Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 20, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-20-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday!

Author Sherman Alexie cancels much of his remaining book tour.

Sarah Bolme shares three reasons people buy books, Andre Calilhanna explores reading habits around the world.

Libraries are more than book warehouses. Gordon Wanock has 4 ways libraries expand your reach as an author.

Oscar winner Barry Jenkins is to direct an adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk.

Sci-fi writer Octavia Bulter forged her own path in the writing world, and now her inspirational notes to herself are on display at Huntington Library in California.

All authors have heard cyber-bullying horror stories. Anne R. Allen discusses publishing cults and cyber-bullying, and has 8 rules to help keep you safe on the internet.


For those with a poetic interest, as writers or readers, Melissa Donovan discusses how to read poetry.

For prose people, Bill Ferris gives “advice” on how to give a literary reading.

We as writers hear so much about “voice”, but defining it can be difficult. K.M. Weiland gives us 6 things we need to know to improve our writing voice.

Meanwhile, Margaret Dilloway tells us how to improve our overall writing with improv.

Writing can feel somewhat like juggling, because there are so many elements to keep in the air at one time. Janice Hardy explains why “start with the action” messes up so many writers, Roz Morris shows how to add suspense to your story, Lisa Hall-Wilson uses personal vows to increase story tension, Tamela Hancock Murray wonders: should I use song lyrics in my writing?, and Kathryn Craft shows us how to raise a question to earn the backstory.

Getting the nuances right is key to creating a compelling story. Laurence MacNaughton lists 7 keys to creating bloodcurdling monsters, and Elaine Viets doesn’t want mystery clichés boring your readers.

Characters drive the story. Tonya Kuper demonstrates how to engage your readers more deeply with your characters, Martina Boone shares her character brainstorming worksheet, Janice Hardy discusses developing your characters, C.S. Lakin explains why your protagonist should have a past “wound”, and Amy Poeppel shows what playwrights can teach us about dialogue.

Writers are a different breed. David Corbett tells us how to nurture the write mind, Jami Gold asks if you have the prerequisites to be a writer, and Kim Bullock discusses motivation and making writing dessert again.

We can always learn from other authors. Penguin Random House annotates Shirley Jackson’s sublime first paragraph of Hill House, and Martha Teichner talks to mystery author Louise Penny.


We’d all like to make money writing. Joanna Penn investigates affiliate income for authors.

But if we want to be successful, Angela Ackerman reminds us that we must invest if we want a writing career.

Audiobooks are a booming market. Roz Morris has tips for narrators, producers, and authors to create an audiobook on ACX.

Also booming: comics. The North American comics market hit $1.085 billion in 2016.

Going traditional? Jane Friedman discusses pitching agents at writers’ conferences. Agent Janet Reid explores possible problems when queries are garnering lots of requests and positive feedback but no takers, and she explains what to do when you write in 2 genres and your current agent doesn’t represent both.

Visibility is key to marketing success, but how do we get it? Rachel Thompson lays out how to create pre-launch buzz for your book, John Doppler shows how to increase your visibility with Google’s Knowledge Panel, Marcy Kennedy has the basics of advertising for indie authors, Steven Spatz discusses book reviews and word of mouth, and Tamar Sloan has the top two reasons a reader will leave a bad review.

Connecting with people on the web is the best way to market these days—but you have to do it right. Sandra Beckwith walks us through naming and claiming your author website, Frances Caballo stresses to communicate—never preach—on Twitter, Bella Pope demystifies how to write a blog post people actually want to read and Darren Rowse shows how to craft an outstanding guest post.

But what if you have no social media presence or don’t want to spend a ton of time online? Jane Friedman tells us what to do if you are an author without a social media presence, Frances Caballo defines a Facebook Profile vs. Facebook Page, and Nicole Avery shows how to reduce your time on social media to increase your blogging (or other) productivity.


Love sci-fi and fantasy? Here are 27 female authors who rule sci-fi and fantasy right now.

A Philip Larkin exhibition in Hull offers fresh insights into the poet’s life.

Excitement as a new Maurice Sendak picture book is discovered.

An astronomer thinks he has pinpointed the “star” mentioned in Lord Byron’s famous poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

If you need fashion advice for a story pre-1992, check out Vintage Patterns’ 80,000+ vintage sewing patterns.

Jared Axelrod imagines the “5 other kisses” mentioned in The Princess Bride.

Revolutionary dirt: John Quincy Adams kept a diary and didn’t skimp on the details.

In our world of instant information, it’s sometimes hard to visualize how slowly news traveled back in the day. Watch this animation of how slowly news of the Declaration of Independence spread in real time.

