Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 2, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-02-2020

Welcome to Top Picks Thursday! It is finally April! I hope you are all settling into the new normal of your lives and are safe.

To help pass time and keep us learning, Mary Kole has a workshop intensive called Story Mastermind, and Jane Friedman has a new Newsfeed for book publishing.

You can also help librarians and archivists from your living room!

In author news, writer and editor Richard Marek died at age 86, and award-winning author-illustrator Tomie dePaola died at 85.


Lots of people are taking time to write. David Barnett explores the phenomenon of new novelists in self-isolation, and Grant Faulkner talks about #StayHomeWriMo, brought to you by NaNoWriMo.

Carly Sandifer explains why you should write in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Margie Zable Fisher tells how to keep writing and making money during the coronavirus crisis.

Boone Ashworth examines how COVID-19’s impact on libraries goes beyond books, and Michael Agresta reminds us that the seminal novel about the 1918 flu pandemic was written by a Texan.

This is National Poetry Month in the USA. Heather Webb finds beauty and comfort in poetry’s words, and Sir Patrick Stewart reads a Shakespearean sonnet a day on Instagram.

The pandemic is teaching us all a lot of lessons. Roni Loren shares befores and afters: 10 things she’s learning during this pandemic, while Bill Ferris uses his usual comedy in the hack’s guide to writing in a pandemic.


In these shifting times, Joyce Carol Oates discusses new forms of storytelling—and old ones, too.

Amy Jones explores finding the story when writing for very small children.

Many people are thinking of freelancing in their time at home, so Michael Stover has a comprehensive guide for the new freelance writer.

If you are specifically writing a profile piece on someone, Joel Foster lists 8 tips for writing a compelling profile piece.

Since most of us are at least trying to write, craft remains important. Jacqueline Meyers has 4 little letters that will transform your writing process, Rosie O’Neill tells us how to craft a compelling scene, Ruth Harris shows how to rescue an endangered book, and Janice Hardy examines the pros and cons of studying the writing craft and how to plot your novel with mini-arcs.

Our characters are the heart and soul of our story. Jami Gold explores how point of view affects dialogue, Nathan Bransford warns to only show characters crying when they are truly at their wit’s end, Janice Hardy shows how to reveal a character’s past without falling into backstory, Stavros Halvatzis explains how character shapes action, and Lisa Hall-Wilson reveals how to write a compelling emotional trigger.

Editing is the final step to crafting our masterpiece. Alycia W. Morales shares 5 ways newbie fiction writers can improve their manuscripts, Barbara Linn Probst compares peer critique vs. professional editing and when to use each, Henry McLaughlin discusses the art of self-editing, Diana Y. Paul contemplates editing and revising with mindfulness, and Bonnie Randall examines finishing your novel and the grieving process.

Malarie Gokey has 7 reasons ebooks are better than printed books, Robert Lee Brewer compiled 8 Andy Weir quotes for writers and about writing, and Cassie Werber examines how non-English speakers learn this crazy grammar rule you know but never heard of.

Katharine Grubb shares 7 ways to be more creative, Tiffany Joy has 6 secrets to becoming a more productive writer, Amitava Kumar examines the long tradition of writers needing ritual, Erica Wright dispels the myth of perfect writing locations, and Colleen M. Story discusses how to avoid completely wasting your time when trapped at home.


COVID-19 is pulling no punches, and turning lots of people’s worlds upside down. Coastal regional bookstore associations offer additional help to struggling stores, Barnes & Noble closes over 400 stores, Jim Milliot depicts how the coronavirus takes its toll on publishing, and the American Library Association cancels its 2020 annual conference.

If you are self-published, Savannah Cordova shares 5 reasons to consider translating your work, and as you design your book Ellen Buikema discusses white space in writing.

Lots of people consider a pen name when they start writing. David Kudler makes an argument against pen names, except in certain situations.

Truth is, right now nobody knows what’s going on in publishing—or in much of the rest of the business world. Janet Reid offers her advice on querying during the next few months, and on how to approach the reality of the pandemic in the fiction of your work.

None of this is business as usual, even though people are trying hard to keep things as normal as possible. So cut yourself a break, and also give grace and patience to everyone else. We’re all trying to figure it out together.

Marketing, too, has been greatly impacted by the state of the world. Frances Caballo suggests changing the way you market in the COVID-19 era, Sandra Beckwith shares 7 things you need to know about working with a publicist, Sarah Bolme discusses how to overcome the top three challenges to selling books, and Sharon Bially explores the sunny(er) side of launch event cancellations.

With online being the safest way to be with your readers now, Rae Steinbach has tips for authors to convert readers by writing effective calls-to-action, while Cristian Mihai discusses the art of blogging for an audience, and has 10 tips to take your blogging to the next level in 2020.


We wordsmiths often like word games. Adrienne Raphel gives us a brief history of word games.

Looking to pass the time? Rolling Stone lists the 50 greatest rock memoirs of all time.

Environment influences your art. Young William Faulkner’s time in the French Quarter influenced his developing writing style.

Adam Kirsch explores T.S. Eliot’s animus: the role of the poet-critic.

There are some people you don’t want to be on lockdown with: W.H. Auden was a messy roommate.

Then there are quarantine situations that blow your mind: Hemingway was once quarantined for the summer with his wife, son…and mistress.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home if you can!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 26, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-26-2020

Welcome to the Twilight Zone…er, Top Picks Thursday! March 27th is National Scribble Day, which sounds fun, and April, which somehow is next week already, is National Poetry Month! Poetic Asides is hosting a daily poetry prompt and challenge all month, for those with time on their hands.

For Women’s History Month, here’s a look at stats on women authors in literary fiction (and other genres) book sales in the US.

In a defeat for creatives everywhere, the US Supreme Court decided in Allen vs. Cooper that US states have sovereign immunity from copyright damages.

