Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 16, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-16-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Halfway through November and barreling towards Thanksgiving, we’ve got a cornucopia of writerly links for you.

Playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard wins the David Cohen prize for lifetime achievement in literature.

Bookseller Elayna Trucker tells us how we can help Napa after the devastating fires earlier this year.

Kat Vancil shows us where to find illustrators, cartoonists, and other creative professionals we need on our publishing journey.

Tracy Cooper explores how stories, songs and rhymes encourage empathy, while Ferris Jabr examines the reading brain in the digital age: the science of paper vs. screens.

If you’re looking for something to read to your kids, check out the New York Times Book Review and the New York Public Library’s Top 10 “Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2017” list.

Arthur Klepchukov brings us fiction writing contests worth your time (winter 2017 edition).

Halfway through NaNo, Anne R. Allen discusses why NaNoWriMo is not for everyone—and may even be dangerous for some.


Sophie Mason has some advice on writing a memoir.

Kathryn Craft demonstrates how to start with story action while accurately telegraphing your story’s genre.

K.M. Weiland has 5 (not-so-little) additions to the great novel-writing checklist.

Sometimes it is the little things that can make or break your story. Cait Reynolds looks at when body parts take on a life of their own, Gordon Long stresses that word order creates meaning, Melissa Donovan examines allusion in poetry, and Nancy E. Johnson reminds us that our story lives in the details.

Characters carry the reader through the story, so they had better be compelling. Mary Kole explains character turning points, Janice Hardy asks if your characters are too stupid to live, Becca Puglisi shows us how to brainstorm the wound in your character’s backstory, Jayme Mansfield explores being your character inside and out, September C. Fawkes has 10 methods to make your character likeable, and Laurence MacNaughton shares the ultimate guide to character motivation (part 1).

Editing makes our work shine—but it can be costly. Lisa Poisso wonders: when we pick editors, can be combine steps to save money?; P.J. Parrish takes a hard look at rewriting, and Julie Cantrell points out how writing partners help—and where to find them.

Writing is a mental and emotional challenge. Many writers face deep self-doubt every time they try to put words on the page. Julie Glover has what to do when you think your writing sucks, Kassandra Lamb shows how to beat imposter syndrome, Leonard Chang wonders how to keep his head up while seeking a publisher, Margaret Dilloway explains when other people’s opinions don’t matter, Dario Ciriello shares how to get past bad reviews, and A. Howitt interviews Donald Maass to find out how to become a breakout writer.

We would all love to write more, faster and better. J. Rose explores creating the right mindset for productivity, Andrea Judy dispels the lies behind productivity, and Grant Faulkner has practical tips on how to beat writer’s block.


Don’t judge a book by…who are we kidding? Because everyone does judge a book by its cover, Ingram Spark shares 5 tips for front book cover design.

Self-publishing is a viable option today, but James Scott Bell still advocates getting some rejection.

Agents are great places to get you some rejection. Janet Reid tells us how to successfully query an oddball story, and also gives us things to consider when you have multiple agent offers on the table.

Marketing is something authors love to hate. Andi Cumbo-Floyd examines the angsty relationship between writing and sales, Marcy Kennedy explains newsletter ads, Amy Collins looks at gaming the Bestseller list and trading reviews, Scott La Counte teaches the art of the giveaway, and Sandra Beckwith suggests you start locally with your marketing.

Online is where most reader-writer interaction happens these days. Jane Friedman delves into the requirements of an unpublished writer website, Tim Grahl debunks 5 myths about email lists, Ali Luke shares 4 WordPress formatting tips to make your posts more readable, and Frances Caballo has 50 blogging topics for writers of all formats.


Because you can never have too much Middle Earth, Amazon will adapt J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for television.

So do you know what these weird English words actually mean?

Martha Collins examines what readers can learn from reading multiple translations of the same poem.

Kristen Yoonsoo Kim discusses Agatha Christie and her mysterious disappearance in 1926.

Flannery O’Connor’s college journals reveal that she, too, suffered from self-doubt.

If you’re looking to dress up your blogs or marketing material, check out these 1500 high-resolution images of paintings made available for free download by the Barnes Foundation.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Hope to see you next week!


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 14, 2017

Grammar: An Instrument of Torture…Or of Clarity?

J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, fall trees, field and trees

November is such a busy time of year for me. With harvesting and processing the last of the garden vegetables; picking apples and making and canning applesauce; going through catalogs and ordering holiday gifts; making plans; doing a major clean-up for the holidays; buying food, cooking, and hosting the family’s Thanksgiving dinner; and, this year, physical therapy twice a week (to mention just some of my necessary tasks), I never have time to participate in NaNoWriMo. In fact, some days in November I don’t squeeze in any writing at all.

