Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 15, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-15-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This Saturday, October 17 is Black Poetry Day, and next week is National Friends of Libraries Week.

The Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Louise Gluck.

Sadly, Holocaust survivor and bestselling author Ruth Kluger has died at age 88.

We create in spite of the challenges we must overcome. The ALA has released its list of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the Past Decade.

NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, so get ready! Jenny Hansen wonders if the coronavirus has changed NaNoWriMo, Samantha Gilbo has the ultimate guide to planning for NaNoWriMo, and Jodi Turchin lists 5 fast-drafting tips to get you through NaNoWriMo.


For those of us who write kid lit, Kathryn Starke reminds us that children’s books never go out of style, Annie Barrows examines Ramona Quimby and the art of writing from a kid’s mind, and Hayley Kirscher asks where the unlikable female characters are in young adult fiction.

Sci-fi writers, Dustin Grinnell analyzes Carl Sagan’s Contact for lessons on how to write science fiction.

Writing memoir? Allison Williams explores 2 methods for structuring your memoir.

Getting started can be hard. Stuart Horwitz proposes using letter writing as a prompt.

Structure lets readers feel that they are in good hands. Janice Hardy reveals what makes a good middle and what makes a good ending, while Donald Maass dissects timeless endings. Kathryn Craft talks mini-structure by giving us 5 ways paragraphing supports story.

There are many craft issues large and small when writing. Becca Puglisi explains how to use a character’s career to support your story’s theme, Katharine Grubb lists 4 defense mechanisms for your character, and James Scott Bell wonders if a fiction writer should use a thesaurus.

Editing can be painful. Hank Phillippi Ryan walks us through surviving your editorial letter, Roz Morris tells us how to critique a friend’s book when it’s not working, and Denise Loock looks at whether you should kill all the adjectives.

Getting the words on the page can be challenging some days, some weeks, some months. Elizabeth S. Craig examines what’s slowing you down as you write, Glen Erik Hamilton suggests writing sprints, and Sherry Howard shows how writing with constraints can boost your writing skills.

For all that we discuss craft elements and try to learn the rules of writing, there is a lot of the art that is a bit mystical and hard to convey. Melissa Donovan discusses originality in storytelling, Shelia Heti maps the geometry of stories, Cristina Rivera Garza delves into the language of pain, Nick Kary talks of the ways in which writing is a material labor, Maeve Maddox looks at cognition and cognitive offshoots, and Jini Reddi reminds us all that nuances matter.


There’s a lot of news from all quarters of the publishing world this week. Jim Milliot reports that a surprisingly strong year of book sales continues.

Contrary to what we are seeing in the US, Norway’s writers are fighting to be on more unlimited subscription platforms.

Led Zeppelin has won their “Stairway to Heaven” copyright battle.

Kate McKean explains what being “optioned” means.

Lots of people are going the self-publishing route, so John Peragine shares 6 self-publishing success considerations. If you are self-publishing but looking to move to traditional publishing, Robert McCaw has 4 tips for transitioning from self-publishing to traditional publishing.

Agent Janet Reid scores a trifecta today with: fictional characters quoting real people, using effective comps in your query, and how to do effective personalization in your query.

No matter what route you take, you will have to do a lot of the marketing for your book. Judith Briles has 6 essential questions for your book marketing success, Victoria Jayne lists 13 fiction book marketing tips, and Dane Low looks at top 10 cover ideas (with examples).

The holiday season can be a great time to sell your book, but is it a great time to launch it? Penny C. Sansevieri has 11 things you need to plan for holiday book sales, and Keri-Rae Barnum gives advice about launching your book during the holidays.

We’re all doing a lot online these days. John Gilstrap has video call tips and tricks, while Cristina Mihai reveals how to write a blockbuster blog article and shares 14 unconventional ideas to help you write a killer article.


So You Want to be a Writer’s Roz Morris and Peter Snell discuss what to call your characters and places.

On the Otherppl podcast with Brad Listi, learn why you won’t catch Dean Koontz being cynical.

From Beyond the Page with Jeffrey Brown, Isabel Allende is writing a novel bookended by pandemics.


