Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 4, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-04-2021

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in March! Today, March 4th, is National Grammar Day, followed on Monday, March 8th, with National Proofreading Day, so you can go fix all the mistakes you learned you made on National Grammar Day.

The literary world said goodbye to the prolific and versatile poet, activist, and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti this week.

In awards news, SCBWI has announced their Spark Awards for the best books published non-traditionally in 2020.

Lila Shapiro looks at the changing face of publishing by interviewing the diverse book publishing power club.

Brandie DeRusha gathers 20 biography books for kids to help them dream big.

If you are more into audio books, The Book Designer lists legit places you can get free audiobooks.

Are you missing your bookish events? Matt Grant has virtual book festivals to get excited about in the next three months.

Looking for work? Mary Kole is now hiring market spies for a secret new project.


Short fiction writers, we have a few tips for you today. Rachelle Shaw has 5 tips on writing a short story, and Julie Duffy focuses on short fiction.

Hank Phillippi Ryan tells how to write a bestselling thriller.

Sometimes fiction exposes truth better than non-fiction. Kim Echlin explores telling stories of the unthinkable—when fiction bears witness to a crime against humanity.

For anyone who may be unsure, The Book Designer demystifies what a preface is and its purpose.

Stories are propelled by the choices characters make and their reasons for making those choices. Janice Hardy examines how the Act Two choice works in a novel, while Stavros Halvatzis works with backstory and Susan DeFrietas has 4 key tactics for dealing with backstory and exposition.

You don’t ever want to lose the reader’s attention, which means not confusing, boring, or jarring them. Nathan Bransford advises describing characters and setting when they’re first introduced, Janice Hardy shares tips to understand and control your novel’s pacing, Bob Hostetler urges us to dump the cliché simile, and Chris M. Arnone explains the history and future of the singular they.

You want your reader invested in your character and their struggle. Laurie Schnebly Campbell discusses why character motivation matters, Katharine Grubb has tips for clarity and creativity when writing multiple points-of-view, K.M. Weiland explores the Queen character arc, and Janice Hardy reveals a core question for getting to know your character.

Once that first draft is done, it’s time for a hard look at what you’ve actually got. Sharon Oard Warner says to find the ending before returning to the beginning, Melissa Donovan reminds us that writing is rewriting, and Orly Konig shares 3 steps to a full rewrite for pantsers.

There is no one-size-fits-all writing process. It can vary even from project to project. Julianna Baggott reveals the results of a survey on process to see how others do it, Ruth Harris suggests that your notebook is your superpower, and Sarahlyn Bruck starts her process with setting.

Eileen Cook gives good reasons why you should join a writing community. Such a community can help with practical things like Gwen Hernandez’s instructions on how to find anything in Scrivener 3, or with the creative things like PJ Parrish’s making up words.

Marti Leimbach gets meta with advice on writing advice, Tasha Seegmiller asks: are you a whole-hearted writer?; and James Scott Bell expounds on writing to escape.


Attention freelancers! Christin Nielsen has collected 14 e-commerce markets that pay freelancers.

If you are self-publishing, one of the big questions you need to answer is how will you use Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. C.S. Lakin examines the pros and cons of staying exclusive with Amazon or going wide.

Readers often contact authors. Elizabeth S. Craig looks at how to respond to readers across platforms.

Music is powerful and evocative, and authors are often tempted to use it in their books. So Rachelle Gardner answers the question: can I use song lyrics in my book?

Everything authors do in public is part of their brand. Keeping that in mind, John Gilstrap has branding redux, and Frances Caballo shares tips for an author website.

For many authors, marketing is confusing and frightening. Sandra Beckwith has 3 book marketing tactics you can ignore, J. Elle lists 5 buzz-building tips from an instant New York Times bestselling debut, and Penny Sansevieri shows how to work more reviews into your book marketing plan and  30+ ideas for bite-sized books marketing.


On the Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner, Lydia Millet discusses letting the work change you.

The Reading Women podcast with Kendra Winchester has Jenny Offill talking about the ambition of short novels.

Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature podcast explores the brief life and towering accomplishments of Lorraine Hansberry.

The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan has Dantiel W. Moniz on writing stories that are felt in the body.

