Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | December 12, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For writers and Readers 12-12-2019


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, fog at dawn, winter dawn

Foggy dawn


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! The moon has long inspired artists of all genres, and if the sky is clear where you live, you can see the beautiful full moon tonight. (For those intrigued by numbers and people who enjoy interesting facts: today’s full moon occurred at 12:12 am … on 12/12. Wonder how often that happens!)

The month is almost half over, which means shopping time is slipping away. For those looking for gift ideas for a writer, Kayleigh Brindley suggests gift for writers, Jami Gold shares the 2019 edition of her ultimate gift guide for writers, and Brian Henry offers seventy-seven great gifts for writers.

Winter is a good time for reading. James Scott Bell contemplates curling up with a good book.

With the end of the year upon us, Emily Temple gives us the Literary Hub staff’s 50 favorite books of 2019 and Literary Hub‘s list of the 78 best book covers of 2019.

We don’t find this surprising: Eleanor Busby reports that children who own books are six times more likely to read above their expected level.

In Memoriam: legendary Star Trek writer/producer D. C. Fontana, one of the first women to write TV screenplays other than soap operas and comedies, dies at age 80 [reported by Chris Arrant for];  Robert Massie, biographer who popularized Russian history, dies at age 90 [reported by Hillel Italie in the Los Angeles Times]; and prolific children’s author Andrew Clements dies at age 70 [reported by Shannon Maughan in Publishers Weekly].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, snow-covered trees, snowy dawn

A kiss of snow at dawn




In this last month of the year, Roz Morris suggests 5 ways to use the holidays to keep the new writing habits you developed during NaNoWriMo and not revise too early, and Fae Rowen shares her best writing advice for the next decade.

James Scott Bell ponders whether it’s necessary to write every day, Natalie Campbell shares 3 things you need to become an author (plus a 4th to keep in the game), and for established writers hitting a snag, Donald Maass suggests reinventing your fiction.

Sometimes writers and other artists need a boost to their creativity. Melissa Donovan advises consuming art to fuel your writing, and Cathy Yardley advocates taking time to play.

Writers find inspiration in many places. Natalie Jenner tells us what running a bookshop taught her about writing, while Joanna Penn reveals what writers can learn from bodybuilders.

Are you a plotter a pantser? Ray Rhamey celebrates the fun of pantsing.

Self-knowledge can help a writer improve craft and process. Helen Betya Rubinstein considers what your draft (and its problems) says about you, while Jami Gold ponders what our reading choices tell us about our writing.

Angela Ackerman concentrates on mastering show, don’t tell, while Lori Freeland brings us the 3 most misunderstood words in a writer’s vocabulary: show, don’t tell.

Gabriel Valjean takes a look at five writing crimes and how to get away with them.

For those writing fantasy, B. K. Bass explores the origins of the mercenary.

Elizabeth S. Craig focuses on the usefulness of a series bible.

Nathan Bransford gives us the 8 essential elements of a story, while Janice Hardy explores creating plot twists, and Stavros Halvatzis addresses how to merge story strands.

Susan Spann goes over using foils in fiction, and PJ Parrish takes a look at what makes the perfect ending.

Tracy R. Atkins highlights special formatting for nonfiction books in Microsoft Word, and Gwen Hernandez walks us through creating custom Scrivener templates.

Janet Reid contends that using sensitivity readers is not just about making sure you don’t offend readers but also about finding the blind spots your own worldview can bring to your writing.

Once you’ve finished that first draft, it’s time for revision and editing. Spencer Ellsworth advocates a different approach: outlines are for revision, and Martin Wiles urges writers not to ditch the comma, while Ali Luke shares five signs that you might be over-editing.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, unusual cloud formations





In publishing news, Porter Anderson reports that US publishers and the Copyright Alliance back a congressional letter on copyright restatement.

Attention science fiction and fantasy authors: Erica Verillo tells us that DAW Books is opening submissions to authors from underrepresented or marginalized communities who have no agents.

