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On Gifts for writers

This week I was lucky enough to again be asked by the Golden Egg Academy to host one of their weekly twitter Q&As (#GEAQA) and given the seasonal cheer we themed this week’s chat around suggestions from writers on gifts for writers. If you are reading this and you’re aspiring to finish that next book, or you have a relative who you know is a writer and you want that perfect gift, here are some suggestions from the Nest. I’ve also created a supporting Pinterest Board for handy use that will direct you to reputable places to buy. (All book recommendation links will direct to alternatives to amazon, such as wordery, foyles, waterstones, hive. I will link to the cheapest I can find, but you can buy most of these books on amazon if you prefer). 1) Craft books Getting started on that book, even if you’ve written a dozen before it, can be a daunting prospect for even the most established author. Luckily there are hundreds of books out there to help. But what will be the most valuable? Here are the recommendations from the writers in the nest, tried and tested, spine-cracked and notated, what are the go-to books that get your minds whirring and your problems solved?

  • ‘The Story Grid’ by Shawn Coyne - this is a great book for anyone who wants to do a deep analysis of their story after it is written, or even avoid pitfalls in the plotting stage. It isn’t so much related to the craft of sentence and style, but more plot, pace and theme. The website is great, and the supporting resources and podcasts a great follow up.

  • My second favourite new craft books this year have been the extension to the writers’ thesauri produced by Angela Akerman and Becca Puglisi. A long-time fan of the positive and negative emotion thesaurai, this year I delved into the urban and rural setting additions. A great resource for when you’re staring into a rainy garden and you need to write about a desert! Best deal I have found is on wordery click here for a link to all books.

  • My third but TOP suggestion is 'What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers’ (3rd edition) by Pamela Painter and Ann Bernays. I was lucky enough this year to work with the legendary Pamela Painter, and every time I want to write this is my warm up book. Not only that some of the exercises prompted whole new ways to come at problems I needed to solve in my current MS, but short stories and new books have been inspired by the exercises, examples and topics. An invaluable tool. Recommendation from the author herself is to only buy the 3rd edition (blue cover not brown).

And now for the suggestions from the Nest…

  • SF Said recommended his ‘new favourite book on #writing’ - praise indeed. ‘The Writing Life’ by Annie Dillard, as honest, hilarious & heart-breaking all at once. Also adding…

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott for the ‘Truest account of the emotions of writing I’ve ever read.’

  • 'Reading like a Writer’ by Francine Prose - recommended by K.M. Lockwood (Twitter: @lockwoodwriter, who called it ‘brain stretching’. It’s going on my list. According to the Guardian, ‘novelists may or may not choose a creative writing course but reading is the one training tool they can’t do without. It’s a case Prose makes with such vigour as to make this an essential book for any writer, new or experienced, who purports to take his or herself remotely seriously.’

  • Picturebook writer and puppeteer extraordinaire Sue Eves, recommended the ever solid and reliable ‘Into The Woods: How Stories Work & Why We Tell Them’ by John Yorke @johnyorke123 and recommends reading before finished writing your book (as well as consulting ‘Story’ by Robert McGee).

  • Leoni Atkins (@creativekitty) recommended ‘The Story Book’ by David Baboulene (@StoryMeBad). An ‘academic AND practical dissection of story. (You can save £1 on amazon, but waterstones and foyles also stock and deliver so I recommend them instead.) She found the books’ info on 'knowledge gaps’ particularly helpful: 'In a good story there is always, always a difference in the knowledge possessed by at least one participant when compared to the audience.’ David also interviews several storytellers from film, TV and theatre such as Willy Russell, Lee Child and John Sullivan. Lastly, David’s sense of humour easily takes you through an intimidating subject.

  • ‘Elements of Style’ by Williams Strunk and E.B. White is another editing staple, helping with the structure, grammar and line edit. Essential in the late edit.

  • ‘Novel Metamorphosis’ by Darcy Pattison is recommended as an essential tool to help with the revision and editing process by Annaliese Avery author of Ninja Nan and Sidekick Grandad

2) Books that inspired the writers in the nest…

  • 'Wow, said The Owl’ by Tim Hopgood

  • ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ by Roald Dahl inspired Creator of #ukteenchatEmma Finlayson-Palmer

  • ’The Lie Tree’ by Francis Hardinge, as well as her other works inspired K.M.Lockwood

  • ‘How to find Gold’ by Vivane Schwarz inspired Emma Perry

  • ‘Ballet Shoes’ by Noel Streatfield inspired Co-writer of ‘Waiting for Callback’Perdita Cargill

  • While I recommend ‘At the Edge of the Orchard’ by Tracy Chevalier for any writer experimenting with senses and style/pov.

  • ‘Varjak Paw’ by SF Said was also recommended by EmmaFinlayson-Palmer

3) Non-book gifts We can’t forget to cover every Writer’s addiction, stationary, as well as other, non-book gifts. Starting with Stationary:

  • Oxfam do fairtrade & @WoodlandTrust@FSCUK cert stationery (recommended by @sueeves)

  • I’m a fan of the moleskin, particularly the Livescribe supporting books.

  • Rowena House, writer of ‘War Girls’ shared SCWBI member Teri Terry recommendation for writers and artists . David Almond, author of ‘Skellig’, orders his notebooks from Pink Pig, so they must be good! The do sketchbooks mostly but you can also get lined paper, and for the artistic there is all different kinds of paper you can get in them. You can also get covers with your own images on if you want to!

  • Leoni Atkins can’t get enough yellow legal pads

  • SF Said recommends Tiger pens as his ‘favourite source of pens. Who doesn’t love a tiger - especially when stationery?!’

For non-stationary based gifts, that will tickle the fancy of any book lover or writer I recommended and, both sites which share a plethora of strange findings! Let’s face it no wardrobe is complete without shoes inspired by the art of writing. Here’s a great blog with some fun links and gifts. Finally, Sue Eves uses and recommends an elegant Egg-timer to help focus the mind when writing, and was kind enough to share a picture of this lovely instrument.

4) Research, Support and Learning Gifts

  • The One Stop for Writers is a great source of info and support and has vouchers available

  • The British Library has some great books available to support historical research

  • Last but by no means least! The Golden Egg Academy are once again selling vouchers which anyone can use to redeem against classes or membership. This year there were also workshops open to writers who were not members, so the vouchers may also be interesting to non-members! (redeemable against plans)

Happy shopping everyone! Check out the full twitter storify here, transcribed by the lovely Lauren Hodges. Happy Christmas, and seasonal greetings. May Santa bring you warms hugs, good books and much time to read. To read the chat click here. Thanks to the members of the Golden Egg Academy for all your contributions.

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