The Best Gifts For Writers

Alright, I know that there are a ton of posts like this right now.  Every single blog I read, (and I read a lot) have had a ‘best gift guide’ in the past month.


Mine’s different.  This is a list of things to give creative writers, but none of them will cost you a penny.  But I bet that any writer/parent would rather have the things on this list than anything you can buy in any store.


    1. Take the kids for a few hours.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my little monsters.  But they do not love my writing time.  They want to mess with my papers, and ask a million questions, and pester about lunch.  If anyone wants to take them out of the house for me for an hour, I love that person.
    2. Offer them some constructive criticism.  I don’t know why, but everyone one says they want to read my book, but no one gives me feedback other than ‘I like it.’  Listen, if a writer is serious about their writing, they want to know the parts that made you put the book down.  Critique with honesty, please.
    3. Cook them dinner.  So that we don’t have to, and can spend more time writing.  Okay, so this one I don’t have to worry about, because I don’t cook (my awesome husband is my homemaker, so I don’t cook.)  But when I was a single mommy, I would have killed for someone to cook for me so I didn’t have to.  I swear, that’s half of why I got married.
    4. Help them clean, but not their office.  You might accidentally throw something important away.  Really, if anyone wants to come do my dishes, I would love that.
    5. Let them talk about their WIP.  I love to talk about Woven, and sometimes I get think people get sick of hearing about of it.  I would just love it if someone besides my husband would let me just talk about my book for awhile.  Also, if you could give some honest feedback, that would be cool. (See number two.)


  • Run some errands for them. Grab stuff from my po box.  Maybe get some milk and bread for me.  Stop and pick up some wine. (I’ll pay for it, but I live in a place where you can’t just grab some while you’re at the grocery store and State Stores are a little out of my way.)  Return my library books, please.  Anything that might have fallen through the cracks while I was working on my master work.


    1. Make a promise right now to not say, “You should use this in your book,” at all on 2016.  If I want to use it, I’ll use it.  If I don’t, I won’t.


  • Share something of theirs on Social Media, but only if you really liked it.  I love it when my non writer friends share my posts.  I hope they liked it, and it touches me to think they wanted everyone on Facebook to know they liked that post.



If you must spend money, though, here are some things most writers would love to get.


  • Pay for their Netflix for a month.  For, um, research.
  • Make a donation to Wikipedia in their name.  I donate every year this time, and I am committed to seeing it stay ad free.
  • Buy them some of their favorite writing materials.  But it has to be their favorite.  I would love some moleskins, and le pens, and some college ruled notebooks.  There are writers who would not touch that stuff, though.
  • On Writing, by Stephen King.  I don’t agree with him about plotting, (he’s a filthy pantser) but On Writing inspired me.  I learned so much from it, and often come back to it for inspiration.
  • Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Look, I’m about halfway through this book, and it is so inspirational.  I mean, really, I’ve already devoted myself to my kids and my writing, but it makes me feel really good about that decision.
  • Get them a gift card for their favorite takeout place. I guarantee sometime in the next twelve months I will have a night where I need to order some dinner.


I hope you all have good luck finding the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, no matter what you’re celebrating.  After eleven years of being a mommy, I’ve learned the secret to a perfect Christmas morning; one gift to cuddle, one gift they’ll play with all year, one gift that includes time with you, and one gift they’ll appreciate later.  Happy Holidays.


What I’ve learned writing Broken Patterns

For those of you who don’t follow me on social media, or just missed it over the weekend full of updates, I finished Broken Patterns on Saturday night.


It’s been two years and four months, but let me tell you it’s worth it.  I kicked back, drank some pink catawba wine, and made an estimated timeline for the second draft of Starting Chains.


I always say that nothing teaches you how to like writing.  Here’s what I learned from writing Broken Patterns.


  • Everything takes longer than you think it’s going to.  The fourth draft was supposed to take three months, but it ended up taking seven.  Life happened, and I didn’t have a choice but to let it.
  • Breaks are important.  I set Broken Patterns aside for four months while I wrote the rough draft of Starting Chains.  The book was a lot better for the fresh eyes I had after that.
  • If you’re writing a series, keep your notebook with you at all times, because ideas for the rest of the series will come up at every stage.
  • Celebrate the small wins.  Like I said, this took me two years and four months.  That’s a long time to get to a finish line.  I celebrated at the end of every draft.
  • The work is far from over.  I have plans for thirteen more books, with some hesitant ideas for two more.  That’s at least 13 more years of work on Woven.


And, of course, it’s time for me to change my hat again.  I’ve worn my artist hat, working on the rough draft.  I’ve worn my editor hat for most of this year, polishing Broken Patterns until it shone.  Now, I put on my businesswoman hat and find an agent.  I’ll keep you updated.


What Rocked Last Week


  • My family went to Light Up Night in Pittsburgh.  It was awesome, as always.  We saw the trees light up, and caught a laser light show set to music from the Gorillaz.
  • I got to start re-reading Starting Chains.  It’s decent.  I mean, it needs a ton of work, but I think it’s going to be pretty good.
  • I’ve gotten almost 40 hours of editing in for NaNoEdmo.  With just ten more to go, I think I’ll actually get this done.


