Reading time: Less than 5 minutes
Are you still struggling with what gifts to buy some writer friends for Christmas? Or, maybe, like me, you don’t even know what gifts to request for yourself. Here are 17 ideas for Christmas gifts for writers…
I once overheard someone say, “Christmas is for musicians as tax season is for accountants.” We were at a concert and I laughed because I knew this thought to be so true. My son is a musician and my husband also sings in two choirs and this is a busy time of year.
The same used to be true of newspaper reporters, as well. The bounty of Christmas advertising meant extra fat newspapers and, as a result, more work than usual for reporters and editors. I came by my habit of shopping late for a very good reason: I just didn’t have the time to do it early. If this applies to you as well, here are 17 last-minute ideas for Christmas gifts for writers:
Note that some of the prices are in US dollars and others in Canadian. I’m sorry I couldn’t be consistent because I live in Canada and some (but not all) websites insist on translating into Canadian dollars for me.
1.Papermate Ink Joy pens: $6.99 (for a threepack)
I read a rave review of these pens on a blog a couple of years ago and immediately bought a box. I LOVE them. They glide effortlessly across the page and don’t blurt out ink unexpectedly. They are also inexpensive enough that I’m content to shrug if I lose one or someone takes one from me (I’m looking at you, family!) You won’t have time for online delivery but you can find them at any Staples outlet and at many stationery stores. (Link is here.)
2.Kum pencil sharpener: $6.99
This is the best pencil sharpener I’ve ever used. Its excellence comes, in no small part, from the way it offers a two-step process. The first hole allows allow you to shave the wood; the second hole allows you to sharpen the lead to a perfect point. Also, it’s a “contained” sharpener so it collects the little shavings of wood, allowing you to dump them in the recycling bin later. Kum is a German brand that encompasses the best of European engineering. Thanks to Clive Thompson for mentioning it in his fine video about pencils and writing. If you don’t have an Amazon account allowing two-day delivery, look for it in a fine art store. (Link is here.)
3.The book lover’s page a day calendar: $8.73
Our house has a Sierra Club calendar with breathtaking scenic photos from around the world sitting on the bulletin board in our kitchen. But for my desktop I prefer to have one of those page-a-day calendars that I can rip off and discard at the end of each day. I like being able to read a brief book-related “factoid,” and to have space to jot something down for myself. This is a great gift idea not only for writers but also for serious readers. (Link is here.)
4.New York Review of Books tote bag: $8.95
Most of us now have a wide assortment of cloth (or heavy duty plastic) bags for toting groceries from the store or books from the library. Here’s one that allows you to show off your love of reading while you shop. The bag features a vintage map of Greenwich Village (where the Review’s offices are located) and notations for historic writerly sites in the area. It’s made of a water-resistant fabric and measures 15 x 17 x almost 6 inches. It’s inexpensive, too! Link is here.
5.Book: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: $9.84
As far as bargains go, this is the ne plus ultra. Anne Lamott is a graceful, charming and interesting writer and this book is one of the best introductions I know to the writing life. The title comes from a comment Anne’s father made to her brother/his son when they were children. Given three months to write an essay about birds, the boy had delayed starting to the night before it was due. Anne’s father, also a writer, put his arm around his son’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” (Link is here.)
6.Coffee and/or tea: $10 and more
What writer doesn’t need the caffeine (or warmth) of coffee or tea when they’re working? Coffee and tea drinkers tend to have strong preferences (I drink mainly tea and I love Earl Grey which many people find too “perfume-y”) so be sure to check which brands they like. Also, be aware that some people don’t like caffeine so you may want to choose decaf or herbal blends for those folks. Alternatively, you can also get them a gift card to their favourite coffee shop.
7.Moleskin journal: $16
Many writers enjoy keeping journals. Make their writing life easier by giving them the beautiful and practical gift of a moleskin journal. Be sure to find out whether they prefer writing on lined or unlined paper before you buy. I always use lined paper (otherwise my scrawling becomes even more unreadable) but some people prefer unlined. We’re all different so cater to the tastes of the person receiving your gift. Link is here.
8.William Shakespeare Mug: $13.95
Is there a writer alive who wouldn’t like a mug reflecting his or her interest in writing and reading? I particularly enjoy this Shakespeare mug, which focuses on the theme of love, but the company has lots of other choices including a Jane Austen mug, a disappearing Cheshire cat mug and a Jungle Book mug. (Link to the Shakespeare mug is here.)