On The Creative Penn podcast, Joanna Penn and Patrick O’Donnell  delve into how to write authentic crime fiction.


Test your literary chops. How many of the 100 most famous passages in literature can you identify?

Celebrate the Perseverance Mars landing with 18 books for all ages about Mars.

We read about how reading novels today teaches empathy. Ritchie Robertson investigates if the novels of the Enlightenment also taught empathy.

Can you imagine your work still being read two centuries after you are gone? Five poets discuss John Keats’ best poems 200 years after his death.

Women writers are on people’s minds this week. Jonathan Lethem explains why Shirley Jackson is a reader’s writer, Arielle Moscati draws a map of Mary Oliver: a reading pathway; and Isabelle Popp lists 13 ways of examining Sylvia Plath.

Underlying some video games’ coding are the bones of classic literature. Cindy Frenkel examines how teaching classic lit helps game designers develop better stories.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week for more tips and talks!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 25, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-25-2021



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, snow in the woods along Oxmead Road


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! It’s been a snowy month here in the Delaware Valley, as you can see from my photos. The days are getting longer, though, and it’s warming up as we head into a new month. In addition, the end of February and beginning of March brings us a wealth of literary events: tomorrow is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day; next week (the first week of March) is Newspapers in Education Week, Read an E-Book Week, and Words Matter Week; and next Tuesday, March 2nd, is National Read Across America Day.

With all those events, you might be short on time to read, so Emily Temple suggests 50 great classic novels under 200 pages.

Diversity in the publishing industry has been prominent in the news this year. Alaina Lavoie tells us that We Need Diverse Books and Penguin Random House have announced the Black Creatives Fund, and Susan Montoya Bryan relates that fresh funding by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation aims to revitalize digitizing indigenous oral history.

Arthur Klepchukov lists fiction writing contests worth your time in spring 2021, and SCBWI’s Lee Wind announces the Golden Kite Award finalists.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, snow-edged stream by the horse farm on Oxmead Road




Are you having trouble writing? Alison Flood ponders writer’s blockdown: after a year inside, novelists are struggling to write.

Here are some tips for getting started: Barbara Linn Probst shares four of the best writing exercises ever, an unidentified guest author on The Book Designer details how to make a book, and Rayne Hall writes about how to fan your short story idea sparks into a bright fire.

Writers need to know their audience. Christina Delay zeroes in on identifying your reader.

Having trouble with the beginning of your story? Zoe M. McCarthy discusses elements to include in a novel’s first 5 pages (part 1), and Janice Hardy identifies 4 mistakes that doom the first page of your manuscript. Also check out 5 book openings critiqued by a literary agent, YA author AJ Dickinson and Roz Morris.

The ending of the story is also important. Gilbert Bassey explores story resolutions: mastering the happy-sad ending.

Anne R. Allen points out five common beginning writer storytelling mistakes, and Katharine Grubb gives us tips for writing a redemptive story.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, mourning dove on snow

Mourning dove

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, white-throated sparrow on snow

White-throated sparrow


For writers of specific genres: Eva Leigh writes about the pleasures and perils of writing historical fiction, Sebastian Fitzek sets out 5 features for writing psychological thrillers, and Toni Šušnjar examines fantasy and monarchy.

If you’re working on the elements of your story, Stavros Halvatzis explains how to tap into the power of setting, Bonnie Randall shares how to write rich characterization, and K. M. Weiland elaborates on archetypal character arcs (part 3): the hero arc, while Brian Andrews focuses on how to write amazing action scenes (part 1).

Things to think about when editing and revising: Bob Hostetler declares a cliché simile is a bad simile, and Dave King advises writers to keep it real.

Tiffany Yates Martin differentiates between criticism versus critique, while Nathan Bransford cautions writers not to listen to condescending feedback.

Garry Rodgers gives his take on AI for authors.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, flooded creek on Jacksonville Road




Jim Milliot reports that Scholastic and Penguin Random House remain untouchable as top children’s publishers.

Penny Sansevieri reveals what authors need to understand about different book publishing options, and Jacquelyn Lynn asks: is self-publishing a good choice for your novel?

For those following the traditional publishing route, Kate McKean ponders the question of finding a good agent, and acquisitions editor Kara Leonino shares 5 common proposal mistakes.

