A package wrapped in gold paper tied with a red ribbon

By Kim Cross

As a writer of meticulously reported narratives, I geek out about process. A big part of my writing process is an evolving organizational “system” that supports the repetitive tasks that complicated writing projects entail. These tasks can feel tedious and grunty, so I love tools that make them feel not only easy, but even pleasurable. Here are a few of my favorite things, all of which make great gifts for writers — or yourself!

No. 27 Leather Pocket Journal and Archive Box {Personalized) ($96)

Leather covered pocket notebook for writersMy friend Colonel Littleton designs leather goods destined to be heirlooms, all of them made in the small town of Lynnville, Tennessee. One of my favorite gifts (and personal possessions) is this buttery leather journal, which comes with notebook refills, index cards, an archive box that, like the journal, can be personalized with three initials. You can buy Colonel Littleton refills, but it also fits Moleskine Cahier pocket-sized notebooks (3 for $13).

Lochby Pocket Journal ($44)

For reporting in the field, I carry this waxed-canvas notebook cover, which holds my Sony ICD-UX570 audio recorder, pointed at whoever I’m interviewing, while I take notes in the Moleskine Cahier pocket notebook inside. Its interior pockets hold business cards and small sticky notes. Index cards fit in the exterior or interior pockets. And it also fits my favorite pen…
Pentel EnerGel Alloy Gel Pen ($7-10) (shown above)
This is the fastest and smoothest pen I’ve found at a price this affordable. I prefer the refillable alloy version—with lovely colors and just the right weight in my hand—to the cheaper plastic disposables. I use the 0.5 mm needle tip for writing letters and journal entries, and the 0.7 mm metal tip for taking fast notes during interviews.

Lochby Field Journal ($59)

Waxed field journal with room for Moleskin notebooks.

Inside pockets and notebooks of waxed field reporting journal.To stay organized while juggling different projects, I keep separate notebooks for my book research, my mountain-bike coaching business, and my writing workshops. The Lochby Field Journal has room for four soft-cover Moleskine Cahiers, plus pockets for index cards, sticky notes, business cards, and fountain pen ink cartridges. Made of waxed canvas, it’s rugged enough for outdoor reporting. Bonus: Lochby inserts are made with Tomoe River Paper, specially made for fountain pens.

Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook ($20-$24)

Field reporting journal.If you like Moleskines, I urge you to try a Leuchtturm. They’re similar in style and feel, but here’s what won me over: Numbered pages, an index, archival stickers for the cover and spine, and better paper. Leuchtturm’s Medium (A5) has slightly thicker paper, which reduces bleed-through, and a slightly larger page (5.75” x 8.25” compared to the 5.2” x 8.2” Moleskine). I am particularly fond of the Whitelines Link, whose white dot-grid (on grey paper) disappears when you photograph it an app that allows you to digitize and sync your hand-written notes via Dropbox, Evernote, or email.

Galen Leather Notebook Cover ($69)

Leather cover for field reporting journal.
This lives on my desk and travels with me when I go out of town. It holds me Leuchtturm weekly planner, thank-you notes, checkbooks, index cards, business cards, and pens. The pockets on the left and right (behind the planner) can fit an iPad mini and a Kindle. The makers are based in Istanbul, Turkey and ship quickly internationally. They’ll stamp initials into the notebook covers and include a little gift in each beautifully packaged order.

Desktop Index Card Holder ($39)

Desktop index card holderYou may have noticed a theme here: Index cards. Infinitely useful (and inexpensive), I use them to make to-do lists, jot down passages and sources when I’m reading, and capture a thought before it disappears. There are a number of configurations on Etsy, but I chose this one for its ability to hold a card vertically or horizontally and because it also has a pen rest. It lives in front of my monitor.

Index Card Box with Dividers ($37)

Box with dividers to organize index card notes.When I’m working on a book, I’m constantly making little piles of index cards by chapter or topic. I’ve always used rubber bands and ponytail elastics to secure the little piles, but I just upgraded to a box that looks nicer and makes it easy to flip through and organize. It comes with removable wooden dividers and sets of paper dividers as well as colorful index cards, which are useful when color-coding notes by theme, location, or point of view.

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Kim Cross is a freelance journalist and nonfiction author based in Boise, Idaho. Her new book, “In Light of All Darkness,” is about the FBI investigation of the 1993 Polly Klaas kidnapping.

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