Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 13, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-13-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We have plenty of writing advice and news for you, so find a sunny spot and read on.

In an idea inspired by FDR, Ted Lieu of California and Teresa Leger Fernandez of New Mexico introduced the Federal Writers Project bill that would create $60 million in writing jobs.

Nicole Froio examines what happens when #MeToo memoirs meet the marketplace.

Literary Hub brings us this week in literary history: May 9-15.

We are sorry to report that Joel Friedlander, founder of The Book Designer blog, passed away this week. Many of Joel’s posts have been featured here over the years, and his design advice will be missed. His blog continues under other management.


The word on everyone’s lips this week is serialization, brought on by the announcement of Kindle Vella, a new serialized fiction platform from Amazon. Steve Hooley wants to know what you think of serialized fiction and Vella, John Peragine continues his series on serialized storytelling with a close look at Vella, and Sandra Beckwith gathers insight from experts on how to decide if Kindle Vella is a good fit for you.

In other genres and formats, Melodie Campbell shares 5 things a mystery novel must have, and Nathan Bransford dissects the difference between children’s and adult books.

For those who write more personal works, Robert Lee Brewer defines what a personal essay is, and Lisa Cooper Ellison explores 4 voices that can help (or hinder) your memoir.

If your preferred genre is a little more out-of-this-world, A.J. Smith lists 5 ways to develop your writing imagination for fantasy fiction, and Christina Sweeney-Baird has 7 tips for writing a near-future dystopian novel.

Every writer, ideally, develops their own unique style and voice. Melissa Donovan gives tips for developing your voice in writing, C.S. Lakin focuses on the punch at the end of your novel scenes, and Stavros Halvatzis advises pacing your story by writing contrasting scenes.

There are many craft elements to consider when honing your voice and style. Some will be genre-dependent, others will be personal choice. PJ Parrish examines the pros and cons of using profanity in stories, Jesse Q. Sutano shows how to mine humor from family dynamics in your writing, Mark and Connor Sullivan list 8 ways to add suspense to your novel, Carla Hoch explains how people that don’t know how to fight, fight; and KL Burd delves into incorporating social issues into your manuscript.

One craft element that can be particularly tricky is backstory. Mary Kole explores how to work with backstory, Donald Maass says to use it to create a feeling of inevitability, and Jenna Harte shares easy tips to incorporate backstory into your novel.

As Kristen Lamb reminds us, characters are the emotional touchstones for our readers. September Fawkes looks at balancing our cast of characters, Janice Hardy has 5 ways to keep your protagonist active, and Diana Souhami reveals how to inhabit the character you write about. Anne R. Allen explores the unsympathetic character, while K.M. Weiland investigates the Mage’s shadow archetypes.

Writing is a highly psychological undertaking. Roz Morris explains why it is so hard to kill your darlings, Laurie Lisle discusses what changed when she decided to write her own story and not someone else’s, and Hank Phillippi Ryan gives us what you need to know to write a novel.

We can’t be writers without getting words on the page, but sometimes we need a little help getting that done. Angela Ackerman shows how to set yourself up for success before you write a single word, Stacey Swann shares how John Steinbeck’s diaries helped her write her debut novel, Keith Kronin has writing advice from Mike Tyson, and James Scott Bell lists 7 tips for producing more words.


In good news, Publishers Weekly reports that print unit sales had double-digit gains at April’s end.

John B. Thompson reveals the new Holy Grail of traditional publishers: direct-to-reader relationships.

Many authors already have that relationship with their audience. Leila Hirschfeld looks at engaging with readers: 14 ways authors express gratitude.

When trying to sell your book, you need a pitch, comps, and the right way to package it all. Janet Reid explains the best way to query a novel and short stories, Evan Jensen has 4 simple steps to an elevator pitch, Star Wuerdemann shows how to find compelling comps for your book, and Gina Panettieri explores essentials to elevating your pitch: loglines and comps.

Marketing means getting the word out about your project. Patti Thorn tells how to get book reviews to market your self-published book, and Penny Sansevieri exposes the social media mistake that can damage your author platform.

Online, content is king. Sarah Penner shares 100 content ideas for every stage of your writing career, and Christin Nielsen lists 22 sites where you can get paid to blog.