9.Book: The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long: $17.87
There are lots of famous books about writing. Here’s a lesser known one that’s one of the most useful I’ve ever encountered. Priscilla Long is a Seattle-based writer and poet, who moved to Seattle in 1988, where she writes about science, history, creative nonfiction, and fiction. Her book, which also offers a fine selection of writing by other authors, provides compelling exercises that will help you improve your own work. One of the most practical writing guides I’ve ever encountered. (Link is here.)
10.Book: The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed by Karen Gordon: $18.09
People often assume that published writers are born with the knowledge of grammar emblazoned on their brains. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a reluctant grammarian who models Joan Didion and approaches the task “by ear.” But whenever anyone asks me a suggestion for a good book on the subject, I have a quick recommendation: anything written by Karen Gordon. She is not only succinct, she’s also very funny. Her books are super-short and they use illustrations to make many of their points. There is no easier way to learn grammar. (Link is here.)
11.Chocolate: $20 or more
If you’re buying chocolate for a writer, get the good stuff, low in sugar and high in cacao. (Look for a variety that’s at least 70 percent cacao.) Read the label and if the first ingredient is sugar, you don’t have the right product. Some people believe that good chocolate helps the heart, the skin, the body and the mind. Me? I just like the taste. Be aware that so-called white chocolate is not actually chocolate because it contains no cacao. Instead, it’s just a confection.
12.Blackwing pencils: $21.95 (Pack of 12)
These are the best, easiest to use pencils I’ve ever discovered. Their lead is dark and flows easily across the page. Thanks for the recommendation also goes to Clive Thompson — whose suggestion for a pencil sharpener (see above) also proved right on point. You can also get the pencils via Amazon but if you live outside the US — as I do — they’ll be far more expensive. Worth the expense, in my opinion. You might also be able to get them at an art supply store. (Link is here.)
13.Book: STORY by Robert McKee: $25.
Although this is subtitled “Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting,” I think it’s a terrific book for any fiction writer. McKee joined the faculty of the School of Cinema-Television as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Southern California (USC), where he began offering a STORY Seminar class. A year later, McKee opened the course to the public. Since 1984, more than 50,000 students have taken McKee’s blisteringly expensive and intense course, at cities around the world. Instead of paying several thousand dollars for his course, you can learn a lot from reading his excellent book. It covers how story fits the human mind, from a philosophical point of view and a structural one. If you buy this book, be sure to get the hardcover edition, because at 465 pages, it’s too big to be contained comfortably in a paperback. (Link is here.)
14.Cufflinks for writers: $29.99
Men who write and who occasionally dress up might be good candidates for these stylish quill cufflinks that will signal to the world they are writers. You don’t need to be attending a writer’s award ceremony to wear these cufflinks but, if you’re ever invited to such an event, they would be an excellent choice. (Link is here.)
15.Moby Dick T-shirt: $34
I saw these Tees several weeks ago and was immediately struck by how beautiful they are. I like that they’re filled to the brim with tiny type (those are the white lines on a mediterranean blue background you can see in the photo) taken directly from the books themselves and I found the whale spout on the Moby Dick one to be particularly stylish. If that doesn’t appeal you can also get T-shirts featuring works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen and Lucy Maude Montgomery. Go to the site’s home page to scroll through the many authors and genres they feature. (Moby Dick Tee link is here.)
16.What would Jane Do apron: $37
I’ve noticed that many cooks are also interested in writing. I’m not sure why — perhaps it’s that both tasks involve plenty of planning time and lots of reflection? Or maybe it’s simply that both tasks are extraordinarily time consuming? For anyone in your life who shares this dual passion, here’s a selection of aprons that will appeal. I liked the Jane Austen one the best, but there are many other choices with equally fun expressions such as: “I’d rather be studying literary criticism” and “I am the madwoman in the attic.” My office is in a loft at the top of our house so that one might be perfect for me! (Link is here.)
17.Your time (priceless)
If know someone who wants to write, give them the gift of your time. Help make meals. Look after children. Do some housecleaning. All of these tasks can help them devote the time they want to writing. Remember that early morning is often the most valuable so maybe you can make breakfast or take kids to school? When my kids were young I often wrote when they were napping and when the naps ended (sigh) I started getting up at 6 am so I had time before the day started. If you live in the same household as a writer, do what you can to give them the quiet and the time that they need.
If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a very happy holiday. I will be taking a brief break and will return to this blog on Jan. 3.
Do you have any other suggestions for last-minute Christmas gifts for writers? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Dec. 31/16 will be put in a draw for a copy of Fifteen Dogs, a novel by Andre Alexis. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest.