Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 11, 2019

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 4, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-04-2019

Happy 4th of July Top Picks Thursday! I hope all of you get to rest, relax and write!

Looking for something to read over the holiday? Marvin Joseph rounds up the best books to read at every age from 1 to 100, and Michael Gonzales has a brief history of the heroes of black pulp.

You may want to be choosy about what you pick to read if you are an older woman—half of women over 40 say older women in fiction are clichés.

If magazines are more your reading material, pick up a Time magazine. Colson Whitehead is the first novelist to grace the cover of Time since 2010.

Can’t get to the library? In Sweden, the library comes to you! Check out Sweden’s bokbaten floating library.


What is a writer, and what can writers learn from other art forms? Meg Dowell has 12 misconceptions about being a writer, Gabriel Urza tells us what fiction writers can learn from stage magicians, and Luke Jerod Kummer discusses the painterly art of observation.

All stories start with an idea. Laura Drake explores where ideas come from, Janice Hardy discusses the need to understand our premise to understand our story, and Orly Konig investigates how mind-mapping can be a pantser’s guide to planning.

Character and plot are inevitably intertwined. Jami Gold examines what “plot reveals character” really means, Ruth Harris talks about the allure of rogue characters, and Nathan Bransford has a list of character strengths and weaknesses.

Many story elements need to be just right to create a page turner. James Scott Bell reminds us to let no good tension go unstretched, Karstenberg walks us through creating fantasy cuisines as part of worldbuilding, Stavros Halvatzis examines using coincidence in stories, Dawn Field reverts to story fundamentals to make a story great, and Taylor Simonds looks at using story tropes to subvert reader expectations.

Every story we write we hope will take our work up a notch. K.M. Weiland shows us how to take our writing to the next level, Terry Odell asks: are your words pulling their weight?, and Mary Ann de Stefano advises on how to manage criticism.

Writing in different genres and formats can improve our craft and open opportunities for us. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shows how to adapt a book into a screenplay, Chris Lentz shares the top 5 things learned from writing a biography, Penny Appleton discusses writing later in life, and Yi Shun Lai tells us how a beginner’s mindset can improve your writing.

Once we complete one project, there are always others waiting in the wings. Barbara O’Neal talks about writing the next book, and Meg Dowell wonders if you should start a new project right after finishing an old one.


The book business is rollercoastering again. Mark Sweney says UK print book sales fall while audiobooks surge 43%, Alison Flood points out that fiction book sales in the UK fall 3% but nonfiction shows growth, and Steve Laube reassures that books are still selling.

Trying to decide how to publish your books can be difficult. Lee Foster examines traditional publishing vs. self-publishing in a 2020 vision, Bryan Collins lays out what every entrepreneur should know about becoming an author, Joanna Penn lists 9 ways artificial intelligence will disrupt authors and the publishing industry, and Brian Jud shows how to create multiple streams of revenue with your work.

Amazon is not having a good week. David Streitfeld dove deep into the problem of counterfeit books on Amazon, and the Association of American Publishers lodged a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission against Amazon, Google, and other large tech companies.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch urges us to shift our focus and rethink the writing business, and Robert McCaw discusses the challenges of getting your book published.

Querying a book with multiple protagonists? Nathan Bransford has a few tips for how to handle multiple protagonists in a query letter.

Marketing! Joan Stewart fields the top 10 FAQs about book publicity and promotion, John Sibley William tells us how to sell more books at author events, and Martin Cavannaugh explains how to create an irresistible lead magnet to market your book.

Most authors know that they need to have some social media footprint to be successful these days. SCBWI lists author website criteria, agent Janet Reid answers social media presence questions, and Sandra Beckwith explores social proof for authors.

While social media can be a boon for marketing, it can also be a nightmare when a book comes under intense scrutiny. Molly Templeton looks at some recent YA books that were pulled because of Twitter pressure, and says the backlash was fueled by more than those particular books.


For our poets, Nick Ripatrazone has a meditation on exclamation marks in contemporary poetry.

Emily Temple looks at how many copies famous books sold in their first year.

Easy as ABC? Jacqueline Ardam shows how the alphabet helped Virginia Woolf understand her father.

Paul Auster on the time he met Samuel Beckett.

And now get back to relaxing! Debbie Burke guides us through do-it-yourself massages for writers.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Have a safe and fun 4th, everyone!


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | June 27, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-27-2019

Misty sunrise


Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of June! Hope you’re enjoying the summer season.

Summer is set to hit those of us in the East with our first heat wave, and that makes us dream of relaxing on the beach. If you’re looking for some short books for vacation reading, Frances Yackel suggests 11 short novels from around the world that you can read in one sitting.

On the international scene, Nnamdi Ehirim reveals how a new generation of Nigerian writers is salvaging tradition from colonial erasure, and Don Kulick, reflecting on why languages die, looks at the slow demise of Tayap in Papua New Guinea.

Have authors been affected by the closing of bookstores? Kristen Lamb addresses the death of ‘ye olden bookstores’ and the author identity crisis.