What I’m Looking Forward to This Week


  • Thanksgiving, of course.  There’s nothing better than a whole day devoted to food, family and football.
  • I’ll be starting on my Christmas cards on Friday.  I know this is a hated chore for a lot of people, but I love it.
  • The monsters have their Thanksgiving vacation this week.  I’m looking forward to some time with them that doesn’t include yelling at them to pay attention to class.

So what did you do this week?  Have you finished your nano goal yet, or are you still plugging away?

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

Image result for bossypants

Welcome to another edition of the Paper Beats World book club.  Here I talk about books I love that I think you’ll love too.  Some of them are indie books I was really impressed by.  Some of them are books I think every writer should read.  This month, it’s the latter.

Now, you should know that I think Tina Fey is literally the best person on the planet.  She’s hilarious, hard working, insane.  The best thing about her is that she’s honest, brutally honest about herself and others.  She’s also a brilliant writer.

The book is autobiographical, chronicling her life from childhood until sometime about halfway through the run of 30 Rock.  Again, Fey is very honest about herself.  She recounts, without flinching at all, things about her life that she was ashamed of, embarrassed by, and really freaking stoked over.

I would have loved Bossypants just because I love Fey’s voice.  I love to hear her tell stories.  But I learned so much about being a writer from her, and this book that I want to share with you.

Don’t let your gender stop you.

Comedy hasn’t always been a friend to women.  We aren’t slapstick, or vulgar, or any of the things that are supposed to be funny.  Except we are.  I think I’m freaking hilarious, of course, but let’s also consider Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Kathleen Madigan, and a ton of others.  We are funny, and shocking, and capable of all the same things men are, (including writing our names in the snow.)

Men are smart, and capable of self control.  They are nurturing, and tender, and fully capable of writing ‘chick lit,’ romantic comedy, really anything a woman can write. Don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t write something because of your gender.

Do things before you think you’re ready.

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating.  Why does it bear repeating?  Most people still don’t believe it.  Start your book even if you think you’re not ready.  Write a short story, and send it off even if you think you’re not ready.  Start researching agents, start calling yourself a writer, even if you think you’re not ready.  You might create some really fantastic material, even before you think you’re ready.

Education is good, but hard work is better.

Fey went to the University of Virginia, where she studied drama.  It seemed pretty clear to me that it was her experience at Saturday Night Live that made her the person she needed to be to make 30 Rock, and Mean Girls.  I’m similar.  I took Journalism and Creative Writing.  But I learned writing by writing.  I wrote a book, then another one and another one. I finished two rough drafts before I ever wrote something I thought worth my time to edit. I’ve written 15 short stories this year.  I am a better writer today than I was before I wrote those 15.  So, yes, get an education if you can.  I’ll never tell anyone that an education is a bad idea.  But experience will always be better.

Friends that know you’re the type to work your ass off are even better.

Fey will be the first to tell you that she got some of the opportunities she did because of the work relationships she made on Saturday Night Live, like Lorne Michaels.  Do you think for one second anyone would have wanted to help her out if she’d been lazy, sloppy, hard to work with, or just an overall pain in the ass?  No, probably not.  Learn from that, people.  Be known as a hard worker, someone who’s willing to do what’s needed to get the shit done, and people will want to work with you again.  Those are the kind of relationships that open doors later in life.


And my personal favorite line from the whole book, by Lorne Michaels, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready.  The show goes on because it’s 11:30”

Man, this is my new motto for life. Oh, I don’t think this chapter is quiiiite right.  Who cares, it’s 11:30, time to go! I can’t get my hair to lay right.  Too bad, it’s 11:30.  Maybe if I give this manuscript just one more once over… Nope! It’s 11:30, and it’s time to go!  I’m not saying rush, or don’t take care during the editing process.  But don’t focus on perfection, because you will never think a story is perfect.  Others will call it perfect; parents, lovers and friends will praise it.  You will still see the imperfections.  Stop, it’s 11:30.

I highly recommend reading Bossypants.  I recommend even more listening to the audio version, because Fey reads it herself.  Really, there’s nothing better than hearing that woman read her own work.

Let me know what you think of Bossypants, or anything else you’re reading that’s rocking your world.

Samaritan’s Purse

Before I had the awesome day job I have now, I had a terrible day job as the manager of a shoe store.  From that experience I got a lot of great retail horror stories, a deep appreciation for how good my current day job is, and an introduction to this really cool charity.

One day, an older gentleman came in, and asked if we had any extra shoe boxes.  We did, we always did.  I asked the man what they were for, and he said they were for the Samaritan’s Purse drive.

So, you might have heard of this charity before, but if you haven’t, let me break it down.  You get a shoe box, and you fill it with gifts.  You can do this by age or gender.

I love this charity for a lot of reasons.  The biggest one is that it gets my monsters involved.  I let them each fill a shoe box with gifts, which is a blast for them.  It also makes them think about the child in need that will get just that box of gifts for Christmas, and how blessed they are.

If you want to help out, here’s what you can do.

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