Sometimes lightning strikes where you least expect it—sales soar 2000% on a children’s book about hand washing.

Unfortunately, Tony-award-winning playwright Terrance McNally died at age 81 from complications of coronavirus.


We’re all facing unprecedented times here. Some of us are writing. Some find we cannot. All are disrupted and many are frightened. As usual, though, the writing community is reaching out to help each other, so here are some links you might find useful or uplifting.

Indie bookstore are closing their physical spaces to keep their customers and staff safe, but they aren’t ceasing to serve their communities. In the UK indie booksellers are getting inventive, while in New York the stores search for community online. What should you order from your store? Matthew Norman has compiled a reading list to make you laugh, while more serious reading can be found with Chelsea Haith tracing pandemics from Homer to Stephen King. If any of our readers has suggestions of books to pass the time, lift the spirits, or make people laugh, feel free to put them in the comments!

The publishing industry as a whole is also stepping up. Porter Anderson reports on publishers’ resource lists amid the pandemic, and how international publishers are making COVID-19 research content freely available.

Individuals are bringing their A-game, too. Claire Kirch shows us the novelists who ignited A Mighty Blaze in response to extinguished book tours, Janice Hardy offers two free at-home workshops, and Dan Sheehan spotlights big-hearted individuals who have made their Little Free Libraries into Little Free Panties.

How do we handle the emotions of this crazy time? Linda S. Clare explains corona-crisis journaling, Roni Loren has a few ideas for coping with COVID-19 anxiety, and Angela Ackerman suggests asking ourselves: in difficult times, what would our characters do?

Julianna Baggott examines creating in the time of quarantine, Jordan Dane has a writer’s guide to surviving social distancing and quarantine, Sue Coletta reminds us the world needs creatives more than ever, and K.M. Weiland reveals the power of hopeful stories in a stressful time.


This week seems to have people thinking about crime and suspense writing. Elizabeth Mitchell shares a step-by-step guide to writing suspense, Terry Odell has an overview of romantic suspense, and Karen Dietrich looks at red herrings in contemporary crime literature.

In other genres, Amy Fish has 5 tips for adding humor to a self-help book, and Robert Lee Brewer parses fable vs. parable vs. allegory.

Big craft elements are sometimes difficult for writers to get their minds around. Lucy V. Hay explains why all writers need a structural toolbox, Frank McCourt discusses telling the underlying story, Joseph Scapellato talks about story shape, and Kristen Lamb sees the collision of powerful ideas at the center of all great stories.

Some of us outline, and some of us don’t. Melinda Copp shares tips for writing a book outline, E.J. Wenstrom discusses how she tricks her pantser brain into plotting, and James Scott Bell admonishes us to write tight.

We’ve got to have characters in our novels, and usually they talk to each other in some way. Katharine Grubb lists 5 character types that make great antagonistic forces, and Harrison Demchick has 5 undervalued tips that will make your dialogue stronger.

Creativity is the heart of what we do, but sometimes it’s hard to come by. Jennifer Mendez explores using limitations and constraints to boost imagination, Angela Ackerman gives us a creative kick in the pants, and Matthew Duffus examines the sounds of silence: when writer’s block strikes.

Inspiration is always welcome, so Melinda Copp has 10 evergreen ways to improve your writing life, and Robert Lee Brewer compiles 10 Walt Whitman quotes for writers and about writing.


Since we should all understand the contracts we are signing, take a look at the Author Guild’s new model trade book contract.

Rosalie Morales Kearns lays out 3 unique research methods for identifying small publishers.

Piper Bayard examines indie publishing 101, part III.

In a move that is not a surprise, Amazon deprioritizes book sales amid coronavirus crisis.

With so many bookstores closing, Amy Roost talks about the terrible ripple effect of canceled book tours.

Querying an agent is stressful process. Janet Reid discusses reasons she might have passed on your query, Rachelle Gardner likens publishing to being in the Shark Tank, and Steve Laube explains how an agent can manage so many clients.

As if writing the book isn’t enough, there are plenty of other types of marketing writing we need to master as authors. Laina Turner shows how to write compelling back cover copy, Amy Stark coaches us on how to write a synopsis without losing your mind, and Barbara Linn Probst discusses blurbing and getting blurbed.

Reviews are vital to marketing efforts. Anne R. Allen dives into Amazon’s new review rules, while Sandra Beckwith gives us 3 reasons to embrace 1-star reader reviews.

Selling books is a shared goal we all have. Brian Jud discusses how to reach your book sales goals this year and how to sell children’s books, while Joanna Penn describes how to sell your books directly to readers and get paid immediately.

Our online presence is part of our author brand. Sandra Beckwith helps us find our author brand, Nate Hoffelder walks us through changing our author blog into an author website, and Cristian Mihai shares 4 simple steps to building a blog audience and why hacks and shortcuts don’t work anymore.


In a rather dramatic tale, Valentina Di Liscia tells us of a formerly lost, glimmering manuscript by Persian poet Hafez.

Adrienne Raphel talks to poets about their love of crossword puzzles.

Matthew Wills examines how Emily Dickinson wrestled with Darwinism.

Because it’s fun, Emily Temple hunted up the stories behind the names famous authors gave their pets.

Andrew Belonsky looks at how America’s oldest bookstore has survived across the centuries.

That’s it for Top Picks Thursday! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home if you can!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | March 19, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-19-2020

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, winter tree trunks in early morning sun


Welcome to Top Picks Thursday on this first day of spring! Here’s hoping your weather is nice enough to allow you to take breaks from reading and writing by spending a little time outside … at a proper social distance from others, of course.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everyone’s lives in the past week. We hope you all are taking the recommended precautions to slow the rapid spread of the disease. Keep in mind that these precautions also will put a damper on the flu, colds, and other illnesses. We are living in a difficult time, but we humans are strong and resilient. We can get through this.