For those who enjoy astrology, Jeanna Kadlec provides summer 2019 horoscopes for writers.

Kudos to: Joy Harjo, who has become the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate (reported by Lynn Neary and Patrick Jarenwattananon for NPR).

In memoriam: best-selling author of romance novels Judith Krantz dies at age 91 (reported by Michael Rothman for GMA).


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, eggs in Jim Leedom's purple marting house

Purple martin eggs



Writing is a creative endeavor. Julie Duffy assures us that although creation is messy, that’s okay.

Are you a budding novelist? Ivana Sanders sets out 5 steps to starting your novel, and Janice Hardy contributes 4 steps to establish the beginning of your novel, while Karen Dukess claims you need seven friends if you’re writing a novel.

If you are writing in a particular genre, Jami Gold discusses conflicts and goals in romance, and John Gilstrap shares what to wear to a gunfight. For those considering nonfiction, Steven Spatz lays out four questions to ask yourself if you’re writing a business or self-help book.

Offering pointers on creating characters, Sonja Yoerg explores writing characters with personality, while Carol Despeaux Fawcett concentrates on revealing your characters through their circle of friends, and Mark Alpert details how to create a good leader.

For those working on worldbuilding, Lisa Hall-Wilson delves into making your setting real with strategic description.

Dialogue can have many uses: Lisa Lowe Stauffer focuses on using objects to inject character and world-building into dialogue, and K. M. Weiland identifies 4 ways to write gripping internal narrative.

Tension is a way to keep readers engaged. Chris Winkle looks at goal-oriented storytelling: creating tension, and H. R. D’Costa identifies 5 ways to ensure readers don’t abandon your book, while Margie Lawson writes about the power of silence on the page.

If you’re working on your plot, Janice Hardy clarifies what “setup” in a novel actually means, and James Scott Bell addresses writing in medias res.

Terry Odell shares what happens when she reaches the end of her manuscript.

When you’re taking a look at your finished manuscript, Sin Ribbon lists 5 ways to avoid plot holes in your novel. If you’re not sure you have plot holes, Roz Morris points out how to see the holes in your story’s ending.

Ashlee Willis explains how she self-edits her books.

Since the writing process can have stressful moments, Jana Oliver writes about stress and the writer.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, butterfly on wildflowers



If you are seeking traditional publication, agent Janet Reid gives her views on when writers think agents hate certain punctuation marks and whether using grammar software helps or hurts.

Do you write short stories? Yu-Han Chao tells us how she found a publisher for her short story collection, and Janet Reid clarifies how to write a query letter for a short story collection.

Steve Laube answers the question: what are average book sales?

Victoria Strauss warns writers about tricks used by predatory companies to hijack your publishing search.

Nathan Bransford considers whether authors should have more control over their book covers.

David Kudler offers self-publishers 3 dos for getting reviews (and 4 dont’s).

For those looking for social media pointers, Scott La Counte shares Facebook tips for Indie authors (which traditionally published authors may also find useful).

Stymied about creating a website? Rachel McCollin shows us how to get started with a WordPress author website.

For bloggers: Cristian Mihai gives five super easy ways to improve your blog posts, and Anne R. Allen shares ten lessons from ten years of blogging.

Janet Reid focuses on what you need to reboot a career.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, clouds

Summer clouds



Emily Temple shares rejection letters sent to famous authors.

As she relates the unsung Chinese and Korean history of movable type, M. Sophia Newman reveals that Gutenberg wasn’t actually the first inventor of the printing press.

Tim Mason writes about the real-life detectives who inspired Charles Dickens and sometimes let him accompany their patrols.

Peter Schjeldahl suggests how to celebrate Walt Whitman’s two hundredth birthday.

Andrew Feldman investigates what Ernest Hemingway was doing in Cuba during World War II.

Emily Temple talks about the grand cultural influences of Octavia Butler.

Danielle A. Jackson considers why we’re still looking for the real Lorraine Hansberry.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross,sunset

Sunset clouds


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Have a great reading and writing week, and we’ll see you next month on the Fourth of July!



Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 20, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-20-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Friday is the first day of summer. And to get everyone in the mood, Thursday is National Vanilla Milkshake Day and National Ice Cream Soda Day – both good to cool us off while we peruse the links below.

In awards news, SCBWI announces the 2019 Crystal Kite winners, and Emily Ruskovich’s Idaho, nominated by a single library, won the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award.

Two deaths this week: Lonesome Dove screenwriter Bill Witliff dies at 79, and legendary Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, whose Romeo & Juliet introduced many a high schooler to Shakespeare, dies at age 96.

It’s summertime! Emily Temple lists 20 perfect summer books.

But to get those books in the Scottish islands, you’d need to rely on the Outer Hebrides mobile libraries.

Elsewhere, translated books gain visibility in libraries, Damian Barr examines how indie bookshops are fighting back, and John Maher explores how the internet has changed book culture.

Looking for writing contests? Erica Verillo lists 16 recurring writing contests with no entry fees.


