In years past, I’ve posted some fairly extensive lists of suggested gifts for the readers and writers in your life, or that you might want to hint about to people wondering what to buy for you. This year I’m being a bit more low key about it, as I’ll admit I’ve not done as much scouting for cool writerly stuff recently. Last Friday I posted a few links to some great gift lists other sites have compiled, and today I’m going to share some of my favorite items to round them out. Please note, this is not a sponsored post, merely a list of items I personally have used/read/found useful.
Writers write, so it’s a no brainer to pick up something they can write with. This can mean stuffing their stocking with an entire box of their favorite everyday pen from the stationery store (I’m fond of the Pilot Precise V5 extra fine, personally), or investing in a lovely refillable pen that they’ll cherish for years to come. Many writers are members of the cult of the fountain pen, and the sea of colorful inks they can use, but there are also rollerball and ballpoint pens that come with nice gift boxes and refills available. I recommend Goulet Pens for their enormous selection, informational videos, and excellent customer service, but an online search will also net you the name of your nearest stationery store that stocks pens and pen supplies.
If you’re looking to gift your favorite writer (or aspiring writer) with a new writing program for their computer, check out Scrivener. Many authors swear by this multi-faceted program that allows writers to compile their story in any way they wish — linearly, piecemeal, etc. — and include research, references, and inspirational photos all in a single file. The program is available for both Mac and PC, and can be found at Literature and Latte, along with helpful video tutorials.
Whether a writer prefers to write longhand or on the computer or a combination of both, they can always use a pocket-sized notebook on hand to jot down ideas or bits of information when they come across it. I love these little Field Notes notebooks. They’re sturdy enough to take a bit of throwing around, but not so precious that you worry if a corner gets bent or the cover gets a coffee stain on it. They come with your choice of interior — lined, plain, or graph paper — or you can purchase a combo pack.
Books for Writers
I’ve a few go-to writing books that I recommend when asked or during presentations. This year I’ve added a new favorite to the bunch: Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. It’s a quiet little book that’s part memoir, part advice for how to navigate the challenges of a creative practice.
A similar-yet-different book that I’ve recommended for years is Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers. See comes down more on the advice side of things, with a number of practical tips for writers regarding things to consider before they even get a book deal.
For a book that focuses more on craft, check out The Making of Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante. This big, detailed book includes both exercises and readings, just as you might expect from a Norton book of this type.
More General Books
Whether you’re looking to give a book to a reader who just reads or one who writes as well, book subscriptions or mystery boxes can be a fun way to go. Book Riot currently has a book package on offer featuring four of the best books (by their estimation) of 2015, all of which they believe have flown somewhat under the radar (meaning it’s less likely someone’s already read them all). The book also includes three bookish-items (think tote bags, magnets with book covers on them, etc.). They also have a seasonal subscription that features a new bookish box quarterly, and a second one focused on young adult books.
Or create your own! Pick a few of your favorite reads from the year and assemble a box with some other bookish treats — tea and shortbread, a fun bookish bag, a small reading lap, etc.
Other Odds and Ends
If you don’t want to go the obvious route (reading and writing), think about some of the other things a reader or writer might appreciate. My favorites include:
Coffee or tea: One or the other is likely to please. Make up a nice gift basket or fill a stocking with an assortment pack.
Gift certificates: For a massage, manicure and/or pedicure, or anything else that will ease them after hours at a desk.
The gift of time: Promise them a break to read or write while you take their kids out for the day; provide them with a professional housecleaning; or give them a long weekend in a nearby inn or hotel, either to relax or to get their manuscript done.
How many times have you wished for more time to write, more time to brainstorm, better ideas, bigger ideas, a newer laptop, a real office space…? Whatever your goals and aspirations, it’s pretty typical to wish you had more to work with, a leg up from whatever point you’re at in the moment. But what would you do with unlimited resources? If you had an open schedule, with all the time in the world to write or paint or dance or do whatever creative endeavor calls to you. The finances to support yourself. A great work space just as you imagine it. How much would your work improve? Would you actually spend more time working?
This podcast looks at the effects limits can have on creativity, how it can push you to be better, more resourceful and imaginative, because you have no other choice. Give it a listen, and then go make something wonderful.
Half the planet is in summer reading mode, even if summer won’t officially begin for a few more days. But summer reading means different things to different people. Some think about light beach reads enjoyed in the sunshine, others seek to catch up on the hefty titles they couldn’t spare the attention for during the winter months, and still other readers care less about what they’re reading and more about binging on books in general.
