Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 10, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-10-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Wednesday is National Dictionary Day, so look up all those words you think you know what they mean but aren’t sure.

This past week, Caldecott Award-winning author and illustrator Mordicai Gerstein died at age 83.

All writers can use writing advice sometime. Roz Morris shares 7 writing resources she uses all the time, and Jami Gold tells us how to get expert writing advice for free.

Duncan White explores the ever-present worrisome topic of book censorship, while Andrew Perrin parses who doesn’t read books in America.

Are you an audio-visual guru? Mary Kole is seeking to hire an audio-visual person.

It’s almost National Novel Writing Month again! Janice Hardy has some NaNoWriMo prep tips to start you off on the right path.


For some genre-specific writing information: Christopher Castellani discusses the universal urgency of immigrant literature, and Robert Lee Brewer deconstructs 5 spooky children’s picture books.

Plotting and worldbuilding are necessary, but the can also trip us up with all the details involved. Julie Glover talks plotting, pantsing, and personality type, Janice Hardy has the fix for when your story’s plot hides behind the details, and B.K. Bass takes a deep dive into feudal economics for worldbuilding.

Most of us give our first drafts a bit of a stink-eye glare. Joni B. Cole makes a case for you to stop trash-talking your first draft, while Lucy Mitchell tells us how to survive comparing your unfinished draft to a successful bestselling novel.

We want to keep those readers turning pages. Jordan Dane looks at narrative drive and if you have it, Beth van der Pol discusses how to stop your novel from sagging, Anne R. Allen suggests using the Chekhov’s gun tactic, and Joslyn Chase advises hooking readers with danger.

Your characters are the lifeblood of your story. Dawn Field says to develop your story by listening to your cast, Rebecca Langley has what you need to know about writing a great love triangle, Nathan Bransford lists 5 ways to make a character more sympathetic, Donald Maass explores the making of a hero or heroine, Angela Ackerman ponders how you know if your protagonist is strong enough, and Janice Hardy advises giving your reader someone to hate.

The more we can edit ourselves, the less we’ll need to pay a professional editor down the line. Susan K. Hamilton shares 7 tips to help you self-edit your novel manuscript, Andrea Merrell wants to shoot the weasel words, and Fae Rowan says to stop overusing this word.

We’re always looking to improve our craft. Beth van der Pol tells us how to get better at writing, Jill Hedgecock explains using visual inspiration for your stories, and Dana Isaacson has the Da Vinci code for fiction writers.

We love to write, but sometimes we just…can’t. Diana Hurwitz discusses overcoming writer’s block, Felicia Day talks weirdness, writer’s block and women with swords, and Tamar Sloan dissects writerly procrastination, why it happens and how to break free of it.

Shanna Swendson has tips to boost your creativity, Robert Lee Brewer has 10 Edgar Allen Poe quotes for writers, and Nancy Johnson tackles the perennial question, is your book done yet?


Looking for a home for your work? Check out this Big, Big List of Indie Publishers and Small Presses.

Any author should understand the business side of writing. Sandra Beckwith has updated book publishing statistics.

Alex Green takes us inside a New England bookselling conference energized by new booksellers.

Don’t know which way to go in your career? Colleen M. Story outlines how to get help from the universe when making career decisions.

There are always people ready to take advantage of the unprepared. Victoria Strauss unveils a pack of scammer lies to look out for.

Success in writing is a marathon. Rachelle Gardner asks: are you in this for the long haul?

There are certain parts of the marketing process most authors dislike. But we need to be able to do them well anyway. Janet Reid explains when you need backstory in your query, Jael McHenry takes on 3 of a novelist’s necessary evils, and David Kudler examines how to create compelling book descriptions in 2 parts.

Jane Friedman advise to write for yourself but market for your reader. If your readers are middle grade, check out these author-tested middle grade marketing tips and ways to take your middle grade to market.

Real-world connections can take you far. Lisa Tener tells you how to speak to journalists before your book is published (and not give it all away), Alexa Nazzaro shows how to leverage book signings, and Penny Sansevieri discusses super fans and street teams: turning readers into your biggest book promoters.

Online is a big marketplace, so learn some tips to make the most of it. Amy Collins talks live streaming for authors, Scott La Counte lays out how to promote a book on Facebook, Elizabeth Losh reveals what a hashtag can do while Kim Lochery has the definitive guide to Pinterest hashtags, and Zara Altair gives us 5 ways to use voice search to sell more books.

In the blogosphere, Dave Chesson tells us how to convert readers to email subscribers, and Cristian Mihai advises we ask ourselves: why do folks subscribe to your blog?


Libraries preserve the past. This is the world’s oldest continually operating library, where lost languages have been found. Meanwhile, modern libraries battling to retain borrowers in the digital age are ending late fees.

Take a peek inside a bookstore housed in a 100-year-old Dutch barge in London, while Kelsey Rexroat reveals the secret to shopping in used bookstores.

The literary past of a place can be powerful. Margaret Deefholts indulges in literary intoxication in Edinburgh, while BBC News brings us a story of a literary place in peril—the Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde spent time in prison for “gross indecency,” is for sale.

In author news, old and new: Quentin Tarantino’s next big project is a novel, Brenna Ehrlich delves into Stephen King’s fascination with “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and John-Christophe Cloutier investigates Ann Petry, the author who didn’t care to be remembered.

We know fiction reading makes people more empathetic, but can fiction introduce empathy to an AI?

Language can be moving, so Johanna Skibsrud wonders if language can be understood as a spiritual medium.

Lev Grossman explores why we feel so compelled to make maps of fictional worlds.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary tips and tricks.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 3, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-03-2019

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of October! Get your reading glasses on, because next week is both National Mystery Series Week and National Newspaper Week.

Don’t feel bad about the time you spend reading. A study shows that people who read a lot of books are way nicer, kinder, and empathetic.

Emily Temple profiles 7 writers who are among the recipients of the MacArthur “genius” grants this year.

Censorship is always an issue. Megan Volpert shares one teacher’s tale of defending Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.


So many genres, so little time! Lisa Latte explains the 10 essential elements of cozies while Debbie Young defines a cozy mystery and why they are so popular. Derik Caignano has 5 essential elements of unforgettable crime thrillers, Piper Bayard shares 10 character traits of an espionage hero, and David Mark Brown explores collaborative writing in a shared world.

Plot moves the story, but it isn’t the whole story. Janice Hardy warns don’t let the plot hijack our story and explains why your plot isn’t working, but Kristen Lamb suggests that motive is the real force behind page turners.

Writers have many craft elements at their disposal. Kris Kennedy explores essential backstory, Bonnie Randall shows how to sprinkle the seeds of backstory, Gavin Hurly examines the effective use of repetition in writing, Stavros Halvatzis looks at exposition, and Robert Lee Brewer defines the MacGuffin and how writers have used it.

Lisa Tener shows how to write your way out of “the messy middle”, Elle Carter Neal has 5 proven ways to add humor to your story, Clare Langley-Hawthorne examines toxic romance, and Alyssa Hollingsworth explains why your character (and you) should be an expert at something.

Once you’ve got that first draft, the revision work begins. Angela Ackerman wonders: should we seek out writing feedback?; James Scott Bell shares rookie mistakes indie writers make, Janice Hardy reminds us to check for cardboard conflict, and Ray Rhamey posits that reading aloud needs to be more than reading out loud to be effective.

Sometimes we have too many ideas, sometimes not enough. Ruth Harris discusses when to follow that seductive new book idea, while Kate Angus talks about the importance of fallow periods in writing.

We all go into writing with ideas on how writing “should” be. Rachelle Gardner challenges our assumptions, Anthony Doerr throws out all the rules for writing a short story, Denise Webb examines self-belief vs. self-delusion, and Kristen Lamb asks: do some people lack the talent to become a successful author?

Frankie Thomas demystifies poetic meter with a viral tweet story, Amy Jones compiles 10 Alice Hoffman quotes for writers and 10 Ann Patchett quotes for writers, Melissa Donovan shares how to cultivate and save your best writing ideas, and John J. Kelley discusses writing from the heart in a lesson learned from Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.”


A few articles on intellectual property this week: Stan Lee’s daughter sues to reclaim his intellectual property, and Mathilde Pavis explores the legal twilight zone that is intellectual property in outer space.

Alexandra Alter looks at the issues of fact-checking in publishing as mistakes are embarrassing the publishing industry.

For those who need a few tips on how finances in publishing works, Paula Munier lists 10 financial rules for writers.

Traditional or self-published, you need a pitch line for a novel, so Janice Hardy walks us through crafting your novel’s pitch line. Once you have that, you can get to querying, so Heather Webb outlines query dos and don’ts.

Agent Janet Reid explains the value of an electronic footprint and why sometimes agents just don’t want to rep a book, while Carrie V. Mullins shines a light on what writers need to know about morality clauses.

Marketing is all about platform. Brooke Warner describes what all the fuss is about with author platform, Nathan Bransford has 32 book marketing ideas, and Lesley Tither shares some outside the box book marketing.

Getting the word out about your book is the key to success. J.D. Lasica gives us a blueprint for your book launch, Penny Sansevieri shows how great Amazon book descriptions help indie authors sell more books, Sandra Beckwith shares 9 places to find readers who write reviews, and Adam Cushman lists 10 types of book trailers.

Blogs and newsletters are some tried and true methods of connecting with your readers. Cristian Mihai asks: how many topics should a blog cover?; Jordan Peters wonders: are you a hoarder of blogging ideas?; Stacey Corrin has 40 different types of content you can create for your blog, and Nate Hoffelder reveals 10 reasons readers unsubscribe from newsletters.


Is good writing good writing no matter what the format? Cormac McCarthy’s tips on how to write a great science paper.

After 137 years of service, Bisbee, Arizona’s library is declared the best in America.

Readers struggle to balance re-reading with the TBR.

An author attempts to sell self-published book to 50 bookstores in 50 days and learns a lesson along the way.

An examination of Jane Eyre translated into 57 language shows how different cultures interpret Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 26, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-26-2019

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday in September! For all you caffeine addicts out there, Sunday is National Coffee Day! Grab a cup and settle in to peruse the links below.

Publisher Macmillan wants to limit every library to a single copy of new ebooks for the first 8 weeks. Librarians are pushing back, including asking readers to sign a petition against this practice, which would make wait lists for the new books incredibly long. Nate Hoffelder tackles Macmillan’s main complaint, saying the whole “library ebooks kill retail ebook sales” idea makes no sense.

The goal is to get people to read, after all. Joe Pinsker explores why some people become lifelong readers, and Julie Beck investigates the adults who treat reading like homework.

While you are reading, go broad—or abroad. Mina Javaherbin urges us to become multicultural, and Elliott Holt examines the enduring appeal of ex-pat lit.