When it comes to promoting and marketing your book, Penny Sansevieri recommends working awards and contests into your book marketing plan (an infographic), Sandra Beckwith sets out 5 reasons you should speak for free, and Terry Odell discusses branding: it’s not just for cows.

With tips for using social media, Thomas Umstattd, Jr. explains what the 2021 Facebook changes mean for authors, and Andrew Hutchinson talks about new insights shared by Facebook into how to maximize the reach of your video content.

Do you have a website? John Burke offers the complete guide to creating an author website.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, female cardinal on snow

Female cardinal

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, male cardinal on snow

Male cardinal










Lit Century podcast’s Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols discuss the teenage angst of 20th-century literature.

On the History of Literature podcast with Jacke Wilson, Anahid Nersessian talks about the lovability of Keats.

Sara Rosett gives tips on how to structure and write a series on The Creative Penn podcast with Joanna Penn.

On Otherppl podcast, Brad Listi talks with Candace Jane Opper about the importance of stories from the outer circle of grief.

On The Quarantine Tapes podcast, hosted by Paul Holdengräber, George Prochnik ponders the role of the artist in calamity.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, downy woodpecker on suet feeder

Downy woodpecker

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, white-breasted nuthatch on suet feeder

White-breasted nuthatch












Pardis Parker and Andrew Hamm present a comic strip on the art of emailing.

Viet Thanh Nguyen looks at what Amanda Gorman teaches us about our shared America.

Literary Hub‘s Book Marks shares a variety of 1885 reviews of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

In The Paris Review, Bernard Ferguson searches for Gwendolyn Brooks.

Melissa Baron reveals the authors of fonts in a history of type foundries.

Arielle Gray discusses Toni Morrison as an editor who changed book publishing forever.

Rebecca Rego Barry looks at Bonibooks, the paperback experiment that paved the way for Penguin. There’s a complete set for sale if you’re interested.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, vultures in tree


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, red-tailed hawk in tree

Red-tailed hawk









That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you again next week with another roundup of writerly links!


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, cloud-studded dawn with snow




Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 18, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-18-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Much of the US is experiencing extreme cold or strong winter weather, so I hope all of you are safe and warm.

Award-winning  science fiction author and scholar James E. Gunn died at age 97.

Is publishing living up to its promise to diversify?  Shelly Romero and Adriana M. Martínez Figueroa check in with The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing, Revisited.

Meet the indie bookstore owner behind National Black Literacy Day.

February is also Library Lovers Month, and Susie Dumond has 6 ways to support your local library.


While most craft tips can apply across the board, sometimes others are genre-specific: Brit Haines has 10 tips for writing true-life stories, Dana Stabenow shares 7 tips for writing crime fiction, Jaclyn Goldis gives us 6 tips for confidently writing historical fiction, and Savannah Cordova lists 5 tips for writing stellar romantic subplots.

Scenes are the building blocks of any story. Marissa Graff examines 3 critical elements of opening scenes, Janice Hardy explores how the inciting incident works in a novel, and Lisa Cooper Ellison shows how to fix your scene shapes to quickly improve your manuscript.

Other craft elements, large and small, work together to make your story unforgettable. Lori Freeland tells us how to dodge the backstory info dump, Kathryn Craft unleashes the power of declaration, James Scott Bell is enamored of the em dash, and Eldred Bird urges us to write locations like charcters.

Characters are the spine of our stories. Stavros Halvatzis does character arc structure at a glance, Dr. Craig Wynne has 4 tropes and cliches to avoid when writing characters who are single, Rebecca Sacks lays out how to keep track of your characters with index cards, string, and a lot of clothes pins, Emily Wenstrom reveals how to get away with murdering a character, Melissa Donovan looks at archetypal characters in storytelling, while K.M. Weiland dives deep into the archetypal Maiden arc.

Done writing? Let the editing commence! Jim Dempsy explains what makes a good editor, Laurence MacNaughton has 6 steps to fast and easy revision, Robert Lee Brewer revisits when to capitalize president, Ellen Buikema shares 10 self-editing tips, and Jose Pablo Iriarte lists 6 ways to fit more story into less space.

