• The Writer’s Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 37 comments



    Discussion question: Help us build the writer’s ultimate holiday gift guide. What are the best literary gifts you’ve ever given or received? 



    Every year my family ask me what I want for Christmas and every year I run through a quick mental checklist of my preexisting interests (reading, writing, baseball) and the new interests I’ve picked up (none, ever). And then I suggest the same old things: subscription renewals; time at the batting cages; gift cards to my bookstores.

    (I ask for gift cards rather than actual books because I’m a pompous ass. And because sometimes a gift book turns into an albatross.)

    To be honest, it’s kind of a boring wish list.

    But when I think back, I’ve received and given lots of super cool, non-boring literary gifts. So I started making a list, just for funsies. And then I thought I should share it, for anyone looking for ideas. And then I thought, hey, you probably have your own things to add.

    So then I thought that, together, we can build…

    The Writer’s Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide!


    Here are my contributions. In the comments below, add yours. (Along with any backstory!)

    Clothing (and books) from Out of Print, from which I’ve recently given or received this awesome shirt and this awesome shirt and this awesome shirt. Good hoodies, too. Search “book nerd.”

    This four-volume boxed set of Paris Review interviews, perfect for both the reader and the writer, and a nice splash of color on the shelf.

    Membership in the NYRB Classics book club. You won’t like ’em all, but you’ll find some gems you wouldn’t have read otherwise.

    A workshop at Grub Street, a Boston writing organization that’s always close to our hearts.

    A gift card to BetterWorldBooks, my (and your?) favorite online used book retailer.

    And then there are the tools of the trade. I once got this journal; it’s not fancy or expensive, but it has the right heft for me and smells good. A lovely pen always works well, or a typewriter if you want to get super fancy.

    Or a stress ball or punching bag, if you want to get super helpful.

    And coffee mugs! Lots and lots of coffee mugs. One year for our holiday party we bought Rumpus “Write like a motherfucker” mugs for all of our staff. None of them showed up, so we got to keep the mugs. I still have two of them, although fair warning, the text has disappeared after hundreds of dishwashing cycles.

    Or, if you’re a Yak Babies fan, and why wouldn’t you be, here’s a Nico gem: The “A leopard can’t change its spots, I love reading” mug!

    And I’d be a terrible businessman if I didn’t ask you to consider WriteByNight for the writer in your life. A beta read or full-blown writing workshop to get fresh eyes on your partner’s book; agent research or a query letter critique to help your sister land an agent; writer’s block counseling to get your own pen moving again, or book coaching to keep it moving. Or a gift card to let your recipient choose his/her own service. (Contact us with interest.)


    That’s it for me. What about you? What are the best literary gifts you’ve ever given or received? What will you contribute to The Writer’s Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide?!


    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you reach your creative potential. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres. Browse our book coachingmanuscript consultation, and publication assistance services, and sign up for your free writing consultation today.

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    WriteByNight writing coach and co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.



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    A journal was one of the most thoughtful writing gifts given to me because it a literary acknowledgement I seldom get from my family. To my wife, it felt like “me.” She also gave me my other notable literary gift: a hardback copy of “Great Expectations.” So journals (i.e., writing tools) and literary masterpieces (if you know of your writer’s desire for such) are good suggestions, I think. So would merch such as you’ve mentioned (mugs, caps, and t-shirts, tattoos(?)). A heartfelt review of your writer’s book would also be nice.


    Yes, I like GE because the story is about well-intentioned self-delusion. I can relate to that. And the last chapter is one of compelling prose that is at once romantic and deceptive.

    The journal was an anniversary gift and physically nothing special, though it does have a nice leather cover. For a while, I didn’t write much in it because I thought I had to wait until I had some interesting experiences to note. Then I realized that what makes an interesting experience is subjective and probably delusional. So now I write in it quite often.


    Yah, titles can be writing prompts. I number my journal pages and even leave space at the front for a “contents.” A journal is also a reference for me and I’ve kept them on the job. Saved my butt more than once when bosses wanted to know what and when. 

    Connie Beckett

    A padded laptop lap desk (tray) was the best writing gift I received from my granddaughter. I can sit on the couch, put up my feet, and my lap never gets too warm from direct contact with the laptop. It even has a cupholder I use to hold my earbuds.


    Signed copy of their favorite book. My girlfriend got me a signed Hitchhikers Guide and it has a place of honor on my shelf

    Kenneth Harris

    Gift card to bookstore by a mile. Let the recipient enjoy the heady sensation of cruising the highbrow section; contemplating some Dostoyevsky doorstop in hopes of being perceived as a man of erudition and culture before heading to checkout with P.G. Wodehouse anthology in hand. Later in the recliner, snifter of Yellow Tale warming his thoughts, he will think of you as a man of vision and foresight. A “capital chap” as Plummy might say.

