Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 19, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 01-19-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are having an erratic January here—snow, then days in the 50s. The weather may be erratic, but the writerly links continue as always!

9 Canadian writers share their writing resolutions for 2017.

Jami Gold reminds us that one writing goal for 2017 should be to find what works for us as writers.

The power of books is universal, whether you are a four-year-old bibliophile Guest Librarian for the Library of Congress, or President Obama of the United States.

In times of political turmoil, writers are often on the front lines. Last weekend, many writers gathered to explore how language is the tool we use to build our political and democratic structures, Rep. John Lewis’s memoir Walking With the Wind and National Book Award-winning graphic novel March sold out on Amazon after Trump attacked him on Twitter, and  Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich and 30 other writers have quit the Russian PEN center to protest the expulsion of journalist Sergey Parkhomenko.


Anne R. Allen says anthologies can be great opportunities, but to beware of scams.

Writers have so many story ideas, sometimes it is hard to pick one. Jeff Elkins shares the Hedgehog Concept as a way to choose a book idea, and Katherine Lampe advises avoiding these 10 tires witch tropes.

Once you’ve got the idea, you need to draw in the reader. Becca Puglisi shows how to craft a powerful set-up that will leave the reader wanting more. Jami Gold tells us how to give the readers that more by making our story feel meaningful, and Jane Friedman talks about when a story ending doesn’t satisfy—sometimes on purpose.

Emily Temple gathers advice from writers on how they revise.

Writing can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Chandler Baker explains how to revive your writer’s soul, Roz Morris reminds us not to neglect our reading, and Roseanne Bane lists 5 reasons to thank your resistance to writing.

Author Holly Bourne answers 7 questions, and Mary Kole addresses what life is like post-publication.


Robert Kroese examines if Amazon exclusivity is right for you, while David Kudler delves into the nuts-and-bolts of ebook mechanics with CSS for ebooks, part 2.

When writers have manuscripts ready to go, should we target agents or editors? And should we query multiple projects to multiple agents? Should you tell about your old agent in a query? And what about querying agents when past books have good reviews but poor sales? Jane Friedman, Mary Kole, and Janet Reid answer those questions.

If you’ve been asked for a full, agent Jennifer Johnson-Blalock talks about when you should follow up. If you’ve ever wondered about what to write in the bio section of your query letter, Chuck Sambuchino has some guidance. These 7 agents are seeking women’s fiction so if that’s your genre, check them out. And an old post but a good post: THE CALL or, What to Ask a Literary Agent When Offered Representation by Casey McCormick.

Marketing is as much art as business. Jane Lebak reminds us not to use tired, broad tropes to pitch your story, Eva Lesko Natiello reveals the pro-bono marketing staff every selfpublished author has at their fingertips, and Jane Friedman compiles her Best Book Marketing Resources of 2016.


Zhou Youguang, the inventor of Pinyin—which is responsible for both boosting literacy rates in China and bridging the divide between the country and the West—died on Saturday.

Lisa Rosman pours us the 6 best cocktails from classic literature.

Chris Weller tracks down the most beautiful library in every US state.

Elizabeth Lilly has 25 amazingly clever ways to display books in your home.

How the speech and Bible from George Washington’s First Inauguration made history many times over.

If you’re looking for inspiration, you can write inside Mark Twain’s library.

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

Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | January 16, 2017

New Year Metamorphosis

My resolution for 2017 is to do things differently, as opposed to doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Crazy, huh? I want better results from my effort. Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint what those habits are, but the results are obvious.

Of course I still can’t control my schedule but I do have a plan that I began implementing back in 2016.

  1. I took a break from writing so that I could start fresh, less likely to repeat old ways of doing things. Of course I’m hoping to throw out the bath water and keep the baby, the things that are the good habits.
  2. I’ve been gathering information and have created a clear picture of what I want to accomplish. Not the fuzzy one with which I started writing.
  3. I’m entering 2017 with more confidence and a resolution not to let the monster fear emotions get a toehold. After all this time I understand I can simply say “no” to the little monsters.
  4. I even have a plan to start interacting with other writers again, although I suspect that first I may have to get my courage up and change my work situation to allow time for living life. We’ll see.
  5. I resolve to create a shrine to those things that are important and let the others fall away.
Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 12, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 01-12-2017

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of 2017! We hope you and yours had a good holiday and a happy New Year!

