Notes from Candice Ransom

A Simple Quote Book

Like most writers, I have a ton of journals, yet if I’m in Barnes and Noble, I study the journal section like I’m trying to pass the bar exam.  I don’t need any more yet I’m drawn to them like filings to a magnet. I have bullet journals, Moleskine notebooks, and a shelf of hand-covered composition books where I faithfully recorded observations for years. I’m not sure why I stopped. Maybe keeping notebooks had become a chore rather than a practice.

Yet I’ve always loved copying quotes. If I were to keep a dedicated quotes notebook, I’d dither over which fancy journal I already own or what pen I should use. Buy something new? I’m my own worst enemy sometimes. The other night I looked at a crate of vintage basic readers I’ve collected. They aren’t pretty. They aren’t precious. I bought them to use in scrapbooking.

I plucked out Streets and Roads, published by Scott, Foresman and Company in 1946. I find these readers comforting, with their thick, heavy rag content pages thumbed by countless children, illustrations in muted colors of modest office buildings, telephone poles looped with wires, and humpbacked automobiles trawling along city streets or country roads. Yes, I decided, this humble textbook would be reborn as my quote journal. I wouldn’t make a huge production of turning it into an altered book. It won’t be beautiful. It will be serviceable, as it once served children learning to read.

With an X-acto knife, I sliced out pages to remove some bulk (I kept those pages). Next, I gathered a glue stick, wet glue, fine line pens, my paper cutter, and leftover cardstock. That’s it for supplies and equipment. I cut strips and squares of cardstock to write on. Then I gathered books.

The quotes I want to keep are portions from books, not pithy sayings or anything that would be found in Barlett. When I read, I tell myself I want to remember this paragraph or that exchange of dialog. Here’s where the quote journal steps in. I copy the quote on cardstock by hand, glue it in the book.

For my first entry, I copied several paragraphs from Fires in the Dark: Healing the Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, in which she quoted a conversation between Merlyn and Arthur in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King:

            “Do you remember anything about the magic you had when you were small?”

            “No. Did I have some magic? I can remember that I was interested in birds and beasts. Indeed, that is why I still keep my menagerie at the Tower. But I didn’t remember about magic.”

            “People don’t remember,” said Merlyn.

That quote reminds me to remember that magic is always present and all around us; we only have to notice.

I found a quote by P.L. Travers in a university library book and copied it with my notes for a research project. When I got home, I tried mightily to find Travers’ entire 1965 article in the New York Herald Tribune Book Week but could not. Still, I have her quote:

           Once in a wood, in the early morning, I saw a fox dancing alone just at the edge of a clearing, up and down on his hind legs, swinging his brush in the sun. There was no vixen near, the birds were not interested, nobody in the world cared—he was doing it for his own pleasure. Perhaps most writers are really foxes, dancing their own particular dance without any thought of a watching eye.

 Travers encourages me to take my work a bit less seriously, and have fun with it once in a while.

Just as paging through this well-worn textbook is soothing, so is the act of writing by hand and considering each word as it slips onto the cardstock. I want to keep my quote notebook close by—so many of my journals and half-started projects land in a pile. So, I gave it a present.

At T.J. Maxx, I bought two cosmetic bags: one for storing the journal, the other for keeping pens, glue, and other tools together. The two cost less than those fancy book covers. The cheerful pattern beckons me to step away from the computer and do a bit of thoughtful journaling.

You can find old textbooks at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I like to leave some of the illustrations and even a snippet of text for interest. Reuse, repurpose, enjoy!




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