The Storyteller | a blog about writing
The writer in your life is the easiest person to buy for this holiday season because we want, like, everything: Tech tools to make our lives easier, old school journals and pens for when we need to unplug, books and courses to hone our craft, and fun stuff that celebrates our love for the written word.
Here are 22 kickass gift ideas for your friends and family members who love to write:
~ SOMETHING TO READ ~
1. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr by Mary Karr
Mary Karr arguably launched the modern memoir movement with her bestselling book The Liar’s Club in 1995, which delved into her difficult childhood with clarity and humor. She’s written two other memoirs since – Cherry, which followed her into young adulthood and Lit: A Memoir (P.S.), which covered her alcoholism and sobriety. In her latest book, The Art of Memoir, she brings her expertise as a writing professor to the table, analyzing excerpts from her favorite memoirs as she imparts lessons about the craft. A must read for any writer of memoir and personal essays.
2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
This isn’t a new book, but On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is my favorite book on writing and the only book that I recommend my writing students purchase. King weaves his personal story from struggling to successful writer together with clear nuts and bolts advice about the process, including reading lists, writing exercises, and advice about plotting, revising, and creating a writing practice to get the work done. You’ll be crossing out all your adverbs after reading this — and your readers will thank you.
3. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
Show don’t tell! Show don’t tell! Your writing teacher won’t shut up about showing — rather than telling — your readers about the emotional inner life of you and your characters. In The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, the authors highlight 75 emotional states — from anger to pride to worry — and list out verbal and nonverbal ways that your characters can communicate these feelings in lieu of just saying, “I’m sad.”
4. True Stories, Well Told: From the First 20 Years of Creative Nonfiction Magazine by Lee Gutkind & Hattie Fletcher, editors
Creative Nonfiction is the largest literary magazine dedicated exclusively to publishing high quality nonfiction prose. True Stories, Well Told, a collection of the best essays from the magazine’s first twenty years, gives you a front row seat in a master class on the craft of writing true stories.
5. On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinssner
On Writing Well, the late journalist William Zinsser’s classic guide to writing nonfiction, may be turning 40 years old next year, but it’s far from stale. The author, who was beloved by his students, offers tips of the trade about voice, leads, usage, style and more whether you are writing about people, places, or yourself.
~ SOMETHING TO READ ON ~
As my eyesight grows worse each year, I’ve become more reliant on the ability to blow up the font on my screen in order to read. So I’ve loved the Kindle app on my tablet for years, but I was dubious about the usefulness of a stand-alone e-reader. Then I won this Kindle Paperwhite in a drawing at BlogHer last summer. I’m sold. I don’t know what kind of magic Amazon uses, but the screen makes the books look just like paper, so you can read in the sun without glare or you can use the light function to read in bed without eyestrain. It’s also distraction-free — there’s a WiFi connection to download books, but you are safely away from the internet. Turn off the WiFi and the battery lasts for weeks. It’s perfect for travel. You should give one to someone you love.
~ SOMETHING TO WRITE ON ~
These gift suggestions have your writer covered whether she’s on the go or parked at her desk.
When I got a second monitor a few years back, my life changed. Suddenly, I could take notes on one screen while I taught a webinar class on the other. I could keep my research to my left and drag it over into my main document on the right. I could work AND check Facebook at the same time. OK, maybe that didn’t work out so well. This Asus PA248Q Widescreen LCD Monitor is awesome because it rotates from portrait to landscape so any writer can create the optimal workspace set-up.
A girl can dream, right? The Surface Pro is a super cool, ultralight tablet that ships with both a stylus and a detachable keyboard that allows you to convert it to a laptop in a snap. You can literally toss this sucker in your purse and write anywhere without sacrificing a laptop experience. WATCH THE VIDEO AND WORSHIP IT LIKE I DO.
9. Boogie Board Sync 9.7-Inch LCD eWriter in Black and Orange with Folio Case and Replacement Stylus
Can’t afford the Surface Pro? You can still easily take notes on the go for a fraction of the price and then sync them up to programs like Evernote and Adobe Illustrator with the Boogie Board Sync. This is not your Child’s Boogie Board, though those are pretty cool too. I sat next to a dude using one of these babies at a conference in October and I was super jealous as I scratched out my stupid non-syncable notes onto the back of the program.
Want someone else to sync up your notes for you? The MOD notebook is a traditional journal with a twist: Once you fill it up, you can mail the notebook off in a prepaid envelope and the manufacturer will scan your pages for you. Syncs with Evernote, OneNote, and Dropbox. Now, rather than having a box of dusty used journals in your closet, you’ll have access to all of your notes on the go. Check out how MOD works:
Not everything needs to sync up with something to be useful, right? There’s still room for old school analog note-taking. A writer must have a pocket-sized notebook at all times because that perfect sentence that comes to you in the pick-up line at school? Yeah, you’re not going to remember that later. These mini-notebook cuties have sayings on the covers that will inspire any writer to jot down that almost-lost thought and much more.
