I used to gesso over pages of printed books as a base for collage. Gesso has that gritty tooth that works so well as a base for paint, but is difficult to write over. Now I use an antique white craft paint and you can write on it with any pen, ballpoint or any other kind. It can be brushed on, smooshed on with foam or sponge, or spread with a used gift card. Gift cards are a useful tool. You can use them as they come or cut them in half at an angle to scrape with or even notch them to create patterns.
The photo is of one of my Envelope Journals. The pages are simply opened business envelopes. After layers of other papers, paints, and a heavy adhesive like Yes! they become thick and stiff. They are bound with a metal spiral using a zutter bind-it-all. In this particular volume I recut the pages and used gaffers tape on the bound edge for extra strength.
One of the ways I prefer to work is to use something repeatedly such as a symbol written with a marker or pastel, a rubber stamp image, tape, or whatever else catches my fancy. I will do it on each and every page, go back to the beginning and go through with something else. I use anything and everything in my books such as rub-ons, labels from canned goods, wine, ale and liquor bottles, stickers pulled off of boxes, new stickers, fancy printed paper napkins or tissues, used tissue paper, wrapping paper, tickets, postage stamps, clothing tags, pictures cut from magazines and newspapers, store bags, old book pages, candy wrappers, band posters from telephone poles, postcards, and so on.
One day my husband and I had lunch at a brew pub on Portland's east side, after which we walked up the street and I checked the poles for "art materials". I was slow and he was about half a block ahead of me when an older man in a beat up car pulled over and asked me what I was doing. Before I said anything, he said, "Hop in!" I'd had a couple of pints and in my most gracious way, said "No thank you!" My husband stuck closer after that.