Many writers have shared thoughts about the effect of the virus, more than we can include. Here’s a sampling: Literary Hub editor Jonny Diamond takes a look at the literary community in a time of global pandemic, Janet Reid discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the publishing issue, and Alex Green and Ed Nawotka consider the spreading impact of the coronavirus on the publishing industry. On a more personal level, editor Sara Reggiani talks about life in quarantine in Italy, and Laurie Swift Raisys relates the difficulties facing a Washington bookstore owner because of the coronavirus. Providing insight on the impact on authors, Amy Klein tells us what it’s like to promote a book in the middle of a pandemic.

On the brighter side, SCBWI’s Lee Wind celebrates 28 black children’s book creators.

In Memoriam: Tony Award-winning playwright Mart Crowley dies at age 84 [reported by Harrison Smith in The Philadelphia Inquirer], and Barbara Neely, activist and writer who created Blanche White, dies at age 78 [reported by Sam Roberts in The New York Times].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, a clump of late winter daffodils




At times, we all feel down in the dumps. James Scott Bell gives us a pep talk: don’t stress over things you can’t control, and Lisa Tener shares tips for clearing the mind of negativity in order to create. Nathan Bransford looks at writing in a time of anxiety and asks what will you write during the pandemic?

Are you finding writing slow going? Elizabeth S. Craig recommends spring cleaning for writers, and Jennifer Shirk advocates writing like a runner, while Angela Ackerman asks: need a creative kick in the pants?

Colleen M. Story focuses on 10 common time management mistakes writers should avoid.

Jim Dempsey ponders writing when you’re not writing., while Carol Despeaux Fawcett shows how to slay writer’s block once and for all.

Nina Amir stresses 7 ways you can write for change, and Olga Mecking offers tips on writing for a global audience.

Rachael Cooper delves into how to write a book for children in the age of technology.

Story structure is important. Mary Kole shares a novel outline template, while Laurence MacNaughton sets out a 6-point story checklist for powerful scenes.

Working on your characters? Kathryn Craft advocates letting your protagonist’s light shine, and E. J. Wenstrom explains how to make unlikeable characters compelling.

Where does your story take place? Jennifer S. Alderson takes a look at researching settings from the comfort of your home., and Emily Golus suggests ways to establish vivid settings without slowing your plot.

Jami Gold asks: what’s the right pace for your story? and how can we ensure our pacing is good? One way, she suggests, is to give every story element a purpose.

If you’re interested in genre fiction, Mark Alpert gives his take on the coronavirus and the crisis novel.

For those editing their stories, Iola Goulton makes sense of using italics in fiction, and Nathan Bransford reassures us: don’t fear repeating pronouns.



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Canadian geese, geese in the back yard




J. T. Patten advises authors to fake it till you make it: how to sell yourself as a career author when you’re on the road to becoming one, while E. G. Radcliff contemplates why authors use pen names.

If you’re in the process of selling your book, Jessica Faust looks at understanding deal terms: auction, pre-empt, and exclusive.

John Doppler sets out 5 reasons small publishers fail (and how to avoid them).

For those considering self-publishing, Piper Bayard presents Indie Publishing 101 — part 1 and part 2, and Evelyn Maguire contributes 13 authors’ advice on how to self-publish a book.

Looking at more specific areas of self-publishing, David Bergsland shares some free font design resources, Lynn Cantwell considers how to match your cover to your genre, and Nathan Bransford talks about how to choose a book title.

Tracy Atkins reminds us Amazon is a search engine, so make your book searchable.

Marketing tips: Nate Hoffelder lists 13 tips to get the most out of your first book fair, and Keri-Rae Barnum goes into how to run a successful ebook promotion with or without BookBub.

If you’re blogging or thinking about starting a blog, David Hartshorne explores how to choose a domain name for your blog, and Kylie gives us a guide to how to share a blog post 10 different ways.

Janet Reid speaks about when you inherit a novel that an ancestor wrote and never published.



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




William Shakespeare’s work continues to have relevance in our modern world. James Shapiro talks about Shakespeare and the culture wars: on the movement for color-blind casting, and Ben Cohen looks at how the plague ravaged William Shakespeare’s world and inspired his work, from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth.

With a look at the enduring work of another author of classics, Hillary Kelly explains why Emma is still Jane Austen’s most pleasurable heroine.

Sara B. Franklin writes about how Judith Jones radically transformed American food writing.

The origin of words is a fascinating subject. Luis Jaramillo ponders the rich wonderful old vocabulary of sailing.

Here’s more evidence (not that any of us writers really need more) of the importance of libraries. Julia Rampen tells us about the mobile library reaching refugees’ hearts and minds in Greece.

We love reading about bookstores. Andrew Belonsky writes about how America’s oldest bookstore has survived across the centuries.

Sam Jones reveals that a unique Pablo Neruda archive will go on sale in Barcelona next week.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, yellow crocuses


One final thought. We are a community, and as a community we have strength to do what needs to be done. We need to keep in touch with each other and help one another. Remember that local small businesses, including bookstores, will have a hard time during this crisis. We can help these local businesses and our fellow authors by going to their websites and buying online. Also, remember you can avoid grocery store crowds by ordering take-out or delivery from your local restaurants. Together we can triumph.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, late winter blue irises


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Stay well and visit us again next Thursday for another roundup of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, log with moss and lichen, NC, late winter



Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 12, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-12-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! As the coronavirus keeps us inside, make good use of the time: Saturday, March 14th, is National Write Down Your Story Day! And when you are done writing, check out all the links below.

In author news, award-winning mystery writer Barbara Neely died at 78 this week.

Take a look at PEN America’s 2020 literary award winners.