On The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman, Maggie Shipstead speaks in praise of books that aren’t totally satisfying.

Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature podcast explores the longest fallow periods: when Ralph Ellison experienced a forty-year writing block.

Gail Carriger and Joanne Penn discuss the heroine’s journey on The Creative Penn podcast.


Eileen Gonzalez investigates: are comics for kids or aren’t they?

We all have our punctuation quirks. Emily Temple gathers the punctuation marks loved (and hated) by famous writers.

Take the quiz: what classic middle grade character are you?

L.R. Dorn explores Chester Gillette, Theodore Dreiser, and the origins of America’s fascination with true crime.

Veronica Esposito compares the radical similarities of Alice Munro and Pedro Almodovar.

We often read to escape—and it starts early. Elissa Washuta discusses picture books as doors to other worlds.

What could be better than old literary stuff?  Children’s authors show off their literary treasures on Antiques Roadshow.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 6, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-06-2021

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in May! Wednesday, May 12th is National Limerick Day! Our weather has been a bit wishy-washy of late, vacillating between beautiful and rainy (sometimes several times on the same day!), but the advice below is tried and true.

Diversity in writing is something we need, but we also need diversity in reading. Publishing marginalized voices and different perspectives does little good if those voices never reach the mainstream. It can be hard, though, for mainstream readers to connect with stories outside of their own comfort zone, so Milo Todd has some tips for reading outside your lane.

Ruth Franklin explains what we lose when only men write about men in biographies, Mary Sharrott discusses why we need more stories about older women, and Zeahaa Rehman explores adding color to the romance genre.


If you write short stories, Rachelle Shaw discusses building POV and stakes in short stories.

The latest writing trend is a return to serial storytelling. John Peragine dives into serialization in storytelling, and how writers can leverage that.

Sophie Masson talks about a new writing format: the exclusive audio novel.

Like romance but without the explicit scenes? Sariah Wilson shares 5 tips for writing “clean romance” that’s just as hot as explicit sex scenes.

Carter Wilson explains why memory is the scariest thing of all in a psychological thriller.

Fiction not your thing? Rick Lauber talks about finding your nonfiction writing niche and understanding why this is so important.

Our story structure can take many forms, but Catriona Silvey examines the counterintuitive appeal of the literary time loop.

Susan DeFeitas lists 3 key tactics for crafting powerful scenes, Lincoln Michel warns us against the five-car metaphor pile-up, and C.S. Lakin describes how novelists can go deep and wide with plot.

Although usually talked about in connection with science fiction or fantasy, every story has a certain amount of world-building in it. Moriah Richard explores what world building is, W.A. Winter lists 5 key points to consider about your crime fiction setting, and Greer Macallister delves into the responsibility of world building.

Characters are the lifeblood of the story, and getting the reader to care about them is essential. Terry Odell goes back to basics with character descriptions, Angela Ackerman says to write emotion well, you need to know your character well, and P.N. Hinton discusses the importance of good parents in middle grade fiction.

Katharine Grubb shares 4 ways your characters could be sabotaging themselves (and how that’s good for your story!), Stavros Halvatzis explores the presence of epiphany in the character arc, and K.M. Weiland delves into the Crone’s shadow archetypes.

When it comes time to revise, you have a lot to think about. Janice Hardy lists 5 reasons you’re struggling with your revision (and how to fix them), Rachelle Gardner explains what beta readers are and what they do, and Brian Andrews studies what readers want…and what they don’t.

Spencer Ellsworth investigates pulling levers in the god machine, Eldred Bird serves up 5 writing tips we love to hate, and Elizabeth S. Craig examines showing up as a writer.

There are many ways to get from the first page to The End. Ines Johnson discusses having a writing schedule, Maria Mutch advises ditching the plan and embracing uncertainty when writing a novel, Clare Whitfield shares 5 tips to work through procrastination, and Bill Ferris has an amusing take on 7 habits of successful writers.

Wondering just how high the bar is for craft in your novel? Nathan Bransford says to judge the true standard of quality you will be held to, look at the recent debuts.


Claire Kirch reports that writers’ organizations are forming a DisneyMustPay task force to get authors royalties owed to them.

