Writing Exercise: Using the template of “The History of the Moleskine notebook”

Small and colorful. Extra Small Planners.By Your Salonniere

You may be familiar with the history of the Moleskine notebook since enclosed within each bound journal is a crisply folded, thin leaflet that adds personality to these specially crafted artist’s and writer’s tools. In accordion folds, the leaflet outlines the history translated in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese.

Here’s an excerpt from the “The history of the Moleskine notebook” which you can use as a template for your own biography or the biography of one of your characters, your novel, your chapbook, your luggage, your character’s beloved food processor, or dog, and the list goes on.

The Legendary Notebook
It all started many years ago, with a pocket-sized black object, the product of a great tradition. The Moleskine notebook is, in fact, the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin. A simple black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal expandable pocket: a nameless object with a spare perfection all its own, produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris, where the artistic and literary avant-gardes of the world browsed and bought them. A trusted and handy travel companion, the notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.

Read the rest here.

Your salonniere has drafted the history of Ruelle Electrique based on above:

It all started in two years ago at the start of January 2009 after reading an article in Poets and Writers on sustaining a literary community post-MFA. Ruelle Electrique is heir and successor to Enlightenment-era French salons run by salonnieres such as Madame d’Épinay, Sophie de Condorcet and Madame Roland. Frequented by writers and artists including luminary figures like Roz Ito, Virginia Jones, Roz Foster, Rio Liang and others, this electric salon offers a small digital corner to explore literary ideas and share in writerly dialogue. A trusted source for writers and artists. The salon hopes to inspire conversation that will generate stories and ideas, which, one day might become well known and shared among larger communities and greater audiences.

Today, the salon is synonymous with imagination, vision, and collaboration in both the real and virtual world. It is a refuge for writers, readers, and artists alike. With the diverse array of topics and interests, the salon is a place for creative souls to gather. With Ruelle Electrique, the age-old practice of conversation allows for sustained dialogue on passing and pressing fancies for literary communities.

Now you try! Send us your histories of fill-in-the-blank, here at the salon and let us know how this exercise worked for you.


  1. This is funny… for many years I declined to purchase Moleskine notebooks because of their pricetag and because I was in a state of asceticism where I denied myself any writer/artist luxuries, but a few days ago something snapped and I beelined to my local stationery store and bought about ten of these little notebooks in different colors so that I could finally start organizing my different projects in separate booklets instead of having everything jumbled together in a single notebook that also pretends to be my diary. And now I love my Moleskine notebooks. And am tickled to be a part of Ruelle Electrique’s accordion history pleat, it’s like being inside Midnight in Paris or something, the moveable feast that’s based on something, that’s based on something else, that’s based on something else, so on & so forth back into the romance of history…

  2. Roz Ito- So good to hear from you. I understand your reluctance; they seem a little too precious and definitely costly. I wonder what snapped your asceticism? I’m curious about the waxing and waning of artistic fasting. That seems a topic worthy of exploring, this need to starve oneself of luxuries can be very freeing at times and, at other times, very constricting depending on where we are and what we’re working on. I love your color coordination of projects. That must be a party for the eyes. The moleskine is a writerly indulgence since they’re prime for travel, light weight, and the pages are quite cushy stacked on top of one another. Pens practically glide over the sheaf.
    We’re glad to have you as part of the history at the salon!

  3. Ah, artistic fasting. For me it’s linked to the monastic state I have to work myself into when I’m really bearing down on a project, like really revising, producing finished material. Then I cannot have any distractions (even reading becomes a distraction & drain on precious time, which is sad). The artistic luxury stage comes at the beginning for me, when I’m just generating new ideas and reading widely, the freedom of the open page & all. Not unlike the experience of travel that moleskines are famously associated with. And how does artistic feast/famine operate for you?

  4. I’m intrigued by this idea of monastic states, especially since I teach at a private Catholic college who’s traditions and practices are based on the rhythms of pious monastic life, or so I’m guessing. I’m really wondering how much these traditions shape how we study, write and learn, whether we’re conscious of it or not. I think my feast/famine operates more on impulse. I wish I had more restraint. I’ll buy moleskines and books when I have a little extra padding in my bank account, and I go lean when my pockets are less full. I wish I didn’t have to read novels when I was writing, but I was just thinking the other day how spiritually starved I feel when I’m not immersed in and with fiction. Then I’ve been reading all these interviews with from the likes of Phillip Roth, etc who say they read fiction less and less as they pack more and more years on and those articles feed into the ever-hungry writerly insecurities. Will I always be naive since nothing compares to the heft of a good novel in my hands?

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