Can you believe it's almost December? And ready or not, the holiday season is in the air — Starbucks red cups, twinkling Christmas lights, and all. We've got holiday shopping on the brain, so we're sharing a roundup of gifts for the writers in your life. After all, November is National Novel Writing Month, so if you know any aspiring novelists who need a little nudge to get pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), these gifts could inspire a future Jane Austen. No matter what kind of writer they are, these novel gift ideas are sure to cure a case of writer's block — check them out now!
During National Novel Writing Month, aspiring writers challenge themselves to write a novel of 50,000 words or more. I decided to chat with a professional novelist — Nina LaCour, author of YA hit Hold Still — to find out if this is a good idea. Good news: she thinks it is. Find out five reasons to write a novel now:
- It's fun: "Writing is difficult and can be frustrating, but it's ultimately fun because you get to create and inhabit this other world for a while. I have my own life, and then I get to live the lives of my characters. It's almost like you gain experiences by imagining people's lives."
- You learn new skills: "My characters are in high school photography class, so I learned how to develop film in a dark room. I learned something that I never knew I would learn because my characters were doing it and I wanted to write about it in an authentic way. I enrolled in a class and learned how to expose and develop photos."
- You get to know yourself: "It's a process of discovery. When you're writing a novel, you're learning stuff about yourself and about the rest of the world. You're trying to grapple with big human issues and pushing yourself and growing and learning. It's a great feeling of being inspired and creating art, which I think is one of the greatest joys in life."
Find out more after the jump!
How long has it been since you picked up a pencil? It seems that in this day and age, people are using a keyboard more than a notepad, and their penmanship may be suffering for it. But more than just legible notetaking, handwriting could help you get smart. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal explains how handwriting can help you learn shapes, objects, even foreign languages far beyond your toddler years.
I'll be honest — I barely write with a pen and paper anymore. My life is totally online, and using a keyboard is more comfortable to me now than holding a pen. Of course, it's romantic to think about sending handwritten notes and love letters to your significant other, but I'm more apt to send a heartfelt love email instead, since my penmanship has definitely taken a turn for the worse. Tell me — has your handwriting suffered because of tech, too?
Whether you write for a living or just as a hobby, sometimes we all need a little bit of motivation, and today, I found mine! A new tool from a journaling software company analyzes your writing and compares you to an accomplished famous writer. Just copy and paste a few paragraphs of text into the tool, hit the "analyze" button, and view your results! My first try gave me Ernest Hemmingway — not too shabby!
Friends of mine received results like Raymond Chandler and David Foster Wallace. And after analyzing this short article, the tool says I write like Dan Brown (man, I sure wouldn't mind collecting his Da Vinci Code paycheck).
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to chain myself to my laptop and my favorite writing program, and pen the next Great American Novel.
Sady Doyle of the hilariously, and depressingly, accurate Tiger Beatdown noted on The Atlantic's blog yesterday that a woman still can't write about sex. Not without facing the venomous reception of reviewers, readers, family, and strangers who have never read her work but heard somewhere she is a terrible person.
Terrible because she dared to write honestly and explicitly about sex. And, no, the Carrie Bradshaws of the world don't count. Carrie spent more time typing deep, dichotomous musings like "Do we need distance to get close?" She pressed relationships and sex through an emotional filter. And women's reputation for writing about sex without the gorging details of it gave Kate Copstick, editor of Britain's Erotic Review, the excuse she needed last year to say the only woman's name on its masthead was going to be her. Women, she said, can't be straightforward about sex.
Where does this backlash come from? Find out after the jump
Whether you're returning to school or not this Fall, it always pays to have pencil and paper near at hand. Who knows when you might be struck by a flash of genius? I know that I always keep a notebook in my bag to jot down ideas about home decorating, a post for CasaSugar, or the plot for the great American novel. Whatever your writing habits may be, you can start your day's notes in style by carrying this To Do List Notebook ($6.50) from Brookline Street Studio. Inspired by the artist's collection of vintage, 1940s Dick-and-Jane flashcards, the covers are letterpress-printed with an antique, treadle-operated press using soy inks and 100 percent recycled cardstock.
For more of my favorite pencils and notebooks, read more
In the past, the writer's life was often a lush life. Many great American novelists — including Ernest Hemingway and John Cheever — were notorious drunks. In fact, according to an article by Tom Shone in the new issue of More Intelligent Life, five of America's seven Nobel literary laureates were alcoholics:
In America William Faulkner and Scott Fitzgerald were the Paris and Britney of their day, caught in the funhouse mirror of fame, their careers a vivid tabloid mash-up of hospitalizations and electroshock therapies.
Rehab wasn't something people did back in the '30s. Neither was recovery-centric memoir writing. When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a story for Esquire chronicling his struggles, Hemingway told him to cast his "balls into the sea—if you have any balls left."
Ever since rehab went mainstream in the 1960s, Shone observes, the boozing writer stereotype is less typical. Both Cheever and Raymond Carver came out of rehab and kept writing; Stephen King got sober after an intervention. So where have all the overindulgent writers gone?
Think of it as the literary equivalent of making a sex tape: A company called UStarNovels lets you customize your own erotic stories with the names of you and your partner, the setting, and details of your choice. I know some of you count romance novels among your guilty pleasures, and they can certainly be entertaining. Plus, if reading erotic fiction is something you like to do with your partner, why not have it be about you?
The way it works is, you choose the character names (it could even be a celebrity crush) and offer details like favorite food and music. You can even say how racy you want the love scenes to be. The result is a 160-page-plus novel written to your specs; it costs about $38 and arrives within a week, depending on shipping. I think this is a pretty funny idea and, depending on the writing, it could be really fun and definitely an attention-getting gift. What do you think?
Worldwide Fred has dreamt up another wacky solution to your insignificant problems. Borrow My Pen? ($8) would have come in handy (no pun intended) in college, or any school for that matter. You remember how classmates ask to borrow a pen and never return them? Here's how to stop pen theft in its tracks. Offer your unprepared friends one of these ballpoints with subversive taglines like "Springfield Sexual Addiction Center," "Electrolysis Is Us: The First Name in Unwanted Hair Removal," "Van Nuys Center For Cosmetic Surgery: Specializing in Difficult Gender Reassignments," etc. Pretty hilarious, huh? Just be sure not to use these when signing a mortgage in front of your co-op board.
A "Dear John" letter is the quintessential breakup tool if you can’t bear to say goodbye to someone’s face, or at least it used to be back when people wrote letters. With so many outlets for communication these days, if you’re going to back out of the direct breakup, it might just be easier to get him on the phone. But letters and well-written emails can actually be a great way to say what you really want to say to someone. So I wonder, have you ever written a letter to end a relationship?