IT IS THAT TIME OF THE YEAR AGAIN. THAT GLORIOUSLY PINE-SCENTED, SANTA-FROTHED, BUTTER-LUBED CAPITALIST COOKIE DOUGH ORGY KNOWN AS “THE HOLIDAYS.”
(Yes, that’s right. I didn’t call it “Christmas.” The war is real, folks. The war is real.)
(Besides, Santa is for everyone. He is an Old Elf. He’s not some Young Hipster Elf like that skinny shitbird you have on your shelves, the one that spies on your children? He’ll kick the Shelf Elf’s bony asshole. No, Santa is eldritch. Santa predates all of humanity. We found him deep in the polar mantle, frozen there with his orichalcum sleigh and his eight automaton beast-deer — beings born of the Second Age of Earth, when Claus and the other Demi-Gods battled to — you know what? This is pretty irrelevant. Moving on.)
You may have a writer in your life.
And writers, as I find, are notoriously hard to buy for. I don’t know why that is. Is it because writers are fickle and strange, like cats? Or because we need very little to do what we do, like dogs?
Point is, if you have one of these capricious weirdos in your life, you may require gift ideas. Something that isn’t “another blank notebook,” because if you are a writer like me, you have about 4,619 blank notebooks that people have given as gifts over the years.
SO HERE I AM, appearing at the time you need me most.
How did I get in your house? Magic. Also, I broke the front window with a toaster. Why am I carrying a toaster? More magic. Also, you’re out of bourbon. Because I drank your bourbon.
Because bourbon is how magic.
No that’s not a sentence, shut up.
Whatever. Point is, here are some gift ideas for THE SCREECHING PENMONKEY IN YOUR LIFE.
1. Not Pneumonia
I have pneumonia and it sucks demon scrotum. Writing is a minimal task in terms of physical expenditure and while having pneumonia, even writing is hard. So, fuck pneumonia. Give them not pneumonia. Anything but pneumonia. Hell, maybe something that might combat pneumonia, like tangerines or cough syrup or a plastic territorial bubble. Or those antibiotics you stole from the local veterinarian’s office the last time you raided the place looking for ketamine, you freak.
2. Gift Certificate To Indie Bookstore
I am wont to say the phrase, Amazon is not your friend, but it’s also worth noting that indie bookstores often are a writer’s friend. As such, get them a gift certificate to the local indie store. Why not to Amazon? Because Amazon has everything. Literally everything. You give me $25 to spend and I’ll end up with a a mummified raccoon, a jockstrap full of jellybeans, and a Lemmy-from-Motorhead build-a-bear. But an indie bookstore gets the writer up off his ass and out of the house (just make sure he’s wearing his anti-pneumonia hazmat suit). And indie bookstores actually sell gasp books. Bonus: giving money to an indie bookstore is basically good karma.
3. Coffee Subscription
I noted this one in last year’s Gift for Writers (2014), and I’m calling it again: YOU CAN GET COFFEE DELIVERED TO YOU MONTHLY. If there is ever proof that we are living in an amazing time, it is that. You can find a great list of coffee subscription services here, and some reviews of said services here. (For the record, I don’t much care for Blue Bottle. Liked ’em when they were Tonx, but they got bought by BB and the quality and roast date suffered.) Also missing from those lists, a local roaster I love that offers subscriptions — Royal Mile.
4. Fine, Yes, Tea Is Lovely, Too
I am a total coffee snob and not at all a tea snob (I’ll seriously drink dirty gravel steeped in hot sewer water), but I’ve been upping my tea game this year thanks to Proper Tea Drinkers, like my pals from ‘Straya, Emma and Eliza. They turned me on to T2 Tea from Melbourne. Thing is, you can get T2 here in the US now, too. It is legit amazing stuff. Their Melbourne breakfast tea is maybe the nicest smelling thing I legit have ever done smellt. Oh! And there are tea subscription services, too. Consider non-tea subscriptions to accompany: chocolate bar subscription, a Latvian food subscription, and healthy snacks like Graze or Boxtera.
