Friday Links: A Bookish Holiday Guide

In honor of the holiday season, this week’s links feature a bookish holiday guide to help you find gifts for the readers and writers on your list, figure out what hints to drop to your loved ones, and maybe plan your vacation reads. Everyone needs a great book to read through the holidays. Whether you pick a new release or a classic, something seasonally themed or more personal, there are books for all types of readers.

Don’t forget to schedule some writing time this weekend, no matter how much shopping you have to do. Keep up with (or join) the December Writing Challenge. Even if you just take half an hour each day, make your writing a priority. No one else can do that work for you. Train your brain to be creative even when you’re busy. You’ll develop great habits to help kick off the new year.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend. I hope my bookish holiday guide helps with your shopping, and that your writing project flows. All the words count!

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This Week’s Links:

NPR’s Book Concierge: Our Guide to 2017’s Great Reads. – This might be my favorite annual book list, as NPR sets up their page to help you search for books by subject, etc. Wonderful, huge selection.

The Ultimate BuzzFeed Books Gift Guide. – Another big list of great books to give and get.

YA Books Gift Guide for 2017. – BuzzFeed also offers this great roundup of young adult books for the year, for the younger readers in your life, plus the young-at-heart readers as well.

10 Cookbooks Inspired by Children’s Books. – A fun list of cookbooks that readers will love, particularly if they tend to be nostalgic for their favorite childhood reads.

Historically, men translated The Odyssey. Here’s what happened when a woman took the job. – A look at the newly translated version of Homer’s epic, a great gift for the classics fan on your list.

Diaries are evidence of our days. – Okay, a little more writer than reader, but a great arguement from Austin Kleon on keeping a daily log book, something that can appeal to anyone.

New York Review of Books’ Reader’s Catalog. – A fabulous online selection of tons of book-themed gifts, from shirts to wrapping paper to novelty items.

The Little Bookroom. – A lovely little online bookshop dedicated to travel-related books.

Friday Links: Inspiration for December Writing

As promised, I’m back with some inspiration for December writing in this week’s Friday Links. Even if you’re not participating in the 2017 December Writing Challenge, I hope you plan to get some writing done this month. The links that follow offer tips, plus some entertainment to keep you smiling as you work. And of course, there are more book recommendations to keep your TBR stocked and maybe help with gift giving. Wishing you a wonderful weekend and some terrific writing time!

This Week’s Links:

Tortoise Victories: How to Win While Writing Slow. – A lovely post that discusses how slow, steady writing will still let you meet your goals.

12 Literary Cocktails to Pair with Classic Reads. – Fun for an evening at home, or if you’re doing a little holiday entertaining!

‘Bad Sex in Fiction Award’ Goes to Novelist Who Compared Skin to Stained Bathtub. – In case you were wondering, there are certain descriptions that really don’t appeal. Great for a chuckle.

Holiday Books Guide and the Best Books of 2017. – The best-books lists continue with this offering from the LA Times.

21 Gifts Under $21 for Writers and Book Lovers. – Suggestions for your shopping list, or for you to drop in hints to friends and family.

Sci Fi Writer Nnedi Okorafor Discusses Inspiration and Influences. – A radio interview with the novelist who is gearing up to write a run of Marvel’s Black Panther comic.

Some Baffling Omissions from the NY Times’ 100 Noteable Books List – LitHub tacks on some great reads they feel got shortchanged in the NYT wrap-up.

 

Friday Links: Writing into the Holidays

Happy Friday, everyone! Whether you’re gearing up for holidays or simply motoring through the end of your week, it’s a festive time of year and I hope you’re taking some time out to enjoy a great book or squeeze in a little writing. Those of you participating in the December Writing Challenge are in the home stretch now, with just over a week left until the end of the month. Keep up that daily habit and you’ll find yourself all primed to write your heart out in the new year.

In case you’re looking for a little bit of a break from all the hectic activity this time of year, I’ve got some fun links for you this week. I hope they give you some inspiration or just a nice change of pace from shopping and cooking and getting ready for friends and family. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The Art of Revision: Most of What You Write Should Be Cut – Some handy advice, especially for anyone reworking their NaNo novel.

Farewell to the Reader in Chief – A look back at President Obama’s dedication to reading and literacy.

Stephanie Danler on Having Your First Book Blow Up – The author discusses her experiences with having her debut become a hit.