I do, however, often listen to the television while working on my November tasks. I like to know what’s going on, but listening to the television includes hearing commercials. Although I try to tune them out, especially the endlessly repeated political ads before the election, some ads contain such glaring grammatical errors that I can’t ignore them. Each time I hear these ads, the misuse of the language grates on me more and more (which means I am increasingly less likely to buy whatever they’re trying to sell — take note ad agencies).

J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, red-tailed hawk on pole, red-tailed hawk in fall

Red-tailed hawk, November 1

After a career as an English teacher, I’m especially sensitive to poor grammar in any published writing. Before it’s published, I expect the writing to have been proofread by someone who knows how to use the language properly. Once something is published, it’s out there. As a writer, I cringe at mistakes in published works because such errors reflect poorly on the author of the piece — and on all of us in the writing business. Even more annoying to me, such mistakes provide a poor example of language usage posing as the opposite. (Contrary to what my critique group might think, I don’t sit around eager to pounce on grammar errors like a hawk seeking prey. I’m not a total perfectionist; authors, editors, and proofreaders — myself included — will miss some errors because we’re human. Too many errors, however, and I stop reading.)

I feel the same way about the language we hear in scripted material on television and other media, language which presents an example that — except for impromptu comments and informal conversation — ought to be correct. Errors in oft-repeated ads are especially problematic because the incessant repetition of wrong examples can convince people that the incorrect forms are the right ones.

But really, why do we need to use correct grammar? People can understand what we’re saying anyway, right?

Maybe. In conversation, good grammar isn’t as vital. When we speak with each other, we frequently use sentence fragments, leave out words, and otherwise disregard correct grammar. If our listeners don’t understand us, they can ask questions. They can also take cues form our tone, our emphasis, our facial expressions, and our body language. Readers and media consumers don’t have those extra clues and can’t ask questions.

Okay, so the purpose of all those pesky rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling is to provide clarity in communication. They’re still a pain to learn.

Yes, most people — young and old, students, writers and non-writers — feel learning the rules is boring at best, tortuous at worst. Maybe it would help if people pictured learning grammar rules as a laying the foundation necessary for effective communication. A firm foundation results in a sturdy house. Build a house on a shaky foundation and the whole construction will be shaky as well.

Learning the rules of grammar and usage isn’t easy. With all the exceptions, the rules can be confusing. Plus, there are so many of them. Mastering grammar may be a time-consuming challenge, but it’s well worth the effort, especially for writers. (Helpful handbooks abound; get yourself one or two.)

In addition to finding grammar boring and time-consuming to learn, I suspect people also resist learning grammar because they don’t understand the origin of the rules, imagining that experts developed the complex horde of edicts and imposed them upon unsuspecting students as a devious punishment. In truth, the rules reflect how the language is commonly used.

The English language (and all languages) existed as a spoken language long before it was written. If you look at examples of the earliest writings in English — the original, not modernized, versions — you’ll notice that the writers spelled words however they wanted. Sometimes the same word would have several different spellings in the same manuscript. For a time that didn’t matter because few people could read. As more people became literate, the variations in spelling caused confusion and the need for standardization became obvious.

Standardization in spelling, word order, usage, and punctuation grew from necessity. If there were guidelines that everyone could follow, confusion would be reduced. So, experts looked at how people used the language and worked out a set of rules to explain that usage. In other words, grammar rules were not arbitrarily imposed on the language but came from the language instead.

If you know another language, you probably noticed that speakers of English do not use their language in quite the same way as speakers of French or German or Hindi or Spanish or Swahili. Some languages capitalize all nouns, not just proper nouns. In English, a noun’s function in the sentence depends upon its placement in the sentence, while many languages indicate a noun’s usage by giving it a particular suffix instead. Some languages have formal and informal, singular and plural versions of the second person pronoun, which in English is always simply you. Because of these differences and more, each language has it’s own unique set of grammar rules.

People who are not native English speakers tend to have difficulty learning the language, not because of the vocabulary but because of the complex grammar. Two of my family members have spouses from other countries. Conversations with them involve more dedicated listening and asking frequent clarifying questions because they may leave out necessary words, add extra words, use adjectives as nouns, mix up word order, or use wrong words. While they’ve acquired a good English vocabulary, they haven’t yet mastered correct usage. Following the rules of grammar enables people to make their meaning clear.

