Lev Butts' Christmas Wish List

When I was a kid, this was my favorite time of year. Not really Christmas, per se, but the weeks leading up to it. I loved the TV specials, especially A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman. I also liked the Rankin-Bass stop-motion specials, but they often scared the hell out of me (especially the Abominable Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer). I loved the sappy smell of the Christmas tree, and I especially loved the electric candles my parents put in the windows every year (they provided a better than excellent light by which I could read in bed without anyone paying heed to the brightness in the room).

Seriously, these things could light up a bedroom like St. Patrick's Cathedral.

My favorite bit, though, was none of these things. It wasn't the opening of presents either: After all, by noon, that joy was spent to be replaced by having to clean up the piles of wrapping paper and then go to some relative's house for dinner. No, my favorite part of the Christmas season was when the J.C. Penney Big Book Catalog and the Sears and Roebuck Wish Book came in the mail.

These things were the size of all seven Harry Potter books stacked end-to-end and a good half of the pages were devoted to just toys. Here, take a look:

I spent a portion of every day after Thanksgiving with a big red pen circling all the toys I wanted for Christmas and then trying to find the best place in the house to nonchalantly leave the catalog for my parents to happen upon and find inspiration for my gifts.

Now that I am grown, of course, much of Christmas has lost its glamour. I know the truth of Santa, I don't need fake candles to read at night, and anything I want now, I pretty much have to buy myself, and I can as long as the money is there. It is incredibly hard to surprise myself with a gift.

Also, I don't know whether or not Wish Books are even mailed out any more. I do know, though, that the Internet has its own equivalent in the thousands upon thousands of "The Best Gifts for Your _____" lists that appear all over Facebook this time of year. These are generally tailored for a specific audience so I tend to get lists like "The Best Gifts for Men" & "What She Wants for Christmas" (because apparently strict gender roles are alive and well in my virtual social circle).

I also get lists for gifts for writers, which almost always consist of things no writer really wants. They are generally overpriced cheap little barely writing-related gadgets, like the literary equivalent of a Sharper Image Catalog. Seriously look at this one. It includes such things as Aqua Notes, for when you just have to finish your magnum opus in the shower; a space-age pen, for when you are writing in zero gravity; and an various pins and buttons with "writerly" quotes, because nothing gets your creative juices flowing like reading TGIF flair. For Scribe's sake, the list even includes a participation trophy, because if a a writer needs anything its a cheap-ass piece of plastic to reinforce his/her already crippling self-doubt and to make matters worse, it's no longer even available for purchase anyway!

At least it has just enough room to house the rest of my dignity.
My point here, is these things are lists written for writers by people who clearly don't write, which makes about as much sense as allowing people who don't teach decide what's best for schools.

Oh wait... yeah... never mind
So I'm going to do us all a favor and give you three perfect gift ideas for the writer in your life.

A Publishing Contract

While the goal of writing is not really to get rich quickly or easily (only folks who've never written believe there is anything quick or easy about it), most writers are at least interested in eventually publishing their work when they are done. At least this is true of any writer on this blog, which was created at least in part to provide publicity for our work.

Unfortunately, it's the publishing bit that causes most of us the most trouble. Writing is mostly an introspective art, meaning many (but by no means all) of us are fairly introverted. Putting our manuscripts out there for scrutiny by a publishing house can be a stressful process. Once we receive our first rejections, the whole process becomes even more anxiety-ridden.

You really want to make that writer in your life happy? Buy a major publishing house; then purchase their manuscript. I guarantee you, if you approach them on Christmas morning with a contract from Random House and a huge signing bonus, you need never buy them another tacky tie or ugly sweater again.

A Pulitzer

Most writers also crave recognition of their talents (again, the ones who make their work public, that is. The hermits aren't reading this anyway, so won't likely contradict me). Consider nominating your favorite writer's work for a regionally sponsored award, an award open to self-published books, or even an IPPY.

Or you can go all out...