Is your destiny written in the stars? Jeanna Kadlec has the fall 2019 horoscopes for writers.


Our readers write in widely varying genres and formats, and although much writing advice can work for most writing, there is some advice that is very specific. Jessi Rita Hoffman shares 7 common memoir mistakes, Lucy V. Hay has 10 quick tips about writing horror, Amy Rogers gives us pitfalls and solutions for writing a science thriller, and Nancy L. Erikson reminds us that .

There are many over-arching craft elements that the reader doesn’t consciously note but feels if they are missing or incorrectly done. Andrea Merrell lists 3 critical storytelling elements, Tamela Hancock Murray discusses stakes versus conflict in your novel, Jenny Hansen shows how to find your story’s theme, and Angela Ackerman says a good ending must provide one single element: satisfaction.

Then there are the smaller units of story that readers do notice. Jami Gold explains chapters vs. scenes, Dawn Field guides us through crafting the perfect chapter, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to achieve scene tension, James Scott Bell urges us to do the unexpected, and Nathan Bransford asks if you are creating mystery or just being vague.

Finally, we have the details that readers may or may not see, but will impact their reading experience. Kris Kennedy lays out how to properly use backstory, Randy Ellefson looks at worldbuilding and flying as transportation, Zoe M. McCarthy tells how to introduce taste in a story, and Suzanne Purvis shows how to power up your prose with rhetorical devices.

Characters are the lynchpin of your story. Monica Mizzi examines using character sheets in fiction writing, Nathan Bransford urges us to let the reader diagnose your characters, Kristen Lamb examines the power of different characters to resonate with different readers, and Nathan returns to show how to create a great villain.

While we should all edit our work as thoroughly as possible, Brian Kurian reminds us that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Harrison Demchick has 4 ideas to help revise that first draft, Lori Freeland discusses the value of critique groups, and Janice Hardy suggests you cut unnecessary internalization from your scenes. No matter what we do, though, sometimes the story just doesn’t come together. In that case Bill Ferris has a hack’s guide to breaking up with your book.

Writing can be emotionally taxing. Anne R. Allen describes how well-intentioned loved ones can sabotage your writing career, Julie Holmes shows how something as mundane as stairs can derail your writing plans, and Margie Lawson explains how to channel your strengths even when you don’t feel strong.

We get advice from many places. McKayla Coyle has compiled the best writing tips from Electric Literature interviews, Christopher Oldcorn says to wrap your writing like a beautiful birthday present for your reader, and Debbie Burke takes us behind the scenes at a writer’s conference.


Authors need to know a lot about the publishing business to be successful, whether we are self-publishing or traditional. Sandra Beckwith has 21 book publishing terms all authors should know, Amy Collins explains why designing your own cover is often not a good idea, and Christopher Wills wonders if we are in a pulp fiction reprisal.

Even going traditional, there is a lot of business that authors need to know. Janet Reid tells us at what stage you should send the prologue—query, partial, or full; agent Kate McKean explains the ins and outs of book deals, and Lisa Tener lists 8 top non-fiction book proposal mistakes and how to fix them.

Distribution is always an issue. Brian Jud talks about selling to non-bookstore retailers, and Anne Merrick lays out how to get your books into libraries. Library sales in other countries can garner money for authors beyond the original sale, because some countries give a “royalty” for borrows.

Marketing is more than just placing ads. Helen Baggott shares DIY PR for indie authors, and Sandra Beckwith has 3 ways to get your dream endorsement.

So much outreach is online these days, it can be dizzying. Kristen Lamb discusses branding on social media, Cristian Mihai explains how to make friends with other bloggers, Kim Lochery has the complete guide to Twitter hashtags, Rachel McCollin demystifies SEO for authors, and Chrys Fey shares 6 ways to build traffic to your website.


People never change. What Edith Wharton knew, a century ago, about women and fame in America.

Speaking of famous women, Katy Hershberger wonders why female celebrities aren’t writing more novels, and Constance Grady explains how Reese Witherspoon became the new high priestess of book clubs.

Because it’s bigger on the inside: a full-sized Dr. Who TARDIS is the biggest Little Free Library in Mississippi.

When literary giants collide: John Milton’s notes on Shakespeare’s plays appear to be found.

On the necessity of heeding the voices with lived experience: listening to indigenous elders in a time of climate crisis.

The mashup of visual and words: the handwritten styles of Instagram poetry.

Leah Price assures us that books won’t die, while Jim Shepard discusses why we still need small literary journals.

Everything old is new again: Millennials are looking backward, seeking self-help books more about “we” than “me,” including ancient philosophy.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but just be careful where you point it. Emily Temple tells the story of the snarky poem that got its 17th-century author murdered.

That’s it for the last Top Picks Thursday in September! See you in October!


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 19, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-19-2019


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, view of the crowded beach

Island Beach State Park, New Jersey


Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of summer. In honor of the end of season, I’m sharing some reminders-of-summer photos today. It’s sad to see the warm weather go, but the cooler days will be welcome.

Ahoy, me hearties! Today is National Talk Like a Pirate Day, so we’re singing “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.” Who’s joining us?

If you’re a Tolkien fan, remember that Sunday is Hobbit Day. If you’re not a fan and you see anyone in costume, you’ll know why.

Libraries and writers go hand in hand. This week we found a number of writers sharing information about libraries. Micah Moore writes that the Dallas Public Library is ready to open a podcasting studio, sewing rooms, and other maker spaces, Karl Bode reports that librarians and archivists are scanning and uploading books that are secretly in the public domain, and Heather Schwedel explains why angry librarians are going to war with publishers over e-books.

