Writer friends are not difficult to shop for (hint - bookstore gift cards - hint), but this year the holiday budget may not extend to purchasing gifts for all the scribes on your list. Writers also understand what it's like to exist on a shoestring budget, so don't sweat it. An e-mail greeting card is fine with us; I just got one last night that was absolutely gorgeous.
If you'd still like to do a little more for your writer friends, here are some low- to no-cost ideas that make great gifts:
Art Journal: There is more to the art of writing than just words, and an blank art journal can encourage the artist in your favorite writer to come out and play (you can also find blank art journals at remainder tables at most of the chain stores for under $5.) Add a small set of watercolors, markers or other art supplies as additional incentive. Art journaler Teesha Moore has some fabulous technique videos on her site that include an easy way to make a 16 page journal from a single sheet of watercolor paper.
Blog Collection: For the writer pal who is an avid blogger, copy and paste the best of their posts from 2010 into your word processor. Play with the font, add some pics and design cover art for the collection. Once you've got it all together, generate a .pdf version to e-mail to them, or print a copy to put in a binder and send via traditional mail. If you don't have the ability to create a .pdf file, get a freeware program like CutePDF Writer*.
Custom Bookmarks: Design some bookmarks for your author buddy's latest or upcoming release. Include all their public contact info and (if possible) a title backlist on the flip side. Print them out, cut them up and bundle them along with a CD backup of your designs so your friend can print out more as needed.
Find Freeware: All writers need freeware; we just don't have time to check out every program we'd like to try. Step in for your friend and test drive one or more than you think might be helpful to them, and then backup the download on a CD or e-mail it along with your thoughts on how the program worked. I have a fairly big collection of freeware links here, and you can search out more at sites like Freewarefiles.com and Primewares.*
Guided Journal: Using a notebook or a pretty blank book, create a guided journal for your writer pal. At the top of every other page put a prompt directing them to write about something specific. For prompt ideas, The Creativity Portal has an entire page of links to writing prompts as well as the imagination prompt generator.
Special Slideshow: You can say a lot with pictures, so gather together some great images that would have meaning to your scribe and put them in a slide show with captions, music or whatever would wow your pal. If you're particularly gifted with video, put together a book trailer for your pubbed writer's next release (or if you're like me and video-clueless, Slide.com will generate a decent slideshow for you pretty painlessly.)
Submission List: If you know what sort of story your writer pal is working on, put together a potential submission info list for them with publisher names, addresses and editor contact info. You can find most of this online or in a Writer's Market at your local library (always try to verify anything you find in Writer's Market as they tend to become outdated pretty fast.) Also check out market sites like Ralan.com for interesting open calls for anthologies, writing contests, and the latest on new sub ops.
Writing Cards: I've talked about using the Trading Card Maker to create character cards, but you could also use it to make a custom-designed deck of writing prompts, motivational quotes or other words of wisdom for your writer pal.
Writing Class: If you know the areas of craft where your scribe is interested in learning more or improving, hunt down a free online class and download the info to a CD or print it out and put it in a binder. You can also hunt down free e-books on writing (I've got a couple available on the freebies page under nonfiction) and make up a CD of them. For broader perspective, author Steven Barnes has a free online version of the nine-week writing course he's taught for years at UCLA.
Your Story: If you're a writer, why not write a story about your friendship? You can recount anything from the funniest conference experience to the day your pal kept you from throwing in the towel. The point is to show your friend how they've become a part of the narrative of your life (and if you can make them laugh, that's even better.)
*As always, remember to be cautious with freeware and scan anything you download for bugs and such before you put it on your hard drive.
Do you guys have any DIY gift ideas for writers to share? Let us know in comments.