How the Bowdlers became a byword for censorship, when all they wanted was to clean up Shakespeare.

A new cache of Roman messages has been found near Hadrian’s Wall.

The phrase “smoking gun” is everywhere—but not before Sherlock Holmes.

It’s the little things. How the Calibri font is threatening to bring down Pakistan’s government.

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


Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 13, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-13-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are halfway through July, and summer is well advanced. For many people, summer is an extremely busy time, with vacations and kids home from school.

If you are a writer, how can you be productive during these not-so-lazy days of summer? Angela Ackerman discusses how to enjoy summer and still be productive, and Natalie Sylvester shows how to go on vacation and write while you’re not writing.

Read the inspiring story of the effort to rebuild a university library burned down by ISIS in Mosul (and how you can help).

Have you ever wondered how to give away your used books without impacting sales for the author? Janet Reid has the answer.


We usually focus more on novels, but Mary Kole has this to say about picture book writing style.

Need something to jog your creative brain? Melissa Donovan list 12 places to find some awesome writing ideas

Sometimes it’s what the readers don’t see that makes the story strong. Scott McCormick talks narrative structure, Erica Cameron shares a detailed guide to worldbuilding, and Jami Gold has one simple trick to avoid the first page info dump of all that worldbuilding information.

Readers love the book if they love the character. Janice Hardy discusses creating your characters, while Becca Puglisi show how to put subterfuge in dialogue.

Jane Friedman examines the 6 ways we respond to criticism, Debbie Young praises editors, and James Scott Bell addresses what to do when you’ve finished that first novel.


Looking for a new outlet for your work? Take a look at Tapas Media, a serial publisher now open to indies.

Want to get your international and other rights out there, but aren’t sure how? IPR License has a new “Instant Rights” feature to make those rights available easily. (As always, read the fine print in any business deal.)

Ever hear of a literary scout? Me, either. Parul Macdonald opens up the world of a literary scout and international rights.

Can you use those song lyrics or novel excerpt in your own book? Jane Friedman discusses the basics of getting permissions for use, plus provides a sample permissions letter.

If you find yourself sending out a lot of ARCs but garnering few reviews for your efforts, Chris Leippi shows how to manage ARC readers.

If you have old books you want to republish, Melissa Bowersock has tips to help you do it successfully (and without confusing your readership).

Marketing is a big chunk of work for authors today. Kristine Kathryn Rusch explains how to define your target market, Joel Friedlander has the world’s shortest marketing plan, and Sarah Bolme tackles the dreaded “platform”.

Book publicity is a good thing, but hard to get. Dan Smith shares 10 tips for getting book publicity, and Jami Gold examines book promotion and getting the word out.

Networking can be key to success for authors. Savvy Book Writers explains why LinkedIn is a must for writers, and Ali Like tells us how to find and pitch the perfect guest posting opportunities.

If you’ve got a blog, you want to attract a readership. Nina Amir has 8 strategies for writing a successful post, and Joel Friedlander looks at content curation for your blog.

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

What do you do when you encounter a word you don’t know? Most people would answer: look it up in the dictionary. With current technology, looking up a word’s definition is easier than ever, but is a definition enough for a writer?

According to the dictionary with my word processing program [Word Perfect], definition means:

1 a statement of the exact meaning of a word or the nature or scope of something. 2 the action or process of defining. 3 the degree of distinctness in outline of an object or image.

When I come across a definition worded like the second one, I feel like pulling out my hair. Using a form of the word to give its meaning is not helpful unless you already know what the word means. The first definition, on the other hand, is clear. While that definition is sufficient for most people, the “exact definition” of a given word might not be enough for a writer.

One important task of a writer is choosing the best words to convey meaning. While this seems straightforward, it can be more complex than people think. Writers can’t always count on readers understanding the meaning the writer intends. Too many variables come into play.

First, the word may have more than one denotation [the direct, explicit meaning or reference of a word or term* — in other words, the definition], so the reader has to rely on the context [the parts of a sentence, paragraph, discourse, etc. immediately next to or surrounding a specific word or passage and determining its exact meaning*] to supply the key to which meaning is intended in that instance. If the context is not clear, the reader may be confused.

I experienced this confusion recently when my critique group met. One of our members used a word with multiple meanings in a sentence without clear context. While the word was used correctly, the first definition that popped into the minds of the other four of us was far different from the one our friend intended — which popped us out of the story when we discovered from context a few sentences later that our first impression was wrong. We advised our friend to either use another word or add enough context to that sentence to make the meaning clear. [Finding such things is one of the benefits of having a critique group or partner.]

