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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, November 29, 2015

25 Gift Ideas For The Writer In Your Life

by Ruth Harris

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no writer ever knows when or where his/her next great idea will strike.

Because of that inconvenient fact, notebooks are essential. Although the back of a grocery receipt or a dry cleaner's ticket will do in an emergency, a notebook will help create order out of the chaos and provides an easily accessible, highly portable record.

Because I have learned to be prepared for the unexpected brainstorm or genius idea, I surround myself with notebooks. On my desk, in the kitchen, on the dining room table, on my night table, in my bag, in pockets, purses and the glove compartment. There is even a notebook in the bathroom for those nights I wake with a "brilliant" idea I absolutely have to write down. By flashlight. So as not to disturb my DH who already knows all too much about what it's like to live with a writer. ;-)

Whether made in the U.S., France, Germany, or Japan, a notebook is a writer's don't-leave-home-without-it essential. Here are some of my faves. Most cost about $10.

Notable notebooks:

"I'm not writing it down to remember it later. I'm writing it down to remember it now." Made in the USA. Field Notes. Also Amazon.

German and superb quality, come in basic black + lipstick red, emerald, dark and light blue and beyond. Acid-free paper, numbered pages, blank toc, 5-star ratings. Find them at Amazon.

I've used Rhodia notebooks for years. Highest quality paper, makes writing a pleasure, come in a wide variety of sizes and configurations. Widely available, I get them at my local stationery store but available from Amazon.

Letts Noteletts Edge have soft, flexible covers, lay-flat binding, and ivory pages with grey rules. Here in dark green, also available in a range of candy colors including yellow, purple, and red.

Kokuyo makes beautifully designed notebooks in a wide range of colors and styles. I found them in a Japanese stationery store in NYC but Amazon has them as does Jetpens.

The great and classic Moleskine usually seen in traditional black but here, in snappy Hermès orange. Amazon

If I were French, I probably would have used these cheerful Clairfontaine notebooks in school. Most decent-quality stationery stores have them as does Amazon

High-quality sketchbooks—Stillman & Birn—also count as essential because sometimes I have to draw a scene before I can write it. I bet I'm not the only one!

If nothing here is exactly what you're looking for, Notebook Stories blog might help you find the perfect solution. Office Supply Geek is another reliable source that might suggest the perfect gift.

Digital notebooks 

They aren't exactly festive but they are necessities—they live in the cloud, synch to all your devices, and they're free! Evernote and Microsoft's One Note are indispensable. My new favorite is Google Keep, perfect for keeping to-do lists and the fleeing ideas you want to jot down quickly in a few words. If the writer in your life doesn't already have these, a few minutes downloading them to his/her computer is a thoughtful—and useful—holiday offering.

For pens to go with notebooks:

Try JetPens and Amazon. From ball points to gel pens, from calligraphy pens to fountain pens, the vast range of colors and point styles from ultra fine to broad, is an obsessive's paradise.

My current faves include the Zebra Sarasa in Forest Green ($1.30 + a wide range of colors) and the UniBall Signo ($2.50 & a choice of 20 irresistible colors) with an ultra fine 0.38 point which makes a 3x5 card seem as big as a football stadium.

The Lamy Safari fountain pen and rollerball (both about $20) are classics and have been long-time personal favorites. They are plastic, therefore lightweight, and the contoured grip is super comfortable for long stretches of writing. They are refillable and come in a range of bright colors + black. I bought mine in yellow! :-)

Writing software makes a thoughtful gift: 

I'm assuming everyone has Word but there are other excellent and well-thought-out alternatives/add-ons.

Atlantis (PC only, about $40) is try-before-you buy, fully-featured word processor. It has a helpful user forum, useful sample documents and templates, will edit existing MSWord docs and turn your documents into epubs. Add-on spellcheck comes in languages from Serbian, Estonian, Turkish and beyond.

Jutoh (Mac and PC, about $40) is fast and flexible and outputs a wide range of file formats. As far as I know, Jutoh is the only one that opens epub files. If the writer in your life has existing epubs and wants to revise, make corrections, or simply update back matter, Jutoh makes the job easy. Join ALLI and get 25% off Jutoh.

Scrivener (Mac and PC, about $45 but discount coupons available) is widely beloved, extremely flexible and customizable, and outputs uploadable files in a range of formats when the book is finished. Gwen Hernandez' Dummies Guide to Scrivener is a great go-along gift. And Scrivener has a Black Friday Sale this weekend only. Grab it today and it's only $25!!

Ulysses (Mac only including iOS) is the new(ish) kid on the block. Elegant, minimal in appearance but fully featured, Ulysses lives in the cloud and is always available on your desktop, tablet, or phone. A try-before-you-buy demo.