Libraries don’t have to be big to have influence. Aušrys Uptas tells us about the woman who turned the stump of a dead 110-year-old tree into a magical Little Public Library for her Idaho neighborhood.

If you need an excuse to do more reading, Maggie Seaver tells us that people who read before bed not only sleep better, but eat more healthily and make more money, and Tracy Hecht describes how books can help kids navigate complex times.

Caits Meissner reveals what the incarcerated writer wants the literary community to understand.

Writer’s Digest‘s Robert Lee Brewer shares 14 William Faulkner quotes for writers and about writing and 10 Robert Jordan quotes for writers and about writing.

Michael Schulman takes a look at superfans: is fandom becoming as toxic as politics?


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, seagull landing on the beach

Seagull landing




Monica Duncan covers the art of efficient writing, while Tina Jordan gives us habits of highly effective writers. If one of your habits is carrying a notebook everywhere you go, Laurence MacNaughton explains why writers should never carry a notebook.

If you’re puzzled about author voice, Mary Anna Evans discusses how to find your author voice.

A number of writers share tips about characterization. Beth van der Pol shows us how to create a character from scratch and how to create a complex character from a single photo, while Nathan Bransford lays out 6 ways to build intimacy between characters.

Fae Rowen enumerates ten more f-words for writers and their characters, Jami Gold takes a look at avoiding change: what’s stopping our characters, and TS Books gives us 40 ways to exploit facial expressions in writing.

For those doing worldbuilding, E. L. Skip Knox adds shoemakers to his history for fantasy writers series.

Struggling with your book’s scenes? Linda Lane reminds us that touches of humor relieve stress in tense scenes, and Janice Hardy suggests adding more internalization to your scenes.

Kris Kennedy advises writers to avoid info dumping backstory by making it essential, while Kathryn Craft delves into “showing” through exposition.

Janice Hardy has advice for writers thinking about writing in a new genre. If that genre is mystery, Elaine Viets lists 8 ways to fix a stalled mystery (her suggestions can be helpful for other genres too).

Premise and theme are vital components to a story. Vaughn Roycroft suggests using theme to leverage revision., and Stavros Halvatzis clarifies the moral premise and how to write it.

If you belong to a critique group or are a beta reader, P. J. Parrish contemplates the fine art of giving out criticism, and Jim Dempsey looks into how to give useful criticism.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, mother feeding young seagull

The gull on the right stood on the beach for several minutes squawking, and I wondered what was bothering her until the young one—as big as its parent—ran up to beg for food.




For writers pursuing the traditonal publishing path, Janet Reid responds to an author wondering if the submitted manuscript ended up in the agent’s spam folder, and Rachel Pieh Jones tells us what happened after she lost her agent—twice.

R.J. Crayton mentions 10 publishing terms every new author should know, Susan DeFreitas identifies 3 critical things you won’t learn in an MFA program, and Nathan Bransford gives the scoop on hybrid publishing.

Chris Syme offers the five myths of crisis management for authors.

In Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss reveals that authors’ concern grows over late royalty payments at Dreamspinner Press.

Self-publishing provides an alternative to the traditional path, but it’s not for everyone. Ray Flynt sets out some questions for writers considering going Indie, Tracy Atkins delves into how to make trim-sized PDFs for print on demand publication, and SFWA supplies an overview of the history of self-publishing.

John Doppler has suggestions on how to deal with an unresponsive publishing or self-publishing company.

Do you have a book about to be published? Adam Cushman details the 10 best book trailer types, Judith Briles goes over planning your book launch, and John Gilstrap suggests some swell swag, while Juliet Marillier focuses on publicity and the introvert writer.

Even the best writers get occasional poor reviews. Catharine Riggs explains how to deal with your one-star reviews, and NetGalley provides guidance on coping with critical reviews.

Social media is a key marketing tool. Laura Drake reports social media: you’re doing it wrong, and Sandra Beckwith goes into how to build a killer book publicity media list, while Monojoy Bhattacharjee wonders how it would impact publishers if Facebook ditched the Like count.

Blogging is another marketing tool. Cristian Mihai reveals the secret traits of successful bloggers, and Anne R. Allen recommends guest blogging to build platform and sell books and shares 5 tips for landing guest blogging spots, while Elizabeth S. Craig shares her thoughts on blogging.

Author websites are also vital. Laksmhi Padmanaban discusses what the ideal author website looks like.

In Publisher’s Weekly, Nicholas Clee reports that the resale of ebooks has been ruled illegal in the UK.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, goldfinches on the garden fence

Goldfinches on my garden fence in the early evening sun




Mackenzie Dawson tells how books are helping employees bond at a real estate company.

Roy Morris Jr. writes about the US tour that made Gertrude Stein a household name.

Farouk Yousif celebrates Fadhil al-Azzawi, the iconic Iraqi writer who modernized poetic forms.

BBC News reports that the secret diary of “Polish Anne Frank” Renia Spiegel will be published after lying in a bank vault 70 years, while James R. Benn takes a look at what books published during wartime [specifically, World War II] can tell us about ourselves.

To get you in the right frame of mind for October and Halloween, Jonathan Dee delves into why Lafcadio Hearn’s ghost stories still haunt us, and Eleni Theodoropoulos considers how Scooby Doo revived Gothic storytelling for generations of kids.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, waves breaking on the shore

Breaking waves


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us next week to start the new season with another roundup of writerly links!