Prose writers are always advised to read well to write well. Melissa Donovan looks at what happens when poets don’t read poetry.

Getting started often means getting all the pieces you need in place before writing. Bella Osborne tells us how to plan your novel, Jake Wolff speaks on the fine art of researching for fiction, and Yolanda Smith examines research and rabbit holes.

Then you need to build the bones of your story. Nicholas Mancusi discusses the importance of plot and inventiveness, while Kassan Warrad warns of a related problem—too little story, too many problems.

Kathryn Craft delves into when something good incites the story, while Nathan Bransford examines the other end of the story with how to write a good climax in a novel. Sarah Callender explores mood, and Dawn Field discusses building your scene quality map.

Characters must have goals or the story is boring. Jami Gold wonders if passive goals can ever be good for our story, Mary Kole has character development questions to ask and answer, and Monique DeVere shows how to raise emotional stakes. Janice Hardy walks us through describing a character’s emotions in a first person point of view, Laurence MacNaughton teaches how to use foreign languages in fiction, and Jeanette Veillette Bowerman tells us how to create multi-layered villains you love to hate.

Editing can help you catch the mistakes that will throw readers out of your story. Kathy Steinemann shares 2 punctuation blunders that puzzle readers and irk editors, Katie Doherty lists 10 writing mistakes people make all the time and how to fix them, K.M. Weiland has 5 ways to earn your audience’s loyalty, and Jim Demspey discusses how to respond to criticism.

As much as we all hate writer’s block, it’s not always all bad. Julia Roberts explores why writer’s block is a gift, and Jami Gold suggests fighting writer’s block by focusing on stronger story goals.

Much of the writing process can seem inscrutable or like magic. Lauren Acampora asks: what, to the writer, are dreams?; Katie Heaney ponders: why does writing suck?; and Jack Preston King expounds on the difference between imagination and creativity.

Getting to THE END is the goal when we first start drafting. Barbara Linn Probst takes a fresh look at “writing what you know”, Lynn Blackburn tries a word crawl as a creative way to make your word count goal, and Bill Ferris shares the top 5 hacks to overcome writer burnout.


Writers conferences abound, but what do you do if crowds are not your thing? Cat Rose has tips how to survive a conference even if you’re an introvert.

As MailChimp changes its terms, Rachel McCollin tells you how to switch from MailChimp to MailLite for budget-conscious authors.

Georgie Hockett gives us 7 ways we can make more money from your book.

Agent Janet Reid gives us 5 reasons she passed on your query, whether pre-publication podcasts are a good idea, and what repercussions could be if you write about a public figure in an uncomplimentary manner in your novel. If you need a book proposal, Tamela Hancock Murray has book proposal basics. And once you have an agent, Nathan Bransford discusses how to work with literary agents on edits.

Marketing can be a hard slog. Dan Blank describes how he helped an author grow her platform from scratch, while Sandra Beckwith tells us how to snag book publicity with a roundup article. Eric Simmons lays out how to get your book into libraries, Dan Smith has 8 tips for marketing self-help books, and Elaine Viets shares confessions of a book reviewer.

Online resources are a great way to stay in touch with your readers. Cristian Mihai looks at how to find your blogging muse, Nate Hoffleder lists 14 content ideas for author newsletters, and John Burke gives us 6 elements of a successful author website.


Timothy Greenfield-Sanders talks about bringing Toni Morrison’s life to film.

Sometimes children’s stories are more than they seem. Sarah Blackwood discusses the quiet subversiveness of Amelia Bedelia.

Nicole Robertson takes us inside the great bookstores of Paris, and The Strand Bookstore is granted landmark status despite the owner’s objections.

Alexis Hall examines if Sherlock Holmes had more in common with the American hardboiled noir than with the English puzzle mystery.

Preserving a literary landmark: Ally Findley details the fight to save the real-life pharmacy from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 13, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-13-2019

**If you missed our coverage of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, here are Days One, Two, and Three.**

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Tomorrow is Flag Day, so take a moment to admire the beauty of our flag and the best of what it symbolizes.

The big publishing news is the sale of Barnes & Noble to Elliott Management (more articles in the Business section below).

Kay Keppler takes apart a study to find out what matters to readers.

Check out this free Braille and talking book program for veterans.

Good news for graphic novel and comic lovers! The American Library Association is ready to shake things up with comics.

Looking for some professional development? Diana Hurwitz lists writing workshops from July to September 2019.


Diversity in our stories is something many of us strive for, but some writers are wary of adding in people of other experiences than their own for fear of offending someone inadvertently. Nancy Johnson tells us what white writers should know about telling black stories.

Writers are forever refining their writing process. Janice Hardy discusses why using fill in the blank writing templates doesn’t work, while Aminah Mae advises that there is no wrong way to write a book.

Often in writing, the devil is in the details. Indeed Michel Leiris looks at the great details that make great art. Janice Hardy asks if we’re using enough sensory details in our descriptions, and Jordan Dane gives tips for writing believable conspiracies for thriller fiction.