Second, in addition to multiple meanings, certain words have a connotation [idea or notion suggested by or associated with a word, phrase, etc. in addition to its explicit meaning, or denotation*] not included in the dictionary’s definitions. Connotations often express either positive or negative feelings or attitudes. For instance, referring to a character as an “intellectual” evokes quite a different impression from referring to the character as a “nerd.” [Making you aware of connotations you may not intend is another function of a critique group.]

If you’re a writer, this probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard about denotation and connotation. While these concepts are important for writers to consider, over the years I’ve realized that there’s a third part involved in arriving at the exact meaning of a word: interpretation.

Throughout our lives we learn the meaning of words not by reading their dictionary definitions but through their contexts. We hear people (who may themselves have a skewed idea of the meaning) using words in speaking or we read them in print, and we figure out what the word means from how others use it. Thus, we know what words mean — sort of.

How many times have you been asked what a word means and have struggled to put its meaning into words? One of the reasons for this difficulty is that our conception of a word’s meaning is imprecise because we haven’t learned it from a dictionary. In fact, each of us has put together an individualized notion of each word we know. Most of the time our notions aren’t much different from others people’s, but confusion and misunderstanding can result when there’s a sizeable discrepancy between what a writer or speaker means and what a reader or listener understands — something a writer especially must strive to avoid.

We’ve all experienced this kind of confusion. For instance, most of us have family, friends, and acquaintances whose concept of time varies considerably from our own. If one of them tells you they’ll be ready “in just a minute,” that minute may vary in length from your spouse’s actual minute, to your friend’s five minutes, to your child’s “when I finish this game,” to a coworker’s “when I get around to it.”

This was borne into me in recent months as I noticed a huge discrepancy between my surgeon’s** definition of “healed” and my own. My surgeon considered me healed in three months. I disagreed. I’ve had other, less complex surgeries, and it took a lot longer to heal than the two to three months the doctors claimed it would take. I finally realized that the surgeons’ definition for the word “healed” is not the same as mine. To these surgeons, I am healed when the incisions and bones have knit back together. I understand that, but until all the stiffness, discomfort, numbness, etc. has gone away, I don’t consider myself healed.

So, I don’t agreed that the definition really gives the “exact meaning” of the word. The definition gives the denotation, but a writer must also consider the connotation and the reader’s interpretation to obtain the precise meaning of a word.

That said, I acknowledge that if a writer took the time to carefully examine all nuances of the meaning of each word, few books would be completed. So, just write your story. Don’t stress over variations in word meaning while writing your first draft, but keep it in the back of your mind. The revision stage is when the issue of word meaning needs to be addressed, and editors and critique partners can provide help with this.

Writers help writers. If you don’t have a writing group or critique partner, consider finding one. Another person’s perspective can be invaluable.

*Definitions according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition © 2001.

**For more about my surgery, check out my post from May — Inspiration: Celebrate Nature! Celebrate Life!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 6, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-06-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July.

In the spirit of celebration, here are some excerpts from Thomas Jefferson’s last public letter, written on the 50th anniversary of the 4th of July.

Small libraries are all the rage now. Check out this Detroit Doctor Who fan who built a replica TARDIS library for his neighborhood.

Looking for good reads for these long summer days? Tobias Carroll recommends books that combine horror and history, Oprah’s new Book Club selection is Imbolo Mbue’s novel Behold the Dreamers, and librarian Nancy Pearl gives us her Summer Reading List.

Jeanne Kisacky poignantly examines the heavy burden that is the weight of the undone.


Nathan Bransford asks: when did you start writing?

Susan Donovan shares the not-so-funny truth about writing humor.

When we start writing, we have to figure out how we’re going to get from idea to final product. Clare Langley-Hawthorne takes us from idea to novel, Becca Puglisi shares her 3-step plan for outlining a novel, and K.M. Weiland explains flat plots.

Jeff VanderMeer has 5 writing tips, while Anne R. Allen reminds us to write for the 21st century reader.

Oliver Thiermann explores how to create immersive worlds for science fiction and fantasy, while Hye-Young Pyun discusses the role of suspense in storytelling.

Characters carry the story, but how do you get the readers inside their heads? K.M. Weiland has 6 questions to help you choose the right POV, Thelma Adams asks what’s the point of point of view, and Jo Eberhardt examines the power of the unlikeable protagonist.

Revision and editing make our rough drafts into polished gems. James Scott Bell recommends listening to your book, Shannon A. Thompson tackles rewriting your first draft, and Ellie Mass Davis discusses book editing, writing style and writer intuition. Janice Hardy opens her biannual critique group or partner match-up.

Creativity is the nectar of writers, so how can we get more creativity when we need it? Joel Friedlander shares his top 7 tools for creativity, Drew Chial talks about what happens when more than one writer has the same idea, and Jessica Brody shares a science secret that gets you quickly into the writing zone every single day.

Rachel Thompson has 4 top tips to overcome your fear of writing, Jami Gold tells us how to reconnect to your storytelling passion, while Jane Friedman wonders if the advice to follow your passion is all it’s cracked up to be.

For creatives, art infuses every part of their world. Katherine Boland compares the arts of painting and writing, Sherman Alexi discusses life as the Indian-du-jour, and Elizabeth S. Craig shows how to find the art in the everyday.


Sometimes writers need guidance for the business side of publishing. Justine Clay lists 7 things to consider before hiring a career coach.

You’ve got your book all ready to go. Steven Spatz examines when is the best time to publish your book.

We all know how important customer reviews are for selling our books. Kathryn Brown looks at the value of editorial book review for indie authors.

Is it worth it to go to that writing conference? Tamela Hancock Murray lists the intangible benefits of attending a conference.

Janet Reid discusses the advisability of giving agents “exclusive” reads on your manuscript, and also gives advice on how widely you should query when your book may be seen as niche.

Interacting with our readers is a way to build audience and keep them interested between books. Joan Stewart suggests using cheat sheets and checklists to entice and engage readers, Maria Salomão-Schmidt shows how to grow a loyal fan base the LOFABA way, and Janet Reid talks about self-publishing short stories to grow your audience even before seeking an agent.

Social media is the main way writers and readers connect. Roz Morris has 2 reasons to use your official author name on Twitter, and Penny Sansevieri shares what you need to know for successful Amazon ads.


Ellie Bates compiles 33 little things you may not know about J.K. Rowling.

A new museum exhibition looks at the whimsical chameleon figure behind the myth of Sylvia Plath.

Brooke Hauser looks at the feminist legacy of The Baby-Sitters Club series.

Book lovers, here are some “weird” book quirks that are actually quite justified.

Language is always evolving—from pictographs to alphabets to emojis. Can emojis help start the conversation on topics that are often uncomfortable and sometimes actually taboo, such as menstruation? One group thinks so.

In 1838 Salem, a Southern gentleman sought an elusive Nathaniel Hawthorne—or did he?

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 4, 2017

Add Fireworks to Your Fiction

We at the Author Chronicles wish all our readers a safe and fun 4th of July!

Happy Birthday, America!

The 4th of July is synonymous with fireworks for many people. The anticipation, the colors, the excitement…it’s exactly what we writers want to infuse into our fiction. How do we put fireworks into our fiction? Conflict.

Conflict isn’t always flashy. It starts off with a slow burning fuse, something that builds tension until BOOM! The inciting incident explodes all over the page and the fireworks commence in earnest.

Some of the blowups in your story will be low and small, designed to keep the reader moving forward, others are high and huge, designed to make the reader gasp as they wonder how—or even if—the protagonist will overcome that obstacle.

The colors are varied and dazzling. The green of jealousy, the blue of loyalty, the orange of anger. Some explosions are multicolored, fading from one color to another, representing the emotional nuances that give conflict depth and meaning.

Even the duds—those loud bangs accompanied by a blinding flash of white light—have their place. Done correctly, the duds can be clever red herrings, slights of hand that leave your reader wondering but don’t leave them feeling cheated at the end.

All the conflicts eventually coalesce into a grand finale where every seed planted explodes at once, creating a breathtaking culmination of all the struggles so far. When the finale dies down, the reader is left with a moment of stunned silence, and then erupts into the cheers that accompany a satisfying end to a story.

Conflict and tension are necessary in any compelling tale. All stories need fireworks, even the quiet stories. The fireworks needn’t be the huge silver-and-gold glittering globes of the finale—a softly hissing sparkler will often do the job just fine.

Draw in your readers, keep them mesmerized, and enjoy the applause when they reach the end.



Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | June 29, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-29-2017

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday in June! Summer is in full swing, and we hope you’re enjoying it with a book in hand.

To get you started on your summer reading, Mrs. G shares the 2017 ultimate diverse summer reading list for kids, teens, & adults, while Smithsonian scientist Nancy Knowlton recommends seven books worth reading to change the conversation about climate change.

Spend some time in your local library this summer. The people you see there might not be who you expect. Abigail Geiger reports that millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries, and Dana Staves tells new parents: the public library has got your back.

Studies have shown that reading fiction promotes empathy, and Dan Rather makes the case that more empathy is needed in the USA today. Something to think about.

While reading can influence people, people also have an influence on what’s being written. Jane Friedman considers the challenge faced by high quality literary journals because of the changing tastes of readers.