Are you looking for an agent? Lisa Lowe Stauffer delves into the agent-search game, and SCBWI’s Lee Wind offers a resource for finding literary agents of color. To help you get that agent, Dawn Field looks at the value of a great book synopsis.

For a bit of fun, Electric Literature help us write the perfect personal essay pitch with their handy chart.

Steven Spatz points out five self-publishing mistakes you need to avoid, Karen Williams offers five tips for creating audiobooks, and Michele DeFilippo takes a look at the best fonts for books.

Marketing your book? Sandra Beckwith gives the scoop on why you must have a press release that announces your book, and Nate Hoffelder stresses cleaning up your newsletter’s subscriber’s list.

For those who have blogs, Adam Connell sets out 17 high impact tasks to prepare your blog for the new year, and Cristian Mihai gives tips on how to beat blogging burnout and lists 90 super easy tips that will turn even a novice blogger into an expert.

For writers who dreads online marketing, Kristen Lamb wonders if it’s possible to sell books off-line.

Let’s face it—we all make mistakes. In a social media world where the past never dies, Janet Reid considers the case of Linda Fairstein and ponders the ethical question of how long people’s mistakes should be against them.


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

Dramatic sunset clouds




Fifty years after the founding of New York’s Greenwich Village Historic District, Andrew Berman shares 31 literary icons who lived in Greenwich Village.

Libraries in the news: Greta Rainbow writes about the Brooklyn Public Library’s telling the story of Zimbabwe’s subversive creatives; and the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Stephan Salisbury tells us that children’s author Ashley Bryan, who led the way in featuring people of color in children’s books, has gifted University of Pennsylvania with a massive collection of drawings, journals, sketchbooks, and much more.

The Baltimore Sun‘s Chris Kaltenbach reports that Baltimore’s Poe House is officially Maryland’s first “Literary Landmark.”

On Literary Hub, Umberto Eco considers the elusive concept of ugliness.

Kevin Young examines Ralph Ellison’s slow-burning art.

Holly Quinn says the Delaware Art Museum is safeguarding the state’s only remaining indie bookstore.

In Glamour, Samantha Leach wonders why the billion-dollar romance genre is still so overlooked.

Erika Mailman tells the true tales of Nick Petrulakis, a literary bartender.

Amalia Beckner reveals why she started a book club in the Harris County Jail.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, late fall, meandering stream

Meandering stream on a cloudy day


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us next week for another collection of writerly links!


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



Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 5, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-05-2019

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 21, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-21-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are all gearing up for Thanksgiving this week. We hope you have someplace to go spend time with family and friends over the holiday.

In the spirit of the holiday, Sari Feldman says let’s be thankful for libraries, while Laura Raicovich examines why libraries have a public spirit that most museums lack.

In a related post, Lloyd Alter answers the question which is greener, books or ebooks?

Former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith rediscovered poetry’s power while crisscrossing rural America.

Victoria Strauss comments on a scandal engulfing independent publisher ChiZine Publications.

Doing NaNo? Amy Jones has 5 NaNoWriMo prompts for mid-challenge motivation.


If you are writing picture books, read Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison’s 9 picture books topics to avoid.

Any crime writers out there? E.V. Seymour has crime writing tips for you.

Every step of the writing journey has things you should and should not do. Kassandra Lamb gives us 7 dos and don’ts for writing a series, while Anne R. Allen lists 6 dos and don’ts of writing your final chapter.

Every writer has a process. Paul D. Marks outlines his in pantsers anonymous, Joshua Lisec explains how to outline a non-fiction book so readers can’t put it down, and Peter Leavell cautions you must prepare to define yourself as an author.

Many elements of craft have to come together to make an outstanding story. Barbara Linn Probst gets to the heart of a novel (its “aboutness”), Allison Brennan says pacing is the key to scintillating suspense, September C. Fawkes urges surprising your readers in every scene, Melissa Donovan explores the setting of a story, and Laurence McNaughton has 3 secrets to writing vivid settings.