Details of craft elements can also elevate our writing. Dana Sitar explores using tone and voice properly in your writing, Linda Yezak explains past continuous and past perfect verb tenses, Melissa Donovan guides us in making the right word choices for better writing, Sherry Howard  demystifies motif, and Donald Maass reminds us that it’s all about the mystery.

Because who is telling the story is vital, Janice Hardy reviews point of view basics. Once we know what characters will inhabit our story, we need to flesh them out. John B. Jamison has 3 ways to discover who your characters really are, K.M. Weiland shares 6 requirements for writing better character goals, and Fae Rowen lists 6 f-words for compelling characters. And because those characters will talk to each other, Julie Glover gives us 5 tips from Gilmore Girls for writing great dialogue.

An otherwise great story can fail the reader in the ending if we aren’t careful. A. Howitt discusses endings and their requirements, and Janice Hardy talk about tying up the loose ends.

After we wrestle that ending onto the page, it’s time to revise. Michael James has 7 tips for getting through your second draft, Howard Underdown explains using a revision grid to break a story down into elements, and Donna Galanti discusses letting go in writing and in life. Tara East tells us how to reduce our word count, Janice Hardy wonders whether or not to hire and editor, and Hayley Millman offers 5 tips for editing a manuscript without an editor.

Churning out those words faster and more efficiently is a goal for many writers. Stavros Halvatzis investigates how long to write each day. Cheryl A. Ossola reminds us that sometimes the story writes itself, but if you are stuck Nathan Bransford has a trick to unstick your novel. Arthur Klepchukov advises that word count goals should not be our only goals, and Lynne Shelby has tips for getting in the zone.

There are plenty of obstacles and mistakes that can make writers want to quit. Terry Odell discusses how “write what you know” can be limiting, Nathan Bransford talks about the most common mistakes writers make, Jeff Somers addressed mistakes and writing, Katrin Schumann ponders how to know when to quit your novel, and James Scott Bell urges us all to stay thirsty.


More Barnes & Noble analysis: Lauren Hirsch’s look at Elliot Management acquiring B&N, and Ed Nawotka saying that Daunt relishes the challenge of leading B&N.

Jim Milliot goes deeper into the looming tariffs clouding the printing picture, Stephanie Chandler examines audiobook production and distribution options, and Jane Friedman urges writers not to crowdsource your cover design.

Agent Janet Reid addresses two topics today: what to do with those required bio fields on portal queries when you have no publishing credentials, and what happens when an author dies mid-contract. If you write nonfiction, Stephanie Chandler explains how to locate and work with nonfiction literary agents.

Marketing is tricky. Joe Konrath tells us why our marketing plan won’t work, Eileen Omosa shows us how to organize a book signing event, and Chrys Fey explains how to prepare for outdoor book and author events.

Blogs are still a solid way to market these days. Amy Collins details how to best approach book bloggers, Sandra Beckwith has 4 reasons to embrace guest blogging, and Christian Mihai lays out how to write a great blog post headline and 8 blogging mistakes that waste your readers’ time.

Social media presence is vital to reaching readers. Maggie Lynch shares a Facebook posting strategy for authors, Frances Caballo shows us how to conquer LinkedIn, and Henneke lists 29 ways to improve your writing skills and escape content mediocrity.


Did the Tony Awards make you want to go write a musical? Electric Literature provides a handy chart to help you decide what musical to write.

Neil Gaiman discusses adapting Good Omens for the small screen.

Valerie Thompson has put together the scientist’s summer reading list, and Tony Hillerman gives us a crime reader’s guide to the classics.

Books can be a lifeline. Tyler Wetherall describes how sharing books with his dad in prison made life bearable for both of them.

Ed Simon discusses William Blake, radical abolitionist, while Joy Lanzendorfer traces Jack London from rags to riches and back again.

James Harbeck ponders the future of accented characters [letters] in English, while Sabrina Imbler is similarly intrigued with why Medieval Europeans were so obsessed with long, pointy shoes.

Those who love poetry will be happy to hear that the Emily Dickinson Museum received a $22 million gift to help carry on its mission.

That’s all for this week! Join us again next week for more writerly links.


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

The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Photo Gallery


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia skyline, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

The Philadelphia skyline, 6-8-19


I spent last weekend at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference with fellow Author Chronicler Kerry Gans. The perfect weather—no rain, no heat wave, no humidity—made it tempting to spend the days outside, but attending the conference was well worth the time spent indoors.

Kerry and I registered separately and, by chance, chose most of the same sessions. Since Kerry did such a fine job of summing up Day One, Day Two, and Day Three of the conference, I’m going to give you a pictorial overview.