Emily Temple looks at Samuel Pepys and parlor games for plague times.

Read the mid-century correspondence between Raymond Chandler and young writer James M. Fox.

Frances Wilson examines the real (and forgotten) D. H. Lawrence found in his essays, not in novels.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 8, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-08-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This week (the first full week of October) is both Mystery Series Week and National Newspaper Week. Enjoy!

South Africa’s SA Book Awards honors author Trevor Noah.

Irish poet Derek Mahon, whose verse assuaged pandemic anxiety, dies at age 78.

James Raven parses what exactly for we mean by a book?

Sometimes you cannot express what you need to in stories set in the real world. Ross Showalter explains how writing fantasy lets him show the whole truth of disability.

Authors are usually sensitive to censorship. Janet Reid answers the question of if cleaning up your social media is actually a form of self-censorship, and Jo Glanville discusses resisting censorship even when it is uncomfortable.

November is bearing down on us. Angela Ackerman tells us why writers should consider NaNoWriMo in 2020.


Writers need to get the big picture elements right before we can work on the smaller story elements. Sharon Bially has a hack for getting to the heart of your story and staying there, Stavos Halvatzis tells us how to conjure story magic, Zaivy Luke-Aleman discusses travel in stories as a worldbuilding device, Jami Gold takes a broad view of story conflict, and Janice Hardy explains what makes a good beginning to your novel and why so many writers get tripped up with the advice to “start with action.”

Once we get started, our characters carry the show. Katharine Grubb has 5 things your character could discover to make them more engaging, Brian Andrews gives us a simple approach to character crafting, Janice Hardy lists 5 ways to fix too-perfect characters, Dr. Miffie Seideman explains how to write believable sensory details for unfamiliar experiences, and Dustin Grinnell explores 8 journeys and motives behind evildoers, antiheroes, and antagonists.

After the drafting comes the editing. Leslie Vedder reveals 3 tips for cutting your word count without giving your whole story the ax, Terry Odell deals with mixed up words, and Laura Drake shares her editing pet peeves.

We can always improve our writing. Carol Tice says to fix these 10 common writing errors, Melissa Donovan has 100 common-sense ways to write better, and Steve Laube shares an infographic with 476 ways to avoid writing “said.

Writers write alone, but we can often use words of encouragement to get us through the rough patches. Colleen M. Story shows how to use your excuses to get more writing done, Marissa Decuir compiles 10 published authors with their best writing advice, Garry Rodger has inspiring quotes from crime thriller writers, Sandra Beckwith lists 27 quotes about persistence to provide motivation, and Lisa Tener talks writing and community.


In publishing news, print units post double-digit gains at the end of September.

For those interested in self-publishing, Kurt Dinan explains how to leave traditional publishing, go indie, and not regret it; and Bad Redhead Media lays out how to write, market, and be mentally healthy.

If you are going the traditional route, Jessica Faust advises “don’t quit your day job”, Rachelle Gardner says to minimize the obstacles to publication, and Nathan Bransford tells us how to format a manuscript for submission.

Marketing can be opaque to a lot of writers. Hank Quense shares free book market tactics, Brian Jud tells us how to write persuasive marketing copy and how to work with a book marketing consultant, and Kimberly Grabas explains how to use fanfiction to build audience brand and platform.

In these pandemic times, online is the go-to way to connect with your readers. Dave Chesson shows us how to get readers onto our mailing list and keep them, Nate Hoffelder reveals how to sell anything via your newsletter, Christian Mihai runs through how to run a SWOT ananlysis of your blog, and Frances Caballo lists 105 hashtags for writers.


The Literary Disco podcast revisits Watership Down, another attempt to stop humans from ruining the planet.

On the Thresholds podcast, Jodan Kisner interviews Natalie Diaz on writing poetry as a body.

Kendra Winchester on the Reading Women podcast talks with Julianne Clancy about how the pandemic is changing book marketing.

The Newberry Tart podcast hosts pediatrician and author Sayantani DasGupta on stories as good medicine.

Jacke Wilson on The History of Literature podcast delves into the haunting remorse of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat.”

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast chats with K.M. Weiland on outlining your novel and filling the creative well.