If you are self-publishing, James Scott Bell shares tips for formatting your book.

Agent Janet Reid explains that sometimes “no” has nothing to do with the quality of your book, but it’s just not right for her. Catherine Baab-Muguira asks the question: what if it takes 12 years to get an agent? Robert Lee Brewer demystifies simultaneous submissions vs. multiple submissions, while Ruth Harris tells us how to find the best titles and comp titles for our books.

Marketing is a herculean task. Sandra Beckwith grounds us in author branding, Penny Sansevieri has an infographic with 8 tips to improve your author platform with social media, Elna Cain shares 9 awesome tools for running social media contests, Shailee Shah compiled 17 Instagram book promotion ideas from publishers, and Dominika Pin shows us how to use TikTok to sell books.


On the Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner, Ahmed Naji speaks on the contemporary reality of the exiled writer.

Kjersti Skomsvold’s How to Proceed podcast hosts Rachel Cusk on writing without feeling like a writer.

On the History of Literature podcast, Jacke Wilson discusses Salman Rushdie’s devotion to the art of fiction.

Joanna Penn and Nadine Mutas talk tips for translation, self-publishing, and marketing in foreign languages on The Creative Penn podcast.


Letters are personal and revealing. Read Robert Frost’s letters to his son: thoughts on sports, real estate, and drinking.

Gail Crowther examines the friendship and rivalry of Sylvia Plath and Ann Sexton.

Sometimes books make a food or drink sound so appealing, you want to try it. Courtney Rodgers gathers 10 foods and drinks readers have tried because of a book.

Keith Roysdon looks back on film noir’s greatest odd couple: Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.

Writers usually love libraries for the books that are inside. Gianessa Refermat examines bookish exteriors: libraries that look like books.

Robert Kanigel explores how a bold young American changed the way scholars think about Homer.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more tricks and tips! And Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom-writers out there!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | April 29, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-29-2021


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, yellow daffodils


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday. What a month this has been, with high temperatures in the mid 80s yesterday and lows in the 30s last week! May is on the way, however, and we should soon be leaving the cold weather behind. If you want to take advantage of the warmer weather, take a book to the park and find a place to sit and read. After all, May is National Get Caught Reading Month.

Today is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. We’re not sure how to celebrate this event—perhaps by carrying a small notebook in your pocket for writing poems, or carrying a copy of an inspiration verse to share with someone you meet. How would you celebrate?

As we wrap up National Poetry Month, Khalisa Rae considers what it means to write poetry in the “Southern tradition.”

When you’re taking a break from reading or writing, try this Book Riot quiz by Danika Ellis: how many authors can you match with their pen names?

Are you a writer? Ruth Harris examines the 8 stages in the life cycle of a writer.

Kudos: Literary Hub announces this year’s O. Henry Prize winners for the best short stories of the year, and Porter Anderson reports that Louise Erdrich won the Aspen Words Literary Prize.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, house finch

House finch




Learning the craft is essential for writers. Breanne Rushing provides 11 essential tips to improve writing skills as a writer, and Tasha Seegmiller tells us how to build your own MFA experience, while Dave King mentions the non-writing part of writing.

For the poets, Linda Lane discusses poetry: to rhyme or not to rhyme, that is the question. What’s your answer?

If you’re having trouble writing, Bonnie MacBird suggests unblocking writer’s block with “the write-out.”

Rejection—a disturbing word. Julianna Baggott shows us when to reject rejection, and Royaline Sing looks at the danger of self-rejection (and tricks on how to battle it).

Are you writing a novel or novella, or is it a novelette? Lincoln Michel writes about the evolution of word count.

On the subject of genre, Laura Drake clarifies the difference between romance and women’s fiction, and Ursula Pike reflects on the fine line between a signifier and a trope.

Do you know who’s narrating your story? Of course you do. Janice Hardy, however, explains why you should know who your narrator is talking to.

Characterization is an important element of a story. Stavros Halvatzis examines the inner life of characters in stories, Lisa Hall-Wilson offers 4 tips for writing your character’s PTSD and trauma memories, Samantha Downing lists 4 tips for writing about family grudges, and Katharine Grubb gives us 10 tips for creating a dysfunctional family in fiction. K. M. Weiland also continues her series on archetypal character arcs, part 12: the king’s shadow archetypes.