For those of you intent on cruising through a bunch of your TBR pile, I have wonderful news: not one, but two readathons on the horizon.
What’s a readathon you ask? It’s pretty much what you think it is. Organizers set their own rules for each specific event, but the basics remain the same. A time period is set, and readers dedicate themselves to reading as much as they can between the start time and the finish time. Some events challenge you to read for twenty-four hours straight. Others ask you to set goals for what percent of the time period you will spend with your nose in a book. But all readathons allow you to schedule a book binge with a clear conscience, because while that readathon is taking place, you’re supposed to be reading.
Regular readers of this blog might recall that I became a readathon convert last fall with the 24 in 48 Readathon in November. I spend so much of my reading time focused on client work or submissions that it’s not always easy to get around to those published books lining my shelves and piling up next to my bed. I love the idea of setting aside a weekend with the expressed purpose of reading for myself. And I am definitely overdue for a bit of personal reading time.
So if you’re feeling the need to read, check out one or both of these upcoming readathon events. I’m already signed up for 24 in 48 in July.
This challenge runs from Friday, June 19th, through Sunday, June 21st. You choose when to start and finish within that three-day time frame, but you much pick a 48-hour window — Friday at noon to Sunday at noon, for example. Within your chosen 48 hours, you decide how many reading hours you want to shoot for, and the Mother Reader blog, host for this event, is providing prizes for top readers in various time frames. And even if you don’t win, you’ll get tons of reading done! Complete rules and instructions are up at the site. This sounds like a fun challenge and I only wish I could take the time to participate this weekend.
This challenge runs from 12:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 11th, until 11:59pm on Sunday, July 12th. The premise is simple: read for 24 hours total, spread out however you wish, during the 48 hours of the challenge. This leaves plenty of time for things like sleeping and stretching and grabbing a bite to eat. I participated in last November’s challenge and had a great time. Rachel Manwill, the force behind the challenge, sets up fun check-in tasks and prizes throughout the weekend, and everyone is great about sharing what they’re reading and how they’re progressing on social media. As I said above, I’m already on board for this one.
As promised, I’m back with further gift ideas for the writers in your life, with a focus on buying them things to read. You may, of course, choose to simply provide your special writer with an enormous gift card to the book retailer of your choice, and no doubt that will make them very happy. However, if you want to be a bit more specific and personal, here are a few recommendations to check out.
Certain writing-related books get named quite frequently. They are wonderful classics, and deserve to be mentioned, but you should also keep in mind that many writers already have dogeared copies of these babies. But for the sake of thoroughness, I’ll run through them:
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott — General writing advice mixed with personal history/anecdotes.
On Writing by Stephen King — Part memoir, part excellent writing advice.
Story by Robert McKee — On story structure, focusing primarily on screenwriting, but applicable to all fiction.
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass — Advice on taking your writing to the next level.
These barely scrape the surface, of course, as books about writing seem almost as abundant as books in general some days. However, they are some of the most popular, and for good reason.
I also like to recommend the following writing-related books. Some are also well known, others less so, but I find they each offer good tips and inspiration.
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose — Thoughtful analysis on the reading process and how writers can learn from the works they read.
The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante — A step-by-step guide focusing on short fiction, but applicable to all storytelling craft.
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks — Another way of looking at story structure.
The Write-Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer — A huge collection of writing exercises to help get the words flowing.
The Elements of Style Illustrated by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White — The classic style guide, updated with fun illustrations.
Beyond books, subscriptions make great gifts for writers. They’re the gift that keeps giving all year long, plus in some cases they help the writer get a fix on what a certain publication is looking for so that they can in turn submit their own efforts. Here’s an assortment of both informational and entertaining periodicals for the various writers on your shopping list.
The Writer — A magazine filled with advice, interviews, and other information pertaining to the writing life.
Poets & Writers — A bi-monthly magazine focused on more literary writing, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with an excellent list of upcoming contest deadlines, grants, etc., and annual issues dealing with MFA programs, writers’ retreats, and so on.
Publishers Weekly — The industry magazine for publishing. Much more business oriented than writing oriented.
Top 50 Literary Magazines – One site’s list of top literary magazines with links to each one. An easy reference to some of the most popular magazines currently published.
Asimov’s Science Fiction — Magazine for short science fiction, reviews, etc.
Apex – A magazine for science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine — Publishes short crime and mystery fiction.