    Kenneth Harris

    Nothing to be ashamed of. I used to slide my Louis L’mour shoot-em-up’s inside my World History doorstop to conceal my western paperback addiction in Mrs. Hicks study hall. Ms.Hicks (aka “The crepe-soled crusader”) had no problem confiscating unapproved reading material and setting the unenlightened reader on the road to academic glory-wether that was his planned destination or not.
    A man pondering Tolstoy on a park bench will elicit approving nods from passing foot traffic until they see the inch and a half of LL peeping from back pocket.

    Barbara Mealer

    I love the mugs I have several that say different things ;like “Write, Edit, Repeat.” My favorite is still: “Coffee, 100% replacement for sleep” It has a picture of a guy shaking with his hair all stuck up. And there was the gift of a door sign from my guy what says “Woman Cave” for my office. and the sign that says, “Don’t Piss Me Off or You’ll by my next Murder victim.” I was also given a sign that says “All intruders will become characters in my next novel.” I’d prefer a gift card for books since my reading… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    Haven’t used it in public since I’m usually at a table. At home, I use it when I want to put my feet up. The portable desks are great since you can work without a table and have a mouse (I despise the one on my laptop.) It allows you to have a fan under it. I also use it for actually writing with a tablet or holding a tablet, coloring, or even eating if you want.

    Barbara Mealer

    When working with a laptop, you should have a cooling fan under it to keep it from overheating. All laptops will get hot. That fan keeps them cool and lengthens their life. I’ve had one under mine for years. It plugs into my USB port if I’m working on battery. The cooling fans are very important if you live in an area like mine where I gets in the 90s during the summer and you use your computer for hours on end.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Gifts that don’t look exciting but that do good things include contributions made on the recipient’s behalf to places like Pen America (pen dot org), Committee to Protect Journalists (cpj dot org), and your choice of many prison book programs (prisonbookprogram dot org). For a win-win, take advantage of a library book sale and send the books to a prison program. In this photo I’m hauling 28 lbs 7.8 oz of sf/f paperbacks, thanks to a Friends of the Library book sale. The box went to the Appalachian Prison Book Project, which at the time sought donations especially in the sf/f/h genres.… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Mainly to my partner, who prefers hardcopy to ebooks. Our household includes dual editions: hardcopy for her, ebook for me.

    April Rosskopf

    I like Thriftbooks online too. Excellent selection. I’ll always take a gift card over an actual book, except from someone who really really knows me and knows what I like and who I am.

    MJ DelConte

    When writer’s block strikes, when something goes awry, when we don’t have time, when our newly released novel hits the bookshelves with a great big fizzle, let those tears roll. Collected, they undergo a triple distillation process that ultimately leads to a fine 92-proof Irish whisky (they spell without the ‘e’) aptly named Writers Tears. I’m at least 46% sure of the collection process. However it’s made, Writers Tears ranked number 10 in Whiskey Advocates top 20 whiskeys for 2019. My brother bought a bottle for me as a Christmas gift. It’s good stuff!

    MJ DelConte

    He bought me the Double Oak, as pictured. It’s tasty, smooth, no bite at the end. I would absolutely buy more. It absolutely gets a spot on the home bar.

    Drink and write? Moi? Let your imagination run wild.

    MJ DelConte

    What a bummer! So sorry you won’t be able to spend time with family. I hope you do make it out this way eventually particularly when someone isn’t muttering Covid under their breath and, because of some new variant, airlines aren’t making you perform blindfolded pirouettes before hacking away at piñatas filled with spiders, blowing into breathalyzers using metal tubes in a walk-in freezer, or anal probes by that sweet TSA lady with the skull rings, MMA tats on each muscled forearm, and the kind of sneer that has you wondering why she’s focusing her attention only on you. Meanwhile,… Read more »


    The best writing gift I ever got was from a college roommate. It was a wooden pen. I still have it. You just plunk in any old cartridge from any basic cheap ballpoint pen and write away. It’s the way that it feels, very smooth and round, nicely shaped, and sits so snugly in my thumb cradle, or crook or whatever you call the space between thumb and forefinger. Once I worked in a hardware store and had a favorite customer, who was just a friendly, nice person. I had mentioned to my boss that I wanted to write, and… Read more »


    PS. I had to look it up, and there is a non-medical term for that space between thumb and forefinger–purlicue. Isn’t that cute. I guess it’s British.

    Hans De Leo

    This past Friday I was out with some coworkers and the subject of writing, and in particular, sci-fi came up. One of them observed that sci-fi has the advantage of having a fantastic world that makes “what ifs” easier. He continued to say that those imaginary worlds allow writers to explore the characters in ways other universes do not allow. Another coworker, that happens to be about halfway through my first novel, said that’s exactly what my book was doing. I would say that the best gift to a writer isn’t necessarily anything physical, but is to enjoy reading their… Read more »

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