5. Mean Mugging
Sure, you could drink your coffee or tea out of any old thing — a mason jar, the skull of a sentimental foe, a jockstrap that once held a bunch of jelly beans — but really, I recommend FANCY MUG TECHNOLOGY. Which is to say, I am shameless and offer a variety of writer-themed mugs for sale. Examples: Certified Penmonkey, Art Harder (NSFW), Art Harder (SFW), The Secret of Writing (NSFW), Writer Juice, and the newest addition: CAFFEINE, MOTHERFUCKER. DO YOU SPEAK IT? Er that one is pretty obviously NSFW.
6. Chalk Paint
There’s that thing where writers always want to take notes but never know where to take them — a phone can be fidgety since autocorrect will maul hastily scribed notes (“What did I mean when I wrote ‘scabrous cloud wombat?'”), and a notebook is never around when you need it. So? Get a writer chalkboard paint. Said writer can turn HER ENTIRE WORLD INTO ONE GIANT CHALKBOARD. (Don’t forget brushes and, y’know, chalk. Like these cool chalk markers.)
7. Mod Notebook
Okay, fine, I said no notebooks and yet here I am YOU’RE NOT MY DAD, DAD. Except you are my Dad. And I need some money, so please send some. Anyway. The Mod Notebook is pretty nifty — fill it, send it off, they’ll digitize for you. Which you could admittedly do yourself, too, but whatever. Buy here or check out the site — works with various apps like Evernote.
If you want a stylus for your device, might I recommend Pencil?
9. Take Notes Like A Librarian
Librarians, as we know, are basically wizards and most people never realize it. Nothing will give you the BIBLIOSORCERY possessed by a true-blooded librarian, but! You can take notes with these cool library loan cards. Why wouldn’t you do that? Do you hate libraries?
Business cards for writers are a dubious proposition. Writers like to hand these things out like they’re candy from a piñata, but they are rarely so useful, nor are they tasty like candy. (In fact, if you’re writer who has given me a business card, please know that your business card found an immediate home in the nearest trash receptacle. Nothing personal, but what am I going to do with it? Cut rails of coke?) Still, sometimes you need cards — cards to give to editors, agents, or other potential clients. GIVE THE GIFT OF MOO.
11. Writer Emergency Cards
I adore these. I use these. They are fun and adorable and useful. Designed by the very smart screenwriter, John August, the writer in your life will dig these. Go grabby grabby.
12. Rory’s Story Cubes
These are just a lot of fun to say. Like “rural juror” or “Bob Loblaw.” Anyway! These are dice to help facilitate storytelling and can help unstick the stuck wordsmith. Here’s the complete set. Do they actually work? Who gives a shit? It’s fun to roll dice. Just that simple physical act — and the triggering images on each die — might help kick loose some of the brain scree. Or, for a more word-driven version: Daniel Solis’ Story Dice! (I use and love those.)
13. Words for Pictures
Right now, I’m a total tourist in the town of COMIC WRITERS — like, I’m technically writing comics and getting paid, but I soooo don’t belong there. I’m still feeling my way around with little to no idea as to the architecture or topography of comic book storytelling. One book is presently helping me? Brian Michael Bendis’ WORDS FOR PICTURES. So good. And not just helpful for comic writers — helps you think visually and episodically. Great interviews with writers, artists and editors within the industry.
14. A Fucking Houseplant
No, not a houseplant for fucking, but rather, a fucking houseplant. Writers are more or less creepy cave trolls who live in these low-oxygen creativity tanks — we hunch over, wheezing and keening as we hammer out our weirdness onto the screen or the page. A houseplant will give us oxygen. It’ll give us some color. It’ll give us something to care about and a thing to talk to that isn’t a human being because really, most writers are introverts who would far rather talk to a houseplant (or cat or Roomba or spider or dead spider) than most other human beings.
15. Something Even Easier Than A Fucking Houseplant
Maybe your writer pal isn’t exactly Herr Doktor Greenthumb — okay, fine, here’s something even simpler: a self-contained aquatic ecosystem. No muss, no fuss, no nothing at all. Just stare at it. If you stare at it long enough, it will begin communicating with you telepathically, and soon you too will know the wishes of the Deep Ones. Bonus point: you can look at it as a prison for seamonkeys. And if you give into the idea of karma, you can further extrapolate and assume that those seamonkeys imprisoned in your glass sphere were once really bad people. “Hello, Donald Trump’s Dad,” you whisper against the glass. “Suffer, you briny fucker. Suffer.”