There are many, many additional publications available, especially if you are shopping for a reader open to digital subscriptions, as some online publications do not issue print copies. For writers who love their e-readers, another option is a subscription reading service such as Oyster or Scribd, which allows unlimited access to their library of books for a monthly charge. Be sure you know what type of e-reader the person has before making digital purchases, as some services are not compatible with older models.
Wishing you all happy shopping, and some great reading of your own!
The gift-giving season is upon us, so I wanted to gather together some suggestions for things that might suit the writer in your life (or that you might want to add to your own letter to Santa). I’ve mentioned some of these in previous years, but a good gift is a good gift, and writers in particular tend to be appreciative of things that encourage them in their craft or enable them to spend time writing. Many of these will be appropriate gifts for readers, as well, for obvious reasons.
Scrivener – Many writers swear by this software. It allows you to create your manuscript in sections that can be easily dragged around and reordered, has a built in cork board function where you can get an overview of the parts of your work, allows for research materials to be imported directly into the project, and much more. Once you’re done, you can compile the pieces of your manuscript into Word, script format, e-book format, and so on. Available for both Mac and Windows.
Aeon Timeline – This software allows you to create a timeline not just for a single project but for an entire series. It will track character ages for different events, births and deaths, whatever history you’ve developed for your books, etc. Particularly helpful for anyone writing historical fiction, or anything involving extensive world building. Available for both Mac and Windows.
Ecosystem Journal – These blank books are made from recycled materials and boast sturdy pages that protect against bleed-through from heavier ink, such as fountain pens. They come in small, medium, and large sizes, blank, ruled, or with grid paper, and in a number of bright colors as well as black. Great for the writer who keeps an ideas book, journals, doodles, or prefers drafting longhand.
Leuchtturm1917 Notebook – Another high-quality blank book, this features page numbers and a blank table of contents, in addition to sturdy pages of a lovely off-white paper. As with the Ecosystem, you can select type of page (ruled, blank, etc.) and the notebooks come in assorted colors. The company offers other types of books, as well, such as planners, if you’re looking to gift someone with a set.
Decomposition Books – Great notebooks in the old composition or spiral notebook formats, but with fun printed covers. Perfect for anyone looking for a slightly more utilitarian notebook.
Fountain pens – A slightly old-school gift, a lovely fountain pen — either new or antique — along with some ink, can be a beautiful gift for a writer.
Books on writing – Most writers love writing books. I’ll post a separate list of writing-related books I love in a couple of days, but you’ll find tons in most good bookstores, in the reference section.
A gift certificate for some pampering – Writing can be hard on the back, the eyes. All that sitting. Gift your writer with a massage or spa day, or a series of neck rubs. Writers — especially struggling writers — don’t often allot money for little luxuries, even when they need them.
The gift of time – Real life often gets in the writer’s way, making demands and allowing less time for writing. Take over a chore or responsibility for the writer in your life in order to give them an extra hour or two to write. If you live with the writer, make dinner a couple of nights a week. Offer to babysit or take their kids out of the house for a chunk of time on the weekend.
A writing retreat – If you’re looking to give your writer something a little more expansive, send them off for a quiet weekend at a cozy inn or cabin in the woods, just them and their muse. Don’t pick a tourist location that will tempt them to go out and sightsee, but somewhere quiet, or local, with room service and a nice desk.
Shakespeare Insult Shirt – This t-shirt features a collection of witty insults by the Bard. Great for writers, Shakespeare fans, or anyone looking for a good come back.
Classic Tote Bag – Give your favorite writer or reader one of these sturdy tote bags featuring art work from a classic novel, such as Pride and Prejudice, Animal Farm, or Gone with the Wind, or with some bookish feature, like a list of banned books. Great for carting books from the library, hitting the farmer’s market, or carrying a notebook and other writing paraphernalia.
Litographs Poster – This company prints literary posters where the design itself is created from the text of the books. Available for a number of classic titles, and the designs can also be purchased on t-shirts and tote bags.
Read Harder T-shirt – One of several designs on offer from the new bookish store at Book Riot.
2015 Literary Wall Calendar – A different author/quote each month in a beautiful black-and-white design.
Evolution of Literature Poster – Featuring an image for each of 34 authors arranged chronologically. Posters featuring just one author are also available.
Literary Cufflinks – Handmade, featuring text on the front image.
Subscription to a literary magazine/journal – Especially helpful for writers interesting in essays or short fiction. I’ll include a list of suggestions in my upcoming post featuring books for writers.