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Top Picks Thursday, Island Beach State Park, wooden walkway to the beach

Farewell to summer fun!



Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 12, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-12-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Saturday is National Live Creative Day. I’m not exactly sure what that means but…be creative!

Awards and grants abound! Former UP poet laureate Rita Dove is honored with the 2019 Wallace Stevens Award, James Patterson announces grants to 4500 teachers for classroom libraries, and Rajiv Mohabir wins the Restless Books 2019 New Immigrant Writing Prize for his memoir.

Fifteen publishing pros discuss how We Need Diverse Books changed the literary world.

Jennifer Nalewicki shares her experience spending the night at a library in Wales.

Writers love entering writing contests. Savannah Cordova debunks the 5 most common misconceptions about writing contests.


For our memoir writers: Tanja Pajevic explains how to build a narrative arc in memoir, and Dawn Field shows how a series of moments can lead to your big message.

A.B. Jewell reveals that great noir lives—and dies—on dialogue.

If you are a poet, Melissa Donovan extols the personal benefits of writing poetry.

Sophie Masson looks into writing graphic novels for kids.

We hear about two-person collaborations a lot, but Ceridwen Dovey explores the question can you write a novel as a group?

Trying to get started? Roz Morris has outlining methods for everyone, Angelica Hartgers explores using backward design to plan your story, and Janice Hardy discusses writing the opening scene.

We want everything we write to hook our readers. Christopher Oldcorn explains how to hook the reader every time, and Kristen Lamb has 3 ways to hook readers to a series.

Emotion is key to hooking the reader. Janice Hardy discusses how to add more emotion to your scenes, and C.S. Lakin says to slow your story to move readers emotionally.

We’ve got to make all the components of our craft work together for best results. Kris Kennedy continues her exploration of backstory, James Scott Bell wonders how realistic your action scenes should be, and Laura Benedict advises that good lists make great stories.

Character carries the emotion of your story. Nathan Bransford has 7 reasons your characters feel flat, Joe Fassler examines how a single image can sum up a character’s identity, Walter Mosley discusses discovering who your book’s characters really are, Benjamin Markovits compares a good conversation to a good tennis match, Donald Maass reveals the anti-arc, and Therese Walsh looks beyond two-dimensional character building.

When we edit, we need to look at the big AND little issues in our writing. Zoe M. McCarthy gives us a 10-item manuscript checklist when you’re under a deadline, and Sue Coletta agonizes over which word is correct: coffin or casket?

Bill Kirton examines writing rhythm, Rebecca E. Neely shares how she writes faster, and Dario Ciriello discusses the Budrys rule: 3 writerly sins.

We all need inspiration from time to time. Anne Neugebauer has advice to writers who are in it, Robert Lee Brewer gathers 12 Agatha Christie quotes and 10 Kazuo Ishiguro quotes, and Julie Glover has a pessimist’s collection of (inspiring) writing quotes.


In the self-publishing world: Lee Foster discusses how publishing your book is changing on Amazon Kindle, Nick Ripatrazone examines the pros and (mostly) cons of self-publishing poetry, Andrew Ervin looks at why the best sci-fi and fantasy defy easy genre categorization, and Sara Voorhis shares what authors need to know about book cover design.

Deborah Underwood talks the reality of author money, while Melissa Bowersock delves into the business of pirating books.

BookExpo announces a shorter trade show for 2020 in New York City.

Danika Ellis wonders why interactive ebooks never caught on.

If you are thinking of expanding your content into the gaming world, you will need to understand the relationship between game developers and publishers.

Going traditional? Janet Reid says to please avoid too many characters in your query and for Pete’s sake don’t pay someone else to query for you, while Linda Maye Adams tells us how not to screw up an agent pitch session. Since rejections are part of the query process, Rachelle Gardner explains why you’re getting rejections and Debbie Burke comments on the phenomenon of rave rejections.

After the book deal comes the marketing. Brian Jud shares the 4 pillars of successful book marketing, Boni Wagner-Stafford lays out how to get editorial reviews for self-published books, and Jessica Faust reveals why preorders matter.

Online, Crisitan Mihai explores the art of writing an amazing blog post, Dorit Sasson explains how to market your non-fiction book on your author website with relevant content articles, and Jillian Boehme has survival tips for writers who would rather hide.


Chandler Bolt walks us through book cover trends through the decades.

Japan has a rich literary tradition. Anna Sherman guides us through the many literary landscapes of Tokyo, and Julia Shiota urges people to delve deeper into contemporary Japanese literature, past Haruki Murakami.

Dylan Jones explains why “Witchita Lineman” contains the greatest musical couplet ever written.

Words obviously hold meaning, but Alexander Stern discusses why meaning is more sunken into words than we realize.

Danika Ellis explores why books are the shape they are.

Want a light read? Ann Parker has suggestions for readers looking for humorous books.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more writerly links.

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | September 11, 2019

Irish muse

Last week I travelled to Ireland with family and I found that over half of my observations fed the writer in me.

The trip was spread out to 4 cities across Ireland and although some included metropolitan areas, the majority of my time was spent in or around the countryside. I feel as if I’ve read countless stories trying to describe that countryside, even if the story wasn’t written about Ireland. I often brought a bag containing my notebook in case I got the chance to write, and a number of times I was able to do so. I found myself describing places I saw without story context just because they belonged in a story somewhere.