Jen Silverman shares a few notes on writing across media, and Kristina Adams explores how building your self-awareness makes you a better writer.


Christine Ro investigates reducing the environmental toll of paper in the publishing industry.

A book’s cover can make or break sales. L.L. Wohlwend examines book cover colors.

Agent Rachell Gardner says every author must answer this question: why should someone want to read your book?

In marketing, Patricia Smiley looks at why you should hire a freelance publicist, Lisa Kusel is in search of the alluring author photo, and Jessica Strawser has 5 reasons you should attend other authors’ events.

Penny Sansevieri lists 13 marketing ideas to consider before you hit publish, Mike O’Mary explains how to get reader reviews now to drive sales later, and Joe Fields gives us 10 tips to boost your LinkedIn presence in 2021.


On The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan, Gabriel Byrne muses on navigating past and present, fact and imagination.

On The Creative Penn podcast, Joanna Penn discusses how to write a non-fiction book proposal with Alison Jones.


Eriq Gardner reports on Paramount’s fight with the Truman Capote Literary Trust to remake Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

For poets and lovers of metaphors, Dick Davis gives a brief history of metaphor in Persian poetry.

Ever meet a character you think would be perfect for you? Rachel Brittain has a quiz: who is your literary soulmate?

We all hate those scam phone callers, and now they’ve moved onto computer hijacking with ransomware. Elaine Viets tells a delicious tale of scamming the scammers.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay warm and safe, everyone, and we’ll see you back here for next week’s tips and tricks.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 11, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-11-2021

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 4, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-04-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Mark your calendars, the second week of February is Freelance Writers Appreciation Week. We’ve got lots of snow on the ground here, but it’s perfect weather to curl up with some hot chocolate and literary links.

Poetry in motion? Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman will recite an original poem at the Super Bowl LV pregame show.

Porter Anderson brings us the AAP prose awards for 2021. Add them to your reading list!

The one upside to the pandemic is that many conferences have gone remote. Christin Nielsen has the top 18 virtual training events for freelance writers in 2021.

Know your rights. Joseph Perry gives an overview of key provisions in a publishing contract.

If you are looking for work, Mary Kole is now hiring a research assistant.

Writer Beware warns of vanity press Waldorf Publishing.


Some advice is genre-specific. Phyllis Still shares 5 steps to write thrilling historical fiction for teens, Moriah Richard discusses structuring your unique system of magic, and Joel Shulkin, MD, lists 7 mistakes authors make when writing medical scenes.

There are certain over-arching decisions to be made about your story. K.M. Weiland gives an introduction to archetypal stories, Clare Langley-Hawthorne looks at tense in a novel, and Tiffany Yates Martin demystifies the different third person points of view.

Once into the writing, there are plenty of craft elements to consider using. Paula Munier discusses plot jumpstarters for when you get stuck, Milan Terlunen examines the art of the plot twist, Katharine Grubb lists questions to ask when writing a scene, Lisa Hall Wilson has 4 ways to write deeper with personification, and Spencer Ellsworth shows how to sneak flashbacks into your novel.

While craft elements are vital, we also can’t neglect our characters. Janice Hardy explains how to shame your characters and win readers, Stephanie Wrobel reflects on writing dysfunctional families, Stavros Halvatzis studies the hero’s twin struggles, and Bonnie Randall shares 3 quick building blocks to create crackling character chemistry.

Susan DeFrietas tells us the one thing your novel absolutely must do, Janice Hardy says if nothing changes in your novel, you have no story; and Kris Maze explains how to break your writing slump and get into the flow.

Some people wonder what’s the point of writing a book, especially now. Mark de Silva speaks in defense of writing brooks that might never be read, Anne Youngson shows how writing is a lot like digging, Maurice Chammah explores what fiction can teach journalists, and James Scott Bell asks for more escapism, please.


Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Dana Mattioli report that Connecticut is investigating Amazon’s ebook business.

The Authors Guild and five other writers groups ask the Department of Justice to stop the Penguin Random House’s purchase of Simon & Schuster.

Apple wants to make it harder for platforms to collect your data. Facebook is countering the move. Why should authors care? Because it may impact the targeting of Facebook ads.