In addition, Laurie Schnebly Campbell delves into showing emotion: when, why, and how, and Barbara Linn Probst sets out 10 different ways to make your point.

For those working on other elements of their stories, Isobel Wohl wonders what happens to our writing when we lose a sense of place, C. S. Lakin zeroes in on controlling the element of time in your novel, and Chris Eboch writes about pacing, line by line, while Jessica Strawser advises catching readers with the unexpected.

Bonnie Randall addresses deconstructing deadly illusions—what not to do with your manuscript.

James Scott Bell examines using pop culture references in fiction.

Finished your first draft? Robert Lee Brewer takes a look at mistakes writers make: refraining to revise writing.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, white and blue hyacinths




For those writers looking for agents, Nathan Bransford recommends a new tool for literary agent search.

Janet Reid shares query advice: do not start with your resume when querying for fiction and do not start with a yes/no question but use only questions that will draw the reader in.

If you’re at the point of signing a contract, SCBWI’s Lee Wind reports that the Authors Guild has released model book contracts to the public, and Kate McKean discusses meeting your editors prior to a contract.

Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris take a look at how the pandemic has shifted publishing, and Jane Friedman adds deeper context about how the pandemic is affecting book publishing.

Brett Bowen shares the best accounting software for freelancers, and Carol Tice lists 7 ways writers can find freelance jobs on LinkedIn.

Penny Sansevieri looks at marketing a self-published children’s book, and shares an infographic: when to release your book for optimal success.

If you have a book coming out, Jim Milliot writes that in-person author tours won’t be back anytime soon.

Marketing your book? Rochelle Melander advocates building a social media plan.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker.




On Brad Listi’s Otherppl podcast, Andrea Bajani discusses the mysterious incubation period of a novel, and Patricia Engel reveals the importance of notebooks to her writing process.

Nalini Singh speaks about the unnecessary divide between literary and genre fiction on the First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin.

Joanna Penn features David Kadavy on The Creative Penn podcast, looking at mind management, not time management.

On The Quarantine Tapes podcast with Paul Holdengräber, Trevor Paglen considers the changing meaning of images under the pandemic.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, dandelions, spring




Ed Simon reveals the heretical origins of the sonnet.

Pip Williams explores a secret feminist history of the Oxford English Dictionary.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, red-winged blackbirds, suet feeder, spring

Red-winged blackbirds fighting over the suet.



That wraps up the last Top Picks Thursday of April. Join us again next week for another collection of writerly links.


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



Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 22, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-22-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Spring is here (and so are allergies), but these links are nothing to sneeze at.

Since it’s poetry month, Matthew Daddona discusses tension in poetry: the hidden art of line-writing.

Julia Skinner examines libraries and pandemics, past and present.

Many people don’t understand what a sensitivity reader does, so Mya Nunnally reveals the secret life of a sensitivity reader.

Over at Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss has a publisher warning about trouble at Diversion Books.


Looking to ghostwrite? Roz Morris talks about ghostwriting, writer’s block, researching a novel, and training a horse.

If you are a short story writer, Rayne Hall reveals how to win short story contests.

For the memoirists out there, Linda Ruggeri gathers advice from other memoir writers on how to get started in memoir writing.

Many writers think about reviewing books, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out just how you want to review. Danika Ellis has 25+ book review templates and ideas to organize your thoughts.

Crime stories are known for their detectives, their clues, and often their fight scenes. M.E. Hilliard explains why librarians are natural born detectives, Kris Calvin demystifies planting clues and red herrings successfully, Katharine Grubb shares tips for writing memorable fight scenes, and Piper Bayard lists 10 common kitchen objects to use as weapons.

Writers build their stories from the ground up. Sharon Oard Warner wonders which comes first, character or plot?; and Jan O’Hara gives us a display hack for your story’s outline.

The opening of your book is crucial. Dana Isaacson asks: should your book have a prologue?; while Zoe M. McCarthy examines elements to include in a novel’s first 5 pages.