NPR staff picks their Best Reads from the 2016 Book Concierge Great Reads.

In case you want a sneak peek at Books 2017, here is The Guardian’s 2017 Literary Calendar.

We all are aware that reading fiction encourages empathy and communication. Here are 7 books that teach children about racial and social justice, lists of YA books about POC written by POC, authors R.J. Palacio and Meg Medina discussing diversity and children’s books, and 10 children’s books that celebrate our diverse world.

Awards: SCBWI announces the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author awards for this year, and check out the 2016 CYBILS finalists for elementary/middle grade speculative fiction.

Jane Friedman lists the best literary fiction blogs and websites.

Roni Loren discusses how to create a daily reading habit and tackle your To-Be-Read piles using the 5-page technique.

In an odd story, Florida librarians are accused of creating fake borrowers to save stock.


The New Year brings new writing goals. Jami Gold talks about setting writing goals so you can win (sometimes), and Chuck Wendig lays out his resolution in two words.

Jerome Bruner delves into the psychology of what makes a great story.

Openings are key to any story. However, Emily Ruskovich says the opening paragraphs don’t always have to be exciting, and Anne R. Allen explains the wisdom of writing the first chapter last.

Once you’ve got started, get the little things right to make your story sing. Janet Reid tells us the proper way to do surprise, Jacqueline Hesse advises us to remove filters in your fiction, and Tina Radcliff shows how regional clues and cues can bring your story to life.

After we’ve finished writing, we often need other eyes to help us polish the manuscript. Jam Gold helps us figure out if we need a developmental editor or a writing coach.

Writers often struggle with the huge mental component of writing. Melanie Bishop tells how to make the most of writing retreats, Ayodeji Awosika explains how to keep writing when you feel inadequate, Alyson Schroll shares how to deal with when writing can’t be your life, and Chuck Wendig shows how to finish that book.


It’s a new year, and the ever-changing business of publishing is still in motion. Jane Friedman looks back on 2016 and shares important publishing developments authors should know, while Laurie McLean looks ahead with publishing predictions for 2017. Meanwhile, Publisher’s Weekly is reporting that print book sales rose again in 2016.

Emily Gould posits that women authors don’t have the luxury of being unlikable. Whether you choose to be likeable or not, agent Janet Reid says all authors need to be reachable, lest opportunity miss you for lack of an email address. Meanwhile, Kathryn Craft shares 5 tips to sustain you in the query trenches.

Marketing can make some writers cry in frustration. Chris Syme discusses pain-free book marketing, Judith Briles has tips to make your book soar, and Jefferson Smith introduces PageFight!, a site to allow you to get marketing feedback and let readers discover your books.

Jane Friedman dissects why building a platform to land books sales so often fails, Robert Kroese steps us through using KDP ads to sell books on Amazon, Frances Caballo lists 40 people indie authors should follow on Twitter, and Barb Drozdowich talks blog stats and what they can tell you.


2016 was a brutal year for the creative community, with so many artists lost. It ended with the death of Watership Down author Richard Adams, and now 2017 is beginning with the loss of agent David Miller and author and Jazz writer Nat Hentoff.

A donation to a library reveals a treasure trove of rare literary letters.

Eloise Ruby takes us behind the scenes into cataloging the thousands of Medieval manuscript fragments housed at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek.

Thank you for reading this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you next week!


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

Feeding the book worm

As many voracious readers can attest, I’ve been reading more stories that were NOT on my list or my bookshelves. This isn’t a complaint, although it turns out that the entirety of my reading the last six months has been on my phone, and because of that I miss the experience of reading books that have paper pages. I didn’t plan or expect that; I just continued to add books (mostly free) on my phone that were most like the last story I read.

I had been on a Sherlock Holmes kick for a while, and after I finished them again I needed something written in an older voice and time. There was one evening where I couldn’t sleep and I was browsing the kindle store for free e-books. I settled on Bram Stoker’s Dracula since I hadn’t read that for a while and it’s always been a favorite, and followed up with a few suggested links. My library is growing but at least these were free.