For those of us looking for agents, Rachelle Gardner answers the question: why is it so hard to find an agent? A.J. Aronstein discusses the art of the cover letter, and Kate McKean talks about how to do a book proposal for an illustrated book (such as a coffee table or cook book) and what happens if you get an offer from an editor before you have an agent.

It seems that many bloggers had email on their minds this week. Janet Reid warns against making this email error, Nathan Bransford talks email thread etiquette, and Ruth Harris has the weird and wild emails from readers.

Marketing takes many forms, but one of them is media appearances. A.G. Billig has 5 easy steps to a successful media appearance, and Jennifer Tucker provides a media interview preparation checklist.

Ricardo Fayet extols the importance of finding your marketing sweet spot, Elizabeth S. Craig has tips to fit platform building into a busy life, and Penny Sansevieri says timing is key to a successful self-published book launch.

Mark Walker-Ford gives us an infographic with the perfect social media posting schedule, while Lee Purcell explores marketing a book beyond social media.


On the Beyond the Page podcast, recently deceased writer Barry Lopez says “we don’t need the writer – what we need is the story, because this keeps us alive.

Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner hosts Margo Jefferson, who ponders, “If I can’t find a way to do that … why am I writing a memoir?”

The Quarantine Tapes podcast with Paul Holdengraber discusses painting, music, and poetry with Joy Haro, who says, “All of it is still the poetic voice.”

On the History of Literature podcast, Jacke Wilson searches for Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s would-be suitor, Tom Lefroy.

The Creative Penn podcast with Joanna Penn urges us to stop worrying, start selling: change your author mindset with Sarah Painter.


Emily Martin gives us 10 facts about the incomparable Toni Morrison.

As writers, we love libraries. Christine Ro gathers 10 tidbits about libraries for visually impaired and print-disabled people.

Andre Callihanna traces nine idioms to their origins.

The number of books printed today is overwhelming. Ann Blair says this multitude of books is not new: people started complaining about the number of books in circulation as soon as the printing press was invented.

Looking for a good spy novel to read? Paul Vidich lists 10 spy novels with women protagonists.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Arvind Dilawar tells the story of the extraordinary disappearing act of a novelist banned by the Nazis.

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


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 28, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For writers & Readers 01-28-2021




Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday. It’s hard to believe the first month of 2021 is almost over. Anyone else looking forward to spring?

Spelling is important for writers, and not always easy. Nicole Hill writes the history of the spelling bee.

Something to look forward to: Christopher Louis Romaguera shares 19 books coming to TV and film in 2021.




Matthew Salesses details 25 essential notes on craft, while Barbara Linn Probst concentrates on ways of seeing and ways of writing.

Nathan Bransford suggests getting in tune with your writing goals, and Cassandra Lipp delves into mistakes writers make: relying on perfect conditions to write.

Need ideas? Janice Hardy sets out 5 steps to your next novel idea.

Let’s face it—some of us are procrastinators. Rochelle Melander recommends dumping old myths and discovering a fun solution for procrastination.

Kelly Jensen brings us an A-Z guide to the parts of a book, and Rachelle Gardner gives details on how long your book should be. If your novel is too long, don’t worry—Hank Phillippi Ryan tells us how to cut twenty thousand words.

K. M. Weiland discusses story theory and the quest for meaning, while Laura Drake advises trusting your voice.

Laurence MacNaughton reveals 4 secrets to successful world building, and Greta Kelly takes a look at when cultures collide: 3 ways to create tension in worldbuilding in a novel. In addition, Ward Larsen explains how getting the facts straight will make your writing soar.

Need some ideas for keeping your readers reading? Katharine Grubb describes how to tease your reader with red herrings.

With help for creating characters that come alive on the page, Stavros Halvatzis examines characterizing details, and Eldred “Bob” Bird looks into character motivation. Janice Hardy urges writers to stop being nice to your characters, and C. S. Lakin talks about using dialogue in scenes to reveal character.

Barbara Linn Probst focuses on character time and reader time.

Tiffany Yates explains third-person point of view: omniscient, limited, and deep.

For genre writers, Dr. Caitlin O’Connell provides some tips for the travel and nature writer: keeping your mind sharp and your words insightful, and Garry Rodgers clarifies the difference between hardboiled and noir crime fiction.

