10 Great Gift Ideas for a Writer Mom on Mother's Day

05/03/2015 03:52 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2016


Photo by PS Lee, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

I have always been one of those last-minute Mother's Day gift givers, which is inexplicable considering my approach to other holidays, where I often buy gifts months in advance.

Sorry, Mom.

I'm betting, though, that I have a few compatriots. Maybe you wait until the last minute, too? Never fear, at least if books are your go-to gift and your mom is a writer -- of journals, letters, stories, admonishments or otherwise.

10 Great Mother's Day Gifts -- for the Writing Mom

Your mom needn't be a published author or even a person who wishes to be a published author, to enjoy this set of titles. From life as a mom-writer, to tips on self-care for the creative soul, from inspirational writing prompts to books that will affirm what I call "writing in place" -- plus, at least one career-aimed title -- these recommendations will delight.


The lowdown: A deft mix of reflections on the writing life amidst the tender and amusing moments of motherhood, gophers and French tea (not in the same chapter), and writing tips. A number of readers claim to re-read Rumors. Others note it makes them laugh, cry and even pursue an M.F.A (one mom did just that).


When our women go crazy, says Julia's poem, they keep asking... how will we eat? Who will cook? Will there be enough? The refrigerators of these crazy women are always immaculate and full, just as when these women are sane.

Who are these women? I am not like them. Sane or crazy, my refrigerator is always doing science experiments that involve organic vegetables trying to go back to their roots. Some of these vegetables even sprout roots before they become primordial soup fit for the compost pile.

I am not like these women. Or maybe I am. How will I write? Who will cook up fresh ideas? Will there be enough? I try to stack the day in my direction, make it immaculate and full.

2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anchor, a division of Random House


The lowdown: An edgy mix of memoir and insights about the writing life, this title will make mom feel okay about those days she files her paperwork in the trash can or has a little too much to drink.


My father was a writer, as were most of the men with whom he hung out. They were not the quietest people on earth, but they were mostly very masculine and kind. Usually in the afternoons, when that day's work was done, they hung out at the no name bar in Sausalito, but sometimes they came to our house for drinks and ended up staying for supper.

I loved them, but every so often one of them would pass out at the dinner table. I was an anxious child to begin with, and I found this unnerving.


The lowdown: Written by two authors, one a mom and one a step-mom, this title's strong point is helping a writer build a sustainable writing life amidst life's many responsibilities and competing dreams. In the words of Philip Gulley, author of Front Porch Tales, "this book is a winner."


When I (Ann) left my first job, newly married, my husband encouraged me to figure out what I wanted to do. I filled out interest inventories and filled up journals. Eventually, I realized I wanted to be a writer.

A local freelancer told me corporate work was the way to go, to make money as a writer. I told her I wasn't sure I could write in a corporate style. 'Of course you can!' she said. 'You just need...what's the word?

Oh, I know, it's moxie! You just go into meeting with moxie. They won't know you've never written this way...

4. The Artist's Way, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam


The lowdown: Sometimes creative people get blocked. Sometimes they need a jumpstart. If you know your mom has it in her to write (again, or for the first time), this is a great title to open her to the greater possibilities of the creative life in general.


Jealousy is a map. Each of our jealousy maps differs. Each of us will probably be surprised by some of the things we discover on our own. I, for example, have never been eaten alive with resentment over the success of women novelists.

But I took an unhealthy interest in the fortunes and misfortunes of women playwrights. I was their harshest critic, until I wrote my first play.


The lowdown: A book of thought-provoking prompts, quotes, and illustrations, this is a great title for mom to take to the back porch (or the deck or the balcony, as the case may be) and spend a sunny afternoon fiddling her way into larger ideas.

Quote (note that this prompt serves either the harried mom or the empty-nester):

"Write about a noise -- or a silence -- that won't go away."


