The answer is, almost anything.
My paper of choice is loose-leaf, three-hole punch notebook filler paper, college-ruled, which comes around, back-to-school time, this time of the year, for as little as 18¢ for 150 sheets (limit 4, but there are lots of Walgreen’s and CVSs to stop at, aren’t there?) Usually they want about 2¢ a sheet for it—the rest of the year it’s @ $2.98 for the 150 sheets.
In my many years of cruising garage-and- going out-of-business sales, I’ve ended up with some really great stuff. Some of the best I picked up at a garage sale on Airport Blvd.—it was leftover letterheads from a one-person insurance agency on 49 ½ St ( by then, all residences ) that must have gone out of business in the early 1960s, before ZIP codes. It had a slightly crinkled finish (“with a nice tooth” as we say) and was printed on 50% rag content paper. It was still as white as the day it came from the printer, and this was in the early 1980s. A full real of it, to he best of my memory, cost me 35¢. I used it for years, but finally ran out around 1986 or so.
Them Bones was written, the whole manuscript ((More in a minute)) on the back of a 365-Day 8 ½” x 11” Kliban Calendar Notebook. The cartoons were printed on a slightly pulpy creamish-colored paper, and once again had a fine tooth for the fountain pen to grab and really flow, without, pulp appearance to the contrary, spreading or smudging which is what happens when you put ink to most construction-paper-looking stuff.
((I read Them Bones the same way the reader did, the first time I opened the book. I’d written all the sections separately. I shuffled the sections together after I typed it all up—section at a time—and put the page numbers on it by hand just before I sent it off to the late Terry Carr. All I knew when I started assembling it was that Leake VIII followed The Box VIII and both had to come after Bessie VI etc. etc. When I read the printed book, I was astounded by how much resonated referring back to the other sections as I wrote it.))
I wrote “Man-Mountain Gentian”—which I had to read at a convention in Dallas at 6 pm—sitting on my suitcase in the aisle of a packed Greyhound Bus (the bus was full—I said “I have to get to Dallas on this bus; I’ll stand up til someone leaves”—that turned out to be Waco, 100 miles away) on a Snoopy pad, the only writing surface they had for sale in the Austin bus depot. The pad was auctioned off for charity at the convention—Lew Shiner bought it (I’d had to go across the street from the hotel and pay, if I remember, 35¢ a page to copy it so I’d have a mss to type from when I got back to Austin Monday—I found a ride back so I didn’t have to stand up 100 miles again…).
I usually have my own paper with me when I’m doing that, i.e. finishing a story to read at a convention. Microperfed wireless notebooks are a godsend—you can write in them, or tear the pages out (without all those spiral notebook hanging-chads coming out all over the place with them).
I have written on and in some of the goddamdest places and things invented by man. Choice of course, is on my own knocked-together desks in my own room, wherever that is. I have written on friend’s desks; various in-laws (and woulda-been in-laws if the ladies and I had been married) kitchen tables during blizzards; more hotel-room little writing escritoires and tables than you can imagine; in people’s borrowed hotel rooms an hour before a reading—Thanks, Pat Cadigan, at least a couple of times—in a papa-san chair in George R. R. Martin’s office (as he, quant suff. wrote “Meathouse Man” in 1976 in Grand Prairie, TX, in my living-room, and as we wrote “The Men of Greywater Station” in a hotel room shared by 13 fans in Kansas City in 1972, between visits to the Playboy Club up on the roof, the only decent overpriced bar in the place…).
I’ve written on the fold-down trays on jets AND typed them up, back in the days of typewriters, on my old blue portable stripped down and mounted on a thin wood base with a handle on it so I didn’t have to take the case and cover. (Usually the typing waited for the hotel room, unless I had a reading at, like three hours later, after I got to the convention.)
I wrote something on an electrical wire cable spool in Lake City, CO. I’ve written on top of an old Singer treadle sewing machine.
I’m getting old. I’d really like to finish my work in plenty of time, on the paper of my choice, at my very own desk.
Wouldn’t it be pretty to think so.” as Hemingway said.
Next blogs somewhere: Howard re-encounters The Sugar Creek Gang in a mano-a-mano TX barbed wire death match after 50 years!