If you’ve reached the revision phase, Zoe M. McCarthy shows how to write numbers right in fiction, and RJ Crayton wonders if you’re editing your work with today’s world of inclusive language in mind.

It’s something no one wants but everyone gets: John Peragine mulls over bad book reviews.




Mark Williams says Naver’s $600 million buy-out of Wattpad should be a wake-up call for western publishers who still don’t “get” online reading.

Joseph Perry urges authors to know your rights: key provisions in a publishing contract.

If you’re a freelance writer, Evan Jensen gives us 4 tips to determine your freelance success.

Diana Urban lists 6 outside-the-box book marketing ideas for writers.

Sue Coletta explains how to animate book covers.

For indie authors, Rick Lite brings us the ultimate book marketing timeline for indie authors, and Debbie Young considers whether bookstores are worth it for indie authors.

Penny Sansevieri explores how to promote a book on social media without burning out (or wasting a ton of time) and explains when and how to invest in a professional book marketing company.

Sandra Beckwith clarifies the facts vs. fiction of Amazon verified purchase reviews.

Heather Lloyd-Martin looks at SEO trends in 2021: 5 optimization myths to stop worrying about.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, microphone

Photo by Jukka Aalho on Unsplash



Check out First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin to hear Mark Wunderlich on the resurrecting powers of poetry.

On The Quarantine Tapes with Walter Mosley, Nikky Finney discusses what James Baldwin taught her about the poet’s responsibility to the living.

Jacke Wilson of the History of Literature podcast looks at the life and work of Frederick Douglass.

Peter Ho Davies talks about writing a book that hovers between fiction and fact on First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin.




Jess Romeo writes about the origins of the modern regency romance.

Timothy Miller looks at why we return to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories over and over again.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, trees in snow


That wraps up Top Picks Thursday for this week. Join us again next week for another roundup of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, woodpecker in snow


Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 21, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-21-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Saturday, January 23rd is National Handwriting Day, and Wednesday, January 27th is National Shelfie Day. And if you did not catch Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman reading at the Inauguration, you should watch—she is a powerful young American voice.

SCBWI discusses the CASE act becoming law, and the small claims tribunal it sets up in the copyright office.

Understanding the need to read during the pandemic, Oxford University Press puts its full “world classics” list online.

Philadelphia picks poetry as its next One Book pick.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss warns of pay-to-play pedagogy in The Creator Institute and New Degree Press.


We have a few genre-specific posts this week: Sulari Gentill reminds us that every mystery writers knows you can kill anyone but the dog, Justine Cowan shares the anxieties of publishing a memoir, Elisa Schoenberger gives us a study in detective duos, and Jane K. Kleland talks about writing a successful long-running series.

Getting started—sometimes it flows, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. Brian Andrews explores where ideas come from, Erin Celello lists 4 questions to ask before you start, and Allison Williams discusses how to restart your unfinished book.

Once started, there are a million tiny details to get right. Katharine Grubb has tips for dividing your story into chapters, Robert Lee Brewer looks at the mistake of talking about the work-in-progress, E.L. Skip Know digs into Medieval mining practices, and Steve Holey gets specific about describing an abnormal gait.

Characters drive our stories, and their inner struggle is what captivates the reader. Janice Hardy has guides for using internal conflict that make sense, K.M. Weiland explores 3 character arcs in the Karpman drama triangle, Stavros Halvatzis describes the essentials of supporting characters, Becca Puglisi talks about writing better dialogue, Lisa Hall-Wilson lays out 7 ways deep POV creates emotional connections with readers, and Janice Hardy examines how to create a first class antagonist.

Editing, done right, helps us raise our story to new heights. Jim Dempsey discusses what to expect from an editor, and PJ Parrish dissects the 3 levels of editing hell.

Writing faster means getting more work out to the public, enhancing our careers. Mateo Askaripour writes in favor of speed: write fast, fix later; Gerald Brandt increased his output by going from pantser to plotter, and Joan Koster shows how the highlighter tool can help you write faster.

Mary Kole tells us how to write a manuscript that succeeds, Melanie Roussel wonders if writing competitions are worth it, and Kathryn Craft has 7 sneaky ways to spotlight story wisdom.


We start 2021 with Angela Ackerman reminding us that other authors are not your competition.

