Holiday Gift Guide: What to Get for the Writers in Your Life

‘Tis the season of shopping and gift-giving. But what do writers want? (Or what hints should you drop to friends and family?)

Truthfully, most writers would like a book deal, but assuming that’s not within the scope of your powers, I’ve a few more practical suggestions. Some might overlap with other gifts-for-writers posts this time of year, but I hope to spark some fresh ideas. I’ve tried to provide items within a range of budgets and for varying tastes. Apologies for the late date of this post, as I know a few of these might be difficult given shipping times, etc. Have fun, and don’t forget to leave time between shopping trips to get your own writing done!

Assorted Gifts for Writers: 2019

I love software gifts for writers with technical inclinations. Scrivener sits high on my list of great gifts. For writers working on a series, historical novels, or anything with world building, Aeon Timeline offers a simple way to keep track of dates and facts. Check out 4 the Words for writers who like gamifying their lives; it encourages a daily habit with low minimum word counts and fun monsters to battle.

Shopping for a writer looking to work on their craft? Gotham Writers Workshop offers a wide range of online classes in addition to their in-person courses, and gift certificates are available.

Subscriptions for writers keep giving all year long. Check out popular writing magazine options like The Writer or Poets & Writers. Or try a literary magazine subscription like Slightly Foxed, The Paris Review, Asimov’s Science Fiction, One Story, or Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Do you know a writer with a stationery habit? Check out Goulet Pen Company or JetPens for fabulous fountain pens and ink, rollerballs and ballpoints, journals, and pencases. FYI: the Lamy Safari or Pilot Metropolitan make reasonably priced gifts for anyone just getting into fountain pens. And Field Notes currently has a wonderful selection of pocket-sized notebooks with illustrations of national parks on their covers.

Bookish Gifts

Let’s not forget books. Writers love books, because writers read long before they wrote. For beautiful editions of interesting classics, old and modern, visit Folio Society. (Note: I’ve linked to the USA site; there’s a separate one for the UK.) Persephone Books reprints lovely editions of titles that have gone out of print, mostly by mid-century women authors. The ladies at Slightly Foxed have a similar mission to reprint books–often intriguing memoirs–that are worth reading but have slipped out of the public eye in recent years.

As far as specific titles go, I love this year’s Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dryer. It offers advice on (writing) style with a great sense of humor.

Health and Wellbeing

Writers spend long hours hunched over desks, so consider giving the writer in your life something to help keep them healthy. Gift certificates for a massage, bubble bath, healthy snacks, or some soothing scented candles might all be welcome. I’m a fan of the S’well water bottles; they keep drinks cold for 24 hours and can sit on a desk without worry about spillage, plus they’re great at conferences. Keep your favorite writer hydrated!

Odds and Ends

If you’re shopping for writer-themed odds and ends–mugs, T-shirts, jewelry, printed scarves, etc.–check out these diverse sites:

The Reader’s Catalog

Out of Print

BookRiot Store

Storiarts

The Literary Gift Company

You might also consider giving the gift of cultural appreciation. Writers need to refill the well from time to time, so membership to a  local museum, gift certificates to a cinema or theater, or tickets to some sort of event can get them away from their desks and spark their imaginations.

Finally, give the gift of time. If you know a busy writer who has a hard time carving out time for their craft, offer to watch their kids for a few afternoons, sign them up for a meal delivery service or give them gift certificates for their favorite take-out place, or pay to have someone clean their home a couple times a month. Especially for writers on deadline, this type of personalized gift can really lighten the load.

Friday Links: The Book Roundup Edition

The end-of-year booklists started raining down a couple of weeks ago. I know they get a bit out of control, but I still love poring over them to find what I’ve missed. I try hard to keep a holiday shopper’s eye engaged when I review them, for gift-giving purposes. However, I will admit I frequently keep as many book purchases as I wrap up for someone else.

This week’s links focus on books, and I’ve tried to curate some of my favorite lists of the year. I know I’ve missed plenty, and more are coming, but this seems a great start. Some are best-of lists, and others focus on other deciding factors. But for those of you shopping for friends and family, there are plenty to choose from. And if you’re looking for some personal inspiration, I’m pretty sure we’ve got that covered as well.

More writerly shopping ideas coming early this week. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this bookish links roundup and have a wonderful weekend. Happy reading, and don’t forget to write!