In a year that could not feel any more surreal, Gregory Ariail discusses reengaging with Franz Kafka’s astonishing worlds.

Alison Flood helps us browse the world’s strangest books.

For Heyer fans (or Regency fans), take this quiz to see which Georgette Heyer Regency novel you should read.

Haley Velasco answers the question: can books compete with Netflix?

Speaking of Netflix, the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle is suing Netflix for giving Sherlock Holmes too many feelings.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 1, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-01-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in October! Settle back with your pumpkin spice beverage or snack, and enjoy the links below.

The 2020 National Book Awards Longlists for Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, Young People’s Literature, and Fiction have been released.

Check out the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honorees.

In literary losses, journalist, author, and one-time publisher of Random house Harold Evans dies at age 92, and Forrest Gump author Winston Groom dies at age 77.

Melanie D.G. Kaplan highlights how libraries are writing a new chapter during the pandemic.

While at the library, look for these 15 spooky horror books for middle school, and these books about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. David Ebershoff discusses editing Justice Ginsberg for a book.

In the UK, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood headline the Society of Authors fundraiser lineup to ease financial hardships for authors.

Olivia Snaije examines how the World Kid Lit project tackles translation rights and challenges in children’s books.

Be careful out there, fellow scribes. Victoria Strauss has a pay-to-play alert for Europe Books/Europa Edizioni/Gruppo Albatros Il Filo, and Jessica Strawser warns of Facebook hackers targeting author pages and everything you need to know.

The ALA releases a list of the top 100 banned and challenged books.


For those who write children’s literature: Donna Janell Bowman has 10 things to consider when writing a picture book biography, and Sherry Ellis looks at incorporating research into juvenile fiction.

Historical fiction scribes: Katie Moench discusses historical fiction and the power of stories, while Ellen Buikema talks about the journey of writing historical fiction.

For those of us writing series, Marty Wingate explains how to write a series that pleases readers old and new.

How much social responsibility do writers have? Emily Raboteau explores the role of literary writers in the fight against climate change, and Dustin Grinnell lists 7 ways Kurt Vonnegut poisoned readers’ minds with humanity.

So much goes into writing a successful book. Julie Duffy shows how to craft titles that hook readers and optimize success, while Claire Langley-Hawthorne talks about recurring personal literary themes in your work.

The conventional wisdom is that a scene should do more than one thing. Janice Hardy has the recipe for writing a great scene, Ellen Buikema examines writing humor to heal mind and body, Annie Lyons muses on the challenge of writing about death, and Bonnie Randall reminds us to employ the four seasons to enhance atmosphere in your novel.

Characters also have to be layered to be compelling. Jacqueline Myers has character creation made easy-ish, Katharine Grubb lists 20 things to give your characters that will make them more vivid, Melissa Donovan shares writing resources for naming your characters, and Lisa Hall-Wilson walks us through using deep POV in limited 3rd person.

Editing finishes off the process. Henry McLaughlin has advice when it’s time to revise your manuscript, Robert Lee Brewer says to look for mistakes using homonyms vs. homophones vs. homographs, and Holly Seddon gives us 10 avoidable mistakes when writing your first book.

Writing can be an emotional job—full of highs and lows. Katharine Grubb explains why you should join a writing community, Hannah H. Howard looks at why fiction feeds your soul, Mathina Calliope wrestles with the perennial question: am I good enough to be a writer?, and John Gilstrap explores reigniting the passion.

Many writers are experiencing exhaustion, frustration, and lack of creativity right now. Heather Webb discusses managing expectations one book at a time, and Laura Drake urges us to cut ourselves some slack.


Jane Friedman examines how Amazon’s importance to book sales keeps increasing. She investigates if Barnes & Noble can survive, while Alex Green reports that books stores need more than hope: they need sales, soon.

Agent Janet Reid weighs in with a trifecta this week: entering contests with publication as part of the prize, should I sell my Instagram stories to fans?, and clean up your social media before you query. Kristen Nelson discusses the definition of a “referral” to an agent, and how they can be powerful tools if used correctly.

