Don’t get me wrong. Journals are lovely, and I have a drawer-full. But there are other, and often better, ideas for gift giving to a writer. If you have a writer stowed away in a closet, dank basement, cramped garret (No lie! Oxford Languages Dict. defines garret as: a top-floor or attic room, especially a small dismal one traditionally inhabited by an artist), or other suitably tight, dank place please consider some of the following ideas for this holiday season.
1. Memberships & Conferences: Writers pay a lot of money to belong to groups that support their blood-letting work. These groups host conferences and bring in editors and agents for your writer to meet. Writers need to network—if for no other reason than to kvetch over how tiny our workspaces are. Some suggestions: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (Of course!), The Romance Writers of America, The Science Fiction Writers and Fantasy Writers of America. The list goes on. Take a tremulous journey up to that garret while your writer is passed out from agony and peek at what s/he/they is writing. Then go find a suitable organization to bolster your writer. Create a gift coupon and fund a conference given by that writing organization. Writers need to get out and about! They need vitamin sunshine.
2. Books: Always, books! Writers not only write books, but they are also voracious readers. Classics in the area they write in are a good bet (but check bookcases first to make sure they don’t already have a particular title). Also, craft books and books of writing inspiration for that 3am slog when your writer is wandering through the kitchen finally having decided that the body needs nourishing. Get your writer something to read while s/he/they has a little nosh. Some recommended titles include: The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser, Story by Robert McKee, The Heroine With a 1001 Faces by Maria Tatar, Picture This by Molly Bang or Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul.
3. Tools of the trade: Does your writer need new technology? A new laptop? A new printer? Small portable projector for presentations? A sound system? Or, perhaps, with all the Zooming we are doing lately, a better computer camera and ring light? Be a spy. Check out how your writer writes, or does group talks and school visits. Is she still using ocher to write on the walls of the basement? For goodness’ sake, get her updated! Here’s a handy little mobile scanner. I bought one and love it. Or maybe, a nice-sized paper shredder? (NOT to cast any aspersions upon those many drafts, mind you!) And this seems to be a thing—for any writer still wandering in the dark ages before computerization: a typewriter keyboard to use with a tablet. Connect with USB or Bluetooth. It even does nifty things like dropping down a line when the carriage returns. Such nineteenth-century magic!
4. Software: There are some great programs and online subscriptions that ease the burden for your bleary-eyed writer. Here are a few that many writers feel are necessities: Living Writer (at the top of the best writer apps list for a couple of years), Scrivener, Final Draft, (for writers of screenplays), Storyist (for Mac users). Also, there’s Prezi, a presentation software. And Duotrope a publisher database and submission manager. In addition, consider video-making software for creating trailers.
5. Subscriptions: This should be thought of in conjunction with books. Are there craft or industry journals you know your writer would love? Or can you continue a subscription? Again, check out the writing closet/garret/basement. Snoop around and see what kinds of magazines your writer is reading. And take a quick peek in the loo. If your writer is using magazine pages in place of TP—I’d recommend not resubscribing to that particular publication. (Unless, of course, you want to save the good stuff for the rest of the family.) Here are some to consider: Writer’s Digest, Publisher’s Weekly, and Poets & Writers.
6. Book-selling items: If your writer has books out in the world and attends book fairs and festivals, why not provide a box of handy items to help with selling? Easels, sign holders, book holders, markers, card display items, a credit card slide like Square and a handy-dandy cart to tote everything around in. Here’s one like mine, that I love! Because it’s made for carrying tools, it’s extra sturdy, big wheels, and a taller handle. Also, do throw in a bottle of water and a sandwich—just in case your writer is too weak to stand and talk to hundreds of folks in one day. (And it wouldn’t hurt to include a comb, or some decent clothes.)
7. Fun stuff: What about getting items personally made that reflects your writer’s book(s), or interests? A coffee cup with the cover design of her/his/their book on it? A necklace or earrings with something pertinent to the book. Just search on “personalized gifts” at the Etsy site. Or what about a personalized face mask, blankie, pillow? (Surely your writer needs a pillow for when s/he/they collapses?) You can get that done here at Printerpix. And while your writer is passed out on the floor s/he/they might want to glance up and take a gander at a couple of cool charts available from uncommongoods.com, such as literary insults or proper English usage. (After all s/he/they might could wake from a delirium mumbling about double modal verbs. You wouldn’t want that!)
8. Writer T-shirts. (This is assuming your writer occasionally comes out of the writing lair to change into something clean.) Zazzle.com is a fun place to find some. And there are more at Out of Print (including some pretty nice writer/nerd mugs). Or have a t-shirt personalized. I especially like Café Press’s create your own page where you can put a message to your writer on a T-shirt (and other things) like: Remember to put your pants on today.
9. Wine and a massage/a new experience: Wine and massages are always in season for writers. But I highly recommend getting someone else to do the massage if your writer is just finishing up NaNoWriMo and hasn’t bathed in a month. On the other hand, you could gift your writer with a new experience related to what s/he/they are writing, like swimming with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center.
10. Time: The best gift of all. Make up a couple of fun time to yourself coupons to be used at the writer’s discretion. A caveat: don’t give this gift if your writer tends to hide away for weeks at a time, anyway. Instead, give yourself a few we/I want you here coupons and pretend it was a gift from your writer to you. Be sure to squeal, “How thoughtful!” as you take them from your stocking. Your pre-occupied writer won’t remember whether s/he/they gifted them, or not.
11. Space: I must add this last item. If your writer is hunched over in a closet, or is always banging her/his/their head on the roof rafters, consider creating a bigger space where papyrus can be spread out and your writer can really get down to work. Can you afford a redo/enlargement of a writing area? (I think I’ll circle this item and slip it onto the spacious desk in my husband’s HUGE office.)
Finally, if you must, get a journal from one of those dollar bins by the checkout aisle. You can always insert into it that magazine renewal card you’re paying for, a gift card for wine, or a receipt for some online technology. (Just avoid the journals with pink unicorns. No writer needs more than one of those in a lifetime. To my secret admirer: please, no more!)
Now, excuse me while I climb down from my garret to stretch. Ahh!!! Have a happy gift-giving season.
Shutta Crum is the author of several middle-grade novels and many picture books, poems and magazine articles. THUNDER-BOOMER! was an ALA and a Smithsonian “Notable Book.” MINE! was reviewed by the N.Y. Times as “a delightful example of the drama and emotion that a nearly wordless book can convey.” Her books have made Bank Street College lists as well as state award lists. WHEN YOU GET HERE, a collection of poems for adults, won a gold medal from the Royal Palm Literary Awards, 2020 and 2021 (FL). For more information: www.shutta.com.