No matter how old you get, you never forget those characters you came to love as a child. Sad to hear that Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond died at age 91, as reported by Book Riot‘s Ashlie Swicker.


For many reasons, the writing life is not easy. Writers may experience doubts and frustration. Catherine Egan writes about confidence and the writer: how we trick ourselves into thinking I can write this book, Elizabeth Foster discusses overcoming negativity bias when receiving criticism, and Dan Blank offers 4 ways to beat frustration in your writing career.

Need more help? Ruth Harris lays out 6 fantasies standing between you and writing success and how to fight back, and Benjamin P. Hardy explains why keeping a daily journal could change your life.

For those struggling to write, Jami Gold shares dealing with chronic problems that cause burnout, and Kathryn Craft relates 4 times inaction can help your writing life. If getting motivated is your problem, Chuck Wendig offers ways to stay motivated in this shit-shellacked era of epic stupid.

Any book starts with an idea. Janice Hardy stresses clarifying the idea. If you have an idea for a fiction book encompassing more than one genre, Bonnie Randall reflects on the problem with cross-genre fiction. An idea, however, doesn’t have to be fictional: Ann Wilson lists 6 good reasons to write a non-fiction book.

If you’re about to start a book, you might be interested in K. M. Weiland’s how to calculate your book’s length before writing.

Writers of children’s books might want to check out Michael Gallant’s 10 tips for creating your first children’s picture book, Matia Burnett’s report on a panel addressing diversity in children’s book illustrations, and Farrah Penn and Pedro Fequiere’s explanation to BuzzFeed‘s Angie Thomas of why we need diverse characters in YA books.

Characters and setting are two basic building blocks of fiction. Martina Boone lays out what you need to know about your protagonist to get your readers to the end, and Angela Ackerman explores 10 ways to show your character’s emotions, while K. M. Weiland gives 4 reasons you should outline your settings.

Ready to sit down and write? Jaime Raintree suggests taking your WIP to Camp NaNoWriMo, while Barbara O’Neal urges staging a book writing blitz.

For those struggling to improve their craft, James Scott Bell assures writers: yes, you can learn to write better fiction, while Larry Brooks ponders: how do you know what you don’t know?


Publishing is a business that writers need to understand. Lisa Tener discusses timing for querying publishers and other insights into the publishing industry, while Janet Reid reminds us that someone will always tell you how hard publishing is and explains how you should respond to find success. Amy Collins considers when you publish a book that’s too long or too short, and Janet Reid answers a question about whether a no-name author can demand her books be made available to readers with disabilities.

Terminology can be confusing. Claire McKinney clarifies the difference between a press release and a pitch and why you need both, and Debbie Burke discusses loglines and blurbs — short and sweet and stinkin’ hard. Jane Friedman offers a writer’s guide to permissions and fair use, while Susan Spann reveals the truth behind popular copyright myths.

For those seeking an agent, Jennifer Klepper recommends in-person pitching: the thrill of victory and agony of defeat, and Mark Gottlieb sets out the big five no-nos to querying a literary agent.

Marketing your book? Sarah Bolme focuses on how readers buy books and what a author can do to influence that purchase, while Julie Schoerke suggests planning your book promotion before you publish.

If you’re concerned about managing a social media presence, Laura Benedict asks does social media even make a difference for writers?, while Debbie Young explains why your author website needs to evolve over time. Are you always comparing your blog to others? Ellen Jackson discusses the psychology of comparison and how to stop.


The Guardian‘s Danuta Kean writes about misprints in books by famous authors from James Joyce to J. K. Rowling.

BBC News reports that a 19th century poet is going viral on Facebook in Uzbekistan.

Smithsonian‘s Eliza McGraw reminds us that horse-riding librarians were the Great Depression’s bookmobiles.

The New York Times‘ John Williams states that Liveright will publish Nelson Mandela’s letters from prison to family, supporters, government officials, and prison authorities.

Books. Books. Books. Do you have too many [Is there such a thing?], or not enough? Tiffani Willis explores creating a book collection, Savvy Book Writers tell how to save money on books, and Hannah Engler ponders when to get rid of books.

What books are you planning on taking on vacation? Smithsonian‘s Austin Clemens reports, city by city, which books Americans take on vacation.


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Enjoy your summer reading. See you in July!


Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | June 28, 2017

Writing as Child’s Play

My goal, for the summer, as a writer, is to play. Some of my personal baggage is that I tend to be hard on myself. Believe it or not, that’s not fun and it’s not helpful.

If you’d like to join me in this experiment, here is my plan.

Step One

Agree to give up any expectations of perfection. It just doesn’t matter. If you have to, remind yourself to choose a different thought when fear and doubt show up.

