Gifts That Don’t Suck: Struggling Novelist Edition

Patron Arts.jpg   Google DriveCrappy holiday songs have invaded my Spotify country hits playlist. My Facebook feed is full of posts about shopping and mall parking and the Griswolds. Thinly veiled participation-intimidation tactics abound from Secret Santas and Yankee Swappers.

Because I can’t manage to get away from the holiday, I figured I might as well help others. Charity is the reason for the season, no?

Herewith, a list of practical gifts for the struggling novelist in your life based on anthropological research* and what you can expect in return**:

Level 1: Inclusion in the novel dedication

  • Be a patron: Throughout history, artists have relied on patrons for support. I know plenty o’ writers who long to be the Shakespeare to someone’s Elizabeth***. Let’s get renaissance, shall we?
  • Be a donor: You want that book written a certain way? Fine. You want to appear as the lead character? Done. There’s no better way to ensure your immortality. Don’t just support the art, BE the art.

Level 2: Inclusion in the novel acknowledgements

  • Send them to a conference or a class. Even in the digital age, where connecting is easy, nothing beats extended hours with like minds who share the same pitfalls and high fives. AWP has a fantastic directory from which to choose.
  • Send them on an all-inclusive weeklong writer retreat — alone. For optimum ROI, send them to a country that forces them to pay roaming and Internet charges. That’ll keep them productive.
  • Chiropractor visits are truly undervalued in the literary world. You would not believe the number of muscles pulled whilst reaching for a red pen. One visit just won’t do. Buy them a block for maximum acknowledgment.

Level 3: Social media shout-out

  • Buy them a massage. Don’t cheap out with a mall massage, either. I’m talking heated table, lavender incense and someone who keeps their mouth shut while they annihilate the problem areas of shoulders, back, hands, arms, hands and head.
  • Nothing says “I acknowledge that you’re a real writer” more than a crafty little bucket of Booze and Pills. No need to get fancy. Malbec and Advil PM in a CVS bag will do. This isn’t appropriate for every novelist. Use your best judgment, folks.
  • Buy their book. Buy their friends’ books — and then buy some more! Sharing the work of others makes us great literary citizens. And that makes you a badass friend.

Level 4: Personal email from the novelist

  • Cancellations are like crack to a writer. Feel free to invite them to parties or dinner and let them cancel with abandon!
  • Instead of going out to dinner and talking about your feelings, how about you just sit and read a book together? Lord knows, novelists never have enough time for that.
  • Don’t ask “How’s the novel going?” for an entire year. If something exciting happens, this gift will ensure that you will be the first to know.

Do your struggling novelist a solid, and get them something they’ll actually use this year besides another leather-bound notebook full of blank pages. That’s just cruel.

* I stalked my friends’ Facebook feeds and tumblr posts. Population consists of a cross-section of novelists between the ages of 21 – unknown, all genders, all races, all occupations — none able to live off the earnings from novel endeavors.
** Levels are not mutually exclusive. Gift recipients retain full rights to distribute levels according to their mood and their relationship to giver.
*** Thanks to Hesse for correcting the lies that teachers (and the Internet) told us! “Elizabeth most definitely hosted Shakespeare and his company at court in performances of plays that Shakespeare had written himself. But there was a whole system of patronage in place at the time that her relationship with Shakespeare doesn’t fit–like, she never made him a member of her household. She had another acting company that she did personally patronize, known as the Queen’s Men, who were basically a propaganda machine–and every last one of them was considered a Groom or Gentleman of the Royal Chamber.” File under: The more you know. 



  1. Carol Gray

    Why didn’t I read this BEFORE Christmas? Now I have to wait until next year for massages, Malbec and that series of chiropractic appointments. I hope you’ll do another one next year, Kelly!

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