Check it out. Latinx in Publishing launches their mentorship program.

Will the publishing world soon be the Big Four? ViacomCBS is selling off Simon and Schuster.

Jami Gold has some ideas on how to support literacy and help authors and readers.

Chris Winkle shows how to describe women without degrading them.

Looking for work? Mary Kole is hiring an executive assistant.


If you are writing a series, Nathan Bransford has everything writers need to know about book series, and Bryn Greenwood looks at the difference between sophomore slump and derailment.

How do you get your ideas? Brian Andrews uses the question that launched a thousand writing careers: what if?, and Donald Maass suggests an alternative: it can’t happen here.

Plotters outline before they right, but many pansters follow Debbie Burke’s method and outline in reverse.

The hardest part of writing is that all the pieces have to be right, from structure to punctuation. Janice Hardy discusses why that “perfectly good scene” might be boring your readers, Stavros Halvatzis explores reversals in stories, and Robert Lee Brewer shows how to make your semicolon use daring and correct.

Characters will make or break our work. Florence Osmund has tips for hooking the readers with characters they care about, J.R. Bee suggests using people watching to create believable characters, Jessi Jezewska Stevens extols the hidden power of the passive protagonist, Janice Hardy shares tips on showing character motivation, Nathan Bransford warns to avoid these generic reactions, and Kassandra Lamb explores the importance of backstory (or how the brain connects the present to the past).

Hearing criticism of our books is always hard, even when it is valid. RJ Crayton explain how to handle genuine feedback on your novel, while Rose Fox talks about how to handle negative book reviews.

Sometimes we need to find inspiration to keep the creative flow going. Susann Cokal lists 4 reasons to spend time with “bad” books, Eldred “Bob” Bird enjoys coloring with words, and Judith Briles suggests we try jucilating.

Julie Gover compiles 10 noteworthy podcasts for writers, Robert Lee Brewer gives us 8 James Patterson quotes, and Sandra Beckwith reminds us don’t be afraid to fail.

Writing often entails going to conferences and finding time to write. Katie Forrest shares 9 time management tips for writers, Nancy J. Cohen has a packing checklist for a writers conference,  and Sophie Masson discusses creating and presenting writing workshops.


Anne R. Allen looks at the biggest mistake novelists and memoirists make.

Michele Debczak explains why hardcover books are published before paperbacks.

What’s up with Barnes & Noble? Thomas Buckley and Scott Deveau say Barnes & Noble’s new plan is to be more like an indie bookseller.

Self-Publishing Review explores what Amazon KDP’s terms mean for self-published authors in 2020.

We all want to be a bestseller, but what does that really mean? John Peragine chases the elusive and enigmatic bestseller.

Querying is a job unto itself. Reedsy shows how to write a picture book query in 6 simple steps, and James Scott Bell has synopsis writing made easy. Jessica Faust talks about the impact of previously self-published books on the query process, while Janet Reid tackles querying a middle grade with lots of formatting and author-agency agreement termination clauses.

Marketing comes in many forms. Nancy Johnson discusses the importance of your title (and how to pick one), E.J. Wenstrom dissects the elements of a book launch, and Laurisa White Reyes reminds us that to be successful, we need to learn our craft.

Blogging is a popular way to connect with your readers. Brandon Cornett explores 5 reasons to start blogging and 3 ways to do it right, and Cristian Mihai shares 5 tips from a full-time blogger and the ultimate article writing checklist.


Information is power. Alana Mohamed examines how J. Edgar Hoover used the power of libraries for evil.

Rachel Zarrow marvels that the best part of Little Women is that it contains no bad men.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! If you’re Irish, enjoy St. Patrick’s Day next week, and then come see us on Thursday for more literary links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 5, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-05-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in March! Is this month coming in like a lion for you? Get your red pens out—Sunday, March 8th, is National Proofreading Day!

Following the lead of other international book fairs, the London Book Fair has been cancelled over coronavirus fears.

In author news, YA author Myron Levoy dies at age 89 and award-winning children’s author Betsy Byars dies at age 91.

Fostering reading is a cause dear to most writers’ hearts. Donna Ferguson explains how she raised a bookworm in the digital age, Alison Flood looks at giving older children story time to halt falling young reader numbers, Julie Beck explain why we forget most of the books we read, Alex Fusco explores bikes and books in Afghanistan: improving literacy with a mobile library, and Shafiqah Othman asks if there is anything wrong with being a slow reader.

Laws that would censor books and punish librarians are popping up in many states. Nicole Cook explains a proposed censorship law in Missouri that could jail or fine librarians, and Andrew Albanese looks at a similar law in Tennessee with parental review boards for public libraries and prison time for non-compliant librarians.

Victoria Strauss investigates mass contract cancellations at mystery publisher Henery Press.

Arthur Klepchukov lists fiction writing contests worth your time in Spring 2020.


For our sci-fi and fantasy writers: Patty Jansen discusses how much science needs to be in Science Fiction, while Toni Susnjar explores types of castles for your fantasy fortifications.

Writing requires various skills. Jess Zafarris explains mastering high concept ideas, Simon Van Booy looks at becoming a multigenre writer, and Melissa Bowersock shows how to manage your book series.

So how do you get started on a project? Liana Turner lays out how to have an effective brainstorming session.

Scenes are the building blocks of our stories. Barbara Linn Probst calls scene-by-scene work the “middle” level of writing, Ellen Buikema uses visuals to inspire scenes, Jordan Dane has key ways to add depth to any setting, and John Gilstrap advises thinking small to make big scenes work.

Try as we might, writers often make mistakes as we forge ahead with our work. Colleen M. Story shares 5 mistakes to avoid if you want to finish your book, Sarah Chauncey gives us 5 mistakes when writing flashbacks, and Jami Gold explores the pitfalls of our stories having unintended deeper meanings.