This Week’s Links:

Art of the Hand-Sell. – A recommendation from a bookseller can be gold. Here a few share their favorite reads, the ones they like to talk up the most.

NPR’s Book Concierge 2019. – NPR posts my favorite annual year-end book list. This year’s bosts 369 titles across all genres, and as always, they allow you to search by topic, some of which are pretty unusual. Great for finding something for that stubborn reader on your list, or just seeing a huge visual of the year’s best offerings.

A Year in Reading: The Millions. – Another annual favorite. This features multiple posts each day where various writers share what they’ve read over the year. Sometimes they focus on one or two titles that made an impression, sometimes they discuss more broadly. It’s a wonderful peek into people’s tastes and also mentions works across the years instead of just recent releases. The master post updates each day with new links.

The Costa Awards 2019 Shortlist. – 20 books from authors writing in the UK and Ireland. Some great reads here.

11 Forgotten Books of the 1920s Worth Reading Now. – Looking for something a little unusual? Shopping for a history buff? One of these might serve.

Publishers Weekly Best Books 2019. – Divided by genre, with the added plus of links to lists from previous years.

December Writing Challenge: Why Write Daily?

My December Writing Challenge asks you to write every day this month. However, the point is not to convince you that you need to write daily. Rather, the challenge focuses on squeezing in your writing time, no matter how busy life gets. If you aim to write every day, you might miss one or two (I give you two freebies), but you will manage to write most of the time. Even if it’s just for a few stolen minutes. Writing becomes your priority. You become your priority. Your writing goals are important, and I hope to help you see that through this challenge.

Plenty of successful writers do not write every day. Others do. Only you can decide what schedule works best for your life and your career in the long term. And writing habits change over time. I do believe writing on a fairly regular basis helps train your brain to perform on command. It’s not a perfect system, but your brain is a muscle, and conditioning it to be creative isn’t a bad thing. However, I will never claim that writing daily is the only way to become a good writer. Creatives follow many paths to their goals, and your journey is your own.

Come January, you might resume writing four days a week or only on weekends. You might find that daily writing boosts your creative juices, and continue to work a session in each day. Maybe you’ll try something else entirely. But for December, give daily writing a chance.

If you’re already sailing along with the challenge, thank you for joining in and good luck with your writing! For those of you who are just dropping by or who haven’t considered daily writing but who are curious to give it a go, it’s never too late to start the challenge. You can find the full explanation of how it works over here.

Wishing you all the best as you navigate this busy month. Now go write!

Happy Book Birthday to A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE by Nalini Singh

Wishing a very happy book birthday to Nalini Singh for her debut thriller, A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE, out today. When you write successfully in a genre and have several long-running series, it can be difficult to try something new. Writing more of the same–what your fans love–seems sensible. But you only grow as a writer by challenging yourself.

With this book, Nalini pushed herself out of her comfort zone and tackled a new genre. The result is a moody, atmospheric, creepy thriller that had me holding my breath more than once. I’m so excited this book is now out in the world where you all can enjoy it.

Cover for A MADNESS OF SUNSHINE by Nalini Singh

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh welcomes you to a remote town on the edge of the world where even the blinding brightness of the sun can’t mask the darkness that lies deep within a killer.…

On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates. 

That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement to not look back. But they can’t run from the past forever. 

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.  

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

 

December Writing Challenge 2019: Lift Off!

Welcome to the 2019 edition of the December Writing Challenge! I laid out the rules of the challenge yesterday, all two of them, so please check those out if you haven’t done so already. Today, we start! This is our official lift-off post, but I hope at least some of you have gotten a few words down already. Remember, it’s not about how many words you write, but the fact that you’re taking the time to do so.

My goal for the challenge is to encourage writers to remember that their writing ambition, at whatever stage, should remain a priority. During this time of the year, it can be difficult to do things for yourself, even important things. The season pushes us to do others; to give, to shop, to cook, to help. And that’s wonderful–something more of us should keep in mind all year long. But your own needs should not be discounted simply because a busy month asks you to prioritize the holiday spirit.

Writing asks a lot of a person. If you’re just starting out, there are so many facets of the craft you need to master. Once you’re further along, you need to continue to grow while taking a more business-minded approach to your career. People don’t often take writers seriously, because so many consider writing something anyone can do. But writing is hard work. And like any hard work, it requires dedication and training.

