Blackwing Pencils. On last year's list I extolled the virtues of a smooth-writing, medium point pen but this year I rediscovered the beauty of the pencil. And not just any pencil. After reading BETWEEN YOU & ME: CONFESSIONS OF A COMMA QUEEN by Mary Norris and learning of the devoted following the Blackwing had (especially among editors of The New Yorker) I just had to try them out. They are expensive ($21.95 for a pack of 12), but so worth it. The pencil is extra long and the Palomino model is painted in a shiny slate metallic color. When it's in your hand it just feels special. The writing is smooth and the erasing clean--the eraser is rectangular and flat and slides out as needed so you don't run out of eraser before you run out of pencil. I loved these so much that I started using them all the time instead of my beloved gel pens. One word of advice: make sure to buy the special 2-step pencil sharpener ($7.50) made for it.
Litographs. I have a niece who is an avid reader and who just earned her doctorate in entomology. Her favorite color is orange. I was searching for the perfect gift to celebrate her achievement and came across this amazing company. Litographs takes classic works of literature and creates graphics using the text of the work. How cool is that? They put the graphics on t-shirts, tote bags, and posters. For my niece, I bought a print of Kafka's THE METAMORPHOSIS, which is in the shape of a giant bug, and chose to have it printed in orange. She loved it. I'm partial to Thoreau's Walden, pictured above. ($24-$39)
Gift Certificate from an Independent Bookstore. This year I made a concerted effort to buy fewer books from a certain online mega-retailer and more books from my local bookstore. By purchasing from independent bookstores you are supporting your local economy and saying no to predatory practices that hurt all writers. Any writer in your life would be thrilled to have some mad money to spend at the neighborhood bookstore.
Grammar Nerd Shirt. I'm no expert when it comes to grammar (as you've probably noticed) but like most writers I do have certain grammatical pet peeves. This is my new favorite t-shirt until I find a snarky one that shows the proper use of the possessive. ($27.95)
Bookish Candles. The scent description of these soy-based candles makes me swoon--paper, dust, newsprint, vanilla. Other scents include Oxford Library, The Shire, and Sherlock's Study, which smells of pipe tobacco, cherrywood, and fresh rain. ($18 each)
Scapple. No, this is not the cousin of the famous Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast treat but a poorly-named program from Literature & Latte--the makers of Scrivener--my all-time favorite word-processing program. Although I have yet to purchase this particular product, it's on my to-do list. The next project I'm working on is research-heavy and this mind-mapping software should help with plotting, note-taking, character development, and making thematic connections. Literature & Latte offers a free trial period, but at $15, it's a minimal investment.
One Story Magazine. Co-founded by a former Writers House colleague of mine, Hannah Tinti, One Story is a unique literary magazine that simply publishes one story every three weeks. Contributing authors only get published once, allowing for the discovery of new talent. Subscriptions are available in both print and digital formats, or you can purchase single back issues of you favorite authors. Fun fact: Maine's own Lily King is featured in the latest issue. (12 issues for $21)
Thermos. I've never been to a writers' colony, but I'm a little obsessed with the idea of spending a month or two in the woods of New Hampshire at the MacDowell Colony. Spending a couple of weeks in a cabin with nothing to do but read, write, sleep, and eat from MacDowell's legendary picnic baskets that are delivered right to your door. Those picnic baskets reportedly come with a thermos full of coffee to keep you at your writerly best. Since my children are still too young to have me running off for weeks at a time and since my backyard in the Maine woods basically looks like the MacDowell campus, I won't be applying anytime soon. Instead, I've made my own pseudo-retreat by filling up this thermos with my favorite hot beverage and heading out to my kids' play house to write. It's not quite the same, but at least my coffee stays hot for 12+ hours. ($23)