Characters inhabit our scenes, so we need to make them count. Nathan Bransford discusses making characters interesting through contradiction, Janice Hardy looks at strengthening character goals, and James Scott Bell urges us to have shocking coffee with our lead character.

For first person narratives, consider Patty Jansen’s “danger” of writing in first person and Carol Goodman’s exploration of the first person persona and writing behind the mask of “I”.

Revision is the step that can’t be skipped but many dread. Jami Gold tells us where to find advice from editors, David Farland explains what makes a great writing group, Kris Maze has 5 steps to superstar self-editing, and Nathan Bransford reminds us we gotta tell the story.

When editing we have to pay attention to things ranging from punctuation to structure. Helene Schumacher wonders: have we murdered the apostrophe?; Robert Lee Brewer ends the debate by explaining why the Oxford comma is so cool, Jessica Faust tells us if your first pages are slow you have to revise, not tell people “it picks up later”; and PJ Parrish reveals what it’s like to rewrite your whole darn book.

Advice (often unsolicited) is ubiquitous. Some of it turns out to be good, some not so good. Anne R. Allen gives us 10 clueless pieces of advice people give writers, while Katherine Grubb shares 8 excellent reasons why you should write every day, and Carolyn Grady lists 10 ways to overcome writer’s block.

Teddy Wayne compiles what he’s learned interviewing 300 authors over 7 years, Bonnie Randall reminds us the story in your heart is the story readers want to hear, and Liana Turner asks: what’s the worst that can happen if you go for your dreams?; while Maggie Wells explains the dangers of chasing the “blockbuster” dream.


Lynn Steger Strong reveals a dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it.

Want to self-publish? Florence Osmund dives into how much self-publishing is going to cost.

Interested in doing an audiobook? Jane Friedman tells us how to get started in audiobook publishing.

Agent Janet Reid answers if asking for a smaller advance as an author is good or bad business.

Your author brand defines you to your readers. Beth Barany shows how to attract your readers with 4 steps to your author branding statement, Sean Platt explains how to write your author bio, the ALLi team discusses fiction content marketing, and Sandra Beckwith outlines how to get awesome book cover blurbs.

Much of marketing is online. John Burke shares the complete guide to creating an author website, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million images into the public domain, Penny Sansevieri lists 3 ways to prevent Amazon reviews from vanishing, and Greer Macallister suggests instead of promotion, try participation.

Adam Connell has the 10 best social media listening tools to monitor your brand, Cristian Mihai asks: is your blog who you are? and points out the 5 sins of blogging you must avoid at all costs; and Heather Webb explores social media meltdowns: tackling burnout for writers.


Brittany Vickers is on the trail of African American writers and artists in Paris.

Martha Ackmann gives us a glimpse inside the best summer of Emily Dickinson’s life.

Even iconic works can have rough starts. Take a look at what reviewers thought of John Steinbeck’s 5 most iconic works.

What really caused Poe’s death? A study concludes that Edgar Allen Poe likely didn’t kill himself.

We all have heard of the epic poems like The Odyssey. But how do we know that ancient epic poems were recited from memory?

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 27, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-27-2020

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 20, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-20-2020



Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Our weather in the Mid-Atlantic States has seesawed this month from slightly below normal to well above normal. Although we’ve missed the snow that a lot of you have experienced, we’re still looking forward to spring. Only one month to go.

Next Wednesday is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. If you have young ones around, take the opportunity to read a classic fairy tale. Everyone else might want to consider a literary classic: Daniel Frank shares the most loved and hated classics according to Goodreads users.

Whether you’re a fan of A Game of Thrones or not, you might enjoy Robert Lee Brewer’s collection of 12 George R. R. Martin quotes for writers and about writing.

In memoriam: A. E. Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway, dies at age 102 [reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Hillel Italie, Associated Press].


Early birds — they beat the crocuses this year.




Want to improve your writing? Beth van der Pol points out that you can learn how to be creative, while Jessica Strawser looks into how teaching can make you a better writer, and Katie Forrest sets out 9 time management tips for writers.

We all feel doubt and discouragement at times. Julie Glover talks about how to love your writer self, Patti Jo Moore considers the Goldilocks syndrome, and Tasha Seegmiller reminds us writers are separate from their craft.

For those thinking about writing a book with another author, Maryann Miller gives us ten tips for successful collaboration.

If you’re just beginning your manuscript, Gordon Long explains how to create a dynamic four-sentence opening paragraph.

Several bloggers bring us information and tips about the key story elements theme, plot, and tone. Stavros Halvatzis concentrates on story tone and its relationship to theme and plot, September C. Fawkes examines how premise plays into theme, Brandon Cornette delves into when “situational” writing works better than plotting, and Janice Hardy focuses on plotting with the save the cat beat sheet structure.

Other bloggers concentrate on suspense and conflict. K. M. Weiland offers 6 steps to create realistic (and powerful) scene dilemmas, Laurence MacNaughton lists 3 rules to raising the story stakes, Jim Dempsey stresses creating conflict in your characters, and Kris Bock suggests keeping the reader guessing with story questions when writing a page-turner.

Good dialogue brings a story to life. James Scott Bell advocates mastering the basics: point of view and dialogue, Melissa Donovan talks about action and dialogue in storytelling, and Lori Rader-Day reveals the secrets to better dialogue.

For those working in particular genres, Steven K. Smith discusses middle grade novel structure, E. L .Skip Knox relates history for fantasy writers: how time was perceived in ancient and medieval Europe, Andrew Noakes mentions five historical fiction mistakes to avoid, and Saralyn Richard digs into perfecting the police procedural.

Do you need to do research for your story? J. R. Bee explains why everyone should research, and Terry Odell advocates doing your homework.

