Tag: writing tools

20+ Gifts for Young Writers

20+ gifts for young writers

Juliann Caveny headshotA month ago, a friend asked for suggestions of gifts for her young writer. I immediately knew that fellow Illinois flatlander Juliann Caveny was the perfect person to write this post.

I first met Juli at the 2017 SCBWI Illinois Words in the Woods retreat. Juli has a warm and vivacious personality that oozes out onto her manuscript pages. Juli writes for children of all ages, from preschoolers to young adults, and has a soft spot for quiet, yet powerful stories about friendship and family.

She’s also a passionate teacher with a knack for nurturing budding writers. (True fact: while talking with her, I mentally catalog ideas to use with my own kids.) She also makes an impressive Du Iz Tak costume.

You can read Juli’s full bio on her agent’s webpage here and check out Juli’s blog here. Or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Lucky for all of us, Julie agreed to write this post. (I didn’t even have to twist her arm!) Take it away Juli!

20 Gifts for Young Writers


I have been writing since I was six. That year, for Christmas, I was given my first diary. It wasn’t much later that I “published” my first book. (I typed the entire draft using a Brother portable and recycled dot-matrix printer paper, illustrated each page by hand and used leftover scraps of yarn to bind the book. It was beautiful.)

While some of the tools of the trade have changed since I was young, many have not.

Writers of all ages still get excited with a new package of pens, a clean, ready-to-be-written-in notebook, and the perfect, quiet corner. As a teacher and a mom of three, I’ve supplied many budding authors with practical, fun and inspiring presents. Luck for us, the rest of the world has caught on to our obsession and now there are tons of great gift options for writers, young to old.

These are a few of my favorites. I hope these ideas inspire you to find the perfect gift for the young author (or adult author) on your list this season!


Gifts for Where a Writer Writes

Idea board - framed, fabric board with crisscrossed ribbons to hold pictures, etc. in place.Lightbox with the words "Everything Lightbox Mini"Pillow with lines to look like writing paper

1. Inspiration/Idea Boards – When I was growing up, my parents installed a full-wall of cork-board. I was able to put anything I wanted on that wall and rearrange it without causing damage. Idea boards are important to writers and illustrators. No matter how big or small, give your young author a space to create.

2. Do Not Disturb Sign/Light Box – If you want to avoid having your child write in pen on their door, get them a sign!

3. Pillows/Comforter – Sweet Dreams! This is a gift that we’ve actually DIYed. (Don’t forget to check out the comforter as a set!)


Gifts for the Writer on the Go

Noise canceling headphone with a black and purple galaxy pattern on ear pieces

4.  Noise Canceling Headphones—All my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) student writers have great headphones. It’s a must-have for working in busy spaces or in the car. These are some cute ones, but if you want to look around, make sure the noise canceling rating is on the high end… 20-30dB.

5. Small Backpack—I really like personalized gifts for writers. Make sure any bag or backpack you get for a writer fits their needs—i.e. Do you need room for a laptop? Or notebooks?

6. A Reusable Water Bottle – Authors “in the zone” tend to forget about food and drink. Don’t let your young writer go thirsty!

7. A sturdy and fun Pen/Pencil Pouch – A MUST HAVE! When I’m traveling, I don’t want to have to rely on the pen that was left in the council. My favorites are always kept in a special pouch.


Gifts for What a Writer Wears


Mary jane-type shoes - one decorated to look like white notebook paper, the other decorated like the cover of a black and white composition notebookCustom printed socksPeter pan infinity scarf

8. Fun Shoes – There’s the DIY– and then there’s these fancy treats from Hot Chocolate. (They come in small girls’ sizes and adult sizes too!)

9. Personalized Socks A friend bought me some personalized socks. Add your kiddo’s favorite book quote, or simply have WRITER AT WORK emblazed on the backs!

10. Scarf/GlovesMore for the teen writer and lover of classics, but you can also check out their selection of headbands and totes!

Brightly colored stocking capJuli Caveny in her thinking cap

11. “Thinking” Cap – Caps and hats are always popular with kid writers. (Often I catch my students with their hoodies over their heads as they are tucked in a corner, writing.) I call mine my “thinking cap” and add buttons and details along the way. Look for unique words, phrases or pins to add. Find this one at Kohl’s.


Gifts for What a Writer Needs (Old-School)

black typewriterPersonalized notebook: teal background, image of a unicorn in a jar with the text "The fantastical imaginings of Lila Rook"Diary with a lock: cover design shows chains and the words "Do Not Enter"

12. TypewriterBring back the thrill of the click-click on a no-tech “qwerty” keyboard. Another way to have the same feel, for a much cheaper price is to try a used AlphaSmart. These were used in schools (before the iPad) and are great for on-the-go. They are battery operated, store up to twelve drafts and convert easily to a word-processing document with the adaptor.