On the marketing side, Penny Sansevieri explores how to promote your brand and how to market a self-published book without wasting so much time, Janice Thompson shares 10 ways to market your book on a budget, Mary Kole speaks specifically to author platform and nonfiction for children, and Sandra Beckwith addresses the power of author collaborations and the odd October occasions that are book promotion opportunities.

Online is the way to go these days, so Jane Friedman shows how to compete with other online book events, Brian Meert tells us how to increase sales on Facebook, Scott La Counte has 13 tips for indie authors for promoting a book on social media, and Diana Urban lays out the 5 crucial elements for your author website.


The Quarantine Tapes podcast with Paul Holdengraber hosts Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. on the urgency of James Baldwin’s lessons.

Going against type: Newberry Tart podcast with Jennie and Marcy talks with Erin Entrada Kelly on writing YA heroines who aren’t necessarily plucky and brave.

On The Creative Penn, Joanna Penn discusses starting from zero and success with BookBub ads with David Gaughran.

Carl Hiassen talks about satire as a product of anger on The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan.

On the First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin, David Szalay examines when one central character isn’t enough.

The History of Literature podcast with Jacke Wilson chats with Margot Livesey on the greatest writers in Scottish history.


We all deal with this: Ruth Harris shares 8 simple, effective ways to conquer lower back pain.

People tend to read to be taken to other places, but Christopher Louis Romaguera delves into the power of reading about your home.

Noelle Carter looks at how chef memoirs continue to mystify us with tales of mayhem and madness.

Peter Brooks investigates what is so special about Balzac’s thousands of characters?

The Best Seller List staff demystifies how the New York Times’ best seller list gets made.

For some fun, Tom Comitta compiles a literary supercut of sci-fi last sentences.

How about some bad first sentences? PJ Parrish is grateful that it is STILL a dark and stormy night.

James Scott Bell has some fun with bloopers.

For those dying to know your grammarian personality, Joshua C. Craig brings us the descriptivist or prescriptivist quiz.

That’s all for this first Top Picks Thursday of October! Join us again next week for more literary links.

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | September 24, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-24-2020



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, dawn clouds


Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of fall … and the last one in September! We hope you’re all enjoying the relief from the heat.

During the pandemic, many of us are spending more time online. Steve Laube recommends we check our email ID, which isn’t the same as our email address. This is good advice for everyone, not just writers.

Do you ever read aloud? Sophie Hardach explains why you should read out loud.

The Smithsonian announces that The National Portrait Gallery will be exhibiting “A Century of Women Writers” until January 18, 2021.

In memoriam: fantasy author Terry Goodkind has died at age 72 [reported by Andrew Liptak on].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, orange nasturtium

Nasturtium flower.



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, woolly bear caterpillar

2020 woolly bear caterpillar.











If you’re having doubts about the importance of writing as a profession, Barbara Linn Probst explains why your book matters, and Jenny Hansen claims storytellers are the most powerful people in the world.

You went to a couple writing conferences last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Do you have a stack of conference notes like I do? Julie Glover lists 5 reasons to review old conference notes.

Looking for writing tips? Elizabeth S. Craig reflects on writing with the door shut, while Paula Munier shares writing lessons from the garden, and Lucy V. Hay gives us awesome writing tips from 6 famous writers.

Susan DeFreitas investigates where novelists get stuck: 3 common issues with early drafts, and Barbara Linn Probst discusses her “road, neighborhood, sky” process of writing, while Shanna Swendson warns us not to fall prey to the dark side of good writing habits.

Have you ever thought about co-writing a book? Christine Ro ponders why there aren’t more jointly authored novels.

Sometimes I feel I repeat this too often, but great characters are crucial to good fiction. A number of bloggers have some thoughts on characters this week: Dan O’Brien ponders character-building: on past traumas and a future for the stage, Nathan Bransford goes into how to use hopes and dreams to make a character come alive, and Angela Ackerman looks at how a character’s job can awaken unmet needs. (Angela also offers us a master list of character-building resources.)

This is something you might not have considered about your characters: Katharine Grubb gives us 16 questions to ask your characters about their body language.

Stavros Halvatzis asks: how many characters do you include in your story? and after you’ve decided that, Dave King describes managing your cast.

