Sunday, December 1, 2013

Writerly Gifts by Jess Riley

Our blogging topic this posting cycle is holiday book gifts, but this can be so subjective, depending on the gift recipient. I am giving books for Christmas this year, but they’re pretty specific to the recipients. What I’d like to focus on today instead are gifts for writers: practical, daily use type-gifts. I’ll break this down by category.

What do you write with? Back in the day, laptops cost as much as small used cars. Many years ago—maybe ten or more--I saw an ad for a word processing device in an old issue of Writer’s Digest: the “Neo,” by Alphasmart. (Do any of you remember this thing??) I ordered it, because I am sometimes a sucker and had grandiose fantasies of typing my opus on the sand dunes of Kohler Andrae State Park. I really did do that once, but actually using the Neo was a bit cumbersome.
"Sent from my Neo Alphasmart."
It didn’t take long for the poor Neo to go where old technologies die in my house.  Which is to say, hidden in a drawer somewhere. I’m typing this on a new 2-in-1 Ultrabook, which didn’t cost much more than the Neo. There are hundreds of options for portable word processing these days, and when you’re in the market, the choices can feel overwhelming. Plus, emphasis is on individual use and preference, so recommendations from friends or family may not work for you.  

Guess which one's also a tablet?
So all my writer friends, weigh in, please: what do you write on, and why? What do you like about it? I’ve only had my Lenovo Yoga Ideapad for a day, and so far it’s great for portable writing. However, Windows 8 took some getting used to. For example, I nearly threw the whole thing at the wall an hour after I had it out of the box because I kept downloading Word (and kept playing the intro video) because I couldn’t figure out how to “pin the app” to my start page. My preference is still for my old desktop PC with the huge, bright screen and comfy, worn keyboard, but so far, I’m digging my little Lenovo.

E, I, O, S, D, L, C, N, M. An anagram for "rubbed out of existence."
What do you read with? ("My eyes." Har-har.) I know, I know: this one’s for the e-reader fans. I have a Kindle Fire—not HD, not the new one with live support from Amy (and god bless her for all of the chat roulette-ish images she’ll be getting from teenage boys after the holidays). Anyway, my Kindle is heavy and kind of clunky, and I already wish I’d have waited just one year to upgrade to this year’s model, with its beveled edges and lighter feel. The Fire also works as a tablet, which has come in handy when looking up recipes AND seeing which old boyfriends got bald on Facebook.  I know some people fiercely love their Nooks or reading on their iPads, so this is also an area where personal preference comes to play.

How about some quirky things you can wear? (Other than a Duck Dynasty-themed bra.) I love jewelry and clothing with a writerly-theme. A few years ago my thoughtful sister-in-law gave me a necklace made from old typewriter keys. There are some fun literary-oriented ideas on this website: You can also check, as well as dozens of Etsy shops devoted to the classics. Jane Austen bracelet? Alice in Wonderland t-shirt? Emily Dickinson necklace? Beyond wearable gifts, there are journals, calendars, pens, organizational tools, fancy bookmarks, reading lights, e-reader cases, frameable prints on old Dictionary pages (Etsy strikes again), even coffee and tea tucked in a nice, big mug.
Not counting books, what writerly gifts are you giving this year? Books are always FABULOUS (particularly signed, personalized copies), but there are so many options!

Jess Riley is the author of three novels (Driving Sideways, All the Lonely People, Mandatory Release); she wears her Alice in Wonderland shirt when she meets with book clubs. She's on Facebook, Twitter (@JessRileyWrites), and at the moment, the couch.


  1. Fun post, Jess! I never heard of the Neo Alphasmart. I own/owned various upgraded laptops as they've met their demise. I have a Lenovo Think Pad now, and for the most part love it! Of course, for me, it's all just a glorified typewriter.

  2. Laura, absolutely: glorified typewriters! :)

    I laughed when I actually found the old Neo, and again when I discovered it takes AA batteries!