By Janelle Milanes
As the holidays approach, there is no shortage of cute quirky gifts for a writer, from Edgar Allan Poe-ka Dots socks to dead writers perfume and candles smelling like antique books. When offering my gift recommendations, I think back on what has personally helped my writing practice. I have published two novels but I have started about twenty; I have handwritten and typed and texted in subway trains and coffee shops, in school libraries, at work, and in bed. Along the way, I’ve figured out which products work for me and which will go unused or inevitably collect dust in my closet.
Now, a caveat: everyone has their own writing process and preferences, thus rendering it impossible to find a universally perfect present. However, if you’re searching for ideas, I have eight suggestions on what may bring joy to a young writer this holiday season.
Every writer can benefit from a seasoned author’s advice. My personal favorite is this classic by Stephen King. King’s advice is practical and straightforward, interspersed with memories from his life through which you see his writing style in action. You do not need to be a King fan, or even a horror fan, to benefit from this book. Other instructional books I have enjoyed and recommend include “Bird by Bird” by Ann Lamont and “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Writing doesn’t always have to be an isolated activity: this community is everything I wanted as a teen writer and never had. Consider setting your young writer up with a free Write the World membership. Teens can enter monthly writing contests in a variety of genres, post written work for peer review, sign up for virtual writing camps and webinars, and connect with other young writers around the world.
In addition to a membership, check out the published collection of reflections, essays, stories, and poems by the inspiring young writers that make up the Write the World community. The book comprises 33 pieces, hand-selected by the editors at Write the World.
3. Owl Crate
Being a good writer means being a good reader. With a book subscription service, young writers can receive a monthly fix of creative inspiration. Companies like Owl Crate specialize in YA books, but there are countless other book of the month services available. Along with the monthly book, a box from Owl Crate offers a bunch of other book-related goodies. Some past examples include metal bookmarks, enamel pins, and art prints.
Alternatively, if there is a specific book you have in mind, consider ordering it through IndieBound to support an independent bookstore. Ordering directly from a writer’s local bookstore adds a personal touch to your gift and, as a bonus, helps a small business in need. If you’re stuck on what book to get, try purchasing a gift card directly from a local store.
There is a time and a place for expensive leather bound notebooks, but I find them a bit too precious for daily use. For heavy-duty writing sessions, I prefer a durable spiral notebook like this one by Rite Rain. At times I need the flexibility of writing by hand, and this notebook is a faithful companion that can withstand a spilled beverage, bathtub writing sessions, or unpredictable weather if writing outdoors.
I recommend noise cancelling earbuds or headphones to block out background noise during a writing session. In the past, headphones have been a necessity for me to drown out conversations in libraries and coffee shops, or more recently, my two rambunctious kids at home. I also find that listening to music while I write gets me in the mood of a scene. Earbuds are my preference for portability, but some people prefer the comfort of headphones.
I don’t recommend Scrivener for everyone, but I can guarantee a serious, tech-savvy writer will love its unique features. Many well-known authors swear by the program, while others prefer a simpler approach. Scrivener is a word processor, outliner, corkboard, and notebook all in one. It allows you to keep notes and pictures on file, write a story in chunks at a time, easily rearrange scenes, set target word counts, and export your work in whatever format you need. I used it to organize my first novel and keep notes and pictures on each of my characters.
I like to nurse a hot beverage during long writing stretches. After growing tired of getting up from my desk multiple times to microwave my cup of coffee, I bought a YETI mug and never looked back. These double-wall vacuum-insulated mugs are engineered for camping, and they keep contents hot or cold, so writers can take their fuel anywhere. (Note: I am not the camping type, and the farthest this mug goes is from my kitchen to my desk. I still love it.) As a bonus, the mug and lid are dishwasher safe.