Vellum (Mac only with a range of options ranging from $10 to $200) takes the pain out of HTML and CSS and makes formatting easy. Vellum creates beautiful ebooks and mobis, ARCs, box sets, and supports basic word processing.

Anne and I wish all our readers Happy Holidays, Happy Giving—and Happy Receiving! ;-)

by Ruth Harris (@RuthHarrisBooks)

What about you, Scriveners? What's on your list for Santa? What do you buy for the writers in your life? Do you have a favorite notebook or pen? Or do you jot down everything electronically? 

As for ourselves, what we want most for the holidays is a new, more secure, self-hosted blog. We hope (fingers crossed) to see you on our own WordPress site next Sunday! I'll be writing about some of the new scams I see targeting writers right now. I'll tell you how to spot them and stay safe. Some of these scammers have even taken in the pros, including veteran agents...Anne


A Kiss at Kihali: sweet romance set against the backdrop of African animal rescue

A must-read for animal lovers.

Available at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon CA, FREE in Kindle Unlimited

Beautiful and inspirational, A KISS AT KIHALI draws on the power of human-animal relationships, the heroic accomplishments of African animal orphanages, and the people, foreign and Kenyan, drawn to careers involving the care and conservation of wild animals. Filled with drama and danger that lead to a happy ending, A KISS AT KIHALI will appeal to readers who love tender romance and who have personally experienced the intense, mystical bond between humans and animals.

"A must-read for anyone who cares about animals and the environment, because what we do to them, we do to ourselves"... bestselling author Sibel Hodge


Platypus Press. A new UK small press is looking for literary novels and poetry collections. No agent required. Though your manuscript must be complete, the first three chapters of a novel will suffice when submitting. It must be previously unpublished, but work posted on a blog or personal website is acceptable. Accepts simultaneous submissions

TARTTS SHORT FICTION COLLECTION AWARD $20 ENTRY FEE. Winning short story collection will be published by Livingston Press at the University of West Alabama, in simultaneous library binding and trade paper editions. Winning entry will receive $1,000, plus our standard royalty contract, which includes 100 copies of the book. Author must not have a book of short fiction published at time of entry, though novels are okay. Manuscript length 160-275 pages. Deadline December 31.

Amazon's Little A Poetry Contest.
 This is a brand new thing. NO FEE The contest will be judged by poets Cornelius Eady, Jericho Brown and Kimiko Hahn. The winner will receive $5,000 in prize money and a publishing contract featuring a $2,000 advance with Little A, Amazon Publishing's literary imprint. Poets who have published no more than one book of poetry can submit their full-length collections for consideration to LittleAPoetry@amazon.com. Deadline Dec 20th 2015

The Poisoned Pencil: New YA publisher open to submissions! The well-known mystery publisher The Poisoned Pen now has a YA imprint. They accept unagented manuscripts and offer an advance of $1000. Submit through their website submissions manager. Response time is 4-6 weeks.

Open call for the Independent Women Anthology: short stories (flash fiction included), poetry, essays, artwork, or any other woman and/or feminist-centered creative work. 10,000 word max. All genres but explicit erotica. $100 per short story, $50 for flash, poetry, and photography/artwork. All profits will be donated to the Pixel Project Charity to end Violence Against Women. Deadline January 31, 2016 with a goal of publication on International Women's Day, March 8, 2016.

SCHLAFLY BEER MICRO-BREW MICRO-FICTION CONTEST $10-$20 ENTRY FEE. Fee includes a subscription to River Styx literary magazine or one issue depending on amount of entry fee paid. Submit up to three stories of 500 words or less each. All stories will be considered for publication. $1,500 first prize plus one case of micro-brewed Schlafly Beer. Deadline January 1, 2016.

The Writer Short Story Contest judged by Literary star Colum McCann. You can have your work read by the acclaimed author of Let the Great World Spin. $25 entry fee. Write a 2,000-word short story responding to one or both of the quotes below by Mr. McCann: "There is always room for at least two truths." or "With all respects to heaven, I like it here." Deadline December 6th

TETHERED BY LETTERS' FALL 2015 LITERARY CONTEST ENTRY FEES: $7-$15 Currently accepting submissions for short stories (1,000 to 7,500 words, open genre), flash fiction (55, 250, or 500 words), and poetry (maximum of three pages per poem). All winners will be published in F(r)iction. All finalists will receive free professional edits and be considered for later publication. The prizes are $500 short story $150 flash fiction, and $150 for poetry. Multiple entries accepted. International submissions welcome. Deadline December 1.

HAMLIN GARLAND AWARD FOR THE SHORT STORY $20 ENTRY FEE. $2,000 and publication to the top unpublished story on any theme. One story per entry, multiple entries acceptable. Maximum 7,000 words. All entrants will be considered for publication. Deadline December 1.

