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    Sparkly Gel Pens, a Webinar, and Other Commonplace Book Necessities

    March 9, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap] love my commonplace book. Seriously. Copying quotes is a habit I’ve had since I was quite young, but it was one that was displaced during my baby and toddler years. I’m so thankful that Laurie Bestvater’s The Living Page convinced me to pick it back up again, and keep all of my quotes together in one place {instead of wherever I found paper to write}.

    It’s been great.

    Sparkly Gel Pens, a Webinar, and Other Commonplace Book Necessities

    Today we’re going to talk about supplies for keeping a commonplace book, the commonplacing webinar we Scholé Sisters just did, and more.



    First, of course, you need a notebook. I like something permanent and attractive, but simple. I tend to prefer blank pages, though a good cover can cause me to compromise and use lines, and of course I recently fell in love with dotted journals.

    Here are some of my favorite notebook options:

    • This is the notebook I’ve been using as my bullet journal, and it’s wonderful. Truly. I love the dots, love the feel, love the elastic closure. Love. I’ve considered this, or some other Moleskin product, for my next commonplace. My one issue is that the paper is just thin enough that it is too thin for my beloved Sharpie pens {which we’ll get to, don’t you worry}.


    • I’ve shared before that I love Paperblank notebooks. The issue is that they are pricey, so I tend to ask for them for gifts. These notebooks are generally lined, which I think is a drawback, but if you love lines, you’ll love these!


    • The Leuchtturm1917 is very similar to a Moleskin, but more expensive. Still, I’m considering it. A commonplace book tends to last me a pretty long time, and I like that these are supposed to have pages that are a bit thicker. They are still dotted, and a big bonus is that the pages are numbered. If I was to start indexing my journal {something I plan to do when I begin my next one}, having pre-numbered pages would come in handy.


    • Way more affordable would be a Pentalic sketch journal. Completely unlined, the way I like them. I use Pentalic’s watercolor notebooks for nature journals, and I love them, so I trust the brand. The pages are supposed to be thick enough for a fountain pen, which means they ought to work with my beloved Sharpies. The Traveler 8″ x 6″ journal comes in a number of pretty colors, and it’s designed to lay flat when you’re using it.

    After that, of course you need something to write with. Here are my favorite options:


    • The Sharpies are supposed to be no-bleed, but in my experience, they do bleed through really thin paper. So my next choice, when that sort of emergency comes upon me, is to use the simple PaperMate Ink Joy ballpoint pens.



    The Webinar

    Last week, Sarah did a webinar with Andrew Kern on his highlighting and close reading method. After that, we Scholé Sisters threw a bit of an afterparty. We played show and tell with our own commonplace books, and discussed how we do it, how we teach it to our children, and more. It was great fun, and if you’re having trouble wrapping your mind around keeping a commonplace, our video (it’s almost an hour!) should help you feel more comfortable. If you’d like to view the replay, head on over here to purchase.


    What Else?

    The only other thing you need is a book to read! Most of you have a huge, toppling pile of those and don’t need any ideas. But, just in case, I thought I’d share some favorites. I have copied so. many. quotes. out of these books:

    • Norms and NobilityPoetic Knowledge
    • Begin HereTen Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Children •
    What are you commonplacing these days?



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  • Reply Nicole Stephen April 8, 2020 at 9:31 am

    Hi Brandy! I’m trying to get into Commonplacing and I’d love to access the Schole Sisters session and the Andrew Kern webinar but all the links seem to be broken – could you tell me where I can find these resources? Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 9, 2020 at 9:15 am

      Hi! Sorry about that — this is a very old post! The commonplace workshop is now included as one of the many bonuses for Sistership Supporters. We have plans to do an update to this in the next year, actually. To join and get the workshop right away, just go here and register as a Supporter.

  • Reply Commonplacing for Moms: 10 Tips to Get Started | Simply Convivial December 28, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    […] Sparkly Gel Pens, a Webinar, and Other Commonplace Book Necessities by Brandy Vencel […]

  • Reply Amber December 14, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    I did not realize this was a “thing” but my daughter started this recently while we were reading aloud… it’s a notebook we both add to from the books we read together.

