The Magic of the 2021 Chicago Pen Show

By Jennifer Houghton

Someone asked me what I liked about fountain pens. And I wasn’t ready with a response.

You would have imagined that spending time with my fellow “pen nerds” at the 2021 Chicago Pen Show would have left me breathless and gushing. Sure, I had discussed aspects of individual brands or preferences of the latest colors, but that wasn’t what this person was asking me. He was seeking something deeper with that question.

So, introvert that I am, here’s my belated response.


Saturday, before heading to the Show, I reached for my red S.T.Dupont. My pens reflect parts of my personality. And this one burns with passion and elegance and confidence. Each pen means something more than just being a brand I like or a color I didn’t have before the purchase. You can probably guess the mood I’m in by what writing instrument is in my hand.

Sometimes it tells you what I’m looking for. I bought a Waldmann Tango on Friday because I have an affinity for German pens. They’re strong and reliable, in my experience. And I think most of us have a yearning for stability and strength over the last year and a half of the pandemic.


Beyond fountain pens being a barometer of my mood or style, they are, for me, magic. As I’ve become more comfortable acknowledging that my calling is writing, the alchemy of transforming ink through nib into well-phrased sentences

Writing longhand engages my body and mind in a concert of motion and thought that allows insight to occur. When my words wrap themselves around the lines of the page, the embrace becomes a love letter to myself. My fountain pens are the tools I use to compose narratives that makes sense of the world. They help me draw on my own fire and creative power.

So, maybe the answer I wish I had given to the gentleman who sincerely asked what I loved about fountain pens is this: I love fountain pens because they are the conduit that sustains and hones my talent. Words hold power and I’m able to find myself and connect with other people through the magic of my pens.

What does your fountain pen mean to you?

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