The Ernest Hemingway Flash Fiction Contest. $10 fee Unpublished fiction. 1500 words or less. Simultaneous submissions ARE welcome. All entries will be considered for publication in Fiction Southeast. (a prestigious journal that has published people like Joyce Carol Oates) Winner gets $200 and publication. Deadline: Dec. 1st

Writers' Village International Short Fiction Award winter 2015. Cash prizes totaling $3200.Ten further Highly Commended entrants will have their stories acknowledged at the site and gain a free entry in the next round. Entry fee $24 INCLUDES A PROFESSIONAL CRITIQUE. Any genre of prose fiction may be submitted up to 3000 words, except plays and poetry. Entries are welcomed worldwide. Multiple entries are permitted. Deadline: November 30th.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And if in doubt, just buy them an iPad and a iTunes gift card so they can download all the apps they need!
I also rely on Siri to help me remember things.
Hope you ladies both had a great Thanksgiving.

November 29, 2015 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Alex, thanks for the good ideas. We should also add android devices. (I was keeping the budget down, though, so kept the suggestions to the less pricey side.)

November 29, 2015 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Hmm. If the idea is to keep the costs down, how about arranging time for your writer friend to meet & hang with people you know with traits that fall "outside the bell curve" - the weirdest of the weird? Inspiration can be an invaluable gift.

November 29, 2015 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Gigi said...

Oh how I love notebooks and pens, too. The hope and excitement of a new project is within...on the black and patient pages. On my Thanksgiving holiday flight, I was reminded why I buy Uni-ball Vision Elite pens. Two of my on-the-ground standby pens found their way into my Tumi computer bag where they threatened to leak. Thankfully, the leak was confined under the cap and only stained my fingers. The Uni-ball Vision Elite pens don't leak during or after a flight. Sometimes, the connection between the cap and the refill is stronger than the one between the refill and the shaft. So one finds the empty shaft in one hand and the refill attached to the cap in the other. Still, there is no leaking so the quirk of this model is preferable to the alternative. If you like doing cross-word puzzles during flights, this pen is a reliable choice.

November 29, 2015 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

CS—thanks for an "inspiring" idea!

November 29, 2015 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Melodie Campbell said...

Final Draft screenwriting software! Santa, just a reminder that 'Naughty is the New Nice" (my humour column moniker isn't Bad Girl for nothing!)

November 29, 2015 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Sue Coletta said...

I love my roller ball pens, but the last batch I got keeps bleeding through the paper and I don't have the heart to tell my husband. When he brought them home out of the blue, he was like a starry-eyed student presenting the teacher with an apple. As far as notebooks...I need more, because I'm constantly scribbling on anything I can get my hands on. Back of envelopes, sideways on bills, receipts, napkins. Then trying to read what I wrote is near impossible. But you know how it is when an idea strikes. Great idea to keep notebooks all over the house. Seems funny, but that didn't dawn on me. Doh! I use composition notebooks and, my favorite, a leather-bound hardcover for the last drafts of my outlines. I also use index card books. Have you seen these? They're cool. Each index card is perforated, so you can keep them together as a notebook or tear them out to move them around. Scrivener is only $25? Wow!

November 29, 2015 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

I know this might be heresy but I get all of my writing goods from the DollarTree store near by. Colored index cards, monthly planners, gel pens, notebooks like the old black and white Composition Books we grew up with. Highlighters come two or three to a pack as well as the gel pens. There's a terrific gel called R-2 Rollerball; you get two-fers in each pack and they don't bleed thru the paper. And they last! But I normally only use one side of a notebook. Also legal pads for writing scenes of dialogue that seem to flow on those long yellow pads. Also those small 5 X7 yellow pads for writing scene sketches, etc. I'm not cheap really. Maybe more for myself than for others but these items really work for me. Oh, also manila file folders come ten to a pack or so. Over and out. Paul

November 29, 2015 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

Forgot to mention. Great post as always, Ruth. Happy Holidays your way as well to you and yours.

November 29, 2015 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

YES! Totally agree with the gel-pens! LOVE them.COLORED ones. AND I like to use them in my critique group, so they stand out. Plus, pink, purple, and turquoise critiques seem somehow more cheerful than dull red. :) Happy Christmas!

November 29, 2015 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Gigi—Yes, as you say, a new, pristine notebook promises an infinity of hope and excitement. Thanks for the great tip about the Uni-ball Vision Elite! Much appreciated!

November 29, 2015 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Melody—Great idea! Thanks! Very happy holidays you Bad Girl, you! :-)

November 29, 2015 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Sue—I feel your pain of the heartbreak of the bleed-thru. Most distressing! The index/card notebook sounds like a must-have. If you’ve been wanting Scriv (which I love), now’s the time to grab a copy.

November 29, 2015 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Paul—We deal well with heresy around here. ;-) Thanks for the ideas and the kind words!