When it’s time to polish that first draft, Robert Lee Brewer takes a look at metaphor vs. personification, Roni Loren describes 3 pitfalls to avoid so you don’t write boring love scenes, and Kathryn Craft details 7 ways to overcome story implausibility.

Once you’ve polished your work, it’s time to find an editor. Natasa Lekic clarifies different types of editing, and Nathan Bransford suggests when editing, start with the problems before jumping to solutions.

Finally, Janet Reid celebrates editors, the invisible heroes of publishing.


Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash




If you’re seeking an agent, Janet Reid discusses how to deal with a less-than-stellar publishing past in a query.

Hate even thinking about a synopsis? Kristen Lamb explains why you need a synopsis, even if you self-publish.

As much as we desire publication, we need to be careful in the process. Anne R. Allen warns us about 10 new publishing scams to watch out for in 2020, and Janet Reid advises writers what to do if contacted out of the blue by a seeming editor or agent. In addition, Victoria Strauss looks at whether you should pay to display your book at BookExpo.

Providing tips and information about branding, platform, and marketing, Rennie St. James lists three must-haves for effective branding, Stephanie Chandler goes into how to clearly define your target audience so you can build your platform and sell more books, Dave Chesson explores how to use keyword research to sell more books, Sandra Beckwith enumerates 8 ways to make your book’s press release work harder, and Amy Collins updates us with: do this, don’t do that 2020.

For those involved in social media marketing and blogging, Frances Caballo informs us how to create a social media strategy as an author, while Cristian Mihai ponders how to find your blogging muse and reminds us that first impressions matter a lot.

Anything that helps booksellers is good news for writers. Christen Thompson writes that new tools are leveling the playing field for booksellers.


Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash




Finola Austin discusses the Brontë myth: why this literary family continues to inspire writers today.

In 594 ways of reading Jane Eyre, Bonnie Chau considers a study to understand the way a source is transformed by translators and how the translations reflect their culture.

Continuing with the topic of culture, Chi Luu asserts that black English matters.

Writers are urged to read. Craig Fehrman looks into how Obama’s reading shaped his writing.

Sarah Rose Sharp takes us inside a museum and library dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut.



That wraps up this week’s roundup of writerly links. Have a productive week of reading and writing, and join us next week for more Top Picks Thursday.




Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 13, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-13-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Monday, February 17th is National Random Acts of Kindness Day, so go make the world better one small act at a time.

Speaking of good acts, the 2020 PEN America Literary Service Award goes to Patti Smith.

If you celebrate Valentine’s Day (or if you just like love poems), recommends 14 love poems, classic and contemporary.

Mary Kole has a mysterious yet exciting opportunity for writers.

Sadly, Roger Kahn, author of The Boys of Summer, died at age 92.

In diversity news, the American Dirt publisher vows to increase Latinx staff and authors after meeting with concerned Latinx groups.

Storytelling kept early humans alive. Gaia Vince discusses the adaptive urgency of storytelling, shaping our minds, our societies, and our interaction with the environment. Books in prisons have been proven to help reformation, so Arvind Dilawar lays out how to help prisoners get books.

The scammers never stop trying to reel in unsuspecting writers. Melissa Bowersock reveals the Quantum Leap scam, and Victoria Strauss cautions us to beware of these and others playing the impersonation game.


Sometimes it’s hard to develop one of the many story ideas in our heads. Nina Amir discusses how to take a spiritual approach to developing writing ideas. It’s also hard to pick a title. James Scott Bell asks: how do you pick a title? And over all is the fear of your own bad writing. Dean Mayes talks about shedding the fear of writing shit.

Sherry Howard examines what novelists can learn from studying picture books, Jodie Renner says don’t give your readers a reason to reject your novel, Stavros Halvatzis explores structure from Act 1 on, and Janice Hardy pokes dead scenes with a stick.

When creating our characters, we have to dig into every aspect of their lives. K.M. Weiland looks at the 2 different types of the Lie Your Character Believes, J. Kenner instructs how to write romance scenes, B.K. Bass discusses avatars of the divine for fantasy worldbuilding, and Mukoma Wa Ngugi has a concise guide for white writers on writing your other.

Once you’ve written, now you have to clean it up. Pat Stoltey gives tips on getting the best critique group ever, Terry Odell says that sometimes it’s okay to tell, not show, Kris Spisak has 4 problem areas in revision and 5 novel editing question to ask, D. Greg Scott tells us how to avoid writing tech gibberish, and Meg LaTorre tells us how to find critique partners and beta readers. Sometimes, though, no amount of editing is going to help your work right now. Sally Shupe explores when it’s time to let go.

We take our inspiration from everywhere. Sarah Kozloff discusses the cross-pollination of art forms, Martin Dumont examines what shipyards can teach us about the writing process, and John Peragine takes the leap from non-fiction to fiction.

Creativity is our lifeblood, and it can be hard to harness. Melissa Donovan urges us to share our writing, Lisa Tener has 5 ways to get unstuck in writing, creativity, or life; Cathy Yardley reminds us that our subconscious speaks a different language, and Angela Ackerman shares tools to make you a more powerful writer in 2020.

Jennie Nash tells us what makes a good book coach, Sweata Vikram shares why winter is a great time to write, and Jodi Turchin talks about how to persevere when the mountain seems unconquerable.

We’re all passionate about our writing, but sometimes we have to step back and look at the big picture and where we are headed. Jami Gold asks: where do you want your story or career to go?, Sarah Sundin shares 10 things she’s learned in 10 years, and Debra Eckerling looks at rebooting your goals.


Kari Paul warns that Amazon is using your Kindle to collect a lot of data about your reading habits.

In a win for authors, US publishers succeed in the Audible captions case.

Aimee Aristoelous has tips for using partnerships to help land a nonfiction book deal.