Writing Is Exercise

Your brain does the heavy lifting when you write. It’s the source of your ideas, your creativity, and of all the different ways you can put those down on paper. And like any muscle, your brain must be conditioned to perform on demand. You would not take a month off from running and then expect to go run your best race. Likewise, you can’t allow your writing to take a backseat to life for a few weeks and expect the words to flow when you finally return to your work-in-progress.

A little bit of writing daily, even for half an hour, will keep your brain in shape. You might not love everything you produce this month, but that can be said of any month. So make a date with your writing. Make it a priority. Remember that come January, you have lofty goals for the new year, things you want to accomplish. Keep writing now and keep that future in your sights.

I’ll be posting bits of encouragement and tips here throughout the month. You can also follow me on Twitter for more regular reminders and cheerleading @NepheleTempest. I’ll be using the tag #DecWritingChallenge. Now, go write!

December Writing Challenge 2019: Rules of the Game

Every year, I challenge writers to defy their busy schedules in December and keep up their writing. December brings so many obstacles with it. Between holidays, shopping, entertaining, travel, and work responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time to write. You intend to work on that current project, but distractions keep cropping up, pulling you away from your computer. Before you know it, a week has gone by and you haven’t even opened your project file. All the writing momentum you’ve built up over the year, whether through NaNoWriMo or just your own schedule, gets lost. Instead of making new writing goals for the new year, you just hope you can remember where your story goes next.

December Writing Challenge 2019 banner on a chalkboard

Enter the December Writing Challenge. I challenge you to make your writing a priority. Your goals are just as important as fixing the perfect holiday dinner or cleaning the house before the family descends. So decide now that you are going to write every day in December. It doesn’t have to be for long, or polished and perfected. You can work on a shitty first draft or play with a new idea or tackle a new writing exercise each day. But sit down and write. Try for 30 minutes, though 15 will do in a pinch. Commit yourself to keeping your writing momentum going through the holiday season, so you’re all ready come January for your 2020 resolutions.

The Rules:

  1. Write every day. Doesn’t matter when or where or what. Just set aside half an hour to dedicate to your writing.
  2. You can take two days off over the month, if you really need them. Planning a big holiday dinner at your house? You can take a freebie day. Travel day that sucks up hours with you behind the wheel? Maybe that’s a good day not to write. But only take them if you have to, and try to keep it to two days out of 31.

That’s it. Those are the only rules. Keep in mind, you can customize the challenge as need be. Edit if you’ve got a deadline coming, or schedule longer writing sessions. Break up your writing into small chunks over the day if that makes it easier. This challenge isn’t about word counts or finishing a novel in a month. It’s about keeping your brain in training so the blank page isn’t so scary come January 1st.

A Few Tips:

  1. Schedule writing sessions ahead of time, and put reminders on your calendar, complete with alerts.
  2. Let your family know what you’re doing and that your writing time is non-negotiable (assuming no one’s bleeding).
  3. Find a few writing friends and set up writing dates over the course of the month to keep yourself accountable.
  4. Carry a pen and notebook with you so, if need be, you can spend a few minutes jotting down words when you’re standing in a long line at the store, commuting on public transportation, or waiting in the car to pick up your kids.
  5. Have fun with it. Let yourself play around and write something different if you’re having trouble with your WIP. Don’t make this stressful, just keep writing.

Friday Links: The Black Friday Edition

Some of you probably spent your morning shopping, whether fighting crowds in stores or seeking deals online. I slept in, then treated myself to a lazy breakfast on the couch, with eggs and leftover biscuits from dinner last night. I’m not one for deep-deal diving in the days after Thanksgiving. Instead, I use these few days off to gear up for the last push of the year, and to prep for holiday travel. But I do have this week’s Friday Links for all of you, and whatever your schedule, I hope you find a moment to enjoy them.

Feet up in rainbow socks next to mug of coffee and an open paperback book.

A quick reminder for you: The 2019 December Writing Challenge kicks off on Sunday. I’ll be back tomorrow with the full rules of the challenge for those of you unfamiliar with them. Meanwhile, enjoy your leftovers, read a good book, finish up your NaNoWriMo project, or grab a nice nap. And happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

Pete Hamill ‘Ain’t Done Yet.’ – An interesting profile of the journalist and novelist as he works on what might be his final project.