With help for those who want to add tension and suspense to their stories, Zoe M. McCarthy reminds us that holding back information doesn’t always create suspense, and Jodie Renner provides concrete tips for adding tension, suspense, and intrigue to any story. Plus, James Scott Bell suggests writing a big moment for all it’s worth.

Erik Klass reveals why you should be excerpting your novel.

For those writing in these genres: Michele Weldon asserts that even your memoir is not all about you, and Sue Coletta offers tips for historical writers.

If it’s time for proofreading or editing, Robert Lee Brewer clarifies using anybody vs. anyone vs. somebody vs. someone, and Dana Isaacson provides a no-stress guide to using italics.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, praying mantis

Praying mantis.

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, yellow and black garden spider

Yellow and black garden spider (from beneath).










Working on your author platform? Carla King sets out 5 steps to build a strong author platform.

If you want to use quotations from other authors, Jane Friedman provides a writer’s guide to fair use and permissions plus a sample permissions letter.

Pandemic restrictions apparently have people reading more and buying more books. Jane Friedman reports that traditional publishing enjoys its best sales in a decade, despite supply chain problems.

With warnings for writers, The Passive Voice‘s PG advises don’t do business with incompetents, and Victoria Strauss dissects a scam: Fact & Fiction Entertainment and Literary Agency.

If you’re self-publishing, Terry Odell looks into the ins and outs of indie publishing: going wide, Garry Rodgers lays out his top ten tips on formatting ebooks from MS Word, David Kudler writes about going against the flow: reflowable vs. fixed-layout ebooks, and Mary Rasenberger explains how to fight e-book piracy.

Time for marketing your book? Diana Hurwitz considers advertising merchandise.

For those concerned about using social media, Leila Hirschfeld looks into how successful authors use social media, and Cristian Mihai debates what is more important — blog post quantity or quality and reveals how to get more comments on your blog posts.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, clouds




On the Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner, Cathy Park Hong speaks about motherhood and turning from poetry to prose.

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton talks about listening to your inner voice on the WMFA podcast with Courtney Balestier.

Roz Morris delves into how to write the difficult second novel and why it’s difficult.

Derek Doepker visits Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn podcast to talk about audiobook narration, production, and marketing.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp eggs

Tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp eggs




Rosa Lyster wonders what was lost when Nadine Gordimer’s personal library accidentally wound up in boxes on the street.

Seth Greenland muses on how, in a family of readers, packing up his late father’s library was hardest of all.

Taking a look back in history, Dan Beachy-Quick writes about the ancient Greek poet who had no time for tragedy, Stefan Buczacki reminds us that Shakespeare’s works are full of gardening wisdom, and Ali Tüfekçi examines who read what in the Ottoman Empire.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, purple wildflowers


That wraps up Top Picks Thursday for this week. Join us next week on October 1st for another collection of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, September sunset



Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 18, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-17-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! How is it the middle of September already? Fall is peeking in where I live—some chilly mornings recently. So grab a warm drink, cuddle up, and enjoy the links below!

PEN America names Ayad Akhtar its next president.

Frances Ryan makes the case that publishing must make room for disabled writers.

Say cheese! Colleen M. Story has the 7 top mistakes authors make with their author photos.

Kathryn Craft brings us a quiz that is actually helpful to writers.

Libraries are so much more than book warehouses. Jennie Rothschild exposes the inconvenient truth about library e-collections, and Porter Anderson reports that Sharjah World Book Capital is leading Beirut libraries restoration aid efforts.


Sarah Burton has tips on writing historical fiction, and Celia Martin examines historical fiction and accuracy.

If you are a memoir writer, Kristen Lamb investigates where the hero’s journey meets memoir.

Sophie Masson explores writing chapter books for young readers.

A fan of re-told tales? MacyKate Connolly shares a 5-step process for reworking a classic story.

Getting plot right can be a bear. David Brown and Michelle Barker look at situation vs. plot, Juliet Marillier tackles writing a many-stranded story, Melissa Donovan discusses plot vs. character in storytelling, and Laura Drake has advice for pantsers.