While the above observations were unexpected, I did have some preplanned research for my stay in Ireland. The first was a need to do any tours I could on Bram Stoker and the second was for the rich folklore of Ireland, specifically what has been expressed in varied forms like the fae, the other people, the little people, the good people, the Aos Sí, and many more.

As it turned out, the advice I was given by multiple sources was to satisfy both of those desired researches in Dublin, which surprised me because I would have thought a metropolitan area is the last place I would expect to be the culture center for folklore. Also, I only spent 2 nights in Dublin which didn’t give me enough time to go after these subjects. I did manage a literary tour during the last hours I was in Dublin, and I found to my biggest surprise that Bram Stoker wasn’t very heavily represented. There are important historical reasons for this, including realizing the works of the other notable Irish writers as well as noting the content of what each writer wrote about.

As to the Irish folklore, I bought some books on the subject in a quaint bookstore in the town of Dingle, in the County of Kerry. Suffice to say that my desired subjects for research, especially the folklore, would require it’s own trip. I also think it’s a trip that would need some pre-planning, as I still can’t imagine the metropolitan area of Dublin being the source for folklore. That still seems to me to be the province of the countryside.

During my time there, I was reading a published journal of Bram Stoker’s, and I found it interesting that some of his entries were near professional quality, instead of scribbling. I know that the published work was a reproduction of his actual handwriting, but I’m pointing out that some entries were final draft quality. Seeing that made me think that there was another, more personal journal of Bram’s somewhere.

My last night in Ireland was spent in a very old castle, where some apartments were renovated and furnished with electricity. My life-long love of Hammer films and the like makes it practically a critical requirement for me to explore the unfurnished rooms of this old castle, and I didn’t disappoint. If anyone is interested in seeing the very amateurish films I made with my phone of my explorations, feel free to see them at the link below.

A night in Knappogue Castle

For everyone that has never been to Ireland, I encourage you to visit there.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 5, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-04-2019

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 29, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-29-2019

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of August! Enjoy your Labor Day holiday and be safe.

This week, Paule Marshall, novelist of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, died at age 90.

It used to be literary critics were the main literary tastemakers, but today that influence has moved beyond their rarefied sphere. Adam Blades wonders if the new literary tastemakers can be trusted, while Kayla Kibbe comments on the growing influence of Barak Obama on the US literary scene.

English class is full of dead authors, but Nick Ripatrazone reminds us of the benefits of classrooms studying living, breathing poets.

Protect yourself: Victoria Strauss breaks down the latest book-to-movie scams.

Looking for a contest to enter? Arthur Klepchukov has fiction writing contests worth your time in fall 2019.

Grant opportunity: SCBWI has a new grant for authors of Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction.


J.M. G. Le Clezio ponders the expansive, immersive quality of great poetry.

Define this: Zoe M. McCarthy explains the differences between the terms anthology, collection, omnibus, compilation, box set, derivative works, and compendium.

As YA books increasingly celebrates diversity and characters who embrace their cultures, Sonia Patel warns that there is a whole group of kids YA has left behind.

For those who wonder if listening to audiobooks is really reading, wonder no more! Jennifer Walter says our brains can’t tell the difference between audiobooks and reading. But our brains will explode if we break the most bizarre grammar rule you probably never heard of.

Structure carries our stories a long way. Paul D. Marks examines great opening lines, Jami Gold looks at “leap of faith” moments, H.J. Ramsay explains why surprise endings ultimately frighten us, and September C. Fawkes gives us 4 keys to a powerful denouement.

Chris Eboch suggests circling your writing with bookends, Janice Hardy both defines a scene and shows how to write scenes, Stavros Halzatzis discusses how to reveal your reveals, and Ruth Harris has 7 rules of cliffhangers.

Character is the driving force in our writing. Julie Munroe Martin asks: what makes you love your main character?; C.S. Lakin has 3 ways to show emotion in your character, Victoria Mixon offers a different approach to character arc, K.M. Weiland shares her “truth chart” method to figure out character arc, Heather Webb lists tips for a great love story, Kristen Lamb dives into deep POV, and Janice Hardy advises us to make sure our antagonists’ motivations are plausible.

Polishing the manuscript can be a slog, but it is vitally important. Laurie Tomlinson explains how to ensure readers won’t throw your book across the room, and Rachelle Gardner has 5 things to do before hiring a freelance editor.

We all want to write more, in less time. But it can be overwhelming, and sometimes our Muse lets us down. Mathina Calliope tells us how to get out of the writing doldrums, Augustina Van Hoven lays out how to break down overwhelming tasks, C. Kevin Thompson explores the digital distraction disease known as Writing Deficiency Disorder, and Shannon Moore Redmon explains how to start a writer’s sprint group.

We are lucky to live in a time where advice is so freely shared. Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor share 10 tips on collaborative writing success, Robert Lee Brewer has 10 Dorothy Parker quotes for writers and about writing, Erika Liodice dicusses how to write while not writing, and Lainey Caneron advises a 3-tier backup for writers.


Bradley Metrock looks at the issue of Audible Captions vs. the publishing industry

Piracy is an ongoing issue for authors. Hugh Stephens discusses tightening the screws on pirate websites through dynamic website blocking injunctions.

If you are printing your book, Teri Tan makes a case for digital print enhancements.

Utilize your subrights—Tim Hawken tells how to turn your novel into a TV series.

If you are a copy editor, you may sometimes wonder how much to charge. Carol Saller explains how a copy editor decides what to charge.

Most of us want to write more than one book, so James Scott Bell discusses how to build a long-term writing career.

