Editors’ Blog

21 Gifts for Storytellers (SMITH’s Idea of a Gift Guide…)

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

By Julia H. Jackson

Somehow, while you were still basking in the tryptophan glow of Thanksgiving, the winter holiday season began. Now that it’s December, there’s no turning back: it’s time to shop.

The trick to holiday shopping is finding a gift that suits a person’s personality without emptying your wallet. This can be an easy match when shopping for an athlete (sports gear), movie buff (DVDs), or musician (concert tickets). But what do you get for the storytellers in your family? For the Six-Word Memoirists? A gift certificate just doesn’t cut it. Not to worry; we’ve got you covered. Here’s a sampling from our very own holiday wish list, starting with a few SMITH classics.


It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure
Which six words describe Malcolm Gladwell, Sarah Silverman, Junot Diaz, and Isabel Allende? There’s only one way to find out. Share the latest in Six-Word Memoirs with your family and friends, or walk into your next holiday party baring the gift of six instead of yet another bottle of $10 wine. You’ll be a minor hero as the conversation starts to fly.

I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure
What better way to express adolescent hopes, angst, and philosophies than in six carefully chosen words? Our SMITH Teens have only just begun their literary conquest. A great gift for the teenager in your family. We hold this truth to be self-evident: There is simply no better stocking stuffer or gift for the sixth night of Hanukkah.

We’ve teamed up with Spreadshirt to help you create personalized Six-Word Memoir T-shirts. Choose your favorite Six-Worders from Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs for Writers Famous & Obscure and peruse the editor’s favorites. For the family daredevil: “It’s pretty high. You go first.” For the elusive traveler: “Five continents down; two to go.” Or, better yet, write your own! Create one in just 30 seconds here.


Moleskine notebooks: These soft, durable notebooks are great for journalists, artists, doodlers, and writers of all kinds.

Notecards and journals from Etsy.com: Pick out a personalized notebook, journal, or card while supporting independent artists.

Gift Certificate to IndieBound.com: Okay, okay, not all gift certificates are copouts. IndieBound is a great organization that helps you locate independent bookstores, music stores, and craft stores all across the country. Just type in your zip code and discover fantastic local shops.

NaNoWriMo has T-shirts, books, mugs, and goodies galore for the emerging novelist in your family. Who wouldn’t want an “I Eat Novels For Breakfast” tee?

Working Writer’s 2010 Calendar: This is no ordinary planner—it charts literary lives. Every week features a different writing residency program, workshop, fellowship, or seasonal prompt. An excellent way to track your daily life while planning for future writerly pursuits.

Voice Recorder: This lovely hand-held recorder is great for all you up-and-coming journalists, or for the writer on the go. This little guy can store up to 2,000 hours, as well as connect to your PC to email and archive files, and is priced under $40.

Literary Action Figures: Forget Bratz dolls and G.I. Joes–they’ve got nothing on Jane Austen! Check out Shakespeare’s Den, a website that sells all kinds of literary dolls, figures, and toys.></span


Memoirs & Writing

Lit: A Memoir, by Mary Karr

The New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani described Mary Karr’s latest memoir as a book that lassos you, hogties your emotions and won’t let you go.” Karr explores her descent into alcoholism and emergence as a writer, as well as her experiences as a poet, teacher, and mother. An electrifying read, Karr skirts the boundaries of memoir without clichés, relying instead on her own gut-wrenching honesty and dedication to the written craft.

Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda

Biographer and professor Ben Yagoda approaches the art of memoir from its nascent stages, offering analyses of writers such as Saint Augustine, Julius Caesar, Richard Wright, and Oprah Winfrey. When did memoir transition from autobiography to pop art? Or is that in itself an unfair description? Yagoda offers some new perspectives on the always-in-progress form..

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009 edited by Dave Eggers

Once again Dave Eggers has rounded up the best essays, fiction, comics, nonfiction, and blogs for the annual anthology. This year’s greatest hits include Jonathan Franzen’s meditation on David Foster Wallace, David Grann’s New Yorker piece on Frédéric Bourdin, and Denis Johnson’s “Boomtown Iraq.” The latest installment of Eggers’ series is a great cross-section of stories this year.

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

British author Zadie Smith, author of critically-acclaimed novels such as White Teeth, Autograph Man, and On Beauty, takes a break from fiction to share her thoughts on everything from Katharine Hepburn to Henry James. Her essays are categorized as “Reading,” “Being,” “Seeing,” “Feeling,” “Remembering;” an apt way to classify the world in literary terms, which she does, with her keen eye for analysis and subtle sense of humor. A great gift for the literature major in your family.

Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students by Tom Kealey

This is perhaps the best resource for writers considering MFA programs. Kealey has devised a comprehensive list of writing programs across the country, as well as chapters on applications, writing samples, teaching assistantships, and low-residency programs. An accomplished writer in his own right, Kealey boils down academia and graduate school into manageable goals.

Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon

Remember life before email? Thomas Mallon examines the personality behind people and their letters, classifying their stories in categories like “Absence,” “Friendship,” “Advice,” and “Complaint.” Designed as a follow-up his 1984 study of diaries, A Book of One’s Own, this latest book delves beyond the confines of correspondence to ask deeper questions. How much do we share with each other? This might be the right gift for the chronic emailer in your family.

Graphic Novels

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

American Splendor cartoonist Josh Neufeld began his graphic history of Hurricane Katrina as a webcomic on SMITH, and later expanded it into a graphic novel. Follow Denise, Leo, Michelle, and other real-life Katrina survivors as they adapt to life after the storm.

Stitches: A Memoir, by David Small

Perhaps one of the year’s best graphic novels, Stitches follows a young boy’s struggle with a cancer that destroys his vocal chords, rendering him helpless in the stony front that is his family. A runaway at 16, our young protagonist has to find a way for himself in the world, as we see in Small’s haunting sketches. A poignant, important story, Small’s book won the 2009 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Read an interview with Small on SMITH.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb by R. Crumb

R. Crumb has done it again: he’s used comics to turn the world upside-down. Or, as some might argue, right-side-up. This latest anthology has more than 50 chapters following more than 175 books of Genesis. He manages the religious nuances of the Bible with his own ironic musings on scandal and sex.


PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God edited by Frank Warren

Frank Warren has received over 150,000 anonymous postcards since starting PostSecret in 2004. This latest anthology shares secrets, fears, and doubts about mortality and religion. An excellent collection that probes the relationship between public art and private thought.

Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves edited by Jason Bitner

The premise, at least for anyone over 30, is simple: What’s the story behind a mixtape an ex made for you, back in the days before iTunes made it so easy to make a mix and zip it off to your crush? Writers such as Rick Moody, Starlee Kine, MTV veejay Jancee Dunn, and The Magnetic Fields’ Claudia Gonson dust off their mixtapes and tell the weird, hilarious, nostalgic and heartbreaking stories stories behind them.

This Is Why You’re Fat: Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks by Jessica Amason and Richard Blakeley

Ever wonder just how Elvis died? This book, a compilation of suicidal culinary concoctions, emerged from the popular blog, This is Why You’re Fat. The same curiosity that compels us to slow down past traffic accidents fuels this fascination with such monstrous meals as Picnic Popsicles (bacon cheeseburger chunks, ketchup, mustard and onion frozen in strawberry KoolAid) or the Twinkie Casserole (24 Twinkies topped with caramel, mini marshmallows and brown sugar topped with caramel icing). Think “coffee table book” for the strong of heart.

So, consider your shopping done! Or, at the very least, started. Let us know what’s on your holiday wish list.

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14 responses

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    Thank for shared!

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