16. A Nice Water Bottle
I drink coffee, but beyond that I often forget to hydrate. And by the end of the day I am a brittle, desiccated thing, like a bug scorched dead by the sun. I like the Lifefactory brand. YMMV.
Sometimes an author really just needs a prostat… *checks notes* really just needs a regular ol’ massage. Like I said, we sit there all hunched up and dried out like crispy gremlins. Someone needs to work out the kinks. Get us the gift of massage. Prostate or otherwise. If you don’t wanna do a full massage — this hot/cold neckwrap is honestly a lifesaver.
18. Something Liquor-y
It’s almost cliched to recommend booze for your writer pal — and possibly unhealthy? — so, fine, okay, I’ll recommend something booze-adjacent. Since writers are themselves an occasionally embittered lot and may need a cocktail now and again, might I recommend this gift pack of Scrappy’s bitters? So good. Killer for cocktails. And metaphorically apt! Adding a dash of bitters to a drink is like adding conflict to a story — you don’t think you need it, and you instinctively want to avoid bitterness, but your instincts are wrongo, pal. Add bitters. Stir for conflict.
19. Adult Coloring Books
I was initially sort of put off by the idea of adult coloring books, assuming immediately that they were the refuge of people whose brains were eaten through by a variety of exotic parasites. That was me being an asshole because man, sometimes just dicking around with simple art can loosen up a gummy mind. Maybe you want one for stress relief. Or maybe one with some fucking owls all over it. This one is called Unicorns Are Jerks, because why the shit not? Minor sadness: all of these coloring books are doing way way way better than my own books and pretty much all the books of all the people I know, thus proving to me I should be making coloring books instead of books with words in them. Extra bonus: Abbi Jacobson of Broad City fame has a New York City-themed coloring book and it’s pretty sublime.
Don’t feel good about giving a coloring book? The writer in your life might want some LEGO bricks. A small container of interesting LEGO for one’s desktop gives idle hands something to do — I often demonize distractions for writers, but distractions are actually useful in small measure. Getting your hands around little plastic bricks frees up your mind to do some hardcore THUNKIN’.
21. Lumio Lamps
AHHH LOOK AT THESE FUCKING LAMPS. THEY LOOK LIKE BOOKS. THEY SO PRETTY. JESUS GOD I WANT THEM ALL. This little one is extra cool because it can also power your devices. I do not possess any of these and now I’m sad because nobody loves me enough.
22. Paper & Pen Subscription
Literally is what it says — a monthly subscription where you get paper and pens and other writerly things. Alternately, if you’d just rather pens — well, there’s InkDrop.
23. Speaking Of Pen & Paper — RPGs!
I love pen and paper roleplaying games for getting the STORYFRUIT A-JUICING — it just fires all the synapses for me. Now, that being said, if you want something very explicitly driven in this direction, I turn you to: Primetime Adventures! This is an indie meta-game where you actually design a season of a TV show that you make up. Great fun way to explore story mechanics.
24. Books About Writing
I know. I’m shameless but HEY I WROTE A BOOK AND IT’S CALLED THE KICK-ASS WRITER AND *gesticulates wildly* maybe the writer in your life would like it. Or maybe they would despise it and use that hate as fuel to power their manuscript. I dunno. Other good writing books: Wonderbook, Writing 21st Century Fiction, and Ray Bradbury’s Zen In The Art Of Writing. Oh and the writing-related Storybundle collection is still going till the end of the year.
25. One Good Non-Fiction Book
As I’ve noted in the past, writers have the Human Centipede-like habit of consuming and regurgitating the same genres of fiction. But non-fiction affords the author a new look into something unexpected. Choose a random non-fiction book to open new doors of thought for the author pal in your life. Might I recommend the books of Mary Roach as a starter?
Extra Credit: AN AXE
Something vintage and cool, like this one! Here you’re saying, “Uhh, why are you giving the writer an axe?” Because that sounds like a bad idea. Next thing you know, the writer’s output will be pages of ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACKIE BOY AXE SOME HARD QUESTIONS and then he’s chopping down doors and chasing kids through hedge mazes. But no! That’s not the point. Here’s why you give an axe to a writer: because you tell them, “This is for chopping your way through writer’s block.” It’s a violently artful way of telling the writer in your life that you believe in them, goddamnit. Bonus points: will chop zombies in case of apocalypse.