Guest speakers:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Asali Solomon, Opening Remarks, 6-7-19.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, Keynote Speech, 6-8-19


Workshop leaders with their participants:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Session I: The Elements of Plot with Shirley Hailstock, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Session I: The Writer’s Business Plan – The Art of the Pitch with Jonathan Maberry, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Workshop: Should You Self Publish with Karen Schobel-Maneely, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Workshop: The Hermit Crab Essay with Randon Billings-Noble, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry presents the keynote speech, 6-8-19


Workshop leaders:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Shirley Hailstock, The Elements of Plot, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, The Writers’ Business Plan: Social Media and Personal Branding, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Kathryn Craft, Setting Story Fuel Aflame in the Here and Now, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Gail Priest, Characterization from an Actor’s Perspective, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Lauren Sharkey, Building a Platform, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Donna Galanti, Foundations of World Building for Tweens and Teens, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, Master Class: Writing an Action Scene, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Ferida Wolff, The Personal Essay, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Karen Schobel-Maneely, Should You Self Publish, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross,  Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Randon Billings-Noble, The Hermit Crab Essay, 6-9-19












I really enjoyed this conference–making connections with new writer friends and renewing connections with long-time friends, as well as learning more about the craft and business of writing. I left the conference Sunday with reluctance at parting from friends and with sorrow that there will be no conference to attend next year. At the same time, I felt relieved to finally have time to process the wealth of information (and to sleep off the exhaustion), while also full of eagerness to get back to writing.

If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, find one near you and give it a try.



For some more conversation about writing, check out The Liars Club Oddcast #074–Philadelphia Writers Conference Roundtable–recorded during the conference.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Liars Club cohosts Merry Jones, Kelly SImmons, Greg Frost, Keith Strunk, and Jon McGoran interview conference president Autumn Konopka on their Oddcast, 6-8-19



Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 9, 2019

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Day Three

Today was Day Three of the 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, held at the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, PA (full schedule and Award Winners below)! The final day of the conference is always bittersweet. It’s another day full of info and friends, but it’s also the last day.

My themes of perspective and freedom ran through today, although they were not as immediately obvious as the last two days.

My first class this morning was about Self-Publishing. Now that’s freedom! As workshop leader Karen Schobel-Maneely said, self-publishing means you get to do everything yourself…and it also means you get to do everything yourself. In truth it takes a team to self-publish, whether you use a reputable service or gather all the parts yourself.

We completed our three-day Elements of Plot workshop. The lively Q&A touched upon everything from plot elements to contracts as Shirley Hailstock gave us all last bits of wisdom to take with us into the world—good perspective from a multi-published author.

Our lunchtime walk to the Bourse included watching some of the Philadelphia Pride Parade. The exuberant cheering as people celebrated the freedom to be themselves was uplifting and heart-warming.

On this last day, Jonathan Maberry continued to talk about writing from a business perspective. He spoke about setting goals and behaving professionally, as well as talking a bit about taxes and LLCs.

Me, Jonathan Maberry, J Thomas Ross

Kathryn Craft finished off her Character workshop with an archery analogy, a few ballet moves, and a whole lot of discussion on how a character’s backstory creates a perspective that propels his or her future action.

The Conference wrapped with a first-ever Town Hall to get feedback and discuss the direction the Conference should take in the future. For those who didn’t notice it in the program, there will be no full 3-day conference in 2020 (but there will be some event!), so the Board can focus on making the changes that will help the PWC continue to find success and fulfill its mission well into the 21st century. Those who were not there will be able to give feedback in the follow-up survey, so keep an eye on your inbox.

And so we all drift back into our normal lives, but we carry the lessons, encouragement, opportunities, and friendships with us. Safe journey, fellow scribes, and write on.

Sunday’s Full Schedule

9:30 AM
Using Improv for Story Development – Caitlyn Corkery
Should You Self-Publish? – Karen Schobel-Maneely
The Hermit Crab Essay – Randon Billings-Noble
MASTER CLASS: Writing an Action Scene – Jonathan Maberry
MASTER CLASS: Poetry Color Study – Yolanda Wisher

Three Day Workshops

11 AM
Elements of Plot – Shirley Hailstock
Creating a Series for Network, Cable, or Streaming – Dianne Walsh
Erasure Poetry and Power – Jennifer McCreary
Marketing for Tweens and Teens: School Visits – Donna Galanti
MASTER CLASS: The Pit and the Page – Elizabeth Mosier

1:30 PM
Hooks and Plotting: Getting the Genre (Romance) into Your Genre Fiction – Terri Brisbin
The Writer’s Business Plan: Building Your Writing Business – Jonathan Maberry
Magazine Writing – Debra Wallace
Short Story: I Wanna Know What Love Is – August Tarrier
MASTER CLASS: Playwriting – Quinn D. Eli

3:00 PM
This is the Year You Write Your Memoir – Lori Tharps
Keeping the Future Target in Sight – Kathryn Craft
Screenplay Writing – David Greenberg
A Gentle Guide to Expand Your Practice Through Digital Tools – Warren Longmire
The Deadly Art of Writing Horror: What is Horror? – Brian McKinley

4:15-5:15 – PWC Town Hall




1st Place – “Apology” by Connie Swartzman
2nd Place – “Dance” by Steve Delia
3rd Place – “A Response to Janice Joplin’s Take a Little Piece of My Heart” by Beth Moulton
Honorable Mention – “The Latter Day Public Restroom” by Mike Cohen