You Can Book Harry Potter’s Childhood Home on Airbnb. – The home featured in the Harry Potter films as the house in Godric’s Hollow can be rented for as little as $150 per night.

The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasty Defies Easy Genre Categorization. – A discussion of the place held by these commercial labels and what they mean for the writer who wants to blur the lines.

Shannon Pufahl: Queering the Western. – For writers and readers interested in diversifying the literary landscape, as well as those intrigued by America’s national myth of the wild west.

The Slightly Foxed Podcast. – The podcast associated with the UK literary quarterly of the same name. Wonderful listening for anyone seeking slightly less-well-known titles to add to their TBR piles, interested in bits of literary trivia, or who counts themself an anglophile. Produced once a month, with a little over a year of back episodes currently available.

Pippi Longstocking Musical in Works to Celebrate 75th Anniversary. – Set for this coming summer in Stockholm, for any fans out there planning vacation travel. Fingers crossed it lands in a few more places in the future.

Books for the Holiday Rom-Com Fan. – An assortment of titles, both new and older, sure to fit your holiday mood.

Countdown to the December Writing Challenge 2019

Each year, I challenge you to spend your December writing a little bit every day. Why? Because for most of us, December marks the busiest part of the year. Between holidays and end-of-year work projects, traffic and crowded stores, family and entertaining, it can be chaotic. Writing often takes a backseat to all your other tasks and commitments. Then January hits, with its new year resolutions, and your brain stalls out immediately on your writing goals.

Girl-on-laptop

 

My challenge involves prioritizing your writing. You don’t need to write a great deal (unless of course you have a deadline or other motivating factor). The idea is to write a little bit every day. Try and grab half an hour, but fifteen minutes will do. Warn your friends and family that  you’re setting aside a little time each day for your writing. Mark it in your calendar. Whatever you need to do to commit to the page.

I’ll post the full rules for the writing challenge later in the week, and I’ll be back on Sunday, December 1st, to kick it off officially. Over the month, I’ll be posting mini peptalks here, with suggestions to keep you going. I’ll post reminders on Twitter daily, too, along with a little cheerleading.

I hope you’ll join me for this year’s December Writing Challenge. If you’re working on NaNoWriMo, it’s a great way to keep up your momentum. If you’re hoping to make inroads with your writing in 2020, this will give you a push. Dare to take your writing to the next step and see what you can do. Happy writing!

Friday Links: A Little Writerly Food for Thought

Sneaking this week’s post in under the wire today. It’s still Friday here, so that counts, right? Things have been a bit chaotic this week, everyone getting ready to take some or all of next week off for Thanksgiving. Even now, I’m breaking to post this before I go back to the rest of my to-do list.

Girl-with-laptop-and-stack-of-books

So the food-for-thought thing is a bit of a holiday joke. I might be contemplating the merits of Yukon gold vs. sweet potatoes between reading manuscripts. But that doesn’t mean I don’t come bearing thoughtful links this week. There are the usual book lists and so on, but also some wonderful writing tips that I hope will inspire you. It’s a pretty broad range, so I think there’s something for everyone.

I know those of you doing NaNoWriMo are heading into the last leg of the challenge. Wishing you lots of wonderful words, and not too many ninjas slipping in to pad your pages. Just keep on writing. Don’t delete, don’t worry about it. Plenty of time to edit come December.

Happy weekend, everyone!

This week’s links:

The Gift of Penciling It In. – Author Maggie Stiefvader talks about the process of writing, and deleting, and writing some more.

Edith Wharton Will Teach You Everything You Need to Know about Naming Characters. – A great look at how the names Wharton chose fit the characters and also their journeys.

Inside the Last Occupied Apartments of the Chelsea Hotel. – The NYC institution has housed an assortment of famous and interesting people. If you’re looking some great writing prompts, check out the photo gallery with this article.

NYC Midnight Annual Short Story Challenge. – Check out the site to enter this multi-round contest where every entry gets feedback from the judges. Open internationally.

The 20 Must-Read Books of 2020. – Bustle might be jumping the gun, but it’s still a great list of what to be on the lookout for in coming months.

Kill Your Idols: On the Violence of Experimental Literature. – A look at what it means to step away from the examples set by the writers who came before you.

The 100 Must-Read Books of 2019. – Per Time magazine. Yes, those lists are starting already.