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Fountain Pen Community - #killwinterwithorange

Fr. Kyle Sanders

The @randomthinks trademark

I am a big fan of Instagram. It has brought out the length, breadth, and depth of the fountain pen community (online). I have met and chatted with so many wonderful people about pens, paper, inks, and other such stuff. I met Keith McCleary (@randomthinks on IG) at some point during my time on the Grams (yeah, just made that up). He had quite an extensive collection of pens but what I really enjoyed were his daily quotes. I've always been a quote guy. I noticed that he started a movement mid-winter that spread through the IG community like wildfire. I asked him if he would be willing to tell his story and so without further ado:

The battle of the colors will now commence!

I’m not sure that there was a single event that provoked me to murder.  At least not any precipitating event that sticks out in my memory.  I think it was the gradual erosion of what a friend once called “the thin veneer of civility”.  It wasn’t another person, it wasn’t a bad day at work, it wasn’t traffic, and it wasn’t the commute.  It wasn’t even the snow.  I was born in Detroit and raised in Michigan.  Other than 4 years of graduate school and 4 years away at my first post graduate job, I’ve lived here for more than 40 years.  I know winter, and I’ve never hated it.  I’ve shoveled and blown snow, I’ve chopped and scraped ice, I’ve snow shoed and skied, and even camped in the snow as a Boy Scout.  It wasn’t the snow.

It was the cold.  It was the wind.  It was real temperatures in the negative teens and wind chills below -20.  It was days where my poor kiddos didn’t get to go to school or play outside if they did.  It was days that even the dog (a hearty 100 lb. Labrador built for the weather) didn’t want to be out.  It was the wind that whipped the snow that did manage to fall into tiny sand blasting knives.  It hurt to go outside.  It hurt to be outside.  That was it.  Winter had to die.

I posted the first of my Instagram pics with the hashtag #killwinterwithorange on February 16th.  I’m not sure how I decided on that tag.  Orange might be my favorite color.  It is warm, friendly, and inviting.  It is the sunshine, the campfire, the autumn pumpkins and Halloween.  It is fresh citrus and creamsicles.  If anything could help mitigate the ill effects of the winter and brighten things up, it might be orange.  

Many of my Instagram friends live in cold areas of the world.  Many more of them found themselves living in areas that had snow that were not normally snowy.  Lives disrupted, school cancelled, car accidents, missed deliveries, increased home heating bills.  I think I struck a bit of a nerve with the pics and the posts.  In just over a month there have been over 440 posts with #killwinterwithorange.  59 of them were mine.

I love Instagram, and the community of pen, paper, ink, Lego, and quote nerds that follow my feed.  We are a friendly group, and seem to be free of the trolls that lurk in other parts of the “intar-webs”.  We share ink samples, we comment positively on others posts, and occasionally, to celebrate something, we give things away.

Two days after the start of #killwinterwithorange, I decided that I should do my first Instagram giveaway.  I had been lucky enough to win 3 or 4 giveaways over my short time as an Instagram user.  And what better to give away than something orange that I was passionate about?

During this time in the fountain pen world, two beautiful orange pens were announced/released.  The first was the Conklin All American in “Sunburst Orange”.  A monster of a pen, and one that created some amusement in its’ early release when a glitch in the production  left the word OHIO transposed to OIHO.  All in all a lovely pen, and the modern Conklin’s are nice, inexpensive writers.

Lamy’s release of its’ annual Al-Star variant for 2015 was CopperOrange.  Love Lamy or not, this color was compelling.  I like the Safari’s and Al-Stars, and knew I wanted one.

I wanted my giveaway to have some choice, so I picked a third pen and decided to let the winner decide which they preferred.  Rosetta Pens are not that well known, but in my opinion, quite nice, and an excellent value for their moderate cost.  I have several models of theirs, and they all have great build quality, and JoWo nibs.  They are also local to me in MI.  (Rosetta Pens are the house brand of – I’m not affiliated, just a very satisfied customer, and a fan of the store and the brand).  They had a version of their pocket pen, the Napoleon, in the same crushed orange acrylic as the Conklin.

Between the shared commiseration of the weather, the join in nature of Instagram with a fun meme or hashtag, and the desire to win something we are all (most or us) passionate about, the movement took on a life of its’ own.

440+ pics and posts, 140 entries for the first giveaway, 60 for the second giveaway (I happened to win a giveaway while mine was ongoing for a Copper Orange Al-Star, and I already had one by that time, so I decided to give away all three pens from the original contest).  More than a thousand likes, hundreds of comments, and a shared experience I’ll never forget.  Not the biggest movement in history, but one that wiled away the time, helped a lot of people smile through the crazy cold weather, and shared some cheer.

#killwinterwithorange helped me pass the time in the cold until a planned vacation took my family to Florida to soak up some of the orange sunshine.  It was minus 15 the morning that we backed the minivan out of the driveway, and twenty hours of driving later we were in the land of warmth, palm trees, and theme parks.  Upon our return a week later, winter had pretty much broken.  Killed in part by a bunch of pen geeks posting pictures of orange things on the internet.

If you have any stories you wish to share about your experience with #killwinterwithorange don't hesitate to comment below.