    I just started my own & I found what helps me write it all down when I can is taking a picture of the passage & page #. Then when I sit down with my notebook (cheap composition book) I can write based on my screen shot or out of the book.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel December 15, 2016 at 7:15 am

      Oh, I love this Amber! It seems like you’d build such great memories doing it together like that. ♥

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog March 8, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Hey Brandy! I wanted to come back to your post here and ask you a question. I just bought my first paperblanks journal this past weekend. It was a splurge for my birthday. 🙂 My question is, the sharpie pens you linked to in this post, do you know if they would do okay on this paperblanks journal? Is the paper thick enough that the markers won’t bleed through?

  • Reply Keeping a Commonplace Book | February 22, 2016 at 6:31 am

    […] Sparkly Gel Pens, a Webinar, and Other Commonplace Book Necessities – This is a great post by Brandy. Some of the things she shares about in this post are her favorite types of notebooks and pens to use for a commonplace book. […]

  • Reply Erin September 11, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    I’m a little late with the comment! I’m just reading this tonight. ? I’ve kept one of these in random places like different notebooks or on pieces of paper…whatever I could find quickly, but am inspired to put it all in one place. Yay! About the journals, I’m not sure where you live, but if there is a Half-Price Books nearby, they sell the nicer journals like Moleskin and Leuchtturm1917, as well as nice (unlined!) sketch journals at much lower prices. And my favorite pens as of now are Pentel Energel. The 07 size write very smooth. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 12, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      Oh, I *wish* we had a Half-Price Books! Way cheaper sounds WAY better. I will keep my eye out for one whenever I’m traveling. Thank you for the tip! 🙂

  • Reply Jamie April 30, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Brandy,

    I’m late jumping in, but I couldn’t see a post on commonplace books without giving a shout out to my favorite things: my Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen and Quo Vadis Habana notebook (which is perfectly suited to fountain pen ink). I have been jotting down quotes in various places for years, but a couple of years ago I began compiling them in once place, which for a while was a Word document. Last year the search was on for a nice pen and pretty, unlined notebook to use for commonplacing, and I discovered fountain pens. I’ve been transcribing all of my old quotes little by little into my commonplace notebook this year, and I love the results.

    What I really like about the Quo Vadis notebook is my pens do not bleed through–and fountain pen ink is no trifling matter, in addition to which I like to use the blackest black archival-quality ink I can find. Using a simple lined template behind the page I am writing on makes it easy to keep things looking neat without having to use a permanently-lined notebook. The paper is smooth and my pen just glides along–glorious!

    I just got a Leuchtturm notebook for my birthday that I plan to use for my (years of) book lists, and after scribbling in it a bit today I would say that it is also nice but my personal preference is still for the Quo Vadis; the paper is smoother and the ghosting is a wee bit less visible, I think. Both are better in terms of paper quality and issues of bleed-through than Moleskine. At any rate, a couple of ideas that may play well with your sharpies. They are not cheap, but I think they are worth it.

    My eight-year-old daughter, seeing me copy quotes today, has asked for her own. She was excitedly rattling off hymns, psalms, quotes from books that she wants to put in it. I guess I will be placing another order soon. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 30, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Ooh! Thank you! I love researching this sort of thing and I will definitely check into your suggestions! 🙂

  • Reply Darcia April 3, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens – are wonderful and colorful. They don’t bleed.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 3, 2015 at 7:22 pm

      Erasable? For real…they can be erased? That is one I’ve never heard of and I’m intrigued!

      • Reply Celeste April 3, 2015 at 7:37 pm

        Brandy, my kids use these for all of their schoolwork and they are *amazing*. They erase through heat/friction, so no little eraser bits everywhere either! They don’t go on quite as smooth as the pens I like for Keeping, but my kids absolutely love them because they give the nice look of work done in pen but they don’t have to worry as much about making mistakes.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel April 4, 2015 at 7:23 am

          I think possibly you all have just changed my life. I adore gel pens {as you know}, but gel pens that children can use for *real* school work because they are erasable? I’m so excited!

