So here we are at day four of our series on holiday gifts for writers. Are you all feeling inspired? Ready to have your stocking stuffed?
(I’ll pause a moment so you perverts can stop snickering).
Lots of people have asked lately if there’s a single piece of advice I’d offer writers looking to improve their skills. It’s such an easy question it makes me jump up and down and squeal because I really like having an answer I’m 100% sure about:
Read everything you can get your hands on. Read fiction and nonfiction, read great books and mediocre books and even bad books. Read outside your genre, read inside your genre, read inside the belly of a whale, but whatever you do, READ.
Several years ago, I assembled what turned out to be a pretty good Mother’s Day gift. A few months before the big day, I bought a basket for each of the moms. I tossed in a few cozy items like a soft throw blanket and a mug. Then I sat down and made a list of at least ten books I thought each mom might enjoy. The lists weren’t the same for both, and they included a wide array of authors and genres.
I spent the next couple months combing bookstores, thrift stores, garage sales and eBay to collect the books. Then I made a bookmark for every single one. Each bookmark had a little information about why I picked that book, and why I thought she might enjoy it.
I’ll admit I probably went overboard. Two or three books would have been just as good, but you know what? We got years of mileage out of those baskets. The moms took their time working through the selections, picking up one of the books when they went on vacation or got tired of reading other things.
I hear regular blog commenter Geoffrey Cubbage groaning that I’m venturing into “giving-homework-as-gifts” territory (as he discussed this hilarious blog post about what NOT to give writers).
That’s why I’ll issue the caveat that if you’re going to assemble a book basket for a writing pal, you can’t be one of those annoying people with the incessant need to ask, “did you read it yet? Did you read it yet? What did you think?!”
But if you don’t care whether the recipient adores the books or even reads them at all, why not share some of your favorite reads with a fellow author? If nothing else, she'll have a new tool for smashing flies (you think I'm joking, but I swear I've killed at least two dozen with The Great Gatsby).
Do you like receiving books as gifts? Why or why not? Have you ever received a book you either loved dearly or detested so much you backed over it with the minivan? Please share.
Oh, and if you do give books as gifts, help the recipient out by flagging all the naughty parts. Nothing says I care like dog-eared smut.