Porter Anderson looks back with reflections on the 2020 American market in sales and deals, while Alex Green looks ahead as indie bookstores gear up for 2021.

If you self-publish, you need to know how large a book you want to print. Amy Collins explains how to pick a popular trim size for your book.

If you are going traditional, Janet Reid has some things to leave out of your query, and Rachelle Gardner tells us if we need a book proposal.

Marketing! Get the word out there! Stefan Palios lays out one writer’s 3 phases to hit the bestseller list, Penny Sansevieri explains how to market a self-published book in 2021 by creating a marketing plan you can stick with, and Sandra Beckwith lists 12 ways to share news of winning a book award.

In the online world, Nate Hoffelder has 6 online bios every author needs, and Adam Connell shares 12 smart tips for new bloggers that he wishes he’d known 10 years ago.


On Sacha Black’s Rebel Author podcast, Roz Morris discusses how to write captivating characters.

Over on the Time to Eat the Dogs podcast with Michael Robinson, Shayne Legassie explores the medieval invention of travel writing.

Visiting The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman, George Saunders enthuses over short stories and wants you to accept your flaws (writing and otherwise).

Brad Listi’s Otherppl podcast has Gil Adamson on how to tackle the gargantuan task of writing a historical novel.

On the New Books Network podcast, Rob Wolf investigates why Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a new cli-fi novel…in which things actually get better.


Diane McKinley-Whetstone describes how recently deceased bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey made black women feel seen.

Richard Greene looks at bombs and books: on Graham Greene’s life during World War II.

Think being bored is a waste of time? Martha Cooley explores the uses of boredom: philosophical, scientific, and literary.

Will Self ponders: how should we read?

Looking to refresh your home library’s look? Devin McKinley gathers beautiful bookshelf deco ideas for 2021.

In entertainment, Emily Temple has your 2021 literary film and TV preview.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 14, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01/14/2021

Almost 10 years ago, 5 aspiring writers met at a writing class, and the Author Chronicles was born. One of our number, Gwen Huber, has been fighting cancer off and on for several years now, but the burden has become overwhelming, she is unable to work, and the bills are piling up. We are including her GoFundMe link here, if any of you would like to help her out. Although the original goal was met, her expenses and treatments are ongoing. Thank you for your support of our blog for all these years, and we all hope Gwen can beat this one more time.


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This coming Monday, January 18th, is National Thesaurus Day. I would make a pithy quip, but my brain is frazzled, fried, foggy, and frayed.

This week, bestselling African American novelist Eric Jerome Dickey died at age 59.

Looking for a patron for your writing? SCBWI has 52 awards and grants available—see if any are right for you!

Claudia Rosenbaum reports on the CASE copyright reforms Congress passed last month, and Olivia Rutigliano names 10 classic crime novels that have just entered the public domain.

Katherine Packer explains why James Baldwin should be required reading.

Greed never takes a day off. Victoria Strauss brings us Writer Beware: 2020 in review, while Anne R. Allen warns us of publishing scammers in 2021.


We are living through difficult times. Roz Morris tells us how to write a memoir about difficult times.

Do you ever wonder if your writing is valuable? Ellen Buikema writes about the value of writing young adult literature.

Most of us are well-schooled in traditional Western storytelling structure. AJ Eversole introduces us to the joy of Native storytelling.

Sometimes it is the intangibles that make or break your tale. Ann Harth discusses the vague but vital role of voice in fiction, and Donald Maass balances the real vs. the unreal.

So many craft elements have to be gotten just right for your story to pop. Katharine Grubb shares some must-haves for exciting inciting incidents, Janice Hardy highlights 5 places in your novel that probably aren’t terrible enough, and Stavros Halvatzis examines the role of the anti-hero.

Every writer can improve their writing. Moriah Richard talks about the mistake of oversimplifying your characters, Janice Hardy explains how over-explaining will kill your novel, Robert Lee Brewer points out the error of waiting for inspiration to strike, and Becca Puglisi shows how to introduce unique story elements without confusing readers.

Editing is necessary for our work to reach that professional level. Sandra Wendel reveals the differences between line editing, copy editing, and proofreading; Patti Callahan Henry describes self-editing by ear, and Terry Odell urges playing tricks with editing to make it more palatable.