1st Place – “Biloxi” by Jason Mangano
2nd Place – “Uther” by Francine Roche Kay


1st Place – “You Don’t Have to Thank Me for My Service” by Ed Kratz
2nd Place – “Appalachian Heritage Identity Crisis” by Jennifer Elam
3rd Place – “Even If Your Heart Would Listen” by Elise Schiller
Honorable Mention – “Born with a Broken Heart” by Beth Moutlon



1st Place  – “Visitor” by Fergal O’Donnell
2nd Place – “American Pie” by Beth Moulton
3rd Place – “Head Case” by Mike Cohen


1st Place – “Lucy” by Beth Moulton
2nd Place – “Awakening” by Gloria Matusick


1st Place – “The Woman Talking to Herself” by Steve Delia
2nd Place – “Mrs. Claus” by Beth Moulton
3rd Place – “How They Keep Us Safe” by Sarah Paulos


1st Place – “Yet Another Day” by Rachel Rhee
2nd Place – “Veronica Told Me to Call Her Mother” by Melody Noble
3rd Place – End of Summer” by Steve Delia

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 8, 2019

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Day Two

Day Two of the 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, held at the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, PA (full schedule below)! I always like the atmosphere on Saturdays. People have started to bond and make friends, but we’re not yet all fried with the huge amount of information we’re inhaling.

Much to my surprise, yesterday’s theme of perspective carried over into today, but with a secondary theme added: freedom.

Nowhere was freedom more literally discussed than in my first class, Legal Issues for Writers. Workshop leader Tim Law deserves an extra shout out because the person who was supposed to lead the workshop couldn’t and he stepped in at the last moment. Tim gave us a great deal of information, including—but not limited to—the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech and the exceptions placed on it.

Shirley Hailstock’s Elements of Plot was up next, and we discussed the climax and other elements that come toward the end of the book. We also talked a bit about process and about learning by reading other writers. She made the point that sometimes what makes a book or writer successful is that writer’s voice, which is an element of writing almost impossible to copy. We all have our own voice unique to us, because our worldview—our perspective—is not the same as theirs.

For lunch J. Thomas Ross and I once again visited the Bourse Food Court, but many people participated in the Open-Mic Lunch where writers got to read their works in front of an audience. I am told there were some powerful pieces presented.

After lunch, I headed back to the Franklin Room for Jonathan Maberry’s Social Media Branding session. While many people find social media to be a time suck or a rabbit hole we fall into and can’t escape, just by changing our perspective on it we can control it rather than it controlling us. Jonathan advised thinking hard about what we want to get out of social media use, and that will guide us in how long we engage on it, what we post, and who we engage with.

Kathryn Craft returned with the next installment of her Character class: Setting Story Fuel Aflame in the Here and Now. Yesterday we spoke about how the backstory sets up the perspective our character has, and today we examined how that perspective drives the character in the present of the story, and how we can use multiple characters to explore multiple perspectives on an issue.

Finally, I rounded out the day with The Personal Essay, taught by Ferida Wolff. Ferida pointed out that you are the only one who knows your story. No one can write your story but you, because no one else has the same perspective as you.

Ending on a class that was all about perspective certainly kept that theme alive. But in each class I also heard the theme of freedom, about doing this writing thing in our own unique way, and that doing it differently does not mean we are doing it wrong. There are many different processes to write a book. There are many different ways to be successful on social media. There are many different ways to explore an issue or question through your characters. And there is no wrong way to tell your own story.

Our unique voices, unique perspectives, and unique paths all combine together to create the vibrant writing world we inhabit. Tomorrow is Day Three of the conference, where we will all revel in the camaraderie of the Quest for one more day before returning to the Ordinary World.

Saturday’s Full Schedule

9:30 AM
Building a Platform – Lauren Sharkey
Getting Your Foot in the Door: Publishing in Literary Magazines – Meg Eden
Legal Issues for Writers – Tim Law
MASTER CLASS: Writing an Action Scene – Jonathan Maberry
MASTER CLASS: Poetry Color Study – Yolanda Wisher

Three Day Workshops

11 AM
Elements of Plot – Shirley Hailstock
Creating a Series for Network, Cable, or Streaming – Dianne Walsh
Erasure Poetry and Power – Jennifer McCreary
Writing Inspiration for Tweens and Teens – Donna Galanti
MASTER CLASS: The Pit and the Page – Elizabeth Mosier

12:30-1:30 PM – Open Mic Lunch

1:30 PM
Size Does Matter: Writing Romance Fiction Across Lengths and Intensities – Terri Brisbin
The Writer’s Business Plan: Social Media and Personal Branding – Jonathan Maberry
Magazine Writing – Debra Wallace
Short Story: I Wanna Know What Love Is – August Tarrier
MASTER CLASS: Playwriting – Quinn D. Eli

3:00 PM
This is the Year You Write Your Memoir – Lori Tharps
Setting Story Fuel Aflame in the Here and Now – Kathryn Craft
Screenplay Writing – David Greenberg
The Poem as Algorithm – Warren Longmire
The Deadly Art of Writing Horror: What is Horror? – Brian McKinley

Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM
The Personal Essay – Ferida Wolff
Write a Story in 30 Minutes – Andres Cruciani
MASTER CLASS: Make it Weird, Make it Your Own: Experiments in Voice and Form – Mike Ingram

6:00-7:00 PM – Keynote Happy Hour

8:00-9:00 PM – Keynote Address – Jonathan Maberry
Awards Ceremony


Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 7, 2019

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Day One

Today was opening day for the 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC), held at the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. Often Fridays are a little sparse, as people can’t get out of work, but this year the seats seemed satisfyingly full.