13. Personalized Notebooks and Pens/Pencils—Again, you can’t go wrong with personalized gifts for a writer.

14. A Diary (with LOCK!)This is the place where all the ideas are born. (Ask Jack Gantos!) It’s from the little notes that an author builds those big stories. Give your kiddos a private place to start writing.


What a Writer Needs (New-School/Low-Tech)

Doodle boardRocket reusable notebookScuba Notes

15. Doodle Boards – The perfect spot for the young writer or illustrator that needs to write on everything! There’s no ink, so no mess!

16. Rocket Reusable NotebooksA “new” tech way of writing. These reusable notebooks, combined with a free app, create a digital space for all your notes and writing.

17. Scuba Notes (Glow in the Dark) For the writer who needs to write in the bathtub… and at night.


Story Starters and Inspiration

Clear jarBook Cover for "The Word Collector" by Peter ReynoldsRory Story Cubes

18. Word Collection Jars. Peter Reynold’s book, The Word Collector, embodies everything a writer loves. Why not give your young author a jar to collect those words in? Just add the words on little slips of paper and let the writing begin!

19. Rory’s Story Cubes—My students and I love these! The cubes can be used on your own, or as a game. Either way, the sets and creating stories with them can be addictive.

20. Story Starter Books and Blank Books—Everyone loves a good story starter. These are a few great ideas to get your writer started!

Book Cover: 642 Things to Write About: Young Writer Edition Book cover: Blank Comic Book for kids Book cover: And Then: Story Starters: 20 Imaginative Beginnings


20+ gifts for young writers


Best Books for Writers

I’ve been working hard on improving my writing lately. And my first stop when I want to learn about anything is usually a book. Today I gathered up my favorite writing craft books from all the various nooks and crannies and I’m going to share them with you.


Books for Fiction Writers:

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron – Half of my writers group has been raving about this book since they saw the author at a conference last year. I’m just now getting around to reading it but…. wow. This is a great guide to writing fiction for any genre and any age range. Bonus: my writerly friends assure me that it’s quite understandable even if you’re not a brain nerd like me.


Writing Picture Books: A Hands-on Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul – If you write picture books, you need this book. I read this late last year and I could feel myself leveling up as I read it. This book covers the basics of writing for kids, so it’s a great pick for a newer writer. But I think it really shines for people who are less knew but still have a lot of room for growth. (Which is all of us, right?) The tools and methods she discusses for revision have become staples of my process. Seriously, this is the best.


Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grades Readers by Mary Kole – I found this book after reading many of the helpful articles on her webpage. It covers writing middle grade and young adult books. If you don’t know what that means or what the difference is, this is a great place to start.



Books for Nonfiction Writers:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Willian Zinsser – This book is in about it’s billionth revision and jillionth reprinting. This book is geared towards writing for adults, but the advice is just as relevant if you’re writing to kids. At the end of the day, good writing is good writing and this will help you get there.


Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas – This primer covers everything you need to know to get started writing nonfiction for kids. It was a great book for me when I was getting started and it’s still a great book now that I have a few manuscripts under my belt.


You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind – This book is focused on a specific form of nonfiction writing – creative or narrative nonfiction. It’s nonfiction told in narrative form so the reader can step inside the story. Like On Writing Well, it’s geared for those writing for adults, but the techniques still apply when writing for younger audiences.


How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson – When writing nonfiction you often send publishers a proposal rather than a completed manuscript. This book is everything you need to know to write a proposal. If you have no idea what I’m even talking about, this would be a good place to start. It’s thorough but written to be an easy read and includes lots of helpful samples from real proposals.


The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 hours and Sell Your Book by Ryan G. Van Cleave – If you want a lighter version to get you started on your book proposal, this might be the book for you. The title is a bit misleading. That means 48 working hours. Maybe some people work around the clock on the weekend but I for one like sleep and food. Misleading title aside, it’s a really helpful book and would be fine for someone just starting out with writing proposals.


Books for authors ready to submit:

Once you’ve gotten your manuscript or proposal squeaky clean and ready to send out, you’ll need to figure out how to get it into the hands of the agent or editor of your dreams. These books are designed exactly for that. They’re updated every year to keep up with changes in the market.

Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market or, if you’re writing for adults: Writers Market


The Book – If you write for children, you should be a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). One membership perk is this free book. It’s available on the website as a PDF or you can pay for a print version. Your first year of membership they’ll send you the print version for free.

4 Pinterest Boards for Writers

4 Pinterest Boards for WritersI use several tools for storing useful tidbit. Evernote is hands down my favorite for book research. But Pinterest is my favorite for storing other things. Pinterest is especially great for sharing those collections with others. When Goodnight Jesus was published, I made a Pinterest board of useful tidbits for my readers.

Today, I’m sharing some resources for my fellow writers. These are the 4 Pinterest boards I use to store my writerly resources.



Getting words on paper (or screen) is fundamental to writing. Nothing else can happen without that. This Pinterest board is full of the stuff you need to get those words out: writing craft articles, motivating quotes, and funny memes.