I hope I’ve convinced you that grammar rules are not evilly crafted instruments of torture but guidelines meant to standardize language usage in order to provide clarity.

I hope I’ve convinced some television advertisers too!

So, what are some of the grammar mistakes in ads that currently annoy me?

1. The use of different than instead of different from

“What makes this plan different than the others?”

“They’re no different than anyone else.”

This is the one that bothers me least. I understand using than instead of from after different because than is used in comparing differences – he is taller than John, for instance. Over time, our language does change, and when it does, the rules change too. I predict that in another decade or two, than will be considered a correct form to use after different.

2. The misuse of the preposition to

“…resume to your normal activities…”

This would be fine if only they’d used return instead of resume. The word resume includes the meaning to, so using that preposition after resume is redundant.

“…different to regular…”

I don’t see any logic to this one. The two words are opposite in meaning, so using to after different hits me like fingernails screeching on a blackboard.

These are my current grammar pet peeves. What are yours?

J. J. Thomas Ross, The Author Chronicles, fall trees, fall street scene


Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 9, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-09-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Changing the clocks back this week gave us an extra hour to search for writerly links for you.

Tim Falconer reflects on what we lost when Leonard Cohen gave up writing fiction.

Piracy is something that impacts every writer. Martin Puchner explains how a ripped-off sequel of Don Quixote predicted piracy in the digital age. Meanwhile, author Maggie Stiefvater shows how piracy hurts authors in the real world.

Literacy is a life-long process. Maureen Pao explores how free books boost early literacy, Scotland uses therapy dogs in reading class to boost pupils’ literacy, and check out this list of 6 badass YA books to read this fall.

We’re deep in National Novel Writing Month. Kristen Lamb tells us how NaNoWriMo is training to go pro and stay pro, while Chuck Wendig shares a saucy recipe for NaNoWriMo success.


There are many different elements to get write in your story. Chase Burke explores constraint as a method of surprise, Jeff Shear talks about what writers can learn about voice from opera, Lisa Hall-Wilson discusses deep POV and hidden messages in subtext, and Stavros Halvatzis shows how to write a strong story ending.

Compelling characters power your story. Angela Ackerman tells us how to brainstorm your character’s emotional wound, John J. Kelly examines ties that bind and define: the family of your protagonist, and Janice Hardy discusses how to tell if that throwaway character is really a star.

Every word counts in writing. K.M. Weiland shows the dangers of purple prose (and how to avoid it), while Dawn Field has 7 attributes of exquisite writing.

Every writing form has its own rules. Georgia Clark walks us through how to write your first fiction novel for adults, Janice Hardy shares 6 things to consider before writing a series, and Nathan Bransford shows how to write a novel synopsis.

J.K. Rowling has 8 rules of writing, and Kathryn Craft muses on beginnings, middles, and endings.


Hopefully your publishing road will be fairly smooth, but in case it’s not, Kourtney Heintz gives us 6 tips to survive a writing disaster.

Ellen Duffer reports that bookstores see record-low August sales. Which prompts Steve Laube to exclaim: Retail is dead! Or is it?

Jane Friedman discusses the conflicting advice you’ll receive about query letters.

Marketing can seem to take over your life. Belinda Griffin tells us how to overcome overwhelm with better marketing ways, Savvy Book Writers gives us 9 steps to take advantage of time savers, Sandra Beckwith reminds us to not stop with the book launch, and Kimberly Grabas shows how to convert potential readers into buyers.

Part of marketing is knowing how to talk about your book eloquently. Paul Geiger explains how to talk about your book, and Judith Briles has 3 questions to help you talk about your book.

Marketing has many details to get right. Bob Denzer shares secrets of the book designer: creating something from nothing; Sydney Mathieu shares 5 tips for budgeting book promotion, R.J. Crayton tells us how to keep your back matter up to date, and Michael Larsen has 11 ways to prove your book will sell by test marketing it.

The internet is the main way we connect with people these days. Chris Syme tells us how to tame the social media beast, Elna Cain has 9 quick ways to grow your email list using social media, and Paul Cunningham walks us through how to create an efficient contact page that boosts your productivity.


While typos in our manuscript make us groan, here are 19 grammar fails that will make you shake your head then laugh out loud.

The dangers of “biggering”: why Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax is as relevant as ever.

Cristian Mihai examines the paintings of famous writers.

Learn how Winnie-the-Pooh became a household name.

Delve into the poetic tale of literary outlaw Black Bart.

Kerry Mansfield showcases borrowing history: “expired” library books in pictures.

Laugh at ancient literature as Onion headlines.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was, like many Victorians, fascinated by Mormons.

Explore the mysterious murder case that inspired Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 2, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-2-2017

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of November! Halloween maybe over, but we have plenty of treats for you today!

Donald Bain, known best for Murder, She Wrote, dies at 82.

Check it out, children’s authors: there’s a new children’s book award for comedy.

Speaking of awards, Colson Whitehead is honored by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation for his acclaimed novel The Underground Railroad.

For all you workshop and retreat lovers: the Highlights Foundation new workshops have been announced!

Many writers struggle with writing diversity. Bran L. Ayers talks about wanting to write with diversity but not being sure how. Reading is also a great way to research diversity, so here are 6 books to read about the history of immigration in America.

K-Fai Steele discusses why we can’t talk about diversity in children’s literature without talking about money.

Hulu will develop a series based on Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

A viral “angriest librarian” explains why America needs libraries now more than ever.

It’s NaNoWriMo time! Jenny Hanson has 10 ways to make NaNoWriMo work for you, K.M. Weiland has a great novel-writing checklist to keep you moving, Savvy Book Writers celebrates NaNoWriMo, Rachel Dacus prepares for NaNoWriMo and tells why you should do it, E.C. Myers shares NaNoWriMo tips from someone who has never done it, and The Plot Hotline gives us what to do when you suspect you may fail NaNoWriMo.


Beginnings and endings—arguably the most important parts of any story, chapter, or scene. Jordan Rosenfeld shares 4 ways to launch a scene, and Stavros Halvatzis shows how to fine tune the story climax.

When developing our fictional world, every detail must fit and must serve a purpose. J.W. Barlament tackles creating a fictional religion, while Ruth Harris explores how authentic historical detail can trigger emotions in your readers.

Characters are key to reader engagement. Tamela Hancock Murray shows how writing sympathetic characters hooks your reader, Mary Kole discusses interiority and why it matters, Gray Marie shares why she hates strong female characters, Mary Kole looks at bringing dead characters to life, and Debbie Burke shows us how to become a crime victim painlessly.

Writing is only the beginning—then we have to go back and fix it all up! Gwen Hernandez details 4 ways to make notes in Scrivener, and Kelly Gurnett celebrates 6 old grammar rules that are finally going out of style.

The internet is a boon to all new writers out there seeking advice. Joe Fassler interviewed 150 writers to gather the 7 best pieces of writing advice, while Joe Coccaro has 7 essential writing tips for authors.

Being a writer can be a frustrating career. Ginger Moran shows that knowing what kind of writer you are can stave off frustration, while Sue Ward Drake discusses staying positive in a negative writer’s world.

We all have ways of dealing with the psychology of being a writer. PJ Parrish talks about the rituals of writing, Set Godin takes down imposter syndrome, and Marie Lamba examines the power of a do-over.


There are so many publishing options out there for authors today. Parul Macdonald explores big publisher vs. small publisher, Lizbeth Meredith has 3 reasons not to go with hybrid publishing, and Cait Reynolds dissects Kindle Direct Publishing and Kindle Unlimited (or, the hamster wheel of death).

Scott McCormick discusses how to get the best royalties for your picture book, Melinda Clayton looks at 3 reasons your book might not be selling, and Debbie Young has 8 tips for pricing your self-published ebook.

If you look for an agent long enough, you are bound to make a query mistake at some point. Janet Reid tells us how to recover from a queryfail of epic proportions.

We all need visibility for our books. Jane Tabachnick shares 3 ways to get publicity for your book, Joel Friedlander has a primer on book reviews for self-published authors, and Donna Galanti describes how to do in-person presentations with confidence.

Like it or not, the online world is where we engage most with our readers these days. Frances Caballo shares the most retweetable words for engagement on Twitter, David Hartshorne compares WordPress vs. Blogger, and Sue Coletta has social media, blogging, and SEO tips.


Pablo Neruda did not die of cancer, raising the possibility he was murdered.

Many of us have a bookcase worth of used books. Jesse Doogan shares 5 of the best places onlines and in person to sell used books.

At a time when science and math is being pushed at most schools, Marilynne Robinsons offers a defense of the humanities.

Kelly Coyne uses Sylvia Plath’s letters to reveal often-overlooked sides of Sylvia Plath.

Infographic: Read a book and develop superpowers!

How Boris Pasternak won and lost the Nobel Prize.

The Boston Public Library is digitizing 200,000 vintage recordings.

Einstein’s maxims on life fetch $1.8 million at auction.

What does the painting Surrender of Lord Cornwallis have to do with author Edith Wharton?

A newly-translated 16th-century Japanese text offers advice to warrior who had yet to face battle.