In an ideal world, your book’s cover wouldn’t matter. In our world, it does. Jim Milliot reports on survey results on judging a book by its title, Nate Hoffelder pits Canva vs. Book Brush for creating your graphics, and Melinda VanLone has a quick guide to image copyright issues.

Indie authors have to know a lot if they are to take full advantage of all their book rights. Ofer Tirosh tells us what indie authors need to know before translating books, Jordan Dane takes a look at audio books, and Eleanor Pigg gives us the ultimate guide to ISBNs for authors.

Getting a publisher’s attention is hard enough as it is. But when some demand ever-more books per year, it can be crushing. Janet Reid answers the question: is a book a month the new norm?, and Don Bentley shares 4 tips for moving from slush pile to sale.

Marketing is a whole other job than writing, yet we authors must learn how to do it. Sandra Beckwith lists 4 steps to new book marketing habits, Nancy J. Cohen wonders if blog tours are worthwhile, Cristian Mahai has 30 tips to help you become a better blogger and what to do if nobody is reading your best posts, and Penny C. Sansevieri explains Pinterest for authors.


Charles Dickens spun stories his entire adult life, but even in death Charles Dickens left behind a riveting tale of deceit.

Dan Bevacqua wonders what happens when you treat writing like acting?

While high-end editions of classics bring in huge money at auctions today, it was the proliferation of penny editions of Jane Austin’s novels that brought literature to the masses.

Gwen Ihnat tracks the evolution of the “smart girl” trope in pop culture.

A tale of two Dorothys. Francesca Wade peeks into Dorothy L. Sayers and The Detection Club, and Jonathan Goldman examines when Dorothy Parker got fired from Vanity Fair.

That’s all for this week! We will see you back here next week for more literary links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 6, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-06-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of February! The month is short, but our link list is long. Next week, celebrate Freelance Writers Appreciation Week!

The Youth Media Awards are out, and a graphic novel wins the Newbery Medal for the first time. Also awarded were the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, and Michael L. Printz Awards.

SCBWI announces the winners of their Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards.

In non-prose news, the Mellon Foundation grants $4.5 million to the Academy of American Poets.

The end of an era. Suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark dies at age 92.

Diversity is something authors and publishers grapple with all the time these days, as they wrestle with the shortcomings in the industry. Rachel Deahl comments on publishing’s American Dirt problem, Jami Gold ponders what the calls for diversity mean for our writing, and Jason T. Low produces the 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey of the state of publishing last year.


For our non-fiction writers, Tract R. Atkins continues her series on special formatting for non-fiction books in Microsoft Word.

If you write crime fiction (or read it), Paul D. Marks wants to know where else in the world would you like to see a crime fiction novel set and why?

Lots of us enter writing contests. Sarah Loudin Thomas admits to being conflicted about contests—and I’ll be many of us can understand her feelings.

A novel-length story is hefty, and building the structure to support it all can be tough. Janice Hardy has 4 tips on plotting your novel, Bob Hostetler looks at compelling first lines, Jami Gold discusses bridging conflicts from the story beginning to the main conflict, and Colleen M. Story advises how to make it through the middle of your book.

Other than structure, there are plenty of other craft elements writers need to master. Brian Andrews talks about setting—the silent character, Nils Odlund shares three thoughts on timing or pacing your prose, and James Scott Bell warns of the curse of expository dialogue.

Aside from all those other craft elements, we have to deal with characters. William Kenower looks at writing villains in memoir, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to write great characters, Nathan Bransford explains why protagonists need to be active, and Abigail Hing Wen discusses learning character development the brutally hard way.

Writers are often stressed out. Ann Parker explores how to have the best writing year ever but with less stress, Lori Freeland has 12 survival tricks for a creative’s anxiety, and Bethany Henry lists 6 ways to feed your Muse.

The intersection of writing and real life can be bumpy. Jane Freidman tells us how to get the most out of writer’s conferences, both as conferees and presenters, while Ann R. Allen muses over the pitfalls that come when life imitates fiction.


The business end of writing is forever changing. Jim Milliot reports that print unit sales posted a big end of January gain, while Kristen Lamb discusses the growing trend of major retailers and publishers leaving Amazon to go it alone.

Judith Briles talks about why you should self-publish in 2020.

Porter Anderson extols the women newly named to publishing executive positions in Germany and the US.

Janet Reid says don’t tweet your story to attract agents and editors, and K. Maze shares the moment when rejection becomes connection.

Marketing is largely on the author’s plate these days, and it is terrifying for many. Shawn Inmon says you don’t need to suck at marketing, Jane Friedman reminds us that people don’t need to have read your book to support it, and Nina Dafe suggests reaching more readers through guest posting.

Much of marketing is digital these days, and there’s a lot to know about how to navigate online. Laurence O’Bryan explains what Amazon Ads dashboard changes mean for authors, Victor Blasco discusses how to make a book trailer that speaks to readers, Frances Caballo has 8 social media scheduling apps for writers, and Cristian Mihai shares how to become an artist at blogging and 10 tips to becoming a successful blogger.


An interview with  Eoin Colfer as his Artemis Fowl hits the big screen.

Whose your favorite fictional bookseller? Emily Temple ranks the 50 best fictional booksellers.

Libraries and museums are treasure chests for writers. The New York Public Library has acquired a trove of Virginia Woolf’s letters, manuscripts, and postcards, while Paris Musees announces 150,000 works from the museum collections of the city of Paris free to download and use.

The penultimate American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia closes with the lowest attendance in years.

Michael Zapata lists 10 books that were almost lost to history.

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


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 30, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-30-2020



Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, hedgerow sassafras trees, winter trees

Winter hedgerow—sassafras trees


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Can you believe it’s the end of January? It seems like we just celebrated the start of the new year. No complaints, though—we’re one month closer to spring.

