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Last-minute gift ideas for the writers in your life

Trying to buy a gift for a writer?

First, I just heard from W, a delightful friend from a Former Place Of Work Minus Two, and I am reminded of her wise counsel, whenever the subject of gifts arises: large, sparkling gems are always appropriate. Imagine the special writer in your life, hunched over a laptop at a table in a coffee house, scribbling away, while a princess-cut diamond flashes on one hand, and it’s all due to your largess. This Christmas moment is just a web click away.

Major Project

If that’s too dear, Tayari Jones has this list of suggestions, including things not to buy, including a pen. For sure, don’t ever buy me a pen, since I will promptly lose it, or as I did the other day, disassemble it while I am thinking about something and then drop some tiny ineffable part on the multi-colored carpet, never to be found, after which I then noisily rummage in my capacious purse to find yet another defenseless pen to torture. Even my Red Pen Of Death, used for editing everyone’s work, including my own, is a dangerous call, because you may think it’s just any old red pen but it’s actually a Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pen with a reinforced 1.1mm nylon tip, and I won’t use anything else (interesting that pens, like illegal drugs, use the metric system).

Meanwhile, recommends buying a subscription to a literary magazine; many lit mags have online forms, and you could send notice of the gift with a free e-card from Amazon scheduled to arrive just as Santa is sledding around the planet.

I hear “nobody reads,” which I do not believe, but it is so not true that nobody writes. I spent last night making a list of good places to submit — and read — creative nonfiction and finally had to put my purse in the other room, as my credit cards kept begging to leap out. I already subscribe to a little more than I can comfortably read, given books and writing and day jobs and whatnot, though I’d rather have too much to read than too little.

A couple more ideas:

Is your writer someone who marches off to Panera’s, Starbucks, Waffle House or any of the other de facto writers’ spaces? Acknowledge their writing lives with a gift card (yes, I have a writing friend who writes at Waffle House — Lord, I love that, it’s so Southern!). Oops… it appears Waffle House doesn’t sell gift cards… but Panera and Starbucks sure do. You could also slip an Amex gift card into an envelope with a note that says something about keeping your writer in tea, coffee, or waffles whilst he or she pursues one’s craft, and Waffle House does accept Amex.

Does your writer live in an area blessed with a writers’ space? Perhaps your writer might appreciate a month’s subscription to a writer-friendly loft with quiet cubicles, high-speed printing, and the shared experience of being among other writers, thoughtfully disassembling pens in their own cubicles. At least one writers’ space offers a ten-visit punch card. There’s even talk in Tallahassee of building such a space — as someone once told me, everything comes to Tallahassee, eventually.

Or try a lifetime LibraryThing account (only $25, until Tim and team wise up!), which is so much safer than buying someone a book, and is a heck of a lot of fun. Plus authors can register to have a big shiny LTAuthor badge. Top off the present with a CueCat barcode scanner — not essential, but even more fun (leave it to a librarian to think wanding barcodes is the pinnacle of amusement) — and get it there by Christmas by sending it priority mail.

Probably the best gift of all is anything that acknowledges you believe in your writer. I feel awkward even calling myself a writer — I’m still waiting for the fraud police to show up — and I often feel guilty about it, as if paying attention to my writing takes away from the other parts of my life, primarily work and family, at the expense of something that at 2 a.m. can feel self-indulgent and ultimately pointless. I am at war with these thoughts all the time (and these thoughts are endemic, even for the best and most famous writers). I know it sounds woo-woo, but a little affirmation or two couldn’t hurt — and can shine more brightly for a writer than the sparklingest gem.

[Anyone observing the many tiny edits I have made to this post: no cracks about buying me grammar books, please!] 

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