Deck the Halls: 12 Gifts for Your Favorite Writer (or Yourself)
Writer friends: everyone’s got ’em. They’re the person slumped in a chair at the end of the table, bags under their eyes, shoving leftovers into Ziploc bags to take home on the Greyhound. They’re the college friend who’s sort of employed, only not really, and they always have pockets full of cocktail napkins covered in verse. Maybe you’ve got a token family writer, the niece or nephew who’s just been published in their campus lit mag and has book deal-shaped stars in their eyes. Maybe that person is you. If it is: that’s ok. You’re not alone. Like the rest of us, you’re probably tired of getting socks, beard trimmers, and gift certificates to Chili’s, and if that’s true, just forward this list to Mom and Dad and your lawyer sister. You always thought they were more proud of her, but you read The New Yorker and write lots of poems. You’re special too, and you deserve something literary this holiday.
1. “Write Like a Motherfucker” mug: It’s on every list for a reason. There’s something about sipping from a profane mug that makes charging ahead with a daunting short story/essay/MFA recommendation request less harrowing. You know at the beginning of a yoga class, how the teacher asks you to think of your intention, your hour-long raison d’etre? Well, here it is. On a mug, motherfuckers.
2. The New Yorker’s New Yorkistan shower curtain. Instead of projecting their neuroses onto the vast blankness of a plain white shower curtain, your favorite writer can spend their mornings mapping out the boroughs of New York in Maira Kalman’s winsome script. Bonus: houseguests at parties will know that the owner/renter of said bathroom has high falutin’ literary tastes and has probably spent some time drinking overpriced PBRs in Perturbia (aka Williamsburg).
3. Stephen King flask. When those overpriced PBRs start biting into your Submittable fees, it’s time to get inventive, and by inventive, I mean it’s time to go to the liquor store for a liter of Fireball and stick a flask in your pocket. Pull a Dorothy Parker and make heavy drinking and wordplay your (or your flask-recipient friend’s) “thing.”
4. A subscription to Freedom. By now, maybe it’s clear that these “gift ideas” are actually just “things I want.” Why continue with the pretense? Also: do you know how many times I checked Twitter during the drafting of this list (I hope you don’t, it’s an egregious figure)? Freedom, lauded by many a writer (including Dave Eggers, Emily Mandel, Naomi Klein, and Neil Gaiman) as a time saving, distraction-barring wonder-app, keeps one from accessing the Internet during a certain pre-determined period of time. Leaving Facebook island is like stepping out of Times Square and onto one of those Sandals beaches. A caveat, though: pets, fellow humans, and your iPhone will continue to trifle.
5. “When I Write About You Later I’ll Change Your Name” letterpress card. A generous sentiment, really.
6. Frank O’Hara illustrated print. There is no lovelier poem than Frank O’Hara’s “Having A Coke With You” (play nice in the comments section, poets). This illustrated print by artist Nathan Gelgud combines the first few lines with bright, breezy images of Coke bottles and yoghurt cups, and would add some affordable color to an apartment wall. Writers are nothing if not self-identifying, so this also helps visitors know that yes, the person whose house they are in has many books and many ambitions and writes many things, oh yes, wow.
7. Lamy Safari fountain pen. Ain’t nobody got the money for a Mont Blanc unless they’re bankrolling scholarships to the Tin House writers’ conference, and if you’re that person: #blessyou. Otherwise, Lamy pens are durable, colorful, and a dream to write with. I like this neon-pink color, but if you’re trying to go business-professional — I don’t blame you, really — there are a variety of other shades. These are refillable by either cartridge or inkwell, and they make writing grocery lists or late rent checks feel downright luxurious. Bonus: lots of indie bookstores sell these, so check there if you want to try one out!
8. Windows on the World: 50 Writers, 50 Views by Matthew Pericoli. The Paris Review anthologized the charming pen and ink sketches of artist/architect Matthew Pericoli, who chronicles the desk-views of famous writers. Windows on the World lets you see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Lagos, Nigeria vista & John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Wilmington, NC vantage point. It’s something you wouldn’t necessarily buy yourself (but if you do, high five). Writers love borderline-creepy voyeurism into craft, environment, and process, and this cool-looking volume (whose book jacket is translucent, like an architectural rendering) delivers on all those fronts.
9. One of these lit journal t-shirts. If your friend or family member’s the irreverent type, go for Hobart’s “Money&Cars&Clothes&Hoesbart.” If they enjoy singing unironic Christmas carols, try this traditional and tasteful Paris Review tee. If they cover their notebooks in scratch ’n’ sniff stickers, this Rookie t-shirt’s a sure bet. If they’re in a program, well: this one from N+1, duh.
10. BOMB’s “If You Read Something, Say Something” Tote. For any child of the 70s, 80s, or 90s, or rider of any sizeable public transit system. Heaven knows we all own something close to our body weight in ratty tote bags; heaven knows I leave mine just about everywhere I go, like an earth-friendly breadcrumb trail. You can never have too many.
11. People I Want to Punch in the Face notebook. Pocket-sized and easy to wield should someone start a conversation with you in a coffee shop, on a train, or when you’ve got a pen in your hand and you’re trying to write, damn it. Maybe this will work similarly on relatives, when you’re holed up in a room in your parents’ house with a laptop and a stack of books and OH MY GOD, YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO FINISH THIS ONE PARAGRAPH THAT’S NOT QUITE RIGHT, OK, YOU’LL BE DOWNSTAIRS IN A MINUTE! NO I CANNOT WALK THE DOG RIGHT NOW!
12. A briefcase. When the going gets tough, writers could use a little something fancy. This number (which you should obviously get in bright red) is swanky Italian leather, and reminds me of a favorite college professor who stored his rejection letters in a bag that he’d open at the beginning of the semester, as if to say, “See, it takes a lot of headaches to become a beloved professor who’s written a bestselling novel and sold movie rights and owns two adorable dogs!” That’s actually 100% true: rejection will be a part of any writer’s life, and we’d all be lucky to end up with a book deal (and cute dogs and movie rights) to our names. To cheer up yourself or a writer friend, celebrate the rejections too. Store them in a briefcase (or a file on your laptop), so they (or you) can take them out and relish the difficult path to victory. Bah humbug, am I right?