I had originally thought that the beginning diary entries of Dracula, with its heavy attention to detail, would put me to sleep. The opposite happened because as soon as I hit a recipe that Jonathan Harker notes in his diary I had to look it up, and of course that led me to looking up cookbooks for the region, the novel, other cookbooks that Amazon suggested I might like considering what I was looking up, etc.

This may sound ridiculously incorrigible and out of control, and perhaps it is. There is a part of me that would defend this behavior. If I were to have a bad habit this is a favorite one to have.

Some days after, I finished Dracula and then went on to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which I’m very glad I did. While I found myself at odds with the storyline, I loved the writing and setting and this further settled my intended reading voice when I followed with Edgar Allan Poe.

There are times with my reading Shelley and Poe where I had to remind myself of the time of the writing. For any frustration I may experience, probably stemming from my lack of familiarity with the older age of writing and its pacing, the writing is pure bliss. Some of the very long-winded scientific-minded discussions in Poe’s writing had me wishing I had taken Latin in school and next thing you know I downloaded a Latin dictionary.

Many of my routines for reading have been disrupted over the last year as my books may be unpacked but they are most certainly not organized yet (and the study still has computer stuff to go through). Through broken routines and a very bothersome, time-consuming, unpacking of my house, I still kept reading on my phone. In elevators, on the bus standing up, in a car, and of course, laying down to sleep.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 5, 2017

The Best of the Author Chronicles 2016

Best of the Author Chronicles 2016

Every year, we like to take a look back and see what posts our readers responded to the most. The following 15 are the ones that spoke to you most this year:

  1. Reading – New Reasons It’s Good for You
  1. Their Words Matter
  1. Fan fiction, Folklore & Fellowship
  1. Visiting Our Muse Again
  1. Seven Ways to Make Your Writing Interesting
  1. Writing What I Know
  1. Ask The Right Questions
  1. In Sickness and In Health
  1. Fiction Triggers
  1. To Spark Inspiration and Ignite Creativity: Mindful Concentration on Your Place in Space
  1. New Year, New House, New Perspective
  1. Mindful Observation: the Key to Minor Characters
  1. The Benefits of Productivity Tracking
  1. Successful Writer’s Many Roles : How to Have It All

And, proving we have a lot of introverts in our reading demographic, we have our #1 post of 2016:

  1. Becoming Visible: An Introvert Tackles Marketing

Thank you all for reading! We wish you all the best in 2017, and will return with our regular Top Picks Thursday posts next week.





Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 29, 2016

12 Links of Christmas 2016 – the Best of Top Picks Thursday

12 Links of Christmas 2016 – the Best of Top Picks Thursday

On this last Thursday of the year, we look back on our readers’ favorite Top Picks Thursday links. Because of a couple of ties, there are 14 in this year’s list. Enjoy!

  1. Claire Fuller – Writing a Dual Narrative

Malcolm Mackay – How to Write Fully-formed Characters in Fiction

  1. Alison Flood – Income for US Authors Falls Below Federal Poverty Line

Chuck Wendig – Writing Dialogue and How It Relates to Plot and Character

  1. Roz Morris – Avoid This Plotting Pitfall When Writing Drafts at Speed
  1. Nancy Lin – Tools to Help with Editing
  1. Kimberley Grabas – Biggest Marketing or Platform-building Hurdles and How to Overcome Them
  1. Michelle Hauck – Query Questions with Eric Smith
  1. Kristen Lamb – Real Writers Don’t Self-Publish
  1. Janice Hardy – Hooking the Reader’s Brains and Heart
  1. Kim C. Dale – 7 Signs Your Novel is Doomed and How to Avoid Them
  1. Steven Spohn – I Am Not Your Plot Device
  1. Roz Morris – Why Novelists Should Read Obituaries

After 2 years of Roz Morris taking the top spot, we have a new #1:

  1. Agent Eric Smith – My Wish List

I hope that list is up-to-date, Eric!

Have a safe and Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for reading, and we will see you in 2017!







Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 22, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 12-22-2016


Alleghany County Public Library Children’s section

Welcome to Top Picks Thursday! We want to wish everyone a joyous and peaceful celebration this season.

For readers, it can be hard to find reading time during the holidays. Sharon Pelletier has tips on how to sneak in reading time during hectic holidays. Sneaking in reading time is not a problem if you live in Iceland because their Christmas tradition is to give books!