Finding our way to the end of a manuscript can be fraught. Jami Gold ponders: does every story need conflict?; Hank Phillippi Ryan says if you need a good idea, make a list; Laurence McNaughton shares the 3 minute scene fix, and Stavros Halvatzis shows how to get to the finalized manuscript.

What about those characters that inhabit our stories? Pamela Redmond explains how character names create great stories, and Heather Griffin walks us through how to create supporting roles in fiction.

Editing can smooth out the rough edges, but it’s not always an easy process. You have word pitfalls like moral vs. amoral vs. immoral, annoying eggcorns, and the fluidity of grammar in our ever-changing society. Jim Dempsey talks about editing at your own pace, while Lucia Tang reveals the art of the constructive critique.


In publishing news, September begins with a 17.5% gain in unit sales, bookstore unions are stepping up, and the wildfires are taking a tool on booksellers and publishers.

For self-publishers, Sandra Beckwith has compiled 25 things authors wished they had known before self-publishing, Joanna Penn shares lessons learned from 9 years as an author entrepreneur, and John Doppler lists 5 important tips for vetting community-specific publishers.

If you are looking to take your book audio, Tina Dietz answers 3 questions about the hidden potential of audiobooks, and Alexa Glazer has tips for publishing audiobooks.

For those seeking traditional representation, Janet Reid defines certain publishing terminology and discusses re-querying after major revisions, Mary Kole explains title formatting for manuscripts, and Janice Hardy tells us why query letters matter to self-published authors, too.

Marketing your book means getting the word out there. The AskALLi Team has the ultimate guide to the perfect books cover, Adam Connell compares 9 powerful email marketing services, and Judith Briles has 24 sites to send a press release.

For internet connection with readers, Cristian Mihai gives us 5 steps to becoming a better blogger, and Frances Caballo gives us 55 ideas for when we’re not sure what to tweet.


At First Draft podcast, Margot Livesey talks about choosing the right idea for a new book, and Cherie Dimaline discusses representing Native youth in her work.

On Quarantine Tapes with Paul Holdengraber, Daniel Mendelsohn examines how Greek tragedy speaks to our present moment.

Joanna Penn (with transcript) and Erin Wright look at publishing wide for the win.


Looking at black writers in America, Matt Sandler discusses Albert Allson Whitman, a radical black poet of the Reconstruction, and Book marks looks back at the first reviews of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Check out these Spanish-world authors as well, both obscure and well-known. Theresa Machemer remembers the forgotten women writers of 17th-century Spain, and Alvaro Santana-Acuna investigates if a revolution in Latin American publishing made One Hundred Years of Solitude the success it is today.

Classics come in all shapes and sizes—and sometimes in the mail. Neil Nyren examines Alexander McCall Smith’s crime classics, while W. Scott Olsen writes in praise of the mail order book clubs of his childhood.

Sadly, George R.R. Martin can’t build a castle library in New Mexico.

Speaking of libraries, do you need a library science degree to work in a library?

And what made black and blue pens standard?

When houses are characters in the story: The house that inspired Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is for sale, and Giovanna Centano discusses haunted houses and reading Shirley Jackson in quarantine.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 10, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 09-10-2020

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 3, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-03-2020

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 27, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-27-2020

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 20, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-20-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday!

Two different perspectives on the same initiative. Alison Flood talks about the #ReclaimHerName program where 25 historic works by women will be published under their authors’ real names for the first time, while Olivia Rutigliano claims the program ignores the authorial choices of the writers it represents.

Book tsunami! Alex Clark explains why the literary world will be overwhelmed by 600 books published in one day.

Has diversity in publishing reached a turning point? In Canada, the Giller Foundation donates $50,000 to Indigenous and Diaspora literature, and Calvin Reid looks at diversity in publishing in the age of Black Lives Matter.

Books bring knowledge, escape, and comfort to many readers. Natalie Wexler discusses a new curriculum that shows kids the joy of reading, Katharine Grubb tells how to love your local library, and Andrew Albanese reports that library supporters urge action as Senate recesses without a relief bill.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware warns of a spate of spammers impersonating reputable agents.

Mary Kole wants to know what questions you would like her to answer on her blog.


To Covid or not Covid? That is the question of the year. Steven Spatz and others discuss whether to include coronavirus in your latest book.

