What to give to (and get from) the scribes in your life
Nothing says "I don't love you" like giving someone a bad gift. So I decided to compile a list of gifts that writers should give, and receive, this holiday season.
Gifts You Should Give Your Writer
The Cartel by Don Winslow. Easily one of the best books I've read in recent years. It should be taught in schools, given to politicians at every level, and made into movies. Winslow's book (the sequel to the equally strong The Power of the Dog) is unflinching in its portrayal of the drug war in Mexico and the United States. It has the pace and tension of a thriller mixed with a Dickensian or Dreiser-esque survey of a crushed society. The book is something like 700 pages long, and it took me a couple of weeks to read, and I entirely neglected my family, but it's so worth it. Any writer would love this book — both enjoyable and instructive.
This keyboard. Look at this thing! It's $600 and made out of leather. And one version doesn't even label the keys. It's completely impractical, the very definition of ostentation over usefulness. Gwyneth Paltrow probably makes everyone who writes for Goop.com use one. Perfect!
Tickets to a writing conference ($200-$600). This is a great way to get rid of your writer for a couple of days. He or she will happily spend the weekend away from home talking about writing, sitting at the hotel bar, and drunk-dialing you around 3 or 4 a.m. I cannot recommend enough sending someone to Bouchercon or ThrillerFest or the Washington Writers Conference. It's hard not to learn something at a panel, pick up tons of new books, or turn an e-friend into a real one. NOTE: When your writer returns, he or she is going to talk nonstop about how much fun the conference was. That will be charming at first, then tiring, and ultimately irritating.
Friends ($16-$125). But if your writer can't go to a conference, then how about the next best thing? Friends! Sites like this one add fake friends to your Facebook page, Twitter feed, or whatever social-media app you use, ostensibly to raise your profile. And it works! I know that, before I buy a book, I first check out the number of social-media followers a writer has. How else would I know if the book is any good?
Gifts Writers Should Give Their Significant Other
This boat/car thing ($40,000). Every spouse has gone on a vacation to some beach with their writer and, invariably, had a fight when the writer decided to spend the day holed up in their hotel room, writing. So imagine going to the beach and surprising your spouse with this beauty. My God, look at it. It's a boat that becomes a car! In five seconds! How little would you care if your nerd was holed up while you were terrifying dolphins with this tricked-out bad boy?
A Diplomat License Plate (for DC-area residents only; $10,000-$20,000…in bribes). Legend has it that diplomats can’t be stopped in their cars, given tickets, or bound by the laws of physics. So why not give your loved one diplomatic immunity? DC traffic is the worst, so take a moment to imagine barreling through the streets at full speed, knocking cyclists out of the way, racing ambulances, and grinning at cops as they helplessly fume. If I had a diplomatic license plate, I wouldn't even bother looking up from Words with Friends while I drove.
The Cartel by Don Winslow. It's so good!
A Night with Actor Tom Berenger ($150…no questions asked). Most couples have a "hall pass" list, and it invariably includes some movie star like Clooney or Pitt or Gosling. You're a writer. There's no way you can afford the "services" of an A-list actor for a night with your spouse. That's why you should go with Berenger. I don't think he's done anything big since “Major League 2,” and he'd probably be excited about the recognition. This helps everyone.
If you're looking for something similar for your husband, then you can still rent Berenger for the night ($75), and your husband and Tom can sit around, drink beer, and talk about sports. Or they can do what most guys do when forced to hang out: sit in moody silence until they're allowed to leave. I think that's something Berenger would enjoy. Seems like it, right?
An In-Your-Name Donation to Some Random Charity. It feels really nice! You send something like $25 to some organization and immediately start feeling like Gandhi. I gave a percentage of all the proceeds from my first book to BARCS and I'm still surprised the pope didn't want to meet with me last month.
Remember the saying "there are no bad gifts?" Well, I just made that up. That saying doesn't exist.
Don't fail your loved ones this holiday season with a sweater.