are a bit pricey, but not painfully so -- we won't talk about how much they cost for my laser printer.

7. iPoint Pencil Sharpener -- I kept breaking and grinding down my pastel and color pencils in my old horizontal pencil sharpener, so I tried out this one. It operates hands-free, works nicely, and saves space, and the cats can't fit their tails or paws in it, always a bonus.

8. Office Depot® Brand Poly Ultra Wallet, 3 1/4" Expansion, 9 7/8" x 13 5/16" -- this is the only thing I use for carrying, storing and shipping manuscripts anymore. Sturdy, nice-looking, secured by two elastic bands so it's easy to open, and comes in decent, non-DayGlo colors. It's also big; I've fit up to 600 pages in one of these with no problem. Be sure to get the ones with the cloth binding around the edges; Office Depot sells another, cheaper variety that is the same size but not as sturdy. Beats storing your ms. in an empty Pampers box any day.

9. Post-It 4" X 6" Lined Notes by 3M -- I never used sticky notes because I could never fit everything I want to write on them, and they only came in eye-searing or obnoxious shades of yellow, orange or green. Fortunately someone at 3M came up with these, which are a decent size and come in less-annoying pastel colors. I'm still waiting for white or ivory, though, boys.

10. Thermal Laminator TL-901 by Scotch -- laminating anything can cost a mint, and if you use heatless or self-sealing products they sometimes peel at the edges or bubble. I picked up this small/personal use laminator last year for under $20 on sale and have had excellent results with it. Not for big projects, but if you're just making a handful of bookmarks, a new target for your dartboard or similar items it does a great job.

Have you got any neat junk for writers to recommend? Share your favorites in comments.


  1. Oh. I need #1. Regular Scotch tape doesn't do such a great job.

    I tend to not collect office supplies for writing junk; I did fall in love with electronic post-its, though. Post-it notes! On my computer! That I can't lose! Genius.

  2. I LOVE office supplies!!!

    I just placed an order.

    I both love and hate you for this list. Probably more on the love side once my pretty file folders come in the mail...

  3. I call Staples, Office Max and Office Depot my toy stores.

    And I'm not allowed to touch the Levenger catalog anymore either. Sigh. That catalog is so full of the pretty!

    I honestly never thought of shipping manuscripts in a folder. Head slap! Question: do you ship manuscripts a lot? I thought many/most were being done electronically via e-mail these days.

  4. A half-size spiral notebook (or "personal journal")--mine has an elastic band to keep it closed while in my purse and 3 tabbed dividers with little pockets big enough for a business card or receipt. Bought at Target for around $5. I stick a pen in the spiral binding and use it for scribbling writing notes, shopping lists, addresses, and entertaining my 3 year old when I'm out of the house.

    I used to have a palm pilot for much the same thing, but it's harder to tear a sheet out of a palm pilot. In the past I've also used a small planner, but those always have tons of fancified pages that I don't need and never enough of the ones that I do. This one is much more flexible. And cheaper.

  5. Love this post. Not a writer, but I think some of these products apply (bigger post-its, book repair tape, erasable roller ball pen). I'm already using the CD sleeves with little index tabs though - yes they rule.

    Office supply products I can't live without - my shredder. I think I got a 10 sheet cross shredder from Staples for $20 with rebate. And it shreds credit cards and CDs. So much better than my puny 3 sheet shredder which would die and I'd need to clean and try again. Love it.

  6. Book Repair Tape! I have looked for this everywhere over here, with no joy. Hence the dj's stuck together with ordinary tape.

    Those CD folders sound great, too. Jewel cases break if you only look at them. In fact I would nominate the jewel case for The Worst Design of the C20th, easily.

    My favourite is probably coloured paper. Paper does not have to be white! (okay, for practical purposes it does, but for frivolous purposes, no way!) lol

  7. PS

    I once repaired a book with SuperGlue. And learnt some interesting facts about exothermic reactions.

  8. They'd better never stop making these or I'll go nuts...

    I use these plastic folders primarily for my short stories (one per folder, color coded based on editing priority) and then for outlines and background notes and maps on my novel projects.

  9. Ooohhhhh....just when I was saying I needed to cut back significantly on office supplies (I think I moved about five boxes -- maybe more on this last move). There you go showing more I need to pick up. You're evil, I say, Evil! (smile)

  10. Anonymous11:12 PM

    My fave desk thing is a pad of sticky notes I find at the local grocery store. What I like about them is they have a little hole for a pen. It's one place I can always find my fricking pen.

  11. Anonymous11:47 PM

    Thanks so much for these recommendations... They're be great for my new place!! :)


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