Jax Miller has 5 things to consider when writing true crime books.

If poetry is your gig, little infinite shares 7 tips for writing good poetry for aspiring poets.

Planning your book can help make the work flow easier. Leigh Cheak explores using sticky notes for plotters and pantsers, while Dana Isaacson lays out how to chart a fictional timeline.

The beginning of your story bears much of the burden for capturing the reader. Barbara Linn Probst looks at beginning at the beginning…or maybe not. Kathryn Craft demystifies the power couple of the “must read now”: the hook and inciting incident.

Once we’ve hooked the reader, we have to keep them on the line. Kris Bock advises putting characters in conflict, and September C. Fawkes gives us 6 tips to layer on stakes.

Our characters are part of what keeps readers hooked. Melissa Donovan shows how to identify the protagonist in a story, Paula Munier tells us how to introduce your protagonist so readers care, Stavros Halvatzis reminds us that the character arc must serve the story, Lisa Hall-Wilson shares 8 FAQs about deep point of view, and Laurence McNaughton lists 6 crucial character relationships.

There are many things to keep in mind when we write. Nancy J. Cohen speaks to the writer’s learning curve, Elaine Viets warns against gender-biased stereotyping in our physical descriptions of characters, Vie Stallings Herlocker reminds us of two quick research tools for writers, and Bill Ferris has an amusing list of everyday activities that definitely count as writing.

Nathan Bransford explores writing as a series of lenses, Steve Laube discusses what happens when disagreements arise during the publishing process, Randy Susan Meyers says that being terrified about writing your novel is excellent, and Chrys Fey defines writer’s burnout.


In publishing news, US publishers, authors, and booksellers call out Amazon’s “concentrated power” in the book market, booksellers scrutinize the ABA’s relationship with Bookshop, and August kicks off with a big gain in print unit sales.

Meanwhile, Alexander Larman laments the demise of the second-hand bookshop, and UK-based Book Aid International donated 1.2 million books in 2019.

Marketing is not a lightning strike, it’s a long-haul process. Jane Friedman discusses building a career-long marketing foundation, Gillian Harvey probes the good, the mediocre, and the ugly in reviews, and Elizabeth S. Craig has an audiobook promotion tip.

The pandemic has forced us into a virtual marketing strategy. Cristin Stickles shows how to create the best virtual author event ever, Claire Annette Noland talks about launching a debut book in the middle of a pandemic, and Tamela Hancock Murray looks at how big should an author’s platform be?

Barb Drozdowich explains how to use simple psychology and basic common sense to sell more books, Judith Briles walks us through the must-do steps for Amazon campaigns for ebooks, Frances Caballo shares 5 basic rules of social media, and Kim Lochery has the definitive guide to the best times to post on social media.

If blogging, Cristian Mihai reveals how to use procrastination to becomes a more productive blogger and gives us this often overlooked technique that will vastly improve your blog articles. Or you can follow Mark Alpert’s advice and use podcasts to promote your novels.


(Video) Jessica Faust discusses how writers should choose their pseudonyms.

Courtney Balestier interviews Celeste Ng about the need to grab the reader from the start.

On Thresholds podcast, Jordan Kisner hosts Ocean Vuong on how language builds an architecture for our souls.

The NewberyTart podcast ponders what does young adult fiction even mean?


For those missing their libraries, these library watercolors will sooth your anxious soul.

Emanuele Lugli dives into the dark, forgotten history of coloring books.

Private detectives have evolved through the ages. Susanna Lee examines the world of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser and the birth of the 1970’s private detective.

Tale as old as time. One of the oldest Buddhist manuscripts has been digitized and put online.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Hope you join us next week for more literary links.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 13, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-13-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Mid-August is upon us already and the summer doldrums are here. Break your heat-induced ennui with some cool writerly links.

Check out the 2020 Hugo Award winners.

Lisa Tener brings us good news data about reading. And if you’re looking for something to read, get happier by re-reading your childhood favorites.

Anthony Breznican examines how black storytellers are using horror to battle hate.