Once the reader starts, how do you keep them turning the pages? Kristen Lamb reminds us that change creates a gripping story, C.S. Lakin advises writing scenes with a purpose, and Janice Hardy tells us a lousy way to create conflict in your novel.

Engaging characters also keep readers reading. Anne R. Allen lists 10 pitfalls to avoid when naming fictional characters, Kathleen McCleary shows how regrets reveal and forge character, and K.M. Weiland continues her series by examining the Queen’s shadow archetypes.

Writing done, editing commences. Jim Dempsy reveals how to cut the cost of a professional editor, and Dario Ciriello explains why self-editing your novel doesn’t really work.

Inspiration comes from many channels. Jeremy DeSilva writes on the link between great thinking and obsessive walking, and Laura Drake walks us through building a writing routine that works for you.


Porter Anderson takes a look at Amazon’s Wattpad-style “Kindle Vella” platform and goes a little deeper in suiting up for serialization, while Monica Leonelle asks: is going exclusive with serialization worth it?

If you are self-publishing, Jane Friedman walks us through how to turn a Microsoft Word document into an ebook, and Stephanee Killen examines what to consider when self-publishing poetry books.

Thinking of freelancing? Carol Tice tells us how to get freelance writing clients at conferences on the cheap, and Breanne Rushing shares 11 tips to improve writing skills as a freelancer.

When it comes to selling, you need marketing, message, and media. Penny Sansevieri has 11 book marketing myths you should not believe and how a makeover can help sell your books, Sandra Beckwith assists with message development: knowing what you want to say and how to say it; and Becca Puglisi brings tips for landing a guest post gig.


The Quarantine Tapes with Paul Holdengraber hosts Paul Muldoon on writing poetry from a place of innocence and ignorance.

The Reading Women podcast with Kendra Winchester has Quan Barry on the possibilities of magical realism.

Brad Listi’s Otherppl podcast features Shannon McLeod on letting go of saving the cat.

On the First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin, Chang-Lee talks on writing as a bodily experience.

Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre discuss global, wide self-publishing on The Creative Penn podcast.


Writers can have trouble processing great events of their times. Mark Edmundson explores how the American Civil War gave Walt Whitman a call to action.

While we struggle with creating ebooks, Ross King describes the laborious process of bookmaking in the 15th century.

Valerie Stivers has fun cooking with Herman Melville.

Examining the evolution and appropriation of language, Joshua Jelly-Shapiro investigates how New York was named.

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

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | April 19, 2021

Remembering Gwen



With great sadness we say goodbye to our valued friend and blog colleague, Gwendolyn Doreen Huber, who passed from this life a few weeks ago after a long and courageous battle with cancer.

The five of us met in Jonathan Maberry’s Advanced Writing Workshop and, after much prodding by our mentor, established the Author Chronicles blog almost ten years ago.

We knew Gwen as a writer who pursued her writing wholeheartedly. In Kerry Gans’ words: “She had an artist’s soul through and through. You could see it in the posts she wrote. She was interested in the philosophy, the heart of writing, not just the craft. She was all about the art.”

Gwen also enjoyed a passion for music. After graduating from Westminster Choir College, she pursued a career in music and especially loved teaching kids. 

Gwen was a beautiful person and a true creative. She will be missed.


The Author Chronicles, Gwendolyn Huber


Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 15, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-15-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Hard to believe we are halfway through April already. As part of National Poetry Month, Saturday, April 17th is National Haiku Poetry Day.

Many people are a little leery of poetry. Rebecca Hussey shares an English professor’s perspective on hating poetry.

In awards news, the winners of the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards are announced.

If you are an academic freelancer, take note of the latest controversy in publishing: McGraw-Hill charges freelancers a fee to submit their invoices.


Some craft lessons are genre-specific, but some, even though they grow out of specific genres, can be applied more broadly. Nathan Bransford examines how to write adult characters in children’s books, David Gilman explores the role of research in historical fiction, and Richard O’Rawe (a former IRA bank robber) talks about writing a heist novel based on a long-unsolved crime.

Donna Freitas explains why more writers should study the lessons of YA, and C.S. Lakin reveals the secret to writing commercially successful novels.