The lowdown: Whimsy and life fill this collection of memoir and accompanying writing prompts that lean towards the poetic. After mom reads this, don't be surprised if she starts putting words on tickets and stashing them in bowls.


When I saw my son, Daniel, shaking our new lilac bush the spring he was three, I managed to keep myself from shrieking, 'Stop it, you're going to kill the bush!'

Instead I asked him what he was doing. 'I'm stirring the sky, Mama,' he told me. I asked only that he stir it gently. How can you tell a child to stop stirring the sky?


The lowdown: Written by publishing guru Jane Friedman, this book compiles the best of her extensive knowledge of the modern publishing industry and its challenges for authors. If mom has a manuscript tucked away and she's dreamed of getting it published, this is the place to start--for realism and solid advice.


As the former publisher of Writer's Digest, I've likely read more annals of writing advice than anyone else on the planet. I'm intimate with every cliché writers hear about how to succeed or fail.

And experience has shown me that prescriptive, step-by-step advice sometimes offers a comfortable illusion: that you can reach success systematically or by formula. Such advice, especially when simplified, bulleted, and listed, pushes aside the complexity, difficulty and dilemma of what it means to undertake a writing life.

8. Things That Are, Milkweed Editions


The lowdown: Amy Leach is a premier example of a writer who does what I call "writing in place." She attaches herself to topics in a way that convinces you she's been there. (And, if she hasn't, then extensive research has stood in for experience.) From industrious flamingos and donkey derbies to mad peas and radical bears, your mom will go there too. And "there" is a ticklish place indeed.


Usually all we have to do when we go a-conquering is build a boat, find a benefactress, recruit a ribald crew, and wear radiant glinting helmets. With these four steps my kind has conquered faraway lands, and seas and moons and molecules.

However, even after thousands of years, we have had no luck in conquering Tomorrow. Over and over again, we have set sail in pursuit of Tomorrow only to discover Tomorrow's antecedents. It is a recurring disappointment, like never leaving Spain.


The lowdown: Is mom in need of a little wandering? Solnit's memoir explores wandering, being lost, and the intricacies of the unknown -- all rooted in places you might like to wander too. It's an excellent experience for a would-be writer who could use the affirmation that she should write from right where she is, wherever that may be (lost or found).


And only as I sit down to write this do I realize that I too have erased the past. I always knew that my middle name was an anglicized version of a great-grandmother's name, but I dropped it in my teens, not liking its sound and feeling that a middle name was unnecessary given how few people have my last name.

Only now have I realized which great-grandmother that name belonged to, only writing this story do I know the name of that unknown woman and that it is also mine, or is now the blank space between my names.

10. Anne of Green Gables, Modern Library Reprint Edition


The lowdown: As a mother myself, I'm a bit shy to admit that I had never read Anne of Green Gables until a recent read-for-fun conversation, wherein I was first introduced to Emily of New Moon and promptly realized my mistake in never reading Anne. Well, here's the lowdown. You haven't quite lived (as a mother, a reader, or a writer) until you've read this book. It's quietly hilarious and deeply rooted in place.


Oh, there are a lot more cherry trees all in bloom! This Island is the bloomiest place. I just love it already, and I'm so glad I'm going to live here. I've always heard that Prince Edward Island was the prettiest place in the world, and I used to imagine living here, but I never really expected I would.

It's delightful when your imaginations come true, isn't it? But those red roads are so funny. When we got into the train in Charlottetown and the red roads began to flash past I asked Mrs. Spencer what made them red and she said she didn't know and for pity's sake not to ask her any more questions.

She said I must have asked her a thousand already. I suppose I had, too, but how are you going to find out about things if you don't ask questions? And what does make the roads red?

--Anne Shirley

Alright now, if you got this far in this article and realized you're looking for a different kind of mom gift book, then head on over to Makes You Mom, where you'll find ideas and a good dose of understanding for being, as I am, a little last-minute to the gift-giving party.

This post is a reprint of a post that first appeared at Tweetspeak Poetry.