Step Two

Read enough to see something another writer has done in his or her writing that looks interesting.

Step Three

Try it out for yourself in a short story.

You can’t fail. This is play.

There is no right or wrong in play.

Writing is play.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 22, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-22-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! My child’s last day of school was on Tuesday, so I have now joined the ranks of parent-writers wondering how they are going to squeeze in writing over the summer month. Fear not, we will still find the time to bring you literary links!

Happy Bloomsday! Too bad James Joyce would have hated this.

Tracy K. Smith, the new U.S. Poet Laureate, calls poems her anchor.

Check out this Parthenon made of books, built by artist Marta Minujin at the site of a Nazi book burning.

This crowdfunding project aims to put 200 Holocaust diaries online.

Reading is a very personal activity, and it has profound effects on us. Studies show that learning to read as an adult changes deep regions in the brain, and how boys and girls differ as readers.

Once we achieve some measure of success, many people ask for our help and advice. Jane Friedman looks at how we decide who deserves our help and what we owe to society.

Celebrating diversity and own voices: The Well-Read Black Girl Writers’ Conference and Festival has exceeded its fundraising goal and will take place on September 9th in Brooklyn, Lisa Hix and Mike Madrid unmask comic book superheroines, and Daniel Jose Ruiz discusses the Redwall series, which has “powerful things to say about inclusion and representation.”

Independent bookstores are finding ways to thrive. Check out this post of a bookstore from each of the 50 states. And when you’re in Massachusetts, visit the Dr. Seuss Museum.

Over the summer, have your kids read these 13 children’s books that encourage kindness towards others.

Also, be on the lookout for the graphic novel of To Kill a Mockingbird, coming November 2018.

Neil Gaiman on why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.


Writers use many different programs to create, but many of us still use Microsoft Word. Debbie Young tells how to get the best out of Word when writing and self-publishing a book.

The beginning stages of a book can be the hardest to navigate. Janice Hardy discusses brainstorming your idea, Emily Rushkovick talks about how to ignore your instincts and find the real story, and Erika Raskin shares the disorganized novelist’s guide to outlines.

Once we start writing the story, we work with the building blocks of scenes and chapters. Janice Hardy lists 3 ways to increase the tension in your scenes, and Greer Macallister deals with the art of the chapter.

Creating characters is a ton of fun for most writers. K.M. Weiland has 5 ways to use Myers-Briggs for character development, Aimie K. Runyan discusses the art and craft of developing characters, and just in case your character (or you) ever gets buried alive, Sue Colleta details how to escape if buried alive.

After we’ve written that first draft, we need to polish our words to a shine. Jennie Nash gives us 4 perspectives on how to boost your self-editing superpowers, L.E. Sterling shows how to strengthen your verbs and your writing, and Deborah Raney shares 10 movie techniques to apply to your novel.

Kathleen Pooler has 7 tips for writing with intention and why it’s important for memoir writers, and Lizzie Shane shows how we can make our writing more authentic.

We’ve all heard the advice to write every day. Janice Hardy tells us why we shouldn’t write every day, and Debbie Young says why sometimes it’s good to be an irregular writer.

James Scott Bell gives us writing lessons from Ireland, and Jami Gold asks us: what’s your personal hero’s journey?


When you become an author, you open yourself to the public, whether you like it or not, and you need to decide how you want to interact with the public. Helen Sedwick discusses how to choose and set up a pen name, Dana Kaye has 3 steps to crafting your public persona for author speaking engagements (or really anytime you appear in public), and Tamela Hancock Murray shows how to decide if you should go to a conference or not.

Indie authors now have access to Bookscan numbers, but does that help or hurt when they want to try to get an agent? Janet Reid discusses the vagueness of Bookscan and how to incorporate those numbers in a query letter. Whether you use Bookscan data or not in your query, Nathan Bransford advises reading your query out loud before sending it.

Marketing is about connecting with your audience. Judith Briles defines and walks through the creation of a tagline for our author brand, Laura Morelli lays out how and why to submit a self-published book for review in Publisher’s Weekly, and Savvy Book Writers gives us an alternative to ACX for publishing our audiobooks.

The internet can be a powerful career tool. Nick Stephenson shows how to use email marketing to find your first 10,000 readers, Orly Konig-Lopez shares 4 Facebook lessons from a debut author, and Anne R. Allen outlines how blogging leads to many career paths.


Text generators are nothing new. See 3 very modern uses for Andrey Markov’s 19th-century text generator.

The Library of Congress preserves online culture in their Webcomics and Web Cultures Archives.