  • Reply stacey March 14, 2015 at 11:17 am

    My last entries (in a hand-decorated blank journal with boring blue pens) are from Pyle’s King Arthur (fantastic sentences!) and Goudge’s The Pilgrim Inn and The Living Page. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 14, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      Ooh! I haven’t read that Goudge title. I’m going to have to look that up. 🙂

  • Reply Amber March 11, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    I’ve been keeping a Commonplace for about a year now, and while I can’t say I’m always using it consistently, I really enjoy the practice of keeping in a Commonplace. I tend to read ebooks while nursing the baby, so I highlight on the device. Then when my boys (6 and 9) are doing tablework I will pull out my Commonplace, go to and look through my highlights to see what I’d like to copy. It sets a good example for my kids, keeps me from micromanaging their work and keeps me close at hand while they are working in case they have a question. Doing this has inspired my 13 yo to ask for her own Commonplace book where she’s copying Tolkien quotations. 🙂

    Oh, and I have a Moleskine notebook and Micron pens. Can’t say I’m 100% happy with either – the paper is a wee bit thin, and I don’t always like how the ink flows w/ the pen, but they are workable and reasonably enjoyable.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 11, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      Oh my goodness! Your method of commonplacing from a Kindle is brilliant! I need to remember that.

      I love that your 13yo is doing it, too. ♥

  • Reply Celeste March 11, 2015 at 10:01 am

    Okay, I think I’m going to have to try those Sharpies. Next time I place an office supply order, they’re on the list. 🙂 I like an ultra-ultra fine line (.005) for commonplacing and nature journaling, but I can imagine using these in lots of other ways… 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 11, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      You will have to let me know what you think. I am totally smitten. 🙂

  • Reply How I Use My Commonplace Journal » Simply Convivial March 10, 2015 at 7:30 am

    […] yesterday Brandy wrote about her favorite sparkly gel pens (shudder) and favorite notebooks she uses, and today it is my […]

  • Reply Kansas Mom March 10, 2015 at 5:06 am

    I just started a commonplace journal a month or so ago and LOVE it. I just grabbed an old journal I had never used and a whatever pen I had handy and started. Start today! You can always pick the perfect book and pens for the next book.

    That being said, I can see how having a pen that writes easily would be a good idea. My hand often cramps when I’m copying something.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 11, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      I totally agree with you that you can pick the perfect book and pens next time. In fact, I was just thinking about the fact that the act of doing it is really what has helped me refined my own system — which in turn has helped me decide what to look for in a book and pens…

  • Reply Keeping a Reading Notebook – Part II | March 9, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    […] Sparkly Gel Pens, a Webinar, and Other Commonplace Book Necessities – This is a great post by Brandy. Some of the things she shares about in this post are her favorite types of notebooks and pens to use for a commonplace book. […]

  • Reply Melissa March 9, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    I’ve been commonplacing from The Story Book of Science, which I’m reading aloud to our son…

    Quo Vadis?, which I HIGHLY recommend while studying Roman history…

    And, of course, I have many quotes from Charlotte Mason’s original 6 volume series.

    Thanks for sharing your favorite supply list. My dd and I are office supply hoarders 😉 I just love paper and writing utensils!!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 9, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Quo Vadis! That is on my long term list. I don’t actually own it yet…I need to get it soon!

  • Reply Nelleke from P.E.I. March 9, 2015 at 10:11 am

    I’ve been commonplacing from Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, a book I think every parent should read. I have been using a dollar store notebook and a ball-point pen. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 9, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Mystie loves a good dollar store notebook, so you are in good company. 🙂

  • Reply Tristan March 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

    I loved the webinar videos and officially got started with commonplacing a few day ago. I just finished up reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and there were some gems in that one for my commonplace book. I need to decide on my next book to read now. I’m reading Pride and Prejudice along with my oldest and I have a list of books to choose from for my own reading listed on my blog here (I just don’t know which one to choose!):

    For my commonplacing I bought Yoobi Thin Notebooks at Target. You can see them here:
    For writing inside I’m using Z-Twist pens in black, though I just ordered some in blue and may try our gel pens occasionally.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 9, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      Are you happy with the Yoobi notebooks? I’ve look at those, but haven’t tried them yet. 🙂

