Banishing Valentine's Mediocrity: A Literary Gift Guide
By Amy Marcott
It's no picnic buying gifts for creative types. We do, after all, abhor cliché for sport. And few times of the year claim such conventional, iconic gift giving as Valentine's Day. Now, I'm not saying that writers don't enjoy receiving flowers or heart-shaped doo-dads on February 14th.
But if you hand the writer in your life a Whitman's Sampler, can you be sure there isn't a voice inside their head saying, Dear God. Is that the best you can do?
That's right. You can't.
The truth is, those of us who spend a great deal of time in our heads also appreciate the not-so-simple act of thoughtfulness. So whether you're looking to buy a present or throw a hint someone's way, here are some literary Valentine's Day gift ideas that score points for originality.
Who doesn't love a surprise in the mail? Choose how many journals the fiction writer, essayist, or poet in your life will receive and the frequency (monthly, every other month, or quarterly) and they'll be sent a new and different lit mag each time, chosen by Journal of the Month staff from a pool of reputable titles, including Agni, The Believer, Harvard Review, Iowa Review, New South, A Public Space, The Common, and more. This gift is practical and altruistic. Your Valentine can enjoy great new writing and assess potential markets for his or her own work while supporting important literary endeavors. Bonus Grub Street connection: Journal of the Month was started by Grub instructor (and longtime Grubbie) Jenn Scheck-Kahn and her husband.
Finally, a use for all that rejection! Local writer (and soon-to-be Grubbie) Kara Waite creates customized bracelets out of your emailed rejection letters. She also makes heart-shaped pendants customized with a favorite quote. And, to top it off, she'll wrap your jewelry in a gift box featuring the book, album, or film cover from which you've chosen the quote.
With Aqua Notes, you'll never again lose an idea because you're stuck rinsing shampoo out of your hair. You could also use these to write love messages to your Valentine. Either way. For those who find inspiration in the rain, there are weatherproof journals and paper of all sizes by Rite in the Rain. I've used these extensively to take notes in the rainforest and can vouch for their usefulness. None of my ideas were lost or smudged.
I played this as a kid and was delighted to learn it was still around, along with many other editions: American Authors, American Women Authors, and Children's Authors. You can even buy a set of three. OK, sure, it's basically Go Fish with authors and their most famous works—my friend and I used to call it "Gwathers," a mash-up of Go Authors—but it's charming. And I'm pretty sure we were the only fourth graders who knew what Song of Hiawatha, Idylls of the King, and Kenilworth were. Just add some cocktails and there's bound to be a fun time. Probably. You can also use it as a regular deck of cards. Poker with Poe and Dickens! What's better than that?
When Bananagrams becomes too familiar, try Konexi, a 3-D word-building game that's part Jenga and part Scrabble. Your spatially and visually inclined friends will also dig it.