Colin Kaepernick has signed a book deal.

Hidden in a basement for 70 years, newly discovered documents shed light on Jewish life and culture before WWII.

A new theater project uses Greek tragedies written centuries ago to heal modern day traumas.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 31, 2017

Every Day Is Halloween

Happy Halloween! Everyone be safe when trick or treating or driving. And stay warm–it’s supposed to be chilly around here.

Halloween is a time when children and adults alike dress up and pretend to be something else. It’s a bit of fun (and sometimes fright), and most people are concerned only with their appearance. Does their costume look right? Does it show as they want it to show?

But most people never think below the surface of their costumes. For instance, very few princesses think about the responsibilities that would come with being royalty. Cowboys don’t consider the dusty, hot conditions out on the range. Vampires rarely contemplate the emotional effects of being immortal.

Clearly, I do think of these things. And likely every writer thinks deeper than the surface of the costumes, to the reality beneath. After all, that’s what we do—delve into other people’s souls and explore their psyches. We create fictional people that must walk, talk, and react like real people in order to draw in the reader.

So, we writers must dive deep below the surface of our characters. What they “look like” is often the least important part of our character. We routinely put on and take off the “costumes” of our characters and see the world through their eyes.

This year alone I have been a 12-year-old boy in 1922, a ruthless Englishman planning a robbery, a 16-year-old half-god living in rural Kansas, a 12-year-old girl lost in Oz, and a 300-year-old spirit bent on revenge.

For me, exploring my characters is one of the most interesting and fun parts of writing. When I finally create real people who jump off the page, the giddy triumph is a high better than chocolate.

For writers, every day is Halloween!


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | October 26, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-26-2017

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of October!

At the end of October comes Halloween, and just in time for the spooky holiday, Jonathan Ferguson provides a handy guide to vampires, and Eric Grundhauser tells of the creepy cabinet that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde. For your Halloween reading pleasure, Chelsey Pippin suggests 31 books that will put you in the Halloween spirit, Jonathan Melville lists 13 books that are scarier than the film, and Emily Temple shares a host of scary literary fiction for people who hate horror.

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, pumpkins, Styers Orchards

The end of October also means it’s almost time for NaNoWriMo. If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, the Writers in the Storm team invites you to “plot up a storm” with the WITS team, Janice Hardy suggests you brainstorm your way to a great novel hook, and Frances Caballo offers 10 tips to stay motivated during NaNoWriMo.

The Guardian‘s Sian Cain reports that George Saunder’s Lincoln in the Bardo won the 2017 Man Booker Prize, the second year in a row the prize went to an American author.

Can ancient literature have importance today? Scott Esposito explores how the oldest stories — like Virgil’s Aeneid — can give us the best perspective, and B. R. J. O’Donnell examines how the Odyssey provides an early, still-relevant example of the enlightened guidance of a mentor. Also, Ben Panko tells how scientists model an ancient magnetic storm using 18th-century writings and illustrations.

Writers can learn a lot from other writers. Pasha Malla details what Julio Cortázar might teach us about teaching writing. Jillian Berman writes that John Grisham reveals his biggest money mistake.

For those who doubt writing can be a difficult activity, Emily Temple relates the stories of 6 famous writers injured while writing.

When you’re drowning in self-doubt, remember that even literary giants had their critics: Literary Hub shares a scathing 1855 review of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.


If you’re in need of inspiration or motivation, Bonnie Randall expounds on maximizing your creativity, Roger Colby shares 5 ways to re-energize your muse, and Barbara O’Neal has some thoughts on vanquishing the inner killer critic. Kathryn Craft suggests 5 ways writers can survive a quake.

Working on character development? Angela Ackerman discusses using dysfunctional behaviors to reveal characters’ emotional wounds and shares the mother lode of links on writing emotional wounds. Diverse characters are good, but Mikki Kendall urges writers to make sure your portrayal of the OTHER does not contribute to the harmful stereotyping of a group, and Bran L. Ayres provides guidance on writing with diversity. If you have aging characters, E. L. Skip Knox delves into history for fantasy writers: how old was old? In addition, Zoe M. McCarthy warns writers: don’t detail every movement your characters make.

Examining other story elements, K. M. Weiland lays out 4 ways to prevent formulaic story structure, Jordan Rosenfeld shows 4 key ways to launch a scene, Jami Gold explores finding the right balance between showing and telling, and Rayne Hall shares tips on creating suspense.