18 Non-Book Gifts for Literary People – Some last-minute shopping ideas for those bookish types on your list.

The Paris Review Staff Picks: Our Favorite Reads of 2016 – A series of lists from various Paris Review contributors.

The POC Guide to Writing Dialogue in Fiction – Some tips on how to get it right.

 

 

Friday Links: Inspiration to Write through the Holidays

Happy Friday! Apologies for the lack of links last week, but between the holiday and my own self-imposed social media blackout, I didn’t have as much as I would need for a full post. And you were all shopping anyway, right? However I am back this week with an all new collection of Friday Links to kick off December and this crazy final month of 2016.

First, a quick reminder that this is Day 2 of the December Writing Challenge. Even if you are just hearing about it now, it’s never too late to start, so make sure you get your writing time in for the day. Now’s also a good time to take a quick look at your weekend plans and figure out when you plan to write tomorrow and Sunday. Don’t risk running out of time; make a writing date with yourself and stick it on your calendar.

All right! Without further ado I give you this week’s Friday Links. There should be something here to inspire all of you to read and write through this busy time of year. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Roxane Gay on the Importance of Storytelling – A short Q&A with the author.

John Scalzi: Writing for Audio Made Me a Better Writer, Period – The author discusses how writing specifically for audio changed his approach.

The Man Who Invented Bookselling as We Know It – The history behind The Temple of Muses, the famous London bookshop that set the standard for book retail in the 18th century.

Putting Penis to Paper: When Sex Writing Goes Terribly Wrong – A humorous look at the art (or lack) of writing sex scenes.

These Women Reporters Went Undercover to Get the Most Important Scoops of Their Day – A look at the girl stunt reporters of the late 19th century.

35 Gifts Under $35 for Writers and Book Lovers – A nice roundup for those of you shopping for the bookish and/or writing set, or who need to nudge your own friends and family toward getting you things you’d like.

The Non-Western Books that Every Student Should Read – Great assortment of titles for anyone looking to diversify their TBR pile.

The History of Female Titles: When ‘Mistress” Meant ‘Mrs.’ and ‘Miss’ Meant ‘Prostitute’ – An interesting account of how women’s titles have changed. Particularly useful for historical fiction authors.

More Holiday Gifts for Readers and Writers

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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.

Writing Tools

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.

Friday Links: Holiday Gifts for Readers and Writers

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Happy Friday! We’re two weeks from Christmas, smack in the middle of Hanukkah, and on day 11 of the December Writing Challenge. All of which says to me that most people are probably extremely busy.

In terms of the challenge, I’m simply going to remind you to make some writing dates for yourself over the weekend. Call up your writing friends and arrange to meet for hot chocolate and a couple of writing sprints, or schedule some solo writing time. Put your writing dates in your phone and/or planner, set alerts to remind yourself, and treat them the way you would any other important appointment. Good luck!

As for this week’s Friday Links, I have all sorts to share. Unsurprisingly, we’re slipping into the “best of” time of year, when all the lists of books start popping up. Even though they can get a bit out of hand, I still always love checking them out to see if I might discover a great title that flew under my radar earlier in the year. So yes, I’ve got a few lists in the links. But there’s also ideas for holiday shopping, as well as the typical writerly/bookish stuff. I hope they make for an enjoyable break or tangent today or at some point over the weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Best Books of 2015: The NPR App – One of my favorites when in comes to these annual lists. This covers all sorts of genres and interests, and allows you to winnow the list if you’re looking for the best of a particular type of read.

26 Brilliant Gifts Only English Nerds Will Appreciate – Some great ideas for the writers and/or readers in your life.

American Publishers Put Out Significantly Fewer Works in Translation in 2015 – A look at the major dip in this segment of the publishing industry.

The Best of the Bests: Ranking the 2015 Best Books Lists – Brooklyn Magazine sorts through some of the many lists out there.

30 Gifts Under $30 for Writers and Book Lovers – More fun ideas.

Notes from a Bookseller Under Pressure – On selling books through the holidays.

The Best Diverse YA Books of 2015 – An excellent round-up.

One Goal to Rule them All: Five Things to Consider before You Write an Epic Fantasy – Some wonderful advice regarding all the balls you need to juggle writing in this sub-genre.

Holiday Shopping for Writers

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.

Writerly gifts:

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.

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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.

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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.