November 29, 2015 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Tam—You’re right. A turquoise-colored edit does tend to be more cheerful than what-*were*-you thinking red. ;-)

November 29, 2015 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Cori Dyson said...

I love the Evernote Moleskine notebooks. I use it for ideas, outlines, revisions, etc, then take pictures of each page and upload to my Evernote account. My handwritten notes are now eye level and can be placed next to my word processor. It works well for me. The Evernote smart Moleskine notebooks also comes with three months of premium subscription to Evernote.

Great article. I think I will print it out and leave it as a hint or add them to my Amazon wish list! Thank you!

November 29, 2015 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger Victoria Fry said...

I adore this list! There are some truly scrumptious notebooks out there. I only just started using a Moleskine notebook this year, for bullet journalling, and I love the quality of it.

I recently wrote a holiday gift guide for writers, as well, with ideas for what they might like to receive as well as what they're in a unique position to give: would you mind if I linked to your post at the end?

Here's the link to mine, if you'd like to investigate first. :) http://www.somethingdelicious.co/2015/11/holiday-gifts-for-writers.html

November 29, 2015 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Jensen said...

So with Jutoh, I could make changes in my e-book and not have to upload a revised Word doc while crossing my fingers and hoping I didn't mess up any of the formatting? Wowsers! Although I wish it would open mobi files too. :)

November 29, 2015 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Cori—Thanks for the kind words! Loved your review of Moleskine/Evernote & the way you use it. Lots of great ideas for writers there!

November 29, 2015 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Victoria—Great minds! ;-) Anne and I would be delighted!

November 29, 2015 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Jennifer—Yes! Jutoh will open your epubs. You can then make your changes/revisions/edits. Once you are finished, just compile and Jutoh will output epubs, mobis and other formats. It's genius!

November 29, 2015 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

Sorry...had to intrude on your convo to say I LOVE those pens. I have pink, purple, turquoise, and orange. :-) When I edit, I use them and they make the process more bearable. Dare I say enjoyable. Well...

November 29, 2015 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

Thank you for this post, Ruth! My gosh, it's loaded with awesome links. I can't even! Fantastic compilation of...everything. Happy Holidays to both you and Anne. And I sincerely hope you get your wish of a WordPress blog. See you there!

November 29, 2015 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Sarah—Thank *you*! Hope you get every notebook/pen/software you ever dreamed of! :-)

November 30, 2015 at 3:46 AM  
Blogger Jan M. Leotti said...

I have a notebook and pen addiction--this is great! Santa is getting a list shortly. Thanks so much, Ruth. Happy Holidays to you and Anne. Here's hoping you get your WordPress blog soon! Looking forward to joining you there. :D

November 30, 2015 at 3:48 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Ah yes, good old pen and paper. Nothing makes one feel more like a real writer. I love flipping through old ones and rediscovering thoughts, ideas, great lines waiting for the right story and younger versions of myself. Thanks, Ruth! Happy Holidays to you!

November 30, 2015 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Jan—Thanks! Hope Santa is ready and has his supersized sleigh for all your pens and notebooks!

December 1, 2015 at 4:23 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Christine—Fascinating, isn't it, to see what you were thinking? Sometimes really great. Other times a huge wtf? lol Happy Holidays!

December 1, 2015 at 4:24 AM  
Blogger Crystal Collier said...

*sigh* Any writer worth their salt walks into a stationary aisle and starts salivating. =) I had to laugh when I scrolled through the first several suggestions.

December 2, 2015 at 6:15 AM  
Blogger Catherine A. Winn said...

Notebooks are a must but anything in an emergency, reached in the trash can and pulled out a torn envelope to jot something down when my kitchen notebook was in the office!
Thanks for the list of opportunities!

December 2, 2015 at 7:30 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Crystal—Yes! Stationery stores! :-)

December 2, 2015 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Catherine—I know ~exactly~ what you mean. Desperate times call for desperate measures! :-)

December 2, 2015 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Jan Morrison said...

Notebooks - got em. Pens - live with a Safari and other great devices. Scrivener is on my radar as I just won a NaNoWriMo so get one half price. But what I really want? A week at a retreat - either just a friend's cabin or one of the writers' retreats (less likely as I live so far from everywhere). Yep, time. That's what I want. Time and no internet.

December 3, 2015 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jan--I had to jump in here. I just heard about the most fantastic writers retreat . Definitely for the person with some cash to spend: it's in a castle in Spain! For novelists and screenwriters. It looks absolutely fabulous! http://rocabertiwriters.com/ If your Santa has deep pockets, this might be just the thing....

Major congrats on winning NaNo!

December 3, 2015 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Jan—Congratulations on your win! Here's hoping a castle in Spain is in your future!

December 3, 2015 at 2:23 PM  

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