We don’t need to wait until spring to find something to celebrate. Porter Anderson tells us about Canada’s Family Literacy Day and next week’s World Read Aloud Day, both of which promote young readers’ literacy at home.

Next week is also International Networking Week, something we writers and other creatives are advised to do. Those looking for chances to network might want to check out Literary Hub‘s 2020 calendar of noteworthy literary events (by Emily Temple).

Have you checked out ebooks at the library? Book Riot‘s Susie Dumond reports that over 70 public libraries made 2019 a record year for digital checkouts.

It makes me shudder to think of it, but Beth Skwarecki claims cutting books in half is a hack.

Human kind’s fascination with stories began long before we invented writing. Meghan Cox Gurdon traces the history of oral storytelling.

For those who’ve served our country, Ericka McIntyre provides information about the Veterans Writing Project.

In memoriam: Jim Lehrer, PBS journalist and author of three memoirs and twenty novels, dies at age 85 [reported by Anne Azzi Davenport and Jeffrey Brown on PBS News Hour].


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, snow geese in a harvested corn field, January

Snow geese in a harvested corn field




If you haven’t gotten back into your writing rhythm after the holidays, Sharon Redmon shares 5 ways to start your writing year, and Jessica Strawser offers 5 ways to invest in your writing this year.

To bring us inspiration, Amy Jones presents 9 Virginia Woolf quotes about writing for writers (and readers).

Need some writing tips? Melony Teague identifies essential skills for writers, and Kim Bullock delves into the benefits of sensory deprivation for writers.

For those who write in particular genres, Raymond Fleishchmann discusses how to make historical fiction true to its time period without being stuffy, Rose Gardner insists tension is necessary in romance fiction, and Toni Šušnjar talks about fantasy fortifications—part 3: design.

With more on worldbuilding, Drew McVittie gives his take on worldbuilding: sowing seeds.

Stavros Halvatzis takes a look at the moral of the story, and Nathan Bransford explains the character arc, while James Scott Bell gives further reflections on the mirror moment, and The Writer’s Ally delves into conflict and tension in your narrative.

Working on your characters? Christina Kaye describes how to write a killer villain, while Jami Gold focuses on how to make the protagonist more proactive. SCBWI looks at layering voice to create more memorable characters, and Nathan Bransford explores the power of competing desires in a story.

To make your characters come alive, Ruth Harris gives us 15 keys to writing great dialogue.

Several bloggers consider point of view: Harry Connolly discusses POV and narrators, Janice Hardy looks at things to consider when adding a point of view character, and Lisa Hall-Wilson offers one quick fix for “telling” in deep point of view.

We’ve all heard that you should “write what you know,” but Kath Boyd Marsh wonders: how do I write what I know if I’m not a dragon?

When you’ve finished that first draft and are ready to revise and edit, Jenny Hansen advocates her favorite editing lifesaver, and Katy Kauffman recommends editing your writing to S-P-A-R-K-L-E.

Before you send out or publish that manuscript, Rachelle Gardner ponders whether you should use sensitivity readers.

Lisa Tener answers 32 of your book writing and publishing questions, and Rada Jones sets out 13 writing tips for non-native English authors.

Lindsay Mayer finds benefits in continuing researching after publishing a book.


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, winter cluds, old silo, January




For those following the traditional route to publication, Jessica Faust considers whether there’s a bad time to query; Janet Reid says you can schedule a call with an agent outside of normal working hours and responds to questions about whether publishers like working with agents; and Emma Lombard shares a system and template for tracking your submissions.

Agent Sara Megibow advises writers to make a list of personal influencers.

Writer Beware‘s Victoria Strauss warns us about junk book marketing: pay-to-play magazines.

For new indie authors, Dave Chesson identifies 4 mistakes amateur self-publishers make that the pros don’t.

Mike Shatzkin looks at what is causing the uptick in independent bookstores. This is good news for authors, in part because independent bookstores are ideal places to hold a book launch. Providing guidance for those launching a new book, Kristan Julius details how to prepare a successful book launch.

Sandra Beckwith reveals what’s even better than a reader review.

With helpful information regarding your online presence, Kim Lochery shares 25 social media marketing statistics & facts to turbo-charge your engagement, Nathan Bransford explains what it means to be your real self online, Beth Barany sets out 5 steps to create the tagline for your author brand, and Orna Ross clarifies SEO for authors: Google Search algorithm changes.

Elizabeth S. Craig looks into using Facebook Notes for promotional book excerpts, and Monique D. Mensah provides an author’s guide to social video marketing, while Debbie Burke reports on LinkedIn’s ties to book piracy.

If you’re an author blogger, Alice Corner looks at how to keep your blog looking fresh: follow these simple graphic design trends, while Cristian Mihai enumerates five super ways to improve your blog posts and tells us how to create engaging content.


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, bare branches




Looking back at some literary greats, Adam Nicolson writes about the friendship between Coleridge and Wordsworth, and Alexandra Samuel wonders if Jane Austen is the antidote to social media overload.

Jan Hennop tells us that Dutch art sleuth Arthur Brand has found a rare stolen copy of a 15th century book by the Persian poet Hafez.

John M. Bowers asks: did Tolkien write The Lord of the Rings because he was avoiding his academic work?

Isaac Bashevis Singer addresses the particular wonders of writing in Yiddish.

Franco Laguna Correa contemplates the continuing relevance of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man.

Finally, Bill DeMain shares 38 wonderful words with no English equivalent. We should definitely add some of these to the English language. Which ones would you like to include?


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, late afternoon sky, dramatic clouds, January

That wraps up Top Picks Thursday for this month. See you next week with another roundup of writerly links!


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, rhododendron buds, January

Future rhododendron flowers.



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