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In Which We Are Gifted...

'Tis the season. The temperature is dropping. The Fed Ex guy has been to our neighborhood more times in the last week than in the previous several months. Checkout lines are getting ludicrous. Holiday decorations are going up all over town, and at least one local radio station is playing nothing but holiday music from now until the 26th.

I do love this time of year. But I have to admit... I have a love-hate relationship with presents (both giving and receiving).



On one hand, I adore finding or making just the right thing for someone special. A hand-crocheted scarf that will warm my husband's neck for many seasons to come. Just the right pair of stripey socks for my daughter. An out-of-print book that a friend had been looking for. Seeing eyes light up is a fantastic thing.

On the other hand, the arbitrary nature of having a single day wherein we give and receive presents every year can take a lot of the fun out of it. I'm not good at planning ahead, so I end up trying to make things last minute, and not getting everything finished the way I'd like. And some folks just aren't "handmade gift" recipeients, so there's the stores to deal with. What if I don't find the perfect thing until January? What if, no matter how much I like them, I just can't find the right thing for X person on my list?


Even worse is being asked "what do you want"? My birthday is two weeks before Christmas, which makes the burden on my dearly beloved spouse, and kind-hearted friends and family members, even worse.

There was a time when it was easy to make a list; the household budget was tight enough and our marriage new enough that there wasn't much we couldn't use. New towels, kitchen utensils, sheets, gift certificates to just about anywhere, consumables that we couldn't afford on our own... shopping was easy. Now we've had 20 years to accumulate stuff, and five moves in six years to purge it down to the essentials. The list is much shorter.

Gifts for Writers

There are a lot of gift lists out there for those shopping for writers.  Some are more practical  or detailed than others. I'm always pro-massage-gift-certificates, and anti-blank-books (unless you really know a writer uses them.) I saw a new one today - 12 Holiday Gifts That Writers Will Actually Use - which actually did seem very useful, although I think that Number 9 (a pet) is a great thing for a writer to have, and a horrible thing for someone to gift.

Fantastic ideas, for the most part, but they left of one gift that just about everyone can afford, and most writers (myself included) would love - a review.

Goodreads and More

For a few minutes of time and effort, you can make a writer very happy by reviewing something they've written and posting it on Goodreads.com or attaching it to their book's site on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Post it on your blog or podcast (if you have one). Chances are you've read something they've written (and if you haven't, buying a copy of one of their works and actually reading it is a gift in and of itself!) So take the next step and write down a couple of things you liked most about it (and what you didn't*) and share it with the world.

Why Gift a Review?

Reviews are presents that last - I still smile when I stumble across reviews of my first novel, written by friends, strangers, and some folks who eventually became my friends because I wrote and thanked them for reviewing my work.

And they're invaluable. You cannot buy good reviews for yourself as an author (well, okay, I suppose you could, but that would be wrong.) You can't earn them - the writer/reader relationship is "We write, You read". Writing reviews is above and beyond the call of "duty" (if such a thing can be said to exist) in that relationship dynamic. They exist only as gifts given by readers to writers. (Although sometimes they are "new Lexus with auto seat warmer" gifts, and sometimes they are "bag of moldy leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner" gifts... Still, they mean someone read your work (presumably) and took the time to comment on it. That's something.)

So, if you've got a favorite writer (or five) and are wondering how to make their holiday a little brighter, consider reviewing their work and posting it online. It's like a scarf they can wear all year round!


* Important Note about reviews. A review doesn't have to be 5 stars to make us happy. While everyone loves to hear that their work is fantastic, we also want real, useful input. It's how we make our work better!

Nor do they have to be masterpieces themselves. A few sentences are fine, although details help. Saying things like "good characters" or "interesting plot" is kind, but won't give other readers much insight as to whether they will like the book or not. "I like to read X (other author) and Y type of books, and I really enjoyed A, B and C things about this book" is very helpful for prospective readers!



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