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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