When you’re immersed in reading for study, it can be hard to read for fun. Laura Stoddart has tips on how to start reading for pleasure again after studying.

Author Ian Rankin inaccurately described a pub in his novel—and they remodeled to make it match.

Learn why Anthony Burgess abandoned his Dictionary of Slang project.

View 17th-century England Through the Eyes of Celia Fiennes, one of the first modern travel writers.

Loretta Chase and Susan Holloway Scott explores the treasures of the Kensington Central Library.

Meet the spy who became England’s first successful female writer.

This one had Chronicler Nancy Keim Comley giggling: Regular people recreate 10 corny romance novel covers.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay cool, and we’ll see you next week!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 15, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-15-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are midway through June already. Where did the time go?

Frank Deford, one of the great in American sports writing, has died.

Money in the publishing business can be hard to come by, but some does exist. Audible created a $5 million fund for emerging playwrights, while James Patterson increased his “holiday bonus” program to booksellers by $100,000.

And you think you publish slowly. J.R.R. Tolkien’s book Beren and Lúthien will be published after 100 years.

The Bronx has no bookstores. Noëlle Santos wants to change that.

If you can’t get to a bookstore, check out this list of 100 must read middle grade books for the summer.

Joe Canon says there’s no better place to write than the library. To that end, New York Public Library is publishing a zine that will “showcase works from the diverse communities the Library serves.

Books can save our sanity. An 18-year-old Syrian refugee discusses the books she read to escape the horrors of war.


For budding memoirists out there, Jane Friedman has some tough love while explaining why your memoir won’t sell.

On the other hand, Ian Stephen tells how to write about real-life adventures.

All writers get story ideas (often floods of them). How do we know if those ideas can go the distance? Janice Hardy walks us through turning inspiration into a story, Melissa Donovan defines story concept, and Larry Books explores the nuanced difference between concept and premise.

Once you’ve got your idea, you dive into your process. K.M. Weiland has 5 ways to write a perfect first draft (or nearly), while Bryan Collins lists 7 common writing mistakes that will stop you finishing your book.

Craft involves so many different techniques. Kathy Steinemann talks filter words and phrases to avoid, Daphne Gray-Grant discusses the magic of three, Kathryn Craft explores early hints of backstory, Zoe M. McCarthy defines metonymy & synecdoche: something called by another name, and Janice Hardy reveals the real problem with passive voice in fiction.

Characters bring our novels to life, so we’d better make sure we get the details right. Jami Gold discusses why Wonder Woman is the essence of a strong female character, Piper Bayard details the art of physical surveillance, John Gilstrap talks knife fighting, and Donald Maass reminds us that all of our characters live in a world with class “rules” and what that means to the conflict in our story.

Once writers have written, we must edit. Diana Hurwitz finishes her proofreading series, and Roz Morris reminds us to treat synonyms with care.

Productivity is always a concern for writers. Jami Gold asks: should we follow the advice to write every day?; C.S. Lakin has little hacks writers can use to be productive, Jillian Sullivan discusses closed doors and open pathways, Daphne Gray-Grant tells how writers can change self-doubt into idea doubt, and Nicole Avery has 5 rules to help you work more productively at home.

With a topic that bridges craft and business, Tracy Gold gives us a walk-through of the Revise & Resend (R&R) process.


David Gaughran explores Amazon’s fake book problem.

Jane Friedman has a detailed primer on how to get your book traditionally published.

Joel Pitney runs through the steps it takes to launch a book.

Many writers want a publisher, but how about this one? Meet Tunglið, the small Icelandic press that prints its books in batches of 69 on the night of a full moon —and burns every unsold copy.

If you are looking for an agent, you need a query letter. Rachel Stout explains how to personalize a query letter, while Jane Friedman shows how to immediately improve your query letter. Janet Reid tells us what happens to our money when we part ways with an agent, and also explores the idea of submitting excerpts of novels to literary magazines prior to getting an agent.

To get into literary magazines, you need a cover letter, so Elise Holland lays out how to write the perfect cover letter for a literary magazine.

Sometimes writers just don’t know what to make of the responses they get from literary agents and acquisition editors. Lisa Tener discusses how to interpret responses from literary agents and editors, and Julia Kite explains how to deal with non-constructive criticism from agents and publishers.

There’s a lot of business-side stuff to publishing, especially if you are self-publishing. Savvy Book Writers tells how to get multiple sales of your manuscript via subsidiary rights, and Susan Spann explores the legal side of writing for anthologies.

Marketing is a boogieman for a lot of writers. Chris Syme tells how to sell more books with less marketing, Frances Caballo has 5 skills every writer should develop, and Catherine Dunn and Nikki Halliwell give us 3 steps to know your audience for increased book sales.