Tired of working for “exposure”? William Deresiewicz says we need to treat artists as workers, not decorations.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware warns us of problems cropping up at Filles Vertes Publishing.


Artificial intelligence—friend or foe? Farhad Manjoo examines GPT 3 AI automation and wonders if writers will survive, while J.D. Lasica discusses how artificial intelligence can help authors write a better novel.

Tips for specific genres: Damyanti Biswas tells how to write an international thriller, and Angela Ackerman shows how to put a fresh twist on the office romance.

If you are thinking about writing a series, William L. Hahn delineates 3 types of series to choose from, and if you want to break from the linear writing path, Nathan Bansford shares tips for non-linear narratives.

Every story has a plot arc, and the writing process does, too. Paula Munier dissects the anatomy of a story idea, Larry Brooks reveals how to mine the facets of premise for story gold, Jody Turchin urges us to drive through the muddy middle of our novel, Gabrielle Pollack demonstrates how to write a happy ending that doesn’t seem contrived, and Debbie Burke discusses the power of poignancy to give your ending a lasting punch.

There are many “intangibles” that make a story compelling. Stavros Halvatzis looks at how we make stories feel real, Ronan Hession says the quest for kindness is one of fiction’s greatest challenges, and Donald Maass deals with suspense.

You can’t have a story without characters, so we need to find ways to make them interesting. Katharine Grubb lists 9 things your characters need from you, Stephanie Churchill explores intuitive writing and character formation, and TD Storm shares 2 imperatives for compelling dialogue. Lisa Hall-Wilson tells us how to research mental health and trauma for your characters, and Linda S. Clare discusses writing supporting characters.

When reviewing your draft, there are things large and small to consider. Sean Gray looks at worldbuilding and the role of secret societies in revolutions, while Robert Lee Brewer considers the differences between compliment vs. complement vs. supplement.

Sometimes it’s really hard to get motivated to write. Janice Hardy explains why you should edit that last scene before moving on, Melinda Copp advises what to do if you’re struggling to write your book, Jenny Hansen has 3 writing tips from Nora Roberts, and Jennifer Baker reminds us that Toni Morrison let us know that we are more than the work we do.


Publishing goes on, even in a coronavirus world. Jeva Lange looks at how book publishing has filled the coronavirus entertainment void, Jim Milliot shows how some big publishers are finding ways to cope, and Publishers Weekly reports that print unit sales end July with a 15% increase.

Self-publishing is an entire ecosystem unto itself. Roz Morris answers 4 questions posed at a self-publishing conference (covering editing, cross-genre publishing, and author control), and Meg LeTorre lists the best self-publishing companies for novels in 2020.

Steve Laube has 12 steps to publication, Rachelle Gardner says to get an agents’ attention write another book, and Denise Massar answers the question: are editors responding to submissions during the pandemic?

Marketing covers a lot of ground, and it changes as the times change. Amy Collins discusses changing your perspective on marketing during the pandemic, V.F. Sharp has 7 tips for marketing your book from a fantasy author, and Kristina Olegovna has 6 marketing tips from a 12-year-old author.

Branding and image are central to marketing. Melinda VanLone explores updating your books cover, Sandra Beckwith shares 5 common book press release mistakes, Sherry Howard has suggestions for getting the word out about your book release, and Eldred “Bob” Bird walks us through how to give back to our readers.

Blogging and social media are a prime way to reach people now. Dave Chesson tells us what to write about on our author blogs (with blog topics), Cristian Mihai has a pre-publishing checklist for your blog article and 7 tips from famous authors that will make you a better blogger, while James Scott Bell sends us notes from the social media deportment department.


Roz Morris discusses how to write books for children and young adults, while Joanna Penn interviews Susie K Quinn about how to write a bestseller.


Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton resurrect the weird women: the forgotten female horror writers of the 19th century and beyond.

We can learn how to tell a story from many different sources. Odie Lindsey talks about learning to write from Willie Nelson.

If you’re looking for something to fill your quarantine time, Olivia Rutigliano ranks the 35 most iconic caper movies.

Bob Blaisdell examines Pushkin’s influence on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Where we write can have a profound influence on what we write. Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle discusses writing in the ancestral Cherokee homeland.

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

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