Since the greatest story can be obscured by faulty writing, Dawn Field advises that you need to become your own writing teacher. With some specific pointers, Oxford Dictionaries offers advice on the comma splice. and from The Oatmeal and Jane Daugherty: how and why to use whom in a sentence. These issues, however, are often best corrected in the revision phase. To help with that, Carla King reviews 9 manuscript editing software programs.

For writers making presentations at conferences or conventions, Julie Glover sets out 5 tips for presenting an engaging workshop.


In news regarding agents: Janet Reid considers the pros and cons of choosing a young agent at a small agency, Steve Laube insists that variety is the spice in an agent’s inbox, and Janet Reid answers the question: when you have multiple novels ready, how soon after receiving a rejection for novel #1 can you pitch novel #2?

Roz Morris focuses on the real schedule of a self-published book.

If you’re ready to sell your book, Sandra Beckwith addresses when to write a press release, David Kudler explains how universal sell links make ebook selling easier, Nate Hoffelder shares seven WordPress plugins for author bookshelves, and David Hartshorne compares 5 powerful keyword research tools. For those seeking book reviews, Mike Onorato provides some tips for writing a galley letter.

Gordon Long answers the question: can I make money off my non-fiction book?

Anne R. Allen comments on Amazon’s latest crackdowns, which net review trolls but also innocent authors (again).

Need social media tips? Frances Caballo shares the most retweetable words for engagement on Twitter, John Gilstrap discusses engineering a brand, and Sydney Mathieu contributes Goodreads tips for Indie authors.


We love our libraries! Ryan P. Smith talks about the wondrous complexity of the New York Public Library, Ashley Holstrom claims that Chrome’s Library Extension will change your life, and Ryan Krull asks: what’s a library to do? on homelessness and public spaces. Did you know Napoleon had his own traveling library? Colin Marshall reports on the miniaturized library he took on military campaigns.

Not everyone has easy access to a bookstore. Matt Grant reveals that Los Angeles is getting its own mobile bookstore.

Cait @ Paper Fury shares 10 annoying questions bookworms get asked that just make no sense.

Planning for the holidays? Sarah Rae Smith announces that Harry Potter fans can eat Christmas dinner at Hogwarts, and Stephanie DeLuca says you can live out your romantic comedy dreams of owning a bookstore on this working holiday in Scotland.

Jason Daley discusses what to know about literature’s newest Nobel Prize winner, British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

Kat Eschner reveals the first cookbooks published by black people in America and that Mark Twain liked cats better than people, while Hephzibah Anderson mentions some of the great writers forgotten by history. Jackie Mansky relates that a collection of Eleanor Roosevelt’s writing captures the first lady’s lasting relevance.

Book fairs aren’t always the quiet events you might expect. Deutsche Welle reports on violence at the Frankfurt Book Fair following calls for “active debate.”

Amelia Tait shows how the 25 greatest stories ever would be ruined by technology.

To finish up on a positive note, Jarry Lee shares 13 sticky note messages from the New York subway that will restore your faith in humanity.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday picks! See you next week!

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, farm in October

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | October 24, 2017

A Disorganized Mind

“I have a terrible sense of direction because I have a disorganized mind.”
We were strangers, sitting on lawn chairs on the side of a hill in the summer heat. A terrific live band played in the distance.
“You probably have a great sense of direction,” my new acquaintance continued.
“No,” I joked (I was serious), “sometimes I don’t know which way is up.”
It hadn’t occurred to me that I might have a disorganized mind, but right then, I started to question, what, as a writer, should I do about that?
Here’s my list of things to focus and organize the mind
1. Plan your story well. My detailed outline is my “to do” list of bite-sized projects. Which bite will I work on now?
2. Write down a goal for each writing session. What will I accomplish today?
3. Hold your audience clearly in mind before you start writing. Who am I writing for?
4. Label everything. Make lists and time lines to prevent having to scroll through pages of text for forgotten details. What will I want to remember? What will I want to revise later?
5. Keep all story info in one location. Will I remember where l stored this information a month from today?

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 19, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-19-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Autumn is finally here, with cool temperatures and leaves changing colors. Here’s a pile of writerly links for you to jump into!

SCBWI lists these diversity awards and grants for authors.

Gloria Morgan publishes for a purpose: books for dyslexics.

A school district pulls To Kill a Mockingbird because it makes people uncomfortable.

Charlotte Ahlin has 12 ways you could be getting more out of your local library.

Fall means NaNoWri Mo is just around the corner. Ramona DeFelice Long lists the 5Ws of NaNoWriMo, Emily Morgan shares what she learned from failing NaNoWriMo, Kristen Kieffer shows how to rock NaNoWriMo, and James Scott Bell tells us how to use NaNoWriMo to repo your mojo.