My morning began a half hour before my alarm went off, with my daughter waking me up saying she didn’t feel well and probably shouldn’t go to school. My husband stepped up and took off work so I could still go to the conference, so I still managed to arrive on time! (My gal is feeling a lot better now, thankfully.)

A writers’ conference is a patchwork affair, in that the courses offered are different squares that make up a whole quilt. As usual with the PWC, there is something for everyone (see full day schedule below), and often when I write these recaps I struggle to find a through-line that ties it all together. Today I had no such struggle, as the theme of the day was clear before I even finished my last class.

Today’s theme is perspective. How we each have our own perspective, and why that matters.

Opening speaker Asali  Solomon started us off, admitting that in the troubled times we are living in she has wondered: Do the things we write matter? Her answer: Yes. Confusing times are a call to arms for writers. For it is writers who will chronicle the old world and imagine the new.

We each have our own perspective on the times we live in, and whether we share the truth of our experiences in personal essays, memoirs, or more indirectly through fiction, that is an important record of the times. And writers imagine what we humans could be, at our best, giving us all something to strive toward—a guiding light in troubled times.

I then attended Elements of Plot, taught by the cheerful and knowledgeable Shirley Hailstock. The plot elements do not include perspective, but in a way they do, because the way an author chooses to tell a story—the characters we write, the plot points we conjure—can’t help but be embedded in some way with our personal perspective of the world.

Lunch found me and fellow Author Chronicler J. Thomas Ross at the Bourse building food court. Last year the Bourse was closed for renovation, and it has certainly changed! The new food court has a vast diversity of foods from all over the world. From my picky-eater perspective, this was frightening (where did my Sbarro pizza go!?) but my diversity-embracing perspective saw this as a celebration of the American Melting Pot that welcomed immigrants and tourists from around the world.

After lunch I went to Jonathan Maberry’s Art of the Pitch class. Jonathan has this insane idea that pitching is fun and spent the hour trying to convince us that he was correct. He gave great advice on how to think about your story prior to pitching, and gave performance tips to best draw the agent or editor in to your pitch. Several people successfully took his advice to real pitch sessions that were going on today.

Jonathan’s main point (for me) was that changing your perspective about pitching changes the stress level you have when pitching. Thinking of a pitch session as a conversation with an agent rather than an interview, and remembering that YOU are the expert on your book, can change your perspective and maybe even render pitching…fun.

Kathryn Craft’s Mining for Story Fuel in Your Character’s Backstory came up next, and that was literally all about perspective. Kathryn contends that our characters are not people, but perspectives, and we will investigate this idea more fully in the next two days. Perspective colors everything in your story, and is intimately tied to your story’s premise.

My final class of the day was Op. Ed. Writing with Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Page editor Sandy Shea. She discussed how the Inquirer chooses which topics to cover and the power of the public conversation had on the Opinion pages. To write a successful Op. Ed., it boils down to conveying the stakes about the issues and your authority in the matter—and your personal experiences give you authority. In other words, your perspective.

What I heard over and over today was that our unique perspectives matter. Whether we are chronicling the interesting times we live in for posterity or writing a letter to the editor about the gaping potholes in local roads, our experiences, our words, our thoughts, are important. No one else has lived the life we have, has experienced this world as we have. Confidently bringing this perspective to our writing is what makes our writing powerful.

I cannot wait to see what new perspectives on writing—and on life—Day Two brings.

Friday’s Full Schedule

9:30 AM – Opening Remarks: Asali Solomon

Three Day Workshops

11 AM
The Ekphrastic Selfie: Life Writing from a Photograph – Miah Jeffra
Elements of Plot – Shirley Hailstock
Creating a Series for Network, Cable, or Streaming – Dianne Walsh
Erasure Poetry and Power – Jennifer McCreary
Writing Inspiration for Tweens and Teens – Donna Galanti

1:30 PM
Romance Writing and Publishing Today: Why Him? Why Her? Why You? – Terri Brisbin
The Writer’s Business Plan: The Art of the Pitch – Jonathan Maberry
Magazine Writing – Debra Wallace
Short Story: I Wanna Know What Love Is – August Tarrier
Indie Filmmaking – Mara Leseman

2:00-5:00 PM – Agents and Editors Pitch Sessions

3:00 PM
This is the Year You Write Your Memoir – Lori Tharps
Mining for Story Fuel in Your Character’s Past – Kathryn Craft
Screenplay Writing – David Greenberg
The Poem as a Visual Object – Warren Longmire
The Deadly Art of Writing Horror: What is Horror? – Brian McKinley

Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM
Characterization from an Actor’s Perspective – Gail Priest
Op. Ed. Writing – Sandy Shea
MASTER CLASS: Make it Weird, Make it Your Own: Experiments in Voice and Form – Mike Ingram

6:00-8:00 PM – Agents and Editors Buffet

8:00-10:00 PM – Fiction and Poetry Raps


Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 6, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-06-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Today is the anniversary of D-Day, as well as National Higher Education Day. So let’s get educated!