Writing Tools

Having the right tools can make all the different. This board features articles on my favorite tools for writing.


Revising and Editing

If writing is fundamental to being a writer, but revising is fundamental to creating something others want to read. Or that publishers want to publish. This Pinterest board is full of resources to help you perfect your prose.


Blogging, Branding, and Social Media

Writers are expected to do a lot more than just write and edit these days. Most of us have to spend some time thinking about how we will market our work. That includes spreading the word through blogs, social media, and branding.


4 Pinterest Boards for Writers

FREE Sticky Note Picture Book Dummy Templates

Sticky Note Picture Book template

I’ve been working on a top-secret picture book project for the last few months. I can’t quite spill the beans (yet).

One thing I can tell you is that this project has been like picture book writing boot camp. I’ve written multiple manuscripts on tight deadlines. I’ve also had more editorial control than writers usually would. I’ve had to make decisions about the page breaks, illustrations, and layouts.

I needed a way to keep track of all the pieces: narrative arcs, character development, page breaks, and layouts. I just couldn’t keep track of it all. I tried lots of tricks of the trade but nothing worked for me.

What I really wanted was a template. Something that would show me where all the pieces should go: the opening to hook my readers, the climax, and the satisfying resolutions. Then I could just fit my story into the template. And if it didn’t fit, I would know what to edit.

So I made one.


Free Sticky Note Picture Book template

These templates are made with 3×3 inch squares for each page of a picture book, perfect for sticky notes. There are versions already laid out for a standard 32-page book. These have helpful information to keep you on track: where text starts and stops, where to put the resolution, reminders to include a good hook, and checklists to make sure you have strong opening and endings. There’s also a blank so you can make your own if you need something other than a standard 32-page book.

Grab a printed template, your manuscript, and a stack of sticky notes. Write out your text onto sticky notes. Each sticky note should be a page’s worth of text in the final picture book. Stick these onto the template and see how it fits.

Does the resolution come when it should? Does your text fit in the right number of pages? Look at each spread, is there a compelling page turn that will move the reader forward?

You’ll probably realize at this point that you need to make some changes. Working with your text page by page shows you things that are hidden when your text is flat on the page. At this point you can go back to your manuscript and make changes.

You can also revise right there with the sticky notes. Move them around, scratch out lines, jot down notes, mess them up as much as you like. And deleting words is a lot easier when you can crumple up a little square and bank shot it into the trashcan.

Want to get a copy? Here it is: 



6 Ways to Organize Your Writing With Evernote



Evernote is one of my favorite tools for writing. Evernote is a service that let’s you store notes on the web. Since it’s not saved on your computer, it can’t be lost if your computer dies. And you can reach your notes from anywhere with internet access. Or you can install the computer program or phone app and have a local version on your device as well.

And how long do they hold onto your stuff? Try forever. You will never lose anything again.

It’s not just text notes, either. Pretty much anything you could want to keep can go in a note – text, pictures, webpages, PDFs, and voice recordings for starters. The phone app even has a plugin that let’s you scan documents and books with your phone camera.

If it sounds pretty great, it is.  A basic account is free. A paid account will give you a higher storage limit and more features.

So how can you use Evernote?  Some people actually write in Evernote. I use Scrivener for my writing and Evernote for research and planning. Evernote keeps me organized by giving me one place to store all the information I need to write, such as:

  1. Keep a list of books you want to read. When a friend recommends a book, I make a note. If I’m browsing the library or the bookstore and find a book I want to read later, I make a note.
  2. Keep track of story ideas. I have folders for book ideas, blog post ideas, and magazine article ideas. Currently, I started a note to store all my ideas from Storystorm 2017.
  3. Research. You can directly save articles off the web and upload PDFs. If I want to save a passage from a book, I just take a photo with the Evernote app. I follow many scientific organizations. When I see an interesting piece I save it to Evernote, even if I’m not sure how I might use it. More than once, this has helped me track down a piece later when I needed it later.
  4. Fiction writing. No more having to track down a document. You’ll know exactly where it is. Character sketches, plot outlines, research, and timelines can all go in one place.
  5. Nonfiction writing. Now those piles and piles of research notes can all go neatly in one place. Research, outlines, references lists, notes, interview transcripts, comparable titles, and more.
  6. Agents and editors. Researching agents and editors for submission can be time consuming. I keep a running file on each person so I’m not repeating the effort. I copy down notes and include links to relevant information – interviews they did, their webpage, submission requirements, a list of books they have worked on, etc.

No more piles of papers cluttering your desk. No more trying to remember where you put that printout. No more losing everything to a computer breakdown. Evernote will make you a more organized writer. Often that’s half the battle.

[NOTE: I’m getting no compensation from Evernote to write this. I doubt they even know who I am. I just really like Evernote and want to help fellow writers out.]

Evernote for Writers: 6 Ways to Organize Your Writing With Evernote