Poetry is known for its beautiful use of language. Melissa Donovan discusses figurative language in poetry writing (and we prose writers can use it, too!).

If you are writing cozy mysteries, Elizabeth S. Craig has things to avoid in a cozy mystery.

We’ve all heard “write what you know.” Kathryn Magendie examines writing what you hope to never know while exploring empathy, perception, and projection.

Beginnings are hard, whether it be getting a new idea, or starting that first chapter. Mary Kole walks us through taking a book idea to the next level, Janice Hardy shows how to brainstorm a great novel hook, and Katy Kauffman tells us how to write a captivating first paragraph.

When writing, we have so many tools to work with, sometimes it is overwhelming. Kathryn Craft urges us to value the outsider’s perspective in our writing, Heather Adams has 5 ways to increase micro-tension, Elspeth Futcher explains how clothes can tell a tale, Michael Mohr reflects on sexual tension in fiction, and Jan O’Hara shares Ruby Dixon’s lessons on how to write sex scenes that readers can’t and won’t skip.

Jami Gold explores the idea that genre is a layer of worldbuilding, Bella Pope discusses 5 huge mistakes ruining the romantic relationships in your book, and Roz Morris focuses on what makes good endings.

We all need editing, whether it be for overall continuity or word choice. Jim Dempsy gives us programs to help keep track of all your novel’s details, Mary Kole reminds us to commit to a detail or omit it, Dale E. Lehman lists the top 4 ways to hone your writing, and Sacha Black shows how to improve your sentences.

Writers need to continuously grow to stay creative. Roz Morris describes how travel feeds creativity, Orly Konig explains why every writer needs writer’s events, and Julie Glover says “never stop learning” should be every writer’s motto.

PJ Parrish explores the question: what do readers really want?, while Shannon A. Thompson takes a look at authors who give up.


Major publishers say ebook sales represent 20% of total sales, while book publishers go back to basics.

Graphic novels are hot. So hot that comic shops fight bookstores in the race to sell graphic novels.

Marketing encompasses everything writers put out to the public. Matt Aird discusses the importance of creating video content, Patricia Moosbrugger tells us how to make the most of a professional book review, and Joan Stewart shows how to write a sassy, snarky, sizzling author resource box.

Much of today’s marketing is done online. Frances Caballo talks platform building and media relations, Rachel Thompson has a Twitter guide to make you see what you’re doing so wrong and how to make it right, and Ali Luke shares 3 simple ways to make your blog posts more conversational.


Looking to move? The house that inspired The Great Gatsby is on the market.

Now  you can read anywhere—Amazon is releasing a waterproof Kindle.

Ever feel weird when you hate books everyone else seems to love? Emily Temple shares 14 classic works of literature that other famous authors hated.

Leonard Cohen’s last book, a book of poetry, will be published next year

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner says you’ve probably never heard of America’s most popular playwright.

Check out these 10 publishing-related facts about Winnie the Pooh.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 12, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-12-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are almost at the midpoint of October, so it’s past time to start thinking about November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Awards lists are pouring in: 2017 National Book Award finalists, 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature predictions, BBC National Short Story Award goes to Cynan Jones, and Northwestern professor and poet Natasha Trethewey wins the $250,000 Heinz Award in Arts and Humanities.

How Glory Edim took Well-Read Black Girl from a homemade t-shirt to a literary movement.

See how a group of “bookworms, retired librarians, grassroots organizers, [and] historic preservationists” saved the Midtown Manhattan Library.

A deeper look into the making (and unmaking) of a 23-hour New York Times best seller.

Debbie Young says to start planning for NaNoWriMo now, K.M. Weiland has a guide to outlining success for NaNoWriMo, and Maggie Wells shares 5 tips for making the most of NaNoWriMo.

Thinking about crowdfunding your project? James Haight has what authors need to know about crowdfunding.

SCBWI tells us how to help Puerto Rico.


Wondering if your YA idea will fly? Cyndy Etler finds out what teens want to read.

Writers must put the whole package together to write a compelling novel—beginning, middle, and end. Janice Hardy has 4 ways to jumpstart your novel, Zoe M. McCarthy reminds us that a great story is more than a string of interesting events, K.M. Weiland lists 4 reasons you’re confused about scene structure, C.S. Lakin explains the dark night moment, and Sara Ridley examines 10 ways to end your novel.

We can have all the structure in the world, but without compelling characters our stories won’t grab the reader. Angela Ackerman asks that your villain have well-developed motivations, Khadijah Lacina shows how to bring a character to life through costume, and Donald Maass explores worldbuilding from the inside out.

