During my school years (which extended well into my twenties), I was known by family and friends as a serious writer and editor. That led to a lot of book, pencil, pen, and stationery gifts—continuing over my lifetime, in fact—which are always appreciated and well-used if not surprising.
With the following list, I hope to offer some ideas that play into writers’ first loves, but also add something unexpected, especially for writers with some tech savvy.
Wrights Notes: customized notebooks
I’m picky about my stationery—most writers are. Wrights Notes sells notebooks that allow the recipient to customize the interior, choosing from lines, blank, dots, squares, to-do lists, wireframes, calendar, or even coloring pages. And yes, you can order them as a gift for someone.
Parc Slope Laptop Stand
As some writers are all too familiar, many years of sitting at a computer and leading a sedentary life can lead to serious back trouble. (If this describes you, then read my post on finding solutions to chronic back pain.)
When using a laptop, though, it can be difficult to retain good posture without a little help. The Parc Slope laptop stand offers MacBook users a safe tilt, to produce a better viewing height and typing angle. Check it out. They offer a range of stands and shelves for other Apple devices as well.
Evernote has become my essential go-to application for short writing projects, to-do lists, idea brainstorms, meeting notes—and everything else related to my business. Some authors even use it for novel writing!
While the basic version of Evernote is free, it limits how much data you can upload on a monthly basis and syncs across only two devices. Nor does the basic version offer offline access, browsing of your history, or searching of PDFs or Office docs you may have added.
I’ve been an Evernote Premium subscriber for over a year, and I’m not sure how I ever kept myself organized without it. Highly recommend for every writer.
Canva for Work
Canva is another online application that is completely free to start, but offers substantial benefits with an upgraded account (called Canva for Work).
For those not familiar with Canva, it’s a way for non-designers to produce great design—especially digital design that’s critical for social media, websites/blogs, email, and so on.
An upgraded Canva account allows you to magically resize your designs for every social media site or occasion, organize your designs and share them with a team, and create and save brand kits.
Here’s another notebook option: Mod Notebooks are paper-based notebooks (basically a Moleskine) that the company will digitize for you—at no cost—once you fill it up. As someone who has about a dozen notebooks with information that isn’t easily searchable (I can never find that thing I wrote from 8 years ago), I really wish I’d been using a system like this from the start. The digital version of your notebook is accessible via the custom Mod app, or you can sync your pages with Dropbox, Evernote, or OneNote.
When I want to learn any kind of software or digital media tool, my first stop is Lynda. Its on-demand online video tutorials are well produced, easy to navigate, and a pleasure to learn from. I’ve learned how to use Photoshop, iMovie, Adobe Premiere, FinalCut, Audacity, GarageBand, and more, from Lynda. Gifting an annual subscription to a writer is like giving them a tech coach by their side.
The Great Courses
For lifelong learning that’s not about acquiring digital media skills, then a digital streaming subscription to The Great Courses is the best thing I can imagine as a writer. You get access to hundreds of courses instantly, which you can watch on any digital device, or through a Roku player. It’s kind of like binge-watching the best college courses in the world.
Categories and topics include history (The Black Death, The Irish Identity, A History of India); Science (Human Decision Making, The Aging Brain); Philosophy, Religion, and Intellectual History (Reading Biblical Literature, An Introduction to Formal Logic); Literature and Language (English Grammar Boot Camp, Writing Great Essays, and my course!); and much more.
Journal of the Month
This is a very unique type of magazine subscription service: every month, subscribers receive a different award-winning literary journal or magazine. But readers don’t know what’s coming until it’s delivered—so there’s a fun element of surprise. For those who subscribe to a range of publications already, not to fear: Journal of the Month promises not to send you anything that you already receive, if you give them a list of the publications in advance.
Tweetspeak Poetry: Poem-a-Day Newsletter
In our digitally driven work days, this weekday poem newsletter from Tweetspeak Poetry provides an oasis and quiet moment of reflection. It’s also one of the greatest subscription deals ever: $5.99 per year. Each month follows a theme, and when given a chance, writers will find the practice of reading a poem a day to be life-changing—even if they think they don’t like poetry.
The Hot Sheet
This last suggestion is purely a marketing plug for my subscription newsletter for authors, The Hot Sheet. Every two weeks, journalist Porter Anderson and I round up the most important publishing news for authors and give it context, to reduce confusion and promote understanding of the sometimes volatile changes in the industry.
Do you have a go-to gift for the writers in your life? Share in the comments. Note: The winner of the Journal of the Month subscription giveaway is Emily Wenstrom.
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has nearly 25 years of experience in the media & publishing industry. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses (How to Publish Your Book), she is the author of The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), which received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as Digital Book World and Frankfurt Book Fair, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.