Writing is a uniquely personal endeavor. Danielle McLaughlin delves into her use of writer’s notebooks in the writing process,  Julie Glover wonders how much of our real life shows up in our fiction?, Jessica Strawser shares 5 ways to have more fun writing, and Colleen M. Story gives us reasons why writers should take more risks this year.


In the publishing world, Jim Millot reports that print book sales rose 8.2% in 2020, while industry stock prices fell 4% in 2020.

Apparently, pandemics encourage reading. Ed Nawotka tells us that Bookshop and Libro, which help independent booksellers sell online, posted strong sales in 2020.

Wondering how you can get published this year? Jane Friedman has her key book publishing paths for 2021-2022. If you are self-publishing, Scott La Counte answers the question: when should I publish my book?

Is freelancing in your game plan for this year? Mandy Ellis provides the definitive guide to setting your freelance writing rates, and Evan Jensen shares 8 expert tips to get clients and write a winning freelance proposal.

There’s lots of fluidity between self-publishing and traditional publishing these days, with authors crossing from one to the other and back again. Rachelle Gardner tackles the question: will an agent be interested in my self-published book? while Janet Reid has a tip you should use in either publishing channel: make sure your bios include where you want your readers to find you.

Being findable is just one part of marketing your work. Sharon Bially reminds us that book marketing is a marathon, not a sprint; Penny Sansevieri tells us how to promote a book in 2021, and has an infographic with 10 smart book promotion services and strategies that work; and Lee Purcell outlines three paths to success in creating an author video.

Much of our marketing and interaction with readers is online. Christina Kaye lays out how to start, build, and grow your email list; Walter Rhein shows how to use Amazon’s embed feature to preview your book anywhere, Beth Whitney lists 5 options for creating your Amazon ad copy, and Matt Moran compares the 11 best web analytics tools to get meaningful website insights.


On the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Roz Morris examines if your book should be first person, third person, or even second person.

Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols’ Lit Century podcast has Benjamin Dreyer discussing Shirley Jackson’s legacy.

On the History of Literature podcast, Jacke Wilson explains how Nathaniel Hawthorne distinguished between ‘novels’ and ‘romances’.

The  First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin  hosts Jamie Harrison on leaving Easter eggs for readers.


How can you support kids’ literacy? Mikkaka Overstreet shares reading logs for kids and more easy ideas to support kids’ literacy.

Andrew Blauner examines the spiritual message at the heart of Peanuts.

It can be fun to read with other people. Duchess Camilla is starting her own book club.

Annika Barranti Klein reveals the life and wild times of O. Henry.

We all know that Times New Roman is preferred manuscript font, but why? Melissa Baron walks us through the history of the popular fonts Times New Roman, Arial, and Helvetica.

We write books—but how about making them? Arnesia Young considers 11 bookbinding kits that will have you crafting your own books in no time.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 7, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-07-2021

Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 31, 2020

The 12 Links of Christmas 12-31-2020

Every year we do an overview of the most popular links from our Top Picks Thursday roundups. So in case you missed these the first time around, here they are:

12. Wendy Walker discusses the importance of narrative structure and emotion in psychological thrillers.

11. Karen Babine explores the taxonomy of nonfiction and the pleasures of precision.

10. James Scott Bell suggests drawing your plot to stimulate creativity.

9. Stacy Juba streams about how to write your first novel and get published.

8. Hephzibah Anderson reveals surprising secrets of writers’ first book drafts.

7. Roz Morris tells us how to write a synopsis if we hate writing synopses.

6. Christine Hennebury shares 5 perfectly mundane ways to start a story.

5. Robert Lee Brewer has 9 lines of writing advice—with cats.

4. Tiffany Yeats Martin dissects 4 story weaknesses that lead to a sagging middle.

3. Kris Maze explains how to tell if you are writing YA.

2. Bill Ferris’ comedic look at top writing hacks to distract you from the nightmare of your daily life.

And our top link of 2020:

1. Alythia Brown explores 10 things that will sink your novel’s opening pages.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these links, and please browse any others that catch your fancy. Thank you all for your continuing support of the blog, and we will see you next year! Have a safe and happy New Years!

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