NOTEBOOK PEOPLE: An Interview with Susannah Conway // Trina O’Gorman

NOTEBOOK PEOPLE: An Interview with Susannah Conway // Trina O’Gorman

When I was a little girl, whenever I would see someone’s notebook, I would long to know what was inside of it. I believed that whatever was inside would provide deeper insight into the person who owned the notebook, and I would be able to discover some parts of them that no one else knew. I thought that from their notebooks, I would really get to know special things about them. To me, notebooks are paper museums of one’s life. They are artifacts that tell us stories and connect us to others, just like things we find in museums. I think, as human beings, we long for and look for those connections with other people and pieces of their stories. From this childhood curiosity, my Notebook People Project was born. 

I don’t know when Susannah Conway and I started following one another on Instagram. It seems like ages ago. To find the answer, I went back to my DMs, and found that our messages date back to March 2021. First, there was an exchange about fountain pens, and then there were voice memos from Susannah. She had read one of my essays on the Baum-kuchen website, which resonated with her. Maybe it was our love of Baum-kuchen that originally connected us. After that message, there was a voice memo from Susannah, in which she asked if I would contribute to a course that she was developing called Journal Love Club. Journal Love Club would support individuals in their journal writing practice. She would provide daily writing prompts, monthly videos, guest videos from journal keepers like myself, and other goodies like custom stickers. It sounded interesting. If I agreed to participate, she'd need a video from me.

Generally, I would decline such an offer, but only because of the video part. While I love writing and talking about journaling, I do not love being on camera. The level of anxiety and stage fright that I experience is at a comical level. All this said I think Susannah could coax me into doing just about anything. She begins most of her voice memos, with “Hello, Lovely,” and has a way of connecting that is absolutely infectious. And it’s not her British accent. There was a time when an accent could woo me, especially an Irish brogue, but look at the mess that got me into. No, it wasn’t the accent. It is Susannah’s energy; her energy is rich with kindness, compassion, awareness, and understanding. She has an uplifting energy that elevates my spirits anytime I receive a message from her or chat with her. And, there’s also the fact that she still always calls me “lovely.” The feeling is mutual. It is my pleasure to share with you the very extraordinary and lovely Susannah Conway. 



Like many of us, the very lovely Susannah began journaling as a young girl of around 11. I watched a video that she shared of her very first journal, and it sweetly reminded me of Harriet the Spy’s journal with the warnings like “Do Not Read” and “Keep Out” written in her pubescent hand. I loved it and loved that she still had her very first notebook. (I try not to feel envy, but I was feeling a little bit of it. I wish I’d kept my childhood notebooks.) Aside from a few months here and there, Susannah has pretty much been journaling since. She mainly writes in the morning, when she gets to her desk, but also likes to journal when she gets into bed at the end of the day. For her, reflective writing has impacted her life in many different ways, all of them positive. Susannah shared that “It’s seen me through my chaotic teens, my insecure 20s, grieving the loss of my partner in my 30s, and a pandemic in my 40s. It was my life raft when my partner died.” For those who keep notebooks and write, I think many of us can see how our writing has been our companion in different ways during different seasons. Writing has a way of connecting us to different parts and different versions of ourselves. This is where I quote my Auntie Joan. You should know this by heart by now. She wrote, 

“...I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” 

When Susannah and I chatted for our interview, we talked a bit about childhood and adolescence and how some of our experiences may be linked to how and why we keep and love notebooks and the related supplies. When it comes to her collection of analogue tools, she is offered some insight. She told me, “ wasn’t like a conscious thing… but now I have this excess of stationery stuff, and I’m like, oh my God, of course. It makes sense, and I can see how it links….In 2020, I bought a tarot deck, and I realized I’d bought it for my inner child. Because when I look at this, this is like the most cheesy, cringy thing. What the f—? Why have I bought this? But then there was a little person inside who was so happy, and once I made that connection, I’m like, oh my God, I bought this for my ten-year-old self, and then it was a joy to use.” 

This made me really think about why I am personally drawn to some of the things and processes I am drawn to, especially stickers. I’ve always loved stickers and they really do connect me to my childhood. And I think Susannah is right. I’m not buying them because I’m being nostalgic, but rather because the younger versions of ourselves are still in there. She referred to “Little Susie,” when she talked about her inner child, and she knew her intimately. Rather than analyzing it or resisting it, Susannah talks about this version of herself in a most gentle, loving way, and accepting way. My relationship with my inner child is not quite as evolved as hers, and I so appreciated her insight on this. I do think it healthy to not only understand that part of ourselves, but to embrace and nurture it, as well. 

This self-acceptance and self-love were evident throughout our conversation. At one point, she started talking about her discovery of fountain pens. It was around the time of the pandemic lockdown. At that time, she was only writing with a particular orange gel pen. It was always orange ink because she loves that color (how could she not?), but she couldn’t get any more. That was when a friend suggested fountain pens and fountain pen ink to her and a new love was born. She said that finding ink colors and acquiring different bottles were “just like sweeties” to her. She said they were “f—ing delicious,” with so much joy that it made me love my own quirkiness even more. That’s one thing that truly stands out to me when I talk to Susannah. She is as comfortable with truly loving her analogue tools and her process, as she is with loving her inner child. 

For many years, Susannah used Moleskine notebooks and blue Biro (Bic) pens, but she’s Stalogy notebook for her journaling for the past three years. She keeps separate notebooks for all of her other projects, some of which are traveler’s notebook-style notebooks. But she loves the feeling of the fountain pen on the Stalogy paper, which is very similar to Tomoe River paper, a paper loved by many fountain pen lovers. When I asked her if it was grid-ruled or lined, she laughed and said, “Okay, if you want to go there, we’re going to go there.” I love that notebook people have this shared energy and enthusiasm. She went on to describe what kind of grid-ruled paper it was, specifically how the lines were faint and the paper was very thin and yet still fountain pen friendly. She also explained why she no longer liked the lined paper and the fact that she liked to write with a “good, juicy pen.” I laughed, but I could relate to having all of the idiosyncrasies and preferences. Also, I know exactly what she meant with every description. We, notebook people, are an interesting breed. 

Our conversation was a beautiful and heartwarming reminder to me of just how easy it is for human beings to connect over something that they have in common with one another, no matter how benign it might seem. Here Susannah and I were, two women, very different in many ways, but talking about everything from family life and childhood trauma to her love for dear, sweet cat, my love for my boys, and politics. We talked about the royal family, the cost of medical care, and the angst of teenage girls. We were able to weave our way through numerous topics and issues with such ease because we could talk first about notebooks, which is the point of the Notebook People project. The idea that this simple, common thread can allow for so much rich conversation and so many shared insights gives me so much hope for humanity. That might seem like a leap, but I don’t think it is. 

The lovely Susannah Conway can be found on her website at It’s still not too late to sign up for her third annual Journal Love Club. Registration is still open and can be found at Susannah can also be found on Instagram at @susannahconway.



1 comment

  • Caroline: September 02, 2023
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    How wonderful to read this! Two people I love talking about notebooks — what more could I ask for to brighten my day? I agree that the love of paper and analogue tools really brings those who love them closer together. It’s never just a notebook. Thanks for sharing this chat and how much cozier notebooks and pens and stickers make the world for those who love them. xx

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