Characters—they keep readers coming back for more, and the good ones live in readers’ memories long after the book is done. Tiffany Reisz examines a character we know well in You Need More Scoundrels in Your Life: How to Write a Han Solo Hero in Six Easy Steps. Kristen Lamb goes in the other direction and reminds us that the villain can be much like you—or her. Stavros Halvatzis discusses character flaw in stories, Janice Hardy looks at how to make an unhappy character likeable, and Jim Dempsey asks: what really drives your characters? Once you’ve got your characters, Janice Hardy returns with how narrative distance works in your novel.

No matter where we are along the writing path, we always have more to learn. Meg LaTorre has 11 tips for newbies to improve your novel writing, Elaine Viets shares mistakes many writers make, and Angelica Hartgers highlights 3 areas of your fiction craft to hone.

Productivity is key to a successful career. Lydia Davis shares 10 recommendations for good writing habits, Elizabeth C. Spann suggests some writing resources, Jess Keating advises creating an imaginary panel to get unstuck, and Ellen Buikema tells how to nurture creativity through sleep.

Robert Lee Brewer has compiled 10 Lisa Scottoline quotes for writers and 10 Tess Gerritson quotes for writers, while Isaac Bashevis Singer wonders: who needs literature?

Writing can be a long journey, and it can be a mental and emotional slog sometimes. Shanna Swendson encourages us to not get discouraged—have stepping stones rather than setbacks; James Scott Bell says to delete naïveté from your writing life, K.Maze has the wellness wheel, Bill Ferris touts the hack’s guide to playing the waiting game, and Kathryn Craft advises career writers to embrace paradox.


Barbara Linn Probst delves deep into what makes readers give an unknown author a chance.

Want to do an audiobook? Take a look into the secret life of the audiobook star.

Christina McDonald shares how she hit the bestseller list with a traditionally published book.

With a look to the not-so-distant-future, Frantzeska Papadopoulou examines inventorship under the light of AI.

Self-publishers need to know the technical point of how to produce a book. Orna Ross has the 7 processes of book publishing, Reedsy tells us how to format a book (the free and easy way), Lee Foster looks at how publishing your ebook on Smashwords is changing.

Indie authors also have to know the business side of publishing. Melinda Clayton explains where to buy ISBNs, John Doppler demystifies mistakes in royalties, and Tim McConnehey explores copyright for indie authors.

People seeking traditional publishing have a great deal to figure out as well. Janet Reid discusses how to pick the best words for a query and how to know how much to leave out, Rachelle Gardner answers if age matters for writers, Nathan Bransford has the best strategy for sending query letters, Janet Reid explains why people might not want to rep a book, and Jessica Faust gives the agent’s side of preparing to make an offer of representation.

There are many marketing avenues available to authors today. Sandra Beckwith tells how to promote your books with local collaborations and gives us 10 free book promotion ideas, Jessica Strawser has 10 pro author tips for book fairs and festivals, while Sue Coletta tackles book blurbs: the good, the bad, and the hilarious.

Online provides opportunities, as well. SCBWI looks at if you are using your Twitter and Facebook headers to full potential, Emma Lombard explains how and why to build a Twitter following while unpublished, Lyn Wildwood lists the 6 best video hosting sites for content creators and entrepreneurs, and Stacey Corrin serves up 44 copywriting formulas to level up your content marketing.


Open access is important to information sharing, and it is up to librarians to make open access happen.

Love the smell of old books? Zee Krstic explains how the smell of old books could actually help experts preserve them.

Take a look at 10 stunning Scottish literary locations that inspired the setting of well-known novels (Note: Site does not work with an ad blocker turned on.)

Nicola Gardini argues that Latin is not useless, and neither is it dead.

Sadly, Venice’s legendary “waterproof” bookshop is overwhelmed by the recent floods.

Looking for something to read over the holidays? Emily Temple lists the 10 best translated novels of the decade.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We will be taking Thanksgiving off, but we hope all of you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | November 14, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 11-14-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! It’s gotten very cold here, so it is perfect weather for curling up with a hot drink and some writerly links!

This second week in November is National Young Readers Week, so go encourage the young readers in your life! For those of us perhaps not so young, Steven Spatz explains why you should set a reading goal for 2020.