If the purchase price of a publishing house is a bit steep for this economic landscape, perhaps a bribe or two of the Pulitzer committee may be more affordable. Rather than throwing money away on the aforementioned nonexistent participation trophy, consider getting your loved one a real prize. Imagine your beloved writer's face when they unwrap that gold medallion and the check for $10,000!

If you really want to go all out, consider a Nobel!


Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like the inhibition-stilling ambrosia of one's favorite alcoholic beverage. Similarly, nothing accentuates the success of a publishing contract or the receiving of an award like the euphoria-inducing ambrosia of one's favorite alcoholic beverage. Conversely, nothing silences the nagging self-doubt, feelings of rejection, or smothering sense of failure like the pain-numbing ambrosia of one's favorite alcoholic beverage.

Best. Tree. Ever.
I hope this, by no means comprehensive, list of gift ideas helps you with your shopping this year. I also hope you all enjoy the holidays, and that the next year is a damn sight better than the one we're wrapping up.

On a completely unrelated note, I really like it when I find a nice bottle of Merlot, Seagram's Gin, or Maker's Mark Whiskey waiting for me in my house at 265 East Johnson Street, Temple, GA, USA.


Jan Needle said…
You aint gonna get a bottle, Lev, but gin in England is really really big now. Everyone is brewing it, possibly in their bathtubs, and some of it is terrific. As Hogarth once said, 'drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence.'

And a Merry Christmas from the old country!
Susan Price said…
Good advice, Lev! My partner long ago figured out that a bottle of single malt is the best Christmas present for me. I wish he was as easy to buy for.
And Jan, gin? Pfft.
Jan Needle said…
Listen, Ms Price, there is nothing, NOTHING, in the world nicer than a gin and tonic after a long hot day pretending to be a writer. I can't drink spirits because of an old head injury (confrontation with forty two ton Volvo) but every now and then I have a G&T (double, naturellement) and suffer the next day's headache with something approaching affection. I Pfft in the Pfft of your Pfft!
AliB said…
Now ladies - keep it civilized please! However I am I am definitely of the gin persuasion and off to shake up my Bacon-bomber cocktail courtesy of Messrs Waitrose cherry & amoretto granita recipe which when short of ice-cubes I once slung in my gin and tonic - well HELLO.
And thanks for all your excellent suggestions Lev - I'll have all of them :)
Sandra Horn said…
Great stuff, Lev - Happy Christmas, whatever it brings!
Bill Kirton said…
Sound advice, Lev, and excellent choices. However, as Ms Price and Mr Needle have hi-jacked the blog with their gin-soaked ramblings, I feel it's incumbent upon me to direct their (and everyone else's) footsteps to Southside Street in my home town, Plymouth. There, in an old Blackfriars monastery, they'll find the ONLY place where Plymouth Gin is made. There are no Gordon's-type franchises. I used to walk past it every day from my home on The Barbican, some 300 yards away. on my way to primary, then secondary school, But it was only a few years ago that I actually visited and did the tour. It's the best tour of such a facility that I've ever had - and I've been to countless distilleries in Scotland.

I realise that my comment has little to do with your excellent blog but while for you, Lev, the trek from 265 East Johnson Street is a wee bit longer, I guarantee it'll be worth it.
Fran B said…
I even went to a gin festival last year and spent hours sipping infinitesimal plastic beakers of neat gin. There were seminars: Which Tonic? Lemon, Lime of Orange? The best gin cocktails. Cucumber or Green Pepper? And so on. I do love a good gin and tonic but I suspect there is a bit of bandwagoning going on. I bought my daughter and me two G&Ts in an Edinburgh bar this week. It was her birthday so I used the boat out and chose a 'speciality gin' and the "better' tonic (fever something). It set me back almost thirteen quid! (About 20 dollars?) Call me a Scottish stingy but I call that a rip-off.

Susan Price said…
Jan, I pfft in the face of your pfft to my pfft.
I shall ever raise my glass of Laphroig in a forest of arms raising g&ts.
Jan Needle said…
Quite right too! All the very best for Christmas.
glitter noir said…
Great post, Lev. Here's hoping all of us get #1 next year.

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