Mary Davis asks: do people read anymore?

An All-Star baseball closer is trying to save bookstores as he travels with his team.

On the dark side of writing, prosecutors in Turkey are targeting novelists who tackle difficult subjects such as child abuse and sexual violence.


Getting started can sometimes be the hardest part. Mary Kole discusses choosing your main character, Nathan Bransford shows how to outline a novel, A. Howitt explores beginnings, and Laurie Schnebly explains how to make the first scene grab and keep your readers.

Our entire book is built with scenes, so we’d better get them right. K.M. Weiland tells us how to write interesting scenes, Nathan Bransford lays out how to organize a chapter (which also can work for a scene), and Janice Hardy has 5 tips for when you’re stuck in a scene.

Any writer knows there are a multitude of elements we have to juggle at any one time. Alan Gelb shares 4 elements of narrative that anyone can learn, Janice Hardy has the fix for a novel’s sagging middle with the midpoint reversal, detective Adam Richardson discusses writing conflict in crime fiction, Stavros Halzatzis explores the role of the archetype in stories, and James Scott Bell reveals the power of the telling detail.

Editing is essential to bringing out the most powerful version of your story. Hayley Milliman teaches us how to love self-editing, Janet Reid says over-explaining is the sign of an insecure writer and to cut out all “ands” that connect things that aren’t actually linked, Dr. Alexandria Szeman explains why good editing is good marketing, Frank Strausser advises authors to have actors read their novels, and Lori Freeland explores when it is time to break writing rules.

Creativity and productivity can be our best friends or our worst enemies. Jami Gold talks about the importance of balance in our lives, Sam Ripple suggests journaling your way to freedom, Jael McHenry discusses making room for silence, Celeste Hart recommends 3 books that help with writing, Lynn Dickinson reveals 5 essential things you need to know about writing habits, and Jennifer Blanchard has 3 unexpected principles for optimal creativity.

While many of our links here apply to all fiction works, some is for specific genres and formats. Hanna Jameson explores the enduring lessons of apocalyptic fiction, Ian Fleming explains how to write a thriller, Tobias Carroll examines what gets lost (and found) in translating prose to comics, Hannah Mary McKinnon wonders if there are any subjects too dark for crime fiction, and Patricia Colleen Murphy discusses writing and publishing poetry.


There are many esoteric pieces to the publishing industry. D. Eadward Tree explains why paper prices are likely to remain high for publishers, and Roger Parloff says Google and Oracle’s $9 billion “copyright case of the decade” could be headed for the Supreme Court.

Getting published can take many different paths. Nancy Jorgensen tells how she caught a publisher unexpectedly, and Anne R. Allen reveals the 1 mistake that leaves self-publishers vulnerable to publishing scams.

Publishing—especially self-publishing—requires working with many other people. Tim McConnehey shows how to work with a book designer, and Becca Puglisi has tips for a successful writing collaboration.

Looking for an agent or publisher? Janet Reid comforts a writer who is working on a book with the same premise as one that just came out, and Stephanie Chandler serves up a nonfiction book proposal.

Marketing often brings on what Judith Briles calls “the author-in-the-headlights syndrome”. Beth Alvarado gives us 9 ways to market your book, and Melissa Bowersock focuses on making your book descriptions pop on Amazon.

Marketing needs a plan to be most effective. Beth Barany shows how to create a book marketing roadmap, Bonnie Randall explains how to raise your novel’s visibility: blog posts & leveraging literary contacts, and Jackie Karneth discusses marketing poetry: tips from a literary publicist.

Book reviews and newsletters are solid marketing tools. Book reviewer Jennie Rosenblum answers 7 questions, and E.J. Wenstrom lists the top 4 metrics to watch to see if your author newsletter is working.

Online is the most practical way to connect with readers. Cristian Mihai has ideas for beginning bloggers to try, and talks about what to do when you fall out of love with your blog. Shelley Sturgeon  shows us how to use Snapseed to edit social media photos and more, and Asif gives us 15 practical ways to make your content more engaging.


It’s summer! Allison Duncan looks at what is a beach read, and why (plus some recommendations).

Some poets had surprising other lives. Walt Whitman was an unsung newspaperman, and Pablo Neruda was a diplomat in Sri Lanka.

For your research needs: a history of the wench.

And just because…check out this gallery of bookish pets.

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

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