Perhaps read some of the works of these two writers who passed away this week: William Branch, a leading black playwright of the 1950s, died at age 92, and Stephen Dixon, prolific writer of experimental fiction, died at age 83.

In world author news, publishers and writers welcomed the release of imprisoned Turkish novelist Ahmet Altan.

Timothy Inkelbarger examines how the Chicago Public School strike affected Chicago school librarians.

Lots of writers enter their work in contests or award competitions, either before or after publication. Victoria Strauss cautions people entering the very lucrative Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award contest—they get rights to your story even if you don’t win, so weigh if that is worth it to you. Meanwhile, Kimberley Woodhouse explores the more positive side of the world of author awards.

Daphne Gray-Grant questions if you should do your MFA in writing?

If you are in the midst of National Novel Writing Month, Jami Gold has these NaNoWriMo resources if you need help.


If you are a memoirist, beware this common problem that confronts memoirists: an overabundance of material.

We all want to write a page-turner, but how to you do it? Jodie Renner shares a workable plan for adding tension, suspense, and intrigue, while Janice Hardy shows how to keep readers hooked through story revelations.

Compelling characters are another way to keep readers reading. Donald Maass talks about the two types of archetypes, James Scott Bell suggests giving your character a dream, Chris Winkle has 18 ways for protagonists to contribute, Kristen Lamb discusses crafting a villain of legendary substance, and Sharla Rae gives us a comprehensive guide to writing about hair.

Predictability will kill your story…or will it? Chris Winkle looks at how predictable a story should be, and Becca Puglisi explores saving your story from predictability.

Writers often struggle with what to cut from their novel when editing. Nathan Bransford discusses how to know what to cut from a novel, but Dario Ciriello alerts us when NOT to kill your darlings.

When editing, attention to detail counts. Christina DesMarais has 43 embarrassing grammar mistakes even smart people make, Dana Isaacson has infographics of often-used crutch words, Toni Susnjar explains how to get your fantasy fortifications right, Beth van der Pol urges us to stop trying so hard to impress our readers with big words, and Roz Morris tells us how to find the editor that’s right for you.

If you are looking for ways to be more efficient, Writehacked lists 3 helpful tool types for writers.


Michelle Rial gives us Publishing a Book by the Numbers, while Steph Coelho ponders the current state and future of Goodreads.

In Amazon news, Jim Milliot reports that Amazon is reducing orders to publishers, and Ed Nawotka shows that translations pay off for Amazon.

If you are a self-publisher, there’s lots of nuts and bolts elements to understand. Michele DePhilippo explains typesetting and why it matters, Melinda VanLone gives us tips for book cover typography, Andre Calihanna lays out what goes in the front matter of your book, and Tracy Atkins continues her series on preparing your manuscript for publication.

Self-publishers and small press publishers also need to understand what’s happening in their markets. David Wogahn dissects Bowker’s Self-Publishing Report, while Rachell Gardner has questions to ask a small publisher. David Kudler guides us in pricing your book, and Christina Hoag explains the importance of genre.

But not all authors want to self-publish. Karin Beery discusses why she chose the long road to publication.

The long road usually involves querying agents or editors. Janet Reid evaluates the first sentences of potential query letters for novels, while Nathan Bransford has an example of a good nonfiction query letter.

Most queries include comps (competing titles). Penny Sansevieri shows how to find and use competing book titles, and Paula Munier has a know your comps quiz for you.

If you are pitching articles, Robert Lee Brewer lists 3 ways to make your nonfiction article pitch stand out.

Once you’ve got your book, the marketing starts. Ray Flynt has tips to build your indie author brand, but Eliza Green ponders what happens when readers rebel.

In person events can be a great way to get the word out about your work. Boni Wagner-Stafford shows how to engineer your book launch success with a DIY strategy, Elizabeth Ducie explains how to promote books and have fun on the radio, and Karen A. Chase describes getting speaking engagements.

Other ways to market are effective, too. Sandra Beckwith has 6 ways to promote your book as a holiday gift, and David Wogahn tells us how to use endorsements well.

Online, there are many ways to reach readers. Stacey Corrin defines what a blog is in an essential guide for beginners, while Dave Chesson walks us through how to create a Facebook author page and how to use it wisely.


Here’s a job for you poets out there: Benjamin Aleshire on writing poetry on demand at a New Orleans tech convention.

How many have you read? BBC’s list of 100 novels that shaped our world.

K.M. Weiland has 23 tips for a zero waster home office.

Early writing was often a male domain, but Alison Flood finds that women’s writing began much earlier than previously supposed.

Speaking of women writers, intrepid reporter Nellie Bly committed herself to an insane asylum just to get the story.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay warm and we’ll see you next week for more literary links.

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | November 7, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 11-07-2019

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | October 31, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-31-2019

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall morning, trees and silo


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Thanks for joining us this final day of October. We wish you a scary-good Halloween with lots of treats and no tricks.

If you’re celebrating the holiday in costume, Electric Literature helps you plan your literary Halloween costume with this handy chart.

National Novel Writing Month starts tomorrow. For those planning to participate, Grant Faulkner looks at expectation versus reality: 10 things you should know about NaNoWriMo.

If you think libraries are passé, Eric Klinenberg tells us that libraries are even more important to contemporary community than we thought and should be funded accordingly. As an example of libraries changing with the times, Natalie Baur writes about the Instagram-based library created by Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, while Andrew Albanese reports that Congress is looking into anticompetitive behavior in the digital library market.

With more on libraries, New York Public Library reveals the strangest questions ever asked of New York City librarians, and Jo Lou thinks librarians are secretly the funnest people alive.

If you like to read tips form well-known writers, Robert Lee Brewer shares 12 Sylvia Plath quotes for writers and about writing, and Steve Laube presents C. S. Lewis on writing.

Kudos: Emily Temple brings us the winners of this year’s $50,000 Kirkus Prize, and Chicago Tribune‘s Christopher Borrelli announces that Henry Louis Gates Jr. has been awarded its Tribune Literary Award.

Maciej Bankowski reports that Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk will open a foundation for literature, and CBC Books says that Margaret Atwood is donating her Book Prize winnings to Indspire to support the education of indigenous students.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall morning, trees and corn




Creativity is the starting point of all the arts. Need to spark yours? ProWritingAid suggests using two words to ignite your creativity, while Kathryn Craft recommends protecting your creative life through ghostbusting.

Rowan Williams examines why poetry matters.

Many things can interfere with writing. Philip Kenney presents 4 practices for overcoming self-doubt, and Erika Liodice advocates overcoming fear to unbox your best writing. In addition, Rebecca E. Neely looks at why you’re procrastinating at writing and how to stop, and Rochelle Melander delves into how to ditch distraction and focus.

James Scott Bell gives us a simple trick to increase productivity, and Michael Gallant asserts that nothing you experience is wasted if you put it to use.

RJ Clayton ponders the benefits of joining an association for writers, while Lisa Tener debates the joys and perils of writing longhand.

Putting ideas together for a story? Mary Carroll Moore discusses hooks and other excellent ways to start your story, Lincoln Michel writes about the many different engines that power a short story, and Janice Hardy reveals two tips that make plotting your novel way easier.

E. L. Skip Knox expands on his worldbuilding series with history for fantasy writers; journeymen.

Bella Rose Pope takes a look at how to show not tell in writing, while Harrison Demchick explores how to exploit uncommon points of view in your novel.

For those who want to keep their readers turning pages, Beth van der Pol goes into how to stop your novel from sagging, Janice Hardy mentions how to hook your reader in every scene, and Karen S. Wiesner delves into writing tension and twists.

K. M. Weiland gives us a writer’s guide to understanding people, and Jami Gold studies romance beats vs. 12 stages of intimacy.

With tips on characterization, Janice Hardy sets out five ways to create likable characters, Stavros Halvatzis explores the foibles kinks and rituals of eccentric characters, Bonnie Randall looks at four breaches that elicit fear in your characters, and Jami Gold asks how our protagonist is challenged to improve and provides a helpful worksheet.

And when you are writing about those characters, Margie Lawson asserts fresh writing sells: make hugs carry power.

Sandra Beckwith clarifies the terms beta readers and launch team members.

If your draft is ready for editing, Michael Aragon offers an easy step-by-step guide to editing your book, and Florence Osmond examines working with those dreaded editors.

Brian Rowe considers why you need to be careful about prologues in your writing, and Linda Lane looks at taming the fearsome apostrophe.

Cristian Mihai lists 30 tips for the modern writer, Ofer Tirosh sets out 12 book translation tips for authors, Kimberly Sullivan says that in writing, as in life, we should learn from our mistakes, and Russell Phillips and Andrew Knighton talk about how to collaborate across genres.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, hawk, hawk taking off from top of silo




For those who are shopping a book, Eldred Bird details creating a multi-use logline, while Nathan Bransford looks at when to re-query an agency.

Published writers might be interested in Ruth Harris’ advice on how to rejuvenate your backlist.

Frances Caballo takes a look at how to handle your social media during a crisis.

Cristian Mihai asks what sets you apart as a blogger?


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall, pumpkins and mums




Kristopher Jansma states that Shirley Jackson’s unfinished novel revealed the truth about her marriage, while Alison Flood writes about Stuart Kells’ long search for Shakespeare’s books and original manuscripts.

David L. Ulin considers the countercultural influence of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts., while Cara Hoffman discusses the darkness, strangeness, and unbridled joy of children’s books.

Cristina Bacchilega looks at how mermaid stories illustrate complex truths about being human.

Christopher Benfey tells us that Herman Melville enjoyed bowling and was pretty good at it.

Michael Gonzales relates the strange story of Richard Wright’s lost crime novel.

Bob Shaffer reveals how Jack Kerouac’s hometown honored him, 50 years after his death.

Mark Chandler reports that Idris Elba’s production company has sponsored an eight-part literary podcast highlighting books by British writers of color.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall corn harvest


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Stop by next week for another collection of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, fall, sunset clouds



Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 24, 2019

Top Pick Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-24-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Fall has finally arrived here, and it’s perfect weather to curl up by the fire and read some literary links.

Looking for new books to read? Check out SCBWI’s Bookstop for books published in 2019.

Ethan Ellenberg discusses intellectual property for authors.

Sometimes teaming up is better than competing. Two Minnesota bookstores partnered up, and business is booming.

National Novel Writing Month is soon upon us. Reedsy explains NaNoWriMo and gives tips to win it in 2019, Jenny Hansen has 10 tips to rock NaNoWriMo, and Janice Hardy has NaNoWriMo prep for planning your novel’s middle and planning your novel’s end.


Sometimes advice is very specific to format or genre. Michael McGinnis has 6 ways to write a better script, Boni Wagner-Stafford offers a step-by-step guide for authors on how to write a nonfiction book, and Iris Origo explores the impossibility of capturing truth in a biography.

Julie Glover gives us more on plotting, pantsing, and personality type, Laurisa White Reyes tells us how to write a real page turner, and Janice Hardy warns us against nice writer syndrome.

Getting a handle on the big craft elements will help ground your story. NY Book Editors explain the difference between perspective and point of view, Jordan Dane shows how to enhance your writing by layering your scenes and plot, and D.M. Pulley shares 5 tips for building a house or setting that comes alive for readers.

Nailing the small craft elements will make your book stand out from the cowd. Hugh O. Smith has how to write a fight scene, Kathy Steinemann lists 85 alternatives for the phrase “clenched fists”, Shannon Moore Redmon gives us 5 things to consider when writing medical scenes, and Zoe McCarthy reminds us that adding sounds to scenes is a sound practice.

Characters keep the readers coming back for more, and can influence the way they think. Brian Andrews offers a villain checklist to create a “great and terrible” villain, and Becca Puglisi tells us how to use your secondary characters to sway the reader.

Editing makes our work the best it can be. Tiffany Yates Martin explains how to train your editor brain, Jami Gold warns to watch for redundancy in our story, and Stavros Halvatzis discusses repetition vs. repetitiveness in stories.

Many writers fight with writer’s block from time to time. The Guardian gathers advice on beating writer’s block from Australia’s top authors, Nick Wisseman tells us how to hurdle your writer’s block, and Christopher Oldcorn advises shaking things up by finding unique places to write.

Even if we don’t have writer’s block, we often struggle with productivity. Anne R. Allen looks at unexamined beliefs that may keep us from writing success, Sandra Beckwith shares 3 ways to get past what’s holding your back, Rosalie Morales Kearns has 7 non-literary ways to get into the flow, and Sarah LaBrie demystifies the writer’s fear of failure.

Inspiration can come from many directions. Janet Reid helps an author understand how to know what you are meant to write, Dave DeCoursey shows how to use your journal to overcome life’s obstacles, Dawn Field asks if you keep a short fiction journal, and Debbie Burke discusses reaching out to new writers.

We can learn a lot from other writers. Savannah Cardova explains what the best metaphors in literature teach us about writing, John Banville interviews John le Carre, Amy Jones has 8 Elizabeth Strout quotes about writing, and Robert Lee Brewer lists 33 lamentable words coined by Shakespeare.

Dave King discusses the need for gatekeepers, while Livia Gershon wonders: who decides which books are “great”?


Jane Friedman examines the current trends in book publishing for fiction, nonfiction, and young adult.

Interested in doing an audiobook? Bill Ferris has the hack’s guide to narrating audiobooks.

If poetry is your sweet spot, BlueInk Review tells us how to promote poetry on social media.

Some of us are still in the hunt for a literary agent. Jessica Faust explains that a logline is not a hook, Rachelle Gardner reveals an episode of botched communication, Janet Reid defines target audience as agents mean it and advises what to do when you leave your agent, and Ruoxi Chen asks: am I allowed to break up with my book agent?

Marketing online and platform-building can be overwhelming. Dan Blank provides us with the introvert’s guide to book marketing and author platform, Rochelle Melander shows how to develop your author social media strategy, and Rachel McCollin explains content marketing for fiction and nonfiction.

Networking is a marketing skill we all need. Joanna Penn discusses why authors should learn to speak in public, Sarah McGuire gives us an introvert’s guide to writer’s conferences, and Joan Stewart shares the 9 most common mistakes in author’s press releases.

Online, Judith Briles says it’s time to do a Facebook settings checkup, and Cristian Mihai reveals the truth about blog post length.


D.J. Taylor examines George Orwell’s notes on 1984 and maps the inspiration of a modern classic.

Researchers analyzed millions of books to find out if humans have gotten any happier over 200 years.

Conservator Chloe Vassot explains the little-known “slow fire” that’s destroying all our books.

Danika Ellis takes a deep dive into the history of deckle edges in books.

We love librarians—even fictional ones! Emily Temple ranks 50 fictional librarians.

Letters between Flannery O’Connor and Katherin Anne Porter trace their friendship.

Would you like to buy John Steinbeck’s silver bucket? A cache of Steinbeck objects are being auctioned off.

Rebecca Onion looks into the sexist reception of Willa Cather’s World War I novel.

Where writers write often fascinates people. ConservatoryLand examines some famous writers and their writing spaces, while Stephen King is turning his house into a writers’ retreat.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week for some spook-tacular literary links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 17, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-17-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Today is National Black Poetry Day, so pick up some of your favorite poets and savor their style.

Lots of book award news this week! Take a look at the 2019 National Book Awards finalists; Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke win the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Literature Prizes; and Margaret Atwood and Bernadine Evaristo jointly win the 2019 Booker Prize.

Amy Jones examines the benefits of the Booker Prize and other literary awards for writers (besides the money).

Lee Wind makes the case for more children’s books in translation, making our children into citizens of the world and broadening their horizons.

Ebony Bowden and Tamar Lapin take a peek at over 200 never-before-seen J.D. Salinger pieces in a collection that will soon hit Manhattan library.

Are you thinking of National Novel Writing Month? Grant Faulkner explains how to write a novel in a month, and Janice Hardy does NaNoWriMo prep with planning your novel’s beginning.


Any children’s authors or women’s fiction authors out there? Philip Pullman discusses children’s literature and the critics who disdain it, and Brenda Copeland has 4 tips for writing bestselling women’s fiction.

A chapter is an integral part of many novels. Gordon Long delves into just what is a chapter, and P.J. Parrish figures out what goes into each chapter.

To keep readers turning pages, we need to keep them hooked. Stavros Halvatzis discusses how to orchestrate story pace, and Jim Dempsey looks at writing as a labyrinth of choices.

Characters are the ones making those choices (and suffering the consequences), so we need readers to care about them. Justin Attas describes creating a compelling protagonist, Laurence MacNaughton explains the secret to create a fascinating villain, Janice Hardy advises making your characters vulnerable, and Sacha Black addresses diversity in fiction by urging us to write the character you’re afraid to write.

Lisa Hall-Wilson has how to scare your readers using deep point of view and 4 pro tips for writing the emotional journey in deep POV, Terry Odell say to push your characters out of their comfort zones, James Scott Bell shows how to describe your main character, and if any character needs a shotgun in your story, John Gilstrap has a primer on shotguns.

Writers make their story beautiful in the revision process. Angelica Hartgers shares 3 tips for creating lyrical prose, Nick Douglas lists the words smart people can’t spell, Roz Morris reveals what your readers will never notice, Sarah Chauncey explains manuscript evaluations, and Nancy J. Cohen gives us 10 tips for a successful critique group.

Creativity and productivity can be impacted by our emotions. Macy Thronhill has 6 ways to stay productive in a creative slump, Scott McCormick wonders if you can trigger creativity, and Kathryn Craft lists 12 signs you’re afraid of your WIP.

Writing can be tough, so why do we stick with it? Jami Gold lays out how we can discover our vision and our goals, Kristen Lamb searches for the “why” that keeps our muse alive, and John Peragine share 6 daily habits to build a solid writing career.

We all need advice to get ahead—but not all advice is created equal. Gayla K. Hiss has rules for survival for writers, Sonya Huber tells us how “show, don’t tell” almost ruined her as a writer, and Amy Jones lists 10 Jojo Moyes quotes about writing.

A published writer is a different beast than an unpublished writer in many ways. Tracy R. Atkins has part 1 of preparing your manuscript for publication (interior design templates), Kathy Harris discusses writing while waiting, and Kate Murdoch separates the fantasy vs. reality of being a published author.


Ever wanted to host a literary festival? Julie Duffy tells how you too can build a literary festival.

Publishing is a business: John Doppler urges indie authors to figure out who their publishing contract protects, Lee Foster looks at publishing your book on IngramSpark, and Tim McConnehey explains what a cover information sheet is.

Querying your book can be full of pitfalls. Janet Reid discusses appropriate author names and what to do if you get an offer before you have an agent. Rachelle Gardner reminds us to look for where our passion meets the market to find success, and L. Diane Wolfe examines what’s killing your query pitch.

Most readers will find you online, so make sure to be ready when they come looking. Lee Wind directs us to some excellent author and author/illustrator websites, Julie Valerie explores influencers in the online book world, Stephanie Chandler lists book review options, and Penny Sansevieri tells us how to supercharge your Amazon book description.

In our online marketing, David Hartshorne gives us the 7 best social media scheduling tools to save you hours each week, Sandra Beckwith tells us how to get unfriended on Facebook, Frances Caballo walks us through how to use MailerLite (so you can dump MailChimp), Cristian Mihai debates short blog posts vs. long blog posts, and Lindsay Liedke explains how to back up your WordPress site for free (and why you should).


Check out the 10 best short story collections of the decade.

Olivia Rutigliano delves into a cultural history of Nancy Drew.

Brian Goedde examines Goodnight Moon almost 75 years later.

Talk about waiting a long time for the next installment. A lost chapter of the world’s first novel is found in a Japanese storeroom.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 10, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Readers struggle to balance re-reading with the TBR.

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

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

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

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