Literary-themed gifts:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

More Gifts for Writers

Last year I posted some suggestions for what to buy the writers in your life (or hint at to the people shopping for you). This year I have some supplements to the list — just a few items I’ve come across that might make your favorite writer happy or inspire them or give their weary, creative minds a bit of a break. Happy shopping!

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Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks – I stumbled across these a couple of months ago. Not only are they nice sturdy, well made blank books, but they come with page numbers, which I love, sticky notes to help label your notes, and a few perforated pages at the back for when you need to pull out whatever you’ve scribbled. Like the Ecosystem notebooks I mentioned last year, these books have thick paper that stands up to fountain pen ink.

A beautiful fountain pen – There seems to be something of a resurgence in using fountain pens. I’m aware that they’ve never quite gone out of style, but I know several recent “converts,” as well as a few folks who tend to sing the praises of their pens quite enthusiastically, encouraging others to give them a try. They are particularly nice gifts when accompanied by a lovely journal.

Pimsleur language learning software – Learning a foreign language can help a writer gain greater appreciation for their own language, helps improve vocabulary, makes one more conscious of word choice and sentence rhythms, and is just plain fun. I’m a fan of the Pimsleur programs, but there are plenty of other options out there to choose from.

A web site – Newbie writer in your life? Help them get started with an author site by giving them a gift certificate for a year’s web hosting or the domain of their choosing.

Time – Know a writer with small children? Offer to take the kids off their hands for a Saturday afternoon so they can have a nice long writing block to themselves. Gift a homeowner with a few free weeks of a housecleaning service or lawn maintenance to free up their time to write instead.

Bookstore or literary tote bags – More and more people are taking their own reusable tote bags with them when they shop or run errands. Supply your favorite writer with a great washable bag to take to the bookstore, library, or even the grocery store.

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Books for Writers: Just a few titles I think are interesting or helpful.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante

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Gifts for Writers

There are many lists this time of year, recommending that you run out and spend your hard-earned cash on endless items for your friends and loved ones. Some of the lists are helpful, while others feel more like marketing tools. So, I will get the marketing part out of the way right up front. Writers are readers, so I highly recommend you buy the writer in your life something good to read. It can always be thought of as research, with the added bonus of being highly entertaining as well. And what do you know! We at The Knight Agency represent tons of writers who have written wonderful books. We highly recommend them. Some of their more recent releases can be found at The Knight Agency site.

Moving right along, I have some other fun things that you might want to buy the writers in your life, or poke at someone to buy for you. They range from educational to whimsical to hedonistic. I hope they spark some ideas.Writing_Excuses_1to5

Writing Excuses, seasons 1-5 – Some of you might be familiar with the Writing Excuses series of podcasts, featuring writers Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and in recent seasons, Mary Robinette Kowal. In the store on their site, they offer CDs of their first three seasons, individually or as a set, or a DVD-Rom of the first five seasons. Each season is comprised of a series of 15-minute podcasts providing down-and-dirty writing lessons that can help writers get over any difficulties they have with a particular skill. Topics range from writing beginnings to character flaws to editing and the submissions process, and each cast includes a writing prompt and a book recommendation. The podcasts are available free online, but the disks include all sorts of fun extras and unaired material. Prices range from $10 for a single season to $39.95 for five seasons.Ecosystem_Journal

Ecosystem Journals – These great, ecologically conscious journals come in a variety of sizes and colors, both blank and lined, hard- or soft-cover, and include sturdy paper that will stand up to writers who like to use rollerball or fountain pens that sometimes bleed through traditional journal pages. Up to $19.95 for large size.

Write, Rewrite Wall Clock – Bright and fun, keeps normal time, but adds that little push your favorite writer might need. Handy for an office wall. $15.99write_rewrite_wall_clock

Gift Certificate for a Massage – Too many hours in front of a computer means stiff neck, shoulders, back, etc. Gift your writer with a massage at their favorite local spa or health center, and help them relax in the new year. Prices vary by location.

Literary Knits: 30 Patterns Inspired by Favorite Books – For the writer who also knits, this book includes patterns for a number of projects based on characters from famous fiction. Fun and a bit different. Retails for $22.99. Discounts vary per outlet.

Writing Books: Just a few of my favorite titles to inspire, instruct, and help get writers over a block.

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Pricilla Long

Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula Le Guin

Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See