Sometimes in marketing bigger is not always better. Richard Lowe shares what smart indie authors know about local networking, and Sharon Bialy reveals the secret promo power of obscure media outlets.

Much of our marketing focuses online. Beth Bacon shows how to write an author Q&A that compels readers to buy, Rachel Thompson explains how to reach your readers without spamming, and John Doppler explores identifying and managing online trolls.


With all the talk of Wonder Woman lately, get inspired by these 19 real life women heroes from World War I.

Meet England’s first blogger: Samuel Pepys.

Speaking of diaries, snoop inside Henry David Thoreau’s journals at this new exhibit.

Scholars rediscover a forgotten Edith Wharton play.

Play “guess the handwriting” with scholars trying to match scribes’ penmanship.

Check out Jane Austen’s 1817 grave: Sweetness, purity, but no mention of anything tatty like writing novels.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! As school comes to an end, enjoy your summertime activities.

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | June 13, 2017

A testament to creativity

“I will see you again in twenty-five years.”

These were the last words Laura Palmer spoke to Dale Cooper in a dream at the end of the original series of Twin Peaks, which finished airing in mid-1991.

The Return of Twin Peaks to television in 2017 (the creators tried valiantly to get it done for 2016 to make it a perfect 25 years) is a testament to those who love fiction dearly and is nothing short of amazing, given the eerily accurate words of Laura Palmer.

It’s certainly a testament to the passionate fans of the Twin Peaks franchise who fell in love with the characters, the story-line, and most of all, David Lynch’s quirky film style. His movies are a must if you like abstract art in film and analyzing every detail of every scene to better understand what’s going on in the story.

But I think the celebration here means something more than just the world of Twin Peaks. David Lynch and Mark Frost, the creators of Twin Peaks, created a story that made the audience think. There are multiple ways of viewing what’s going on in the story. The use of symbolism and metaphor are used heavily throughout the series from the early days to the present.

Example: there are red balloons in the background of this one scene, and there’s a red deflating balloon in another. Are they connected? Are the characters in the two scenes related in some way? What if one is a dream sequence of the other?

A large portion of the movie and television viewing public will not appreciate this kind of product. But for those that do, the story keeps getting better. As I watch it now, I don’t know if the scene I’m watching is just a slowly filmed expression of silliness designed to ratchet up the tension or if something very significant is about to happen. I’m on the edge of my seat and I cannot wait for the next show.

The fans are going crazy right now (on mostly) and we have all grown up with Twin Peaks. Some are professional audio engineers or video editors now, and those skills come in handy when watching Twin Peaks and analyzing it afterwards. Oh, David Lynch is a musician and audio engineer as well. There are occasionally sounds or words whispered backwards. 😀

As for me, the lead character upon which the original story centered, Laura Palmer is 2 years older than me. A number of other characters were around my age as well. Now I see them twenty-five years later and it’s like seeing old friends. For those actors that were much older than I, these are their last years. Several have shot scenes and were not able to finish the series, including some that came out of retirement to do it.

All of this is, as I say, a testament to the lovers of fiction and what can happen in a story. But this is also a testament to another critical component in creativity: improvisation.

While reading many interviews of the actors that were in the original Twin Peaks (most expertly and wonderfully collected by a former fanzine publication named Wrapped in Plastic), I found that they all consistently remarked upon the spontaneous creativity of Lynch. Some of the finer points:
– He didn’t have them do any readings; he preferred just talking to them and getting a feel for their person.
– He often didn’t give anyone a script, or if he did it was only for a scene or two.
– He would often change the scene on the spot, basically rewriting everything in his head.
– He took many suggestions from the actors along the way who were getting to know their characters in their own way.
– He went with the moment, including making a prop staff member a major role (and star) because they accidentally were in a scene. This refers to the famous episode where Frank Silva, one of the prop hands, couldn’t get out of the way fast enough before the cameras started filming. David Lynch liked the look of Frank and asked him to sneak around toward the camera, making scary faces. The rest is history, as he became one of the most iconic images of the franchise.
– He has often said that “things happen for a reason”. If an actor isn’t available for filming, you have to go with something else in the story to accommodate that. It’s all a call for creativity.

There are many actors that were in the first series and wanted to be in the current one but there’s no room for them in the story. That reflects a loyalty and appreciation to David Lynch’s approach to creativity.

It’s been a while since I’ve had such a “crush” on creativity from something in a movie or television. Nothing I’ve ever seen or read comes close to this. Okay, I’m probably exaggerating here, but I still can’t get over that 25 years.

I’m looking forward to what influence this may have on my own writing. 🙂

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