Once we’ve written, the editing starts. Rachel Stout shows us some common mistakes writers make, Steve Laube examines the grammatical correctness of the singular “they”, and Mary Kole helps authors find critique partners with her latest Critique Connection.

Writing the book blurb can be one of the hardest tasks writers face. Cait Reynolds demystifies the book blurb.

Kristen Lamb explains why we all need mentors and experts at some points of our writing journey, and Harlan Coben has 5 writing tips for us.

There’s a lot of psychology involved with being a writer. Kristen Kieffer asks if you’re ready to conquer writing overwhelm, James Scott Bell muses on empathy, and Anne R. Allen wonders when you can start to call yourself a “real” writer.


Authors make more money when they cut out the middle man. David Wogahn tells us what to consider when selling ebooks on your own website.

Writers have more choices than ever for publishing these days. Chuck Sambuchino has 4 questions to help you decide if you should self-publish or try to get an agent.

Marketing can be a weight on a lot of writers’ shoulders. Belinda Griffin explains how authors can stop worrying and learn to love book marketing, Sandra Beckworth shares 5 marketing tasks in 5 minutes, Blueink Review has 5 ways attending a publishing conference can help indie authors, and Sharon Bially gives us one important question you may not be asking your publicist.

Amazon and social media can be a powerful combination for book marketing. Sarah Bolme tells us how to make the most of your Amazon Author Page, Jordan Dane discusses Amazon Stores and Amazon Marketing Services, Amy Collins shows how to get reviews, and Belinda Griffin explains how an introvert can crush it on social media.


Since it is October, Emily Temple gives us the 40 creepiest book covers of all time.

There is science behind our search for Waldo.

A startup company is teaching endangered languages.

A printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon sells for $35 million.

James Patterson and Bill Clinton’s forthcoming thriller The President is Missing is set to be adapted to TV.

Read the newly discovered Kurt Vonnegut story, and the history behind it.

Two musician sisters claim to have solved the musical mystery in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

As sometimes happens, the most “realistic” Civil War novel was written three decades after it ended.

Like secret codes? Check out these hobo signs and code symbols you didn’t know existed.

That’s all for Top Picks Thursday this week! See you back here next week

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | October 10, 2017

Stories to be, films to watch

I’m 9 days away from the 26th annual film festival of Philadelphia, an event I usually take a week off of work to attend. I haven’t seen the lineup of films yet though I already have the book for it. Every year I like to retain as much spontaneity as I can regarding the film fest, so I often do not plan for it. There have been some years where I will plan very carefully everything I want to see, but sometimes that leaves me with a feeling of too much organization for vacation time. I’m not sure which I will do this year and I like not knowing.

Each year I try to challenge myself in some way, to see a movie or genre that I haven’t been previously interested in. Sometimes these experiments work and sometimes they do not, though I’m glad I challenged myself in the first place. I cannot know what opportunities I’ll have for challenging myself this year without going through the movie lineup and reading all the movie synopses. I can, however, reflect on previous years and see what challenges I want.

Last year I remember seeing a documentary about the work that local volunteers have done for helping non-documented immigrants with medical assistance. The subject matter was relevant to ongoing discussions in this country as well as around the world. I found myself more than fascinated to see this documentary covering the work of the medical personnel, their struggles, what challenges they have to face now and in the future. Afterwards I got to meet some of them and learned that if I wanted to help there are ways to do it.

This was only one film out of the many documentaries they show every year in the film fest. And it’s not only the documentaries that may reflect relevant hot topics around the world today. The filmmakers of today often target these topics because there’s a story to be found there.

We see news reports from all around the world telling of countries that have been torn apart by war or terrorist attacks. There’s a story of a family that has lived through this, a military group that is left behind and confronted with a possible change of view, a musician/artist who feels it’s their responsibility to perform/create more, a group of friends who continue to party as if there’s nothing wrong.

We see scientists and doctors working on new advancements to cure the deadliest diseases, sometimes that heavily target a particular area of the world. I want to know the viewpoint of a parent who’s lost someone and the child who grew to never stop fighting to find the cure.

I want to see the person who thought they could be the next big star in a country that doesn’t allow it.

A scientist studying the pictures from the Saturn Cassini Probe discovers that there’s someone trying to communicate with us.

A previously thought extinct sea creature pokes its head out from the iceberg that just fell away from Antarctica.

These are the stories that react to the world we live in, and that I’m used to this film fest offering each year.

See you there! 🙂

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