So, as noted in an earlier post, I just didn’t have time to put together a gift guide for 2022, but then friend and author and possible hallucination Melissa F. Olson was like HELL NO YOU AREN’T GETTING AWAY THAT EASY, WENDIG, and I was like, whoa, aggressive, Melissa, also how did you get in my pantry? And she was like HERE IS A GIFT GUIDE YOU WILL POST THIS OR I WILL TAKE OFF YOUR OTHER THUMB, and I like that thumb? So I’m posting this. Please take her seriously. Even if she’s a hallucination, she’s very dangerous!
Hello, friends, I’m Melissa F. Olson, urban fantasy author and longtime blah blah blah you can read my bio at the end, let’s get to the presents.
So you need a last-minute gift for the writer in your life…or, you ARE the writer in your life, and you don’t know what to put on your wish list, and you’re a little tired of receiving decent pens and a bunch of those fancy notebooks that you’ll never actually write in because they seem way too pretty to fill with the spidery dregs of the inside of your skull. Relatable!
I, a longtime devotee of Chuck’s annual Gifts For Writers List, am here to help. As your new, only slightly unhinged personal shopper, let me present some last-minute items you can still get in time for Christmas:
Ooh, it seems weird right off the bat, but hear me out: Writers famously get ideas when it’s very inconvenient to write them down: while driving, in the shower, when we’re just about to fall asleep, etc (Chuck, insert something sciency about the brain relaxing here, okay, I can’t be bothered to Google). Now, you CAN buy fancy waterproof paper and pens that go in the shower, but it’s way more fun to spend $6 on bath crayons. Use the shower walls to jot down ideas, inspirational quotes, to-do list, whatever, and when you’re ready you can erase it with your hand and a little water.
(Bonus: when I’m on deadline, I often use my crayon to make a note of the day I last washed my hair, because Deadline Melissa is sloppy as hell.)
Let’s take care of our tools, shall we? No, not the brain, there are drugs for that; I’m talking about your hands. Chuck loves to recommend fancy-pants pens…and I admit, I absolutely love the Baron Fig Squire, which I first learned about on his 2019 gift list. But if you write a lot, or if, like me, you have issues with arthritis or other hand problems, putting a grip on that sucker is a life-saver (well, it’s a hand-saver, but we’re writers who bring actual imaginary WORLDS to LIFE, so by the transitive property of–you know what, you get it).
I like having this squishy purple thingy on my Squire, but there are dozens of options available for the pen of your choice. Perhaps you can make a little sample set (a “flight of grips,” if you will) for your writer to try out. It’s a nice way to show that you care about them and their ability to grip things going forward. You can also just buy the Super Big Fat Pen, which comes on a lanyard, although it’s not the delightful rollerball experience of a refillable pen. Warning: Do not let the Big Fat Pen fall into the hands of toddlers. They will LOVE that grip and your walls will not love you.
Here’s another great way to take care of hands: Chuck has mentioned fingerless gloves AND fun book clothing before, but it took me, the next generation apprentice
Sith gift list writer, to bring together this thought masterpiece: the Storiarts fingerless gloves. Unlike CHUCK’S recommendation, these gloves are made from a lightweight, jersey-type material, so they keep your hands warm from freezing cold laptop metal without overheating or getting in the way of the ole typity-type. Plus they come with actual words from any number of great works of literature, so you can glance down if you feel you’re getting a little too full of yourself. (I’ve got Dracula, but I’ve been eyeing Frankenstein so I can run around wearing one of each.) Storiarts also has, I don’t know, scarves and blankets and shit, but the gloves are the coolest product.
Writers are often a nomadic workforce: those of us who can’t afford swanky work sheds tend to set up shop at libraries, coffee shops, cafes, etc, like pale, lonely word-nerds questing for social recognition and/or working in the car while we wait around to pick up children. I bought this Sonic Standing Pen Case several years ago, and I love it so much, I want it buried with me when I die (just kidding–we’re going to be cremated together). It’s a pencil bag that you can unzip and flip open to stand up as a pencil cup. When you’re done working, or you need to pack up and sprint to the Starbucks bathroom, just flip and zip and throw it in your laptop bag.