~ SOMETHING TO LEARN: CLASSES FOR WRITERS ~
You knew I’d be hawking my own stuff at some point, right? The best way to hone your craft as a writer is to always be learning. This winter, I’m offering two classes that any writer in your life would love.
12. What’s Your Story? A Creative Nonfiction Boot Camp ($149 group class; $199 one-on-one coaching)
I’ve called this course by a few different names — Storytelling for Bloggers, 30 Days to Your Best Blog Post — but my students have never been limited to bloggers and the concepts certainly apply to writers of all stripes. I’ve now settled on the title that I use when I speak about writing at conferences: WHAT’S YOUR STORY: A CREATIVE NONFICTION WRITING BOOT CAMP. Know a writer who wants to publish more personal essays? A blogger looking to ramp up her writing game? Someone struggling to craft scenes for his memoir? This 30 day creative nonfiction boot camp is for them. We’ll cover all the essentials of nonfiction storytelling – from identifying and narrowing your reason for writing to mastering narrative structure to finding the best words to show, rather than tell, your story. Offered both as a group class starting in February 2016 or via independent study to take with me one-on-one at your own pace.
13. A Month of Writing E-Course ($79 early bird rate through 12/15; $99 regular price)
If you know a writer, you probably know someone who wants to write more regularly. My on-demand e-course A MONTH OF WRITING will help any writer create a sustainable, regular writing practice in just 30 days. With daily tips, video inspiration, writing exercises, and prompts, students can start anytime and build good habits to start writing and stay on task.
~ COOL TOOLS FOR WRITERS ~
If Scrivener only provided writers with a distraction-free environment, it would be worth the price. But Scrivener is both a word-processor and project management tool in one and comes outfitted with robust outlining, tracking, and organizing tools that make writing — especially longform works — so much easier. Available for Mac or Windows, Scrivener also allows you to easily convert your work to popular e-publishing formats when you’re finished.
15. The Best Pens Ever.
When I was a kid, I used to — with the assistance of my dad — buy my older sisters a single Flair felt tip pen each for Christmas. I’m sure at age 12 I would have been as undelighted with this gift as they probably were, but today? I would plotz for a gift of my favorite pens. For years, I’ve been loyal to the uni-ball Vision Elite Fine Point Roller Ball Pen, with its smooth colorful strokes in orange, magenta, teal, purple, and more. Recently, I discovered uni-ball’s Air Rollerball Pen, with bold basic colors that write like an easygoing marker. Almost like those Flair pens of my youth, which they still make. Only now I’d want the giant 16 Pack in vivid colors,.
~ SOMETHING ERGONOMIC TO CURE AN ACHING BACK (OR NECK, OR WRIST . . .) ~
Writers spend a lot of time in the worst possible positions for their hands, wrists, necks, shoulders, and backs. At this very moment I’m basically wearing an ice shirt and a wrist guard. Help them out with any of these gifts:
I’ve been working at a keyboard, at a desk, my entire professional life — really since I got my first Mac Plus back in 1987 as a senior in college. This Logitech Trackball Mouse was a game-changer for my aching wrists. It takes a few days to get used to just moving your thumb to direct your cursor instead of moving your entire goddamned mouse all over your desk, but once you get the hang of it, your wrists will thank you for the much gentler range of motion. Plus you’ll free up all kinds of valuable desktop real estate.
I bought this for my kid to try to get her to sit still while doing her homework and quickly stole it back. Turns out, I was the one who needed help keeping my ass in the seat. I love my pokey-bottomed wiggle seat. Blown up with just enough air to make it springy, but not so much that it distracts, this grown-up version of the bouncy seat will help any fidgety writer stay on task longer.
OMG IT’S LIKE A HEATED LEOPARD MASSAGE SHIRT YOU CAN WEAR WHILE YOU TYPE . . . AND LOOK GOOD DOING IT.
~ SOMETHING THAT PUTS A BOOK ON IT ~
You can pretty much give writers anything that references a book or contains any form of the word “write” and they will freak out and love you forever. Here are my picks:
19. First Lines of Literature Mug by The Unemployed Philosophers Guild
Most writers are insecure introverts who never went to prom. OK, maybe that’s just me. Help us feel better about ourselves and stay hydrated with this water bottle that lets us pretend staring at a computer screen for hours on end puts us on par with Wonder Woman.
Out of Print Books makes t-shirts, totes, and socks featuring classic book covers, library cards, and author’s faces. My husband got this Russian minor nerd a shirt featuring the original cover of the Bulgakov classic The Master and Margarita for my birthday. Now I’m eyeing this Douglas Adams tee:
22. Literary Terms Mini Quote Poster Set featuring Alliteration, Foreshadowing, Irony, Metaphor, Onomatopoeia, Paradox, Personification and Symbolism
HOW CUTE ARE THESE? The very best way to learn literary devices is to see them used well. Each mini-poster illustrates a literary term using a quote from famous literature.
You know what? You might as well treat yo’self. Wrap this stuff up and slap on a tag with your name on it.
Affiliate Disclosure: This post also contains affiliate links to some products through affiliate marketing programs. This means that if you purchase using my link, I’ll receive a commission. All opinions are my own.