You need to pitch your book in many forums, but the most prominent one is when you are looking for an agent or traditional publisher. Kristen Lamb dissects the pitch, Christopher Oldcorn tells us how to win your first book deal, and Susan Dennard shares 7 realities of traditional publishing.

Marketing as a whole is often difficult. Jessica Cotten discusses poetry marketing on a budget, John Peragine gives us 4 tips for indie authors on planning a successful book tour, and Sandra Beckwith has 5 ways to make your book relevant to the media.

Online connections with readers are important. Cristian Mihai explains how to keep your blog content fresh, and Nate Hoffelder lists 6 goals for your newsletter welcome emails.


World literature opens up cultures and countries we might never otherwise meet. L.T. Kampala gives an overview of writers breathing fresh life into Ugandan literature.

Boze Harrington explores the life of Hans Christen Andersen, original literary softboi.

Like crime stories? Hank Phillippi Ryan lists the 7 most suspenseful jury verdicts in literature and film.

Dorothy Parker explores the art of her old pal James Thurber.

Neil Nyren takes a look at the life and work of mystery writer Rex Stout.

Emily Temple rounds up the 50 greatest coming-of-age novels.

Dictators are always afraid books will spread dangerous ideas of liberty. But there was a time when the public feared that library books could spread deadly diseases.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We will see you in September!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 22, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-22-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are wrapping up summer here, but the links keep coming.

Mary Kole is running a poll for published authors to gather data on the path to publication. Go add your two cents!

Many of us know that Iceland is big on books, but explore the rentrée littéraire: the annual French tradition when hundreds of books get added to TBR piles across Paris.

Matt Grant profiles 14-year-old Marley Dias, a tireless promoter of diversity in literature.

Independent booksellers are making their mark. This year, indie booksellers celebrate the first Bookstore Romance Day, while Cristy Meiners investigates how an independent bookstore survives for 90 years.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware exposes a plague of publishing and marketing scams from the Philippines, and Nick Ripatrazone reminds us that we have always been plagued by literary scammers.


While much writing advice can be used by any writer, sometimes the advice is genre-specific. Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola discuss the big memoir pitfall to avoid, Sam Bleicher talks about dealing with facts in science-based fiction, and Melissa Donovan has tips on how to write a poem.

Every element of your story has to fit together seamlessly to captivate the reader. Zoe M. McCarthy has 13 suggestions for when and what to research for your story, Stavros Halvatzis lists the essential ingredients for a complete story, Roz Morris shares 7 hacks for backstory, description, dialogue, exposition, point of view, and plot; Jordan Dane discusses the key types of conflict while Becca Puglisi zeros in on the specific conflict of a delay that makes your character late, and Vaughn Roycroft examines what makes a good ending.

Laura Drake advises putting character first, Maria Arnt talks about likeable characters, Antonio del Drago explores destined and wounded heroes, Lisa Hall-Wilson gives 4 ways to go deeper with deep point of view, Jim Dempsey extols the wonders of your character’s world view, Melissa Donovan discusses creating characters that resonate, and K.M. Weiland reveals how to tell if your story has too much plot and not enough character.

Writers constantly are learning from other writers. Laurence MacNaughton has 6 rules to pump up your writing, Janice Hardy explains why writers should want nitpicky critiquers, and Nancy Johnson shows how Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye offers a master class in craft.

Writing is a lifestyle as much as a job. PeggySue Wells visits the pros and cons of writing as a dream job, Daphne Gray-Grants advises on how to deal with competing creative interests, Robert Lee Brewer has 14 Neil Gaiman quotes for writers and about writing, and Christina Delay discusses the power of the writing tribe.


If you have considered branching into ghostwriting, read these ghostwriters sharing their tales of nightmare clients.

Jennifer Scroggins explores if hybrid publishing is right for you. And any book needs to be edited before publication, so Stacey Carroll looks at how much you should pay for book editing services.

If you are designing your own cover, Renee Wittman has 4 cover design tips to keep in mind.

Want to record your own audiobook or podcast? John Wagner-Stafford walks us through how to reduce reverberation for better self-published audiobooks and podcasts.

Many writers consider a pen name for various reasons. Janet Reid talks about using a pen name specifically to conceal your identity, while Scott McCormick goes a bit broader with pen names and how and why to use them.

Marketing encompasses many different avenues to connect with your readers. Charity Bradford suggests that craft fairs are an overlooked outlet for selling books, Sandra Beckwith tries to make promotion less scary by seeing book promotion as a public service, and Amy Collins shifts the mindset from creating a fan base to creating a reader base.

Since most of our reader engagement happens online, we need to have the correct tools and the correct attitude to succeed there. Anne R. Allen warns authors against sending invasive personal-info-phishing emails to readers, Stephanie Chandler gives us a book sales page website checklist, Adam Connell has 7 effective backup plugins for WordPress, and Steven Spatz says your email list is your greatest asset as an author.

Scott La Counte shares 10 tips on how to promote a book on social media, Moss Celement brings us 6 easy ways to make your boring blog posts more interesting to read, and Cristian Mihai examines an often overlooked aspect of blogging that matters a lot.


Diana Evans asks why Dorothy West, last surviving member of the Harlem Renaissance, was overlooked for so long.

David L. Ulin takes us inside the archives—and mind—of sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick.

Cities can be dirty places to live, so the iconic New York Public Library lions, Patience and Fortitude, will get a laser bath.

Maria Popiva examines Rainer Rilke and the difficult art of giving space in love.