      It’s hard to choose a new book, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Reply Mystie March 9, 2015 at 6:08 am

    Begin Here sandwiched between those titles? OK. I have it and haven’t yet read it. Next up. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 9, 2015 at 7:09 am

      I really like it, and I think you will, too. One thing about it is that it’s an essay collection, so easy to put down and pick back up a couple weeks later without feeling lost. Well, as long as you finished the whole essay. But the chapters don’t necessarily connect, though it is definitely organized well, for an essay collection…

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog March 9, 2015 at 6:04 am

    This is a great post Brandy! I just did a post on my blog about my reading notebook this past week. I like using different colors in my reading notebook (i.e. Commonplace Book) but I often just grab a regular pen. That could be because most times I don’t have colored pens available. LOL I have used the InkJoy pens before and do like the way they write. But my one complaint is that I noticed that ink tended to come out heavier at times and therefore leaving a heavier ink spot off and on when I would write. I just use regular notebooks right now and so I think the sharpies would probably bleed through the notebook paper, right? If not, I might consider buying some of those.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 9, 2015 at 7:08 am

      I have a “nice” normal notebook that seems to have thicker pages, and the Sharpies do fine with it, but I also have a really cheap notebook, and they definitely bleed — it isn’t horrible, but I don’t like that I can see the writing on the other side of the page. Sometimes at little craft stores they will sell just one Sharpie pen at a time. You could try that to test them out before making the investment!

      I will have to go look at your post. 🙂 I wasn’t online much this weekend, so I haven’t seen it.

      • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog March 9, 2015 at 8:14 am

        My notebook is one of the composition notebooks. The paper does seem to be a tad bit thicker so they just might work for it. However, today I’m transforming a former notebook I had that was barely used to make a new reading notebook and the paper in it is thinner.

        My blog post is very basic; but I’m thinking of doing a follow-up post and in it maybe give some links of other posts about commonplace books. Like a link to this great post of yours! 🙂

  • Reply dawn March 9, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Excellent! Some of my favorite features of a commonplace book are *big* pages [my current one has pages that are 7″x 10″ … it’s by Mead], I prefer lined pages so my handwriting stays neat, and it must have at least one ribbon (maybe two) for keeping my place. I don’t, however, like that it has perforated pages. Something to watch out for. And I do like a pretty cover. I got my book at Meijer (local grocery, big-box chain) because I needed one *now* before I had Amazon Prime 😉

    I love the Sharpie pens and use them exclusively. I keep mine in my Book Bag with the books I’m reading so, theoretically, I can pull it out at a moment but in actuality, I go back and add a bunch of quotes on Friday night at basketball practics :/

    Isn’t it wonderful how we can all have our own preferences yet still accomplish similar goals?

    I loved the workshop with the Schole Sisters, I hope you all do others!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 9, 2015 at 7:06 am

      Have you ever tried taking a plain looking notebook and making it prettier by decorating the front? I was thinking about this and wondering whether I’d actually like it when I was done…or whether the cover would feel uneven and catch on things in my bag…hmmm…

      • Reply dawn March 9, 2015 at 7:11 am

        I haven’t … Mostly because Modge Lodge and I are not friends. But maybe clear contact paper would cover and be smooth? I still have a notebook from 5th grade (1982) that my mom made for me that way. I usually buy the puffy notebooks with impressions for design. Don’t tell Mystie, but my current Sermon notebook is purple 😉

        • Reply dawn March 9, 2015 at 7:12 am

          Oops … Modge Podge. Autocorrect got me.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel March 9, 2015 at 7:18 am

          Gasp! You stole her color! 😉

  • Reply Julia March 9, 2015 at 3:53 am

    I have been commonplacing for quite awhile but I am not good at being consistent. I usually find myself in a different room than the commonplace book and I am too lazy to go and get it and then I forget to put the quote in. I need to be more disciplined in the habit of carrying the commonplace book around with me when I am reading. I watched the video yesterday and it gave me a few ideas as to how to streamline things better. I loved your idea on indexing the quotes. I think I will carry that out as well.

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