Another great on-the-go helper is a decent lap desk. The one I use is a little pricy at $55, but I’ve had it for over two years and it looks fresh out of the box, despite floating around my chaos habitat being used as a fast food tray, child art creator, pillow fight shield, etc. I bring it with me on long car trips (in which I am NOT driving) and curl up with it on the couch when I don’t feel like sitting at my desk. Actually, as I’m reading this back I realize that the lap desk and I may have a Relationship, and you know what, I’m okay with that.
CHUCK SAYS I GET TO SNEAK-PLUG MY BOOKS HERE
so please try one, or all, they’re delicious and — this is true — ZERO calories what a deal.
[okay as the person who runs this website I should probably also not-so-sneakily plug MY books like okay fine Damn Fine Story is probably good for writers and also there’s Wayward so that’s fun, or you could preorder my new writing book, Gentle Writing Advice, out in June, or there’s always Dust & Grim for the kids because hey kids apparently like Christmas too — cdw]
You know what us writers like to do? We convene. We convene like NOBODY’s business, at writing conferences, conventions, expos, etc. Our man Chuck convenes fairly constantly. And when we convene, we usually have to wear badges on a lanyard around our necks –which means it’s the one thing everyone at the con has, and everyone else sees. Instead of using the crappy free lanyard that comes with convention registration, your writer could be using a cool-ass lanyard that will help them build confidence and start conversations while they strut the convention floor. Get them something that celebrates their favorite fandom, identifies them as a book nerd, or allows them to literally rappel out of a bad panel if needed. There might not be time before Christmas, but for extra gift-giving bonus points, you could even get lanyards printed with the name of their book or website.
For example, here is a picture of Chuck and me. One of us is wearing a boring freebie lanyard, and one of us got a rad lanyard printed with a bunch of her book covers. I ask you, who’s the greater success, really?
The Organised Writer by Antony Johnston
Chuck often recommends “craft books,” aka books that can help you write better, but I want to switch it up with this great volume on setting up your writing space, time, and business, written by the author of novels, comic books, and video games. (You can tell Antony is very smart and British because he spells “organized” with an “s” and just FLAUNTS it.) This book is chock-full of practical advice like how to organize paper files, run a project calendar, clear your mind before working, and so on. If you feel like your whole writing life is a slapdash attempt to peck a few words into a laptop while dashing around your house being chased by obligation to the tune of the Benny Hill theme song, this is the book to help you work that shit out.
And remember to hydrate
Chuck always goes on about coffee (too gross) and chocolate (too obvious), but you know what writers need even more universally? More water, preferably from an absolutely bitchin’ water bottle. Writers essentially have two modes: sitting at a desk all day or running around a reading/convention all day, and in both cases we definitely won’t drink enough water. If you really want to help and support your family writer, try getting them a great water bottle they can use for hot coffee OR cold water (I recommend Tervis or Hydroflask), plus a few writer-themed vinyl stickers and a bottle of Mio (Personal favorite is orange vanilla). It’s a great way to keep us alive so we can finish that next chapter.
Melissa F. Olson is the author of sixteen books in the Old World universe, the PI mystery The Big Keep, and numerous short stories and novellas, including the Nightshades trilogy for Tor.com. Her journalism and academic work has been published in The International Journal of Comic Art, the compilation Images of the Modern Vampire, Litreactor.com, and Tor.com, among other places.
Melissa has been a writing teacher, English professor, and TEDx presenter, but she now divides her time between writing, editing and attending the occasional convention, where she speaks about issues related to genre, feminism, disability, and parenting. Read more about her work and life at MelissaFOlson.com.