For Ernest Hemingway fans, A Moveable Feast is in the works as a TV series.

Rebecca Booroojian explains why thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail are obsessed with fantasy books.

Most of us love a good saga. Roy Jacobsen explores the sagas of Iceland: some of Europe’s most enduring, complex literary works.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week as we close down August and get back to the school drill.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 15, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-15-2019

Welcome to Top Picks Thursday! Hard to believe it’s halfway through August! Some people’s children will be back to school shortly if they aren’t already, but in my neck of the woods we don’t start until September. But learning is year-round here, so enjoy the links below!

Matt Grants brings us the urgency and inspiration at the 2019 New York City Poetry Festival.

A selection of Franz Kafka’s papers are now on display at Israel’s national library.

Jami Gold discusses content warnings and how and what to include in them.

The over 40 crowd doesn’t always fare well in fiction, especially older women. Alison Flood celebrates fiction with positive older characters.

Pirate site alert: Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware warns about the piracy practices of Kiss Library.


Some advice on different genres, other ways of writing, and writing series rather than stand-alones: Ed Rucker has 3 tips about writing a legal thriller from a criminal defense lawyer, Johanna Rothman and Marky Kilby discuss co-writing non-fiction across distance, Susanna Calkins shares 5 lessons learned about writing series, Laurisa White Reyes reveals how to write a real page-turner, and Jennifer Croft explores the daily alchemy of translation.

Writers are bombarded with advice all the time—sometimes contradictory. We have to discover what works for us. Jami Gold asks: can common writing advice be wrong?; C.S. Lakin explains when telling, not showing, emotions is the right choice, Steve Laube has 15 grammar rules that can be broken, Janice Hardy shows how to use subtext to say more with less, Elaine Viets discusses using the sense of smell on our writing, Donald Maass explores how persuasion can add tension to your story, and Janet Reid says that no matter what an agent says, do not whitewash your characters.

That said, we are lucky to live in an age where so much advice is available for free. Janice Hardy shares 4 ways to write a better novel, Emily Temple brings us writing advice from Shirley Jackson, Robert Lee Brewer has 12 Kurt Vonnegut quotes from writers and about writing, Stavros Halvatzis discusses the art and craft of creative writing, Edie Melson lists 12 tips for the best writing life ever, Virginia Moffatt gives us some unusual writing tips, and Julie E. Czerneda reminds us to instill wonder in our fiction.

Stories are wired into the human brain. Robert A. Burton says our brains tell stories so we can live, Kathryn Craft reminds us to give our reader an experience, and C.S. Lakin tells us how to evoke reader emotions with “surprisingness.

So how can we be the most efficient writers possible? Judith Briles dispels the myth of author multitasking, Kelly Allen shows how to spend less and save more, Christopher Oldcorn tells us how to find unique places to write, Julie Glover guides us toward finding the right writer organization, Shanna Swendson helps give our creativity a boost, and James Scott Bell tells us we can get more done by giving ourselves less time.


In industry news, Elliot completes their purchase of Barnes & Noble; John Doppler alerts us to Amazon KDP’s unwritten print pricing rule; and Melinda Clayton explores Audible Captions, copyright lawsuits, and other news from the world of writing.

If you want to have longevity in this business, there’s a lot you need to know. Sangeeta Mehta interviews two agents who discuss establishing a long-term writing career, Laina Turner has 10 tips on building a sustainable writing business, Kathryn Magendie discusses what to do when you lose your publisher, and Bob Hostetler shares 3 ways to embarrass your editor or agent (not good for career longevity).

Writing is going multimedia. Joanna Penn tells us how to build your own home sound booth for audiobooks and podcasting, Andrene Low talks about the trials and tribulations of DIY audiobooks, and Holly Lane lays out how to create and run an indie author podcast.

A great cover can launch a thousand book sales. Melinda VanLone shows how to create the best cover for your book by doing the cover two-step.

But what if you are going traditional? What do you need to know about querying and the way the business works? Janet Reid suggests adding your physical address to your manuscript, while Rachelle Gardner answers the question: will I have to pay back my advance? As to querying, Janet Reid explains why querying an unfinished novel is a bad idea, and Meg LaTorre reveals why writers shouldn’t query self-published books.

Marketing is something most authors need advice on to do well. Sue McGinty shares her experience with successful hometown book marketing, Diana Urban lists the top book marketing advertising tips from RWA 2019, Brian Jud explains marketing planning for first-time authors, and Stephanie Chandler looks at how a network of influence can help promote your book.

From the marketing trenches, Randi Minetor enlightens with tales from the book promotion road, and Mike Fabio gives us 3 creative pitfalls to avoid when you advertise books on social media.

Blogs—whether book bloggers’ or our own—can be a great way to communicate with readers. Nicole Pyles shares how and where to connect with book bloggers, Cristina Mihai reminds us that while blogging is all about problem solving, blogging is not just about information; and Stacey Corrin shares 9 reasons to start a blog and 7 reasons not to.


The Internet is crazy for cats. Bookmarks has put together the 9 meanest cats in literature.

Authors not being paid well is nothing new. Despite being a best-selling author, Jane Austen was paid very little—even compared to her contemporaries.

Jamie Quatro examines the hidden life of Anne Lock, the 16th-century woman who was the first English poet to publish a sonnet cycle.

Any Proust fans out there? Nine newly discovered Proust stories are to be published.

For anyone who is or has a college student, Brian Barrett traces the recent radical transformation of the textbook.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week for more writerly links.

Older Posts »