Every writer has a different process, so it’s good to understand what kind of writer you naturall are. PJ Parrish asks if you are a wild cook or precise baker, while Robert Lee Brewer defines a plotter in writing and a pantser in writing.

Structure is the skeleton of your story, so it needs to be strong. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman lists 3 mistakes writers make in Act 1, Steve Hooley wrestles with recap chapters in a series, and Stavros Halvatzis shows how turning the story engages the audience.

The details of craft matter, too. Bethany Henry has 5 ways to use holidays in your story, Roz Morris gives us 3 ways vocabulary can increase reader belief, and Melissa Donovan demystifies the difference between dashes vs. hyphens.

Our characters are the soul of our stories. K.M. Weiland continues her archetype exploration with the two shadow archetypes of the Hero, while David Corbett examines the criminal as hero. Elizabeth S. Craig has tips for creating strong female protagonists, and Kathryn Craft reminds us to make our protagonist an actor.

Katharine Grubb explores potential lies your protagonists could tell themselves, Laurence MacNaughton lists 3 powerful ways pros create character conflict, Ellen Buikema lays out the roles of secondary characters, Lorraine Heath gives us 4 tips for writing engaging frenemies, and Kris Calvin discusses writing from multiple points of view.

When we’re editing, we need to guard against accidentally leaving things in, and sometimes take things out even when it hurts. Becca Puglisi says if we want a stronger manuscript we should read it aloud, and R.O. Kwon makes a case against killing your darlings.

We need to stay inspired to carry us through the end of the long novel writing process. Barbara O’Neal advises on keeping a notebook, Donald Maass explores novelty and the novel, and Paula Munier has tips to finish that first draft.


In further industry contraction, HarperCollins will acquire Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media.

On the retail sales side, Alena Jones tries to move toward a definition of contemporary bookselling.

If you are publishing independently, David Gaughran has a comprehensive How To Self-Publish Guide, and Barbara Linn Probst reveals everything you’ve always wanted to know about hybrid publishing.

Freelancing? Sarah Maurer and Stacey Morris explain how freelance writers can get more clients by cold calling.

If you are an author trying to decide how best to get you book out there, Rachelle Gardner discusses whether to accept a contract from a small press, wait for a large house, or self-publish.

These days, the authors are the brand. Mike Bohdan explores how to build a strong author brand, Jason Guriel discusses the importance of author bios, and Melinda VanLone addresses book cover design pitfalls to avoid.

The pandemic has changed marketing, pushing more of it online. Kathleen Marple Kalb shares her experience of marketing a debut during the pandemic, Catherine Baab-Muguira has what every writer needs to know about email newsletters, and Penny Sansevieri talks about why audio is the next big thing in book promotion and reveals the number one tip for staying motivated in book marketing.


On the  Reading Women podcast with Kendra Sumaiyya, Afoma Umesi explaining why adults should read more middle grade books.

Jordan Kisner’s  Thresholds podcast hosts Fariha Roisin on learning to care less about the publishing world’s rules.

The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman has Amy Solomon and Aparna Nancherla discussing the intersection of comedy and anxiety.

On the Book Dreams podcast with Julie Sternberg and Eve Yohalem, Jasmine Mans explores finding her voice as a spoken word poet.

The History of Literature podcast with Jacke Wilson delineates five ways to read Henry James.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast delves into writing, publishing, and marketing books for children with Crystal Swain-Bates.


Every bookworm’s dream: Erik Hoel shares the joy and privilege of growing up in an indie bookstore.

Damien Bador shows how Tolkien’s fascination with language shaped his literary world.

Writer’s block got you down? Hannah K. Chapman, Lauren Burke, and Kaley Bales explore the years when Jane Austen couldn’t write.

Olivia Rutigliano compiles the 100 best, worst, and strangest Sherlock Holmes portrayals, ranked.

Inspiration comes from all around: Jenny Hansen lists the top 10 success tips from Prince.

Take the quiz! Which character from Winnie the Pooh are you?

May Huang explains how literary translations and crossword puzzles are more similar than you think.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 1, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-01-2021

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in April! It may be April Fool’s Day, but it’s no joke: April has a ton of writer events. April is both English Language Month and National Poetry Month. Every year in April, Writers Digest’s poetry blog holds a poem-a-day event, offering a daily poetry prompt at Write Better Poetry.  Also, National Library Week is April 4-10. In addition to being Easter, April 4th is National School Librarian Day, April 6th is National Library Workers Day, and April 7th is National Bookmobile Day. Celebrate the written word all month!

The writing world lost several icons this week: Beverly Cleary, author of beloved children’s books, died at 104; Larry McMurtry, Pulitzer Prize winning author and scriptwriter, died at 84; and Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian feminist author and activist, died at age 89.

Like audiobooks? Check out the Audio Publishers Association’s 2021 Audie Awards winners.

Having the wonderful diversity of our country on display in our literature is something worth striving towards. SCBWI provides Equity and Inclusion Resources to explore, and Alaina Lavoie explains how sensitivity readers can make publishing more accountable if we let them.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware spots a growing trend: scammers taking Big 5 publisher’s names in vain.


Every occupation has its own jargon, and writing is no different. Lincoln Michel looks at genre jargon: how the ssf and literary worlds speak about themselves and each other.

Romance sells well, but Michelle Major reveals how to write a romance series that keeps readers coming back for more.

Action scenes can happen in many genres, but they are a skill set unto themselves. Brian Andrews bring us how to write amazing action scenes, part 2.

Memoirs can be tough to write for many reasons. Ericka McIntyre suggests using novel writing techniques in your memoir, and Susan DeFreitas examines 3 common pitfalls when writing from your own life.

We have to juggle many craft elements, large and small, to make our stories they best they can be. C.S. Lakin lists the 5 turning points of a novel, Steve Hooley explores how boundaries make for good conflict, and Janice Hardy explains how to show (and not tell) without raising your word count.

Nathan Bransford shows how to write clear physical description, while Ann Harth advises describing your setting on the go. Janet Reid weighs in on the invisibility (or not) of “said”, and James Scott Bell looks at writing tasty fiction.

There are overarching character elements to master, as well as details, but in the end you want a character that a reader will invest themselves in. K.M. Weiland introduces the 12 shadow archetypes, Stavros Halvatzis connects character actions and character arc, Becca Puglisi examines your character’s emotional shielding and why it matters, and John J. Kelley discusses capturing profound character moments.

Janice Hardy has 4 ways to create emotional peril in your characters, Katharine Grubb gives tips for writing a worthy anti-hero, Steve Goble asks: are your minor characters working hard for you?; and Lisa Hall Wilson shares 2 ways to help your readers connect emotionally with your characters.

The great thing about writers is that they are not shy about giving advice to help other writers. Janet Reid discusses how to get better as a writer, Becca Puglisi examines Heinlein’s rules of writing, Laura Drake gathers writing wisdom from the bestsellers, and Diana Giovinazzo compiles 7 things she learned from interviewing authors.

Writing is a deeply emotional craft. Andrew J.Graff explores learning to go with the flow in rafting and in writing, Ellen Buikema lists 10 ideas for inspiring your writing with music, and PJ Parrish looks at what we can learn from movies about failed writers.

Whatever process we use to do it, we all must get to The End to finish our story. Sharon Oard Warner examines finding your way to the end, and Tiffany Yates Martin gives us a final checklist to be able to know when your story is finished.


Freelancing can be profitable, but it’s not always easy. Carol Tice shows how to write an article that pays, and John Fisher shares an old writer’s 5 smart moves to get freelance work.

Different online platforms can lead to freelance work. Carol Tice returns with a focus on LinkedIn with headline tips and examples for freelance writers, while Sara Fischer investigates a new Facebook feature that would allow writers and journalists to make money.

Marketing may be mostly online now, but that doesn’t mean it’s all impersonal. Jessica Strawser discusses the art of the multi-author event, while Penny Sansevieri has an infographic of 5 essential book marketing strategies for mystery authors and how to market a book while keeping up with Amazon’s recent changes.

One way to get interest in your book is with a pre-sale push. Justine Bylo describes how to set up a future on-sale date as part of your book marketing strategy, and Ruth Harris warns us not to make this mistake that could cost you a book sale.

With so much online competition, how do you get noticed? Sandra Beckwith shows us how to create book promotion quote graphics, Adam Connell lists 7 top WordPress landing page plugins, and Lyn Wildwood shares the 10-step process to writing the perfect list post.


Have you ever thought about starting your own podcast? Tif Marcelo lists 5 reasons to start your own podcast.

On the First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin, Dantiel W. Moniz speaks on impostor syndrome and the morbidity of girlhood.

Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature podcast has a reckoning with Nabokov’s classic, controversial novel Lolita, with Jenny Minton Quigley.


We are all looking for the end of this pandemic tunnel. To find out what happens next, Jill Lepore canvases literature to see how plague stories end.

Book Marks reprints a 1959 review of Philip Roth’s debut novel, Goodbye, Columbus.

David Quammen writer on the accidental writing career of E. O. Wilson.

A nerdy history of the ampersand, brought to you by Kelly Jensen.

Margaret Kingsbury shares 10 facts about Madame d’Aulnoy, who coined the word fairytale.

Writers tend to love libraries, but Danika Ellis’ quiz will tell you if you are a library power user.

Jennifer De Leon writes a touching article on how the art of writing can close the divide between worlds.

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

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

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-25-2021


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday on this last full week of March and first week of spring! We hope your week has been as beautiful as ours.

When I went to our WordPress site to finish this post last night, I discovered that everything had changed, and I had lost all but six of our links. The thought of having to search for all the blog posts again made me want to just crawl in bed and forget it, but eventually, I found my last saved post from Tuesday night and was able to copy and paste it into a new post in code editor mode (which I don’t really know how to use).

I had some great spring photos to include this week, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to insert them in this format. I hope we can figure it all out by next week.

For those women writers feeling overwhelmed who are also mothers, Denise Massar shares some encouragement for mom writers thinking of quitting, and Kelly McMasters talks about the journey back to writing as a single mother.

David Laskin delves into why so many novelists write about writers.

Why do you write—or read? Bonnie Randall sees an intersection between cathartic writing & cathartic reading.

Jamie Vander Broek looks at how a library is like a museum.

What reader ever has enough bookmarks? Cassie Gutman offers tips on how to make a pressed flower bookmark.

Kudos: Ed Nawotka names the eight writers awarded $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prizes in drama, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

In memoriam: celebrated Polish poet Adam Zagajewski dies at age 75 [reported by Monika Scislowska, Associated Press], and prolific children’s author Joan W. Anglund at age 95 [reported by Emily Langer, Washington Post].




Feeling can sometimes get in the way of writing. Elizabeth S. Craig offers tips on handling perfectionism, and Nancy Stohlman discusses jealousy in the time of quarantine.

Do you have a mentor? Garry Rodgers writes about mentoring for writers.

Check out Jessica Strawser’s take on writing about life or death, and Kelsey Allagood gives us six writing lessons from an actual backyard gardener.

For those ready to begin a book, Lucy V. Hay mentions 3 things worth thinking about BEFORE you start your book, and Zoe M. McCarthy continues with elements to include in a novel’s first 5 pages–part 2.

Writers can learn from both bestsellers and the classics. Charlie Jane Anders identifies 7 wrong lessons creators learned from Game of Thrones., and C. S. Lakin writes about 5 insightful things a writer can learn from 5 timeless classics.

Readers are very important to writers. Lisa Cron takes a look at what readers really want from a story, Robin Farmer contributes 14 techniques to write emotional truth to engage readers, and Katharine Grubb investigates capturing your readers with character hooks.

K. M. Weiland continues her series on archetypal character arcs with part 7: the mage arc.

For those working on story structure, Janice Hardy makes sense of how the act three plan works in a novel, while Lorraine Zago Rosenthal focuses on the delicate art of creating the backstory.

Nathan Bransford elaborates on how to write clear physical description, and Brenda Copeland suggests that writers show AND tell.

Stavros Halvatzis looks into desire and fear in stories, and Brooke Bailey Peters clarifies what makes a good sex scene.

Laura Drake focuses on when “in medias res” works and when it doesn’t.

What genre do you prefer? Memoir? Fantasy? More than one? Roz Morris discusses what you need to do after writing the first draft of a memