9 Holiday Gifts for Writers

The holidays are fast approaching and the whole world seems to be in a shopping frenzy. It can be difficult to find something for everyone on your list (especially the people who say, “Oh, I don’t need anything!” Shut up, Grandma, you’re getting a gift).  On the surface, writers seem like they’re fairly easy to shop for–just buy them a pen and a notebook! However, writers are notoriously picky about their writing implements. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many beautiful notebooks I’ve received over the years when I just preferred to write in a spiral-bound notebook commonly seen in the backpacks of elementary school children. And don’t even get me started on the pens–writers LOVE their pens and are pretty goddamn picky about the kind they like (I personally love Staedler Triplus Fineliners and will accept no substitutes). 

But if you’re looking to satisfy those oh so picky writers in your life this holiday season, take a look at some of these ideas that are sure to make them cheer instead of secretly writing your murder into their next novel:

1. Write Drunk, Edit Sober Mug

It’s no secret that writers are obsessive fans of coffee. It might be a stereotype, but lots of us do consume our weight in coffee each day because we enjoy the boost in mental stimulation and anxiety while we try and figure out how the hell our plot is going to work itself out. This mug with Ernest Hemingway’s favorite quote is a fun way to show the writer in your life that you love and support their caffeine addiction.

Get it from Amazon for $19.99

2. Death Wish Coffee

Death Wish Coffee Company claims that through roasting and careful bean selection, they’ve created the strongest possible coffee–and they’re not kidding. According to Consumer Reports, one fluid ounce of their flagship blend contains 59 mg of caffeine, whereas most coffees only have 12-16 mg of caffeine per fluid ounce. That means that a single 8 oz cup of coffee in the morning contains 472 mg of caffeine. Anything more potent and you’d basically be drinking jet fuel. This is perfect for any writer’s morning wake up call or late night writing session.

Get it from Amazon for $19.99

3. Anything from Out of Print

Writers are first and foremost readers, and they love to show their dedication to their favorite works. Out of Print has tons of shirts, totes, and accessories displaying tons of popular works. You’re sure to find something your writer loves and will love wearing. 

Get this shirt from Out of Print for $28

4. A Cure for Writer’s Block

What do writers hate more than losing their favorite pen? Writer’s block. It happens to all of us and we’re miserable jerks until it passes. With ideas and tricks to help break a writer out of their funk, this is a great gift that will get lots of use. Plus, it’s more effective than banging your head against the keyboard or lying on the floor having an existential crisis, the latter of which is my current preferred method.

Get it on Amazon for $19

5. Aqua Notes for Shower Thoughts

One of the most maddening things about being a writer is having a great idea at a really inopportune time like when you’re in the shower. But now, thanks to Aqua Notes, you won’t lose those plot ideas or brilliant bits of dialogue. It’s a waterproof notepad you can stick in the shower so you can jot down your flashes of brilliance.

Get it from Amazon for $9.95

6. Smells Like Fiction

Who doesn’t love the smell of old books? Psychopaths, that’s who. Frostbeard Studio has created several candles that are sure to please every writer on your list. You can get a soy candle that smells like old books and Oxford Library as well as great fictional places like The Shire or Sherlock’s Study. Help the writer on your shopping list set the mood with their favorite scent! 

Get it from Frostbeard Studio for $6-18 

7. Learn from a Master

Every writer can benefit from learning from a master, so why not look at MasterClass? A writer on your holiday list can learn from powerhouses such as Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume, R.L. Stein, James Patterson, Dan Brown, Malcolm Gladwell, Aaron Sorkin, and David Mamet. It’s a bit pricier than most items on this list, but your gift gives them lifetime access to a class so they can study at their own pace.

Get it from MasterClass for $90

8. Free from Distractions

Sometimes you sit down at your computer to write, and then you need to do a little bit of research to fact check something for your work. Then distraction hits and two hours later, you’ve made zero progress on your book but you’ve taken dozens of online quizzes to find out what kind of toast you are (sourdough, in case anyone is wondering). The Freewrite Smart Typewriter takes away the distractions and forces you to focus on what’s in front of you: your words, and nothing but. It has a full qwerty keyboard with a screen akin to a Kindle so your eyes won’t be strained by the blue light of a laptop. Plus, it has the memory to hold up to a million pages! This is the priciest item on the list, but they do offer payment options (although you shouldn’t have to go into debt for the holidays).

Get it from Freewrite for $549

9. When in Doubt . . .

Writers love gift cards to their favorite local bookstore. We’re simple creatures at heart.

 

What did you think of these gift ideas? Do you have any of your own to add? Let me know in the comments?

 


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Famous Library Porn

Alright, I know I write romance and erotica (among other things), but I may have lured you into this post under false pretenses. Instead of porn that takes place in libraries, I decided to take some time on this lovely Monday to share some photos of incredibly beautiful libraries. I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but here the sky is gray and it’s the perfect day to curl up in any one of these gorgeous places.

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It goes without saying that snacks and blankets are mandatory.

Without further ado, enjoy these gorgeous libraries!

Austrian National Library, Vienna

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I don’t know about you, but this library fulfills every Beauty and the Beast fantasy I’ve ever had. I am also 100% percent sure that this place is so beautiful, I would not be allowed inside for fear of spilling something.

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro

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According to the library’s website, “Among the rarest works of the library we can mention the edition ‘prínceps’ of ‘The Lusíadas’, of 1572, that belonged to the ‘Company of Jesus’; the ‘Ordinations of Dom Manuel’ by Jacob Cromberger, published in 1521; the ‘Capitolos de Cortes and Leys, which on some of them were made’, edited in 1539; ‘The true information of the lands of Preste Joam, according to saw and written by Father Francisco Alvarez’, 1540. [The library] also has autograph manuscripts of ‘Amor de Perdição’ by Camilo Castelo Branco and the ‘Dictionary of the Tupy Language’ by Gonçalves Dias, as well as hundreds of letters from writers.”

Boston Public Library

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Founded in 1848, this was the first large free municipal library in the United States. I know this photo doesn’t actually depict any of the extensive collection this library houses, but these murals by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes are breathtaking.

Trinity College Library, Dublin

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This library feels like it could go on forever and there are far worse ways to spend eternity. If it looks familiar, there was actually some controversy involving this library’s architecture and Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones. There was an allegation that Lucasfilm had used the design of this building without permission for the Jedi archives in the Jedi temple. However, Lucasfilm claimed they didn’t do it intentionally and the library didn’t care enough to pursue a lawsuit because they’re too busy doing things like housing the famous Book of Kells, a manuscript created by Celtic monks around the year 800 A.D.

The Library of El Escorial, Spain

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This library served as the inspiration behind the design of the Vatican’s library and it’s easy to see why. The building currently houses over 40,000 volumes and the frescoes depict the seven liberal arts: rhetoric, dialectic, music, grammar, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. The library includes many important illuminated manuscripts, such as the Ottonian Golden Gospels of Henry III (1045–46) and the only known copy of the Kitab al-I’tibar, a 12th-century Syrian autobiography, was discovered there in the 19th century.

Which library is your favorite? Do you have one that you love that I’ve left off this (admittedly short) list? Let me know in the comments! I’m off to write some library porn . . . the other kind. *exaggerated wink*


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How to Kill (Fictional) People

Note: This post contains spoilers about character deaths in books.

Sometimes in the course of writing a story, it’s necessary to kill some of your characters. Although I can’t find the exact quote, I remember reading somewhere that JK Rowling said that offing characters was an occupational hazard of being a children’s author. As a result, she annually apologizes for killing someone in the Harry Potter series.

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I still cry every time I read Dobby’s death scene.

However, JK Rowling did say that she only felt bad about killing one of them: Florean Fortescue, a wizard who once gave Harry Potter free ice cream in the third book. Her guilt stems from the fact that his death ended up being somewhat unnecessary, which means that everyone else’s death in the series served another purpose.

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*incoherent sobbing*

Much like JK Rowling, if you are writing, you will inevitably need to send someone to sleep with the fishes. To help, I’ve narrowed down the three main types of death to give your (fictional) people.

Method #1: Righteous Revenge

This is a classic and most satisfying type of death. It’s usually reserved for your villains who finally get what’s coming to them. The Wicked Witch of the West is doused in water, Voldemort is defeated in the Great Hall, King Joffrey is poisoned at the Purple Wedding–you get the idea. After the pain and suffering these villains have caused the other characters, it feels so good to see them defeated. There is no more lingering threat of these characters because they’re dead and gone. To effectively pull off this kind of death, you have to be sure your villain is really horrible. The more terrible the villain, the bigger the payoff when they’re finally dead.

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That’s what you get, you little shit.

Method #2: Right in the Feels

As writers, it’s our job to make life miserable for our characters. Happy people without conflict make for boring stories and your reader has no motivation to keep turning the pages. So, with that in mind, let’s kill some characters!

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Go team!

These are the sort of emotional deaths that, if done right, will fuck up your readers for years to come. One that immediately comes to mind is the death of Augustus Waters in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. As a reader, you spend the entire book preparing for Hazel, the narrator, the die because she has cancer and everything is bullshit. But then, her kind, sweet, wonderful boyfriend who uses his Make-a-Wish to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favorite book who is SUPPOSED to be in remission dies because his cancer comes back and GOD DAMMIT, JOHN GREEN, WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?

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If you didn’t cry when August died, you have no soul.

Another example is in The Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games series. Katniss’s entire motivation for the series is to save her sister’s life: it’s why she volunteered to go into the arena in the first place. Everything Katniss does is ultimately for her sister. Then to have Prim killed at the end of the revolution–by a bomb designed by Gale, no less–was absolutely heartbreaking.

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*ugly crying noises*

Method #3: Just George R.R. Martin That Shit

In his books, George R.R. Martin is known for having a ridiculously high body count. Some of his deaths are deserved, some are painful, and some happen simply because sometimes shit happens (Oberyn, anyone?).

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*evil chortle*

The last kind is the sort of death that will keep your readers on their toes. Will some readers complain that the character died unnecessarily or too early? Sure, but I think that adds an element of realism to your writing to include a random death. It’s a grim reality of life that some people are simply taken too soon and for no apparent reason.  Is that complete and utter bullshit? Of course, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

What is the one literary death you’ve never gotten over? Let me know in the comments!


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Pinterest is a Writer’s Best Friend

If you’re like me, you have lost days of your life browsing through Pinterest. I’ll swear I’m going on there for just a minute to look at cupcakes and then six hours later I’ve fallen into a hole of home decor and diet tips from which I will never, ever emerge.

However, if you can survive all those unicorn cakes and adorably decorated homes you’ll never own, Pinterest is actually a phenomenal resource for writers. Although, if you still get distracted by homemade gifts for your kids’ teachers that you’ll never make because you’re a human being with a life . . . no judgement.

Mood Boards

I never really understood the value of mood boards until I joined Tumblr. Some of those people, especially in fandoms, are the absolute best at creating a mood board to capture a certain character or theme.

Below, I’ve shared a few mood boards I found on Tumblr in the Choices fandom. Consider each one and think about what sorts of feelings each one evokes.

via @punexpectedly

tumblr_pfzyjy4Uel1xhm6xuo1_1280via @mrsthomasorsonhunt

tumblr_inline_p06hpafp5G1vrmoto_500via @wildemoons

Much like music, colors and photos can be so evocative and inspiring. If you want to create a certain mood for your story, get on Pinterest and start pinning! Mood boards are great for character development because you can get to know your character while you pin a home that looks like theirs, their fashion, and quotes that sum up their personality.

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Don’t forget to pin the cupcakes they want to bake/bake all the time/set on fire just by looking at the stove.

Pin-spiration

Writer’s block is a real bitch. Unfortunately, it affects all writers at one time or another. If you’re sitting there saying, “I’m a writer and I’ve never had writer’s block!” . . .

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Moving on.

Search for literally anything to get your creative juices flowing. Places, fashion, nature, photos of people–everything is on Pinterest. Another option is to search for writing prompts. Some Pinterest users post some really creative and interesting prompts you can use as a writing exercise to help get your creative juices flowing. I find that when I’m feeling stuck, if I can get going on at least one project, that tends to unblock my mind on the other projects as well.

Take a Break

Sometimes as a writer, you need a break. Look up some cool shit and stop stressing out about what your characters are going to do next. Self care is important.

But just remember: if you end up making those cupcakes . . . send one my way.

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I found this image on Pinterest.


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Analog vs. Electronic Writing Styles

As I talked about in my typewriter porn post, I used to love writing stories on typewriters in my grandmother’s basement when I was a kid.

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Because nothing says “normal” like a kid who hangs out in the basement all day.

I also loved writing stories on my dad’s electric typewriter:

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Actual photo of me at 20 months old.
My hairstyle today is pretty much identical to this photo.

Today, a typewriter isn’t really as good of an option for me as it used to be. Although I still love typewriters, I no longer have one at my disposal. It’s true that I could buy one, but I feel like it would be more for novelty’s sake rather than for actual daily writing.

That being said, I feel like there’s still quite a bit of debate when it comes to writing methods. Which is better, analog or digital? Should you write everything by hand or stick to a computer?

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Yelling at Siri is also an option.

Feeling Handy

I personally love writing out my work by hand. There’s something so much more engaging about physically writing the words on a piece of paper that typing just can’t duplicate. I’m a big fan of bullet journaling so I always have a notebook on hand, but I recently got a second notebook just for writing. I suppose I could always just text myself if I get an idea, but I’m 100 years old so I don’t text very quickly.

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Pictured: me

The downside, of course, is that writing things out by hand isn’t nearly as fast as typing. I might not text quickly, but I type 90 words per minute so if I hit a writing groove, I can make a lot more progress on the computer than I can on paper. Plus, I’m notorious for misplacing everything.

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Living in the Digital Age

As I mentioned earlier, I can write SO MUCH FASTER if I type. Editing is also massively easier when it’s digital. Sometimes I need to move an entire paragraph (or more) and cutting and pasting is much simpler than drawing a lot of complicated arrows and writing notes to myself that I won’t be able to decipher later.

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Speaking of which, my handwriting is complete garbage. I can (usually) read it, but it’s a weird hybrid of printing, cursive, and ancient hieroglyphics. Typing my work erases the need for a Rosetta stone AND it spellchecks as I go. It’s a win-win.

Which is Better?

Honestly . . . I like both. It kind of depends on my mood, but I often switch back and forth between the two. I like writing longer projects on my computer, but poems and short nonfiction pieces are better by hand. Alternately, I like to write out my work by hand and then type it up later, using that method as my first round of editing.

At the end of the day, there really isn’t one method that’s better than the other. It all comes down to what you prefer. And if you want to yell at your phone’s text to type function or use a typewriter, who am I to judge?

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I will judge you for this though, because you’re in public and typewriters are loud. Be considerate.

Which method do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!


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Bukowski Sycophants

Content Warning: Discussions of anxiety, depression, and suicide.

When I was little, I had this intense fear of being just another brick in the wall, another ordinary person. Sometimes I’d go to other people’s houses and I’d see sun bleached plastic toys strewn across tile floors and kitchen tables piled high with bills as everyone just tried to make it from one day to the next and the entire thing just depressed the hell out of me. Some people might say that this is just indicative of a generation of snowflakes with participation trophies, but we didn’t give those trophies to ourselves. We were all told we could grow up to be these amazing unicorns who could change the world and while this was technically true, not everyone can be magical and transformative. Some people are just there. The idea that this terrifies me might make me sound like I’m entitled or think that I’m better than other people. Maybe I am, maybe I do. Either way, the damage is done and the thought of being irrelevant and wasting my life depresses the fuck out of me.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, this is an upbeat blog post.

I want to write something great. I want to be great. The idea that I’m ordinary is enough to make me want to slit my wrists in a bathtub. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how much of an asshole you think I am), my house doesn’t have a bathtub. It does, however, have a floor where I can lie and stare at the ceiling and wonder how the fuck I made it to 31 without either achieving something or offing myself.

In a speech about Ladybird, Greta Gerwig encouraged people to tell their stories. I started thinking about what was that one story I just had to tell, the one I had to get out there before I died. I thought about it and thought about it and came up with . . . nothing. My husband says I’ll figure it out, that that story is out there somewhere, but part of me thinks he was just trying to get me to stop talking. He’s not a bad person. Actually, my husband is a very good person. I’m kind of a bad person, so I think I project my own issues on him a lot. When I talk to him about a problem I have, he wants to fix it. This is a pragmatic, logical approach, but sometimes there isn’t an easy solution and when there isn’t, I get mad at him. I think I’m more angry at the fact that I don’t have my own answers and I can’t fix my own problems, but he’s an easy scapegoat for my anger. Otherwise, I might have to reflect on my own average failings and I’m not always prepared to go down that depressing rabbit hole.

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Why yes, I am in therapy. Why do you ask?

When you’re 31 and feeling like you’re going nowhere, especially as a writer, people love to bring up Charles Bukowski.

“He didn’t publish his first book until he was 40!”

He was also a miserable, misogynistic alcoholic. Sure, I like his writing as much as the next person, but he’s not exactly my idol. I understand their point that there’s still time to “reach for the stars”, but if I’m looking at Bukowski or bust, I might as well start looking for a bathtub now. 

Bukowski was one of those writers idolized by the men in my graduate program, the kind of guys who fantasized about being angry, drunk geniuses in smokey bars. They wanted praise for their work without ever actually writing anything of substance. These guys wrote, of course, but it was mostly in notebooks when, mid-conversation, they’d stop and shout, “I have to write that down! This is going in a story!” They loved the idea of being Hemingway or Hunter S. Thompson, hoping to one day be the kind of writer that they themselves idolized. However, buying a Moleskine notebook doesn’t make you a literary genius anymore than watching a football game makes you Tom Brady.

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I’m a Broncos fan.

To my knowledge, none of those guys from my grad program continued to pursue writing. After graduation, most of them seem to have vanished off into other fields, most unrelated to writing at all. Although one guy was blogging a lot on his LinkedIn page, so maybe that counts for something. Probably not. More than likely, they have half-finished novels on their hard drives and tell themselves that maybe one day they’ll publish it. Maybe one day they’ll be Bukowski. Realistically though, they’ll never publish anything. These Bukowski sycophants might revisit the incomplete manuscript from time to time, but it’ll never be anything more than a fantasy.

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Books don’t generally write themselves.

This is my main problem: I don’t want to be those guys. I barely resisted the urge to punch them in the face during grad school and if I become them, I’ll have to punch myself constantly and that sounds exhausting as well as painful. I’m already farther along than them considering I’ve published several books under my own name and ghostwritten several others, but the fear is still there. What happens if my depression and anxiety become too much for me to handle and I stop writing completely? What if my works in progress on my hard drive turn into stagnant files and then all of my ambitions turn into fantasies that will never be?

What if I’ve always been ordinary and I’ve just been kidding myself thinking I could be more? Do I accept that reality or do I keep pretending, keep faking it until I make it? What if I never make it? What if I’m just another brick in the wall and I finally have enough perspective to see myself for what I truly am? That thought is almost as depressing as I am.

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This blog post is rough. Here’s a kitten.

I battle with depression and anxiety, but I also love writing. Even if my writing never amounts to anything, I still love doing it. At my therapy appointment this week, my therapist commented that I seem more energized, and she’s right. After depression made it difficult for me to create for a while, I’m finally producing work again. And it feels really, really good. Ultimately, I have to make the decision to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. My ambitions will never have the chance to come to fruition if I don’t try, so I have to keep going. Just because I don’t know what my Ladybird is yet doesn’t mean I won’t ever figure it out. It just means I don’t know what it is yet. For me, writing tends to have the answers to what I feel and what I want, so all I can do is keep putting pen to paper.


Like this post? Please consider clicking here to support me on Patreon so I can regularly bring you more content like this! I can’t guarantee that supporting me on Patreon will cause you to have endless good hair days . . . but I can’t guarantee that it won’t either.

Photos: Juniper House, 10/2/18

Here are a few photos from last night when I read a piece at a local reading series called Juniper House. What I love most about it is that the first part of the night is an open mic night but readers are only allowed to present brand new work. Some people even take advantage of a prompt jar and draw a topic from a big jar and write a piece then and there before reading it. Then there’s always a featured reader and last night it was an incredible local poet named James Jay.

This was my second time attending this series but my first time reading–AND I ended up going first. If you read my post about public speaking, you know that I have lots of anxiety about reading my work. But I got up there and read a brand new piece (and managed to do it without panic vomiting even once)!

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Far away

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Up close (90s me couldn’t resist the purple lipstick)

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Sitting down after the reading, relieved it went well!

Want to read what I read last night? Check out my Patreon!



Like this post? Please consider clicking here to support me on Patreon so I can regularly bring you more content like this! I can’t guarantee that supporting me on Patreon will cause you to have endless good hair days . . . but I can’t guarantee that it won’t either.