A few more “Best Of” lists: The Best Books About Food of 2016, Smithsonian-Curated Books, NPR’s Book Concierge’s Best Books of 2016, BookRiot’s (Some of the) Best 2016 books from outside the USA, and a librarian’s list of 19 books to help children find hope and strength in stressful times.

After all those lists, Lee Wind has this to say about 7 things “Best Of” lists can teach us.

One classic book celebrating 50 years is The Snowy Day—a book that quietly broke color barriers.

You can find The Snowy Day and likely all the Best Of books listed at your local bookstore. If you are local to New Hope, PA, that would be the recently-interviewed bookstore Farley’s Bookshop.

The New York Public Library and MacMillan are teaming up to launch an imprint to publish books based on the library’s collections.

And how’s this for a library fine? A woman returns a book that is 57 years overdue.

We are coming close to the end of the year, which is often a time to set new goals for the coming year. Roni Loren discusses choosing a One-Word Theme for your 2017.


We write because we love it. Writing is our passion. But once we choose to share our writing, what we write takes on a wider meaning, whether we want it to or not. Andrea Phillips examines the high responsibility of fiction.

If you are a poet looking to break out, check out Amanda Lovelace talking about her path from self-published poet to first book deal.

Character is something many writers struggle with mastering. Jeff Gerke shows how to make readers connect deeply to your characters, D.D. Falvo creates character images that work, and Janice Hardy suggests that to get better characters, you get rid of the dialogue.

There are a whole raft of writing elements writers need to master. Christina Delay shows how to make setting come to life with sensory details, Jami Gold talks about the revision circle, Kristina Riggle tells how to make “write what you know” work for you, and Alex Limberg has tips to help you finish that novel.

Anne Carley explains how to avoid sabotaging your creative process, while Isabella Bradford takes us into the writing vortex.

It is wonderful that we writers can look to mentors to gain inspiration. Still drawing at 85, children’s book pioneer Ed Emberley inspires future artists, Brandon Sanderson opines that Terry Pratchett’s Discworld might be the highest form of literature on the planet, John Green explains why he still has a day job, and debut authors share their advice.


In case you are new to the business, Kristen Lamb has an overview of publishing basics that writers and readers need to know.

Are you a children’s author looking to self-publish? Carla King shares tech tools to help produce and sell children’s books.

Agent Janet Reid hits a triple this week: the quickest way to NOT impress an agent, how much of a full she reads before she decides, and why pulling a full manuscript from an agent because they are “taking too long” to read it is a bad idea.

So much of marketing is online these days, so writers need to pay close attention to a myriad of items. Anne R. Allen explains how not to query a blogger (and 10 tips to do it right), Debbie Young lists 10 data sources we should update by year’s end, Nate Hoffelder has 5 WordPress themes for authors, and Stephanie Chandler gives us 8 ideas for adding additional content to your blog.


Martina Boone shares her 10 favorite inspirational writing quotes.

The most expensive science book ever just sold for $3.7 million.

Take a look at Emily Dickinson’s singular scrap poetry.

Never give up! The beloved, baffling A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by 26 publishers.

Maps were in the news this week. A rare 17th-century map found shoved up a chimney is restored, The Library of Congress is putting its map collection on the map, and a look at how maps shaped Shakespeare.

From the “Classic Writers News” column: Examining the marriage bond for William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, an innovative new presentation of Moby-Dick, exploring where Jane Austen’s characterizations of the clergy come from, and the only footage of Mark Twain in existence.

Explore a century of children’s games and rhymes.

Ever wonder why encyclopedia is sometimes spelled encyclopædia?

Examine these tiny (very tiny) 19th century books and playing cards.

A 200-year-old Indian library gets a new lease on life.

Although we five chroniclers don’t live close to each other, we do live in the same region — southern and central New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania — and we’re going to show our support for libraries by concluding with a photo of a local library for the next several weeks (until we run out of them!) This week, we’ll give a shout out to a not-so-local library with a Chronicler connection, Alleghany County Public Library in Sparta, NC. They are currently moving to new digs, and this is their old children’s section.

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That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll have our annual Most Popular Links of 2016 next week.



Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 15, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 12-15-2016

20161129_102509Welcome to the mid-December Top Picks Thursday! The end of the year is barreling towards us, which means the end-of-year lists are coming out in force.

The New Yorker treats us to 2016: Our Year in Poems, while the New York Times shares the Best Book Covers of 2016.

Check out Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

18 middle grade authors discuss writing girl characters after the election.

John Milliot reports that the Authors Guild has absorbed Authors United.

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Allie Larkin has gift ideas for writers that go beyond notebooks, while Cathy Baker lists the 12 days of Christmas for creative minds.


We learn toward fiction on this blog, but here Dawn Field examines the micro-memoir to help you get started on your memoir, and Danica Davidson reveals the world of writing media tie-ins.

Writers have to think about the macro elements of our work to get the story right. K.M. Weiland gives us a new way to think about scene structure, and Jami Gold shares 5 ways to discover and develop our voice.

Well-drawn characters entice readers. Kristen Lamb explores the Wound and the Blind Spot to enhance your characters, A. Howitt describes the how and why of making it worse for your character, and Zoe M. McCarthy lists 8 tips in writing deep point of view.

Once the writing is done, writers have to polish everything with revision. Mary Kole warns against rushing through revisions, Gordon Long exposes 6 overused phrases and what they reveal about your writing, and Janice Hardy shows how to be your own book doctor.

Steve Laube says writers must learn to prepare, and Melanie Bishop describes the value of writing retreats.


For those writers seeking a small publisher or a hybrid publisher rather than straight self-publishing, it can be a confusing world out there. Janet Reid discusses how to evaluate if a small publisher is legitimate, and Jane Friedman defines what a hybrid publisher is.

If you are self-publishing (or are in a hybrid model where you control the pricing) David Kudler explains what is up with those crazy price variations on your print book.

Finding an agent is much more than grabbing the first one who says yes. Susan Spann tells how to find your agent match.

Here we take a look at two of the most important parts of the marketing life cycle surrounding your book: the pitch and the review. Joan Stewart shows that the repeated pitching of your book is the most important 15 second in your book’s life, and Carol Riggs demonstrates the zen of accepting bad reviews.

When marketing your book to someone, Mary Kole reminds us to answer “what’s in it for the customer?”. Nate Hoffelder shares a great tool that allows authors to link to all the places that sell their book in one shot: Books2Read’s Universal Book Links.

Social media—the boon and bane of authors everywhere. Jane Friedman shares 3 things to avoid when social media marketing your book, Edie Melson lists 29 quick and easy social media updates to share, and Debbie Young has 1 simple marketing tip to boost the reach of Facebook author pages.


To help get us through the holidays, Tara Sparling has several funny title generators to get you chuckling.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to sleep in a library. You can come close by visiting this book-lover’s hotel in Portugal or in Kyoto’s new bookstore-themes hostel.

Although we five chroniclers don’t live close to each other, we do live in the same region — southern and central New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania — and we’re going to show our support for libraries by concluding with a photo of a local library for the next several weeks (until we run out of them!) This week, we’ll give a shout out to the Lititz Public Library of Lititz, PA.


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday!




Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | December 13, 2016

Fan Fiction Part 2

As the longest night of the year looms, it’s a perfect time to read out loud. In this spirit I thought I would tell you a small story.

This past summer our teenager had some friends, perhaps five or six in total, over to play Dungeons and Dragons. After they finished their campaign it was late afternoon and they decided to all read fan fiction out loud, as a sort-of full cast. They chose what is acknowledged as the worst fan fiction ever (which I have no intention of naming. I abhor bad mouthing other authors), assigned themselves parts and commenced reading. I heard them laughing for a couple of hours before my husband and I had to head out for the airport.

At the airport we picked up the daughter of my husband’s best friend. We have seen each other occasionally over the years but haven’t spent a significant amount of time together for about eight years. We met a lovely, intelligent and very jet lagged teen who chatted and dozed the whole way home.

It can’t have been easy to come into a house filled with teens she didn’t know. But she was greeted with a hug from our teen and an immediate invitation to join in reading some really dreadful prose. She jumped in with gusto and soon they were all laughing.

Well written fan fiction is a joy to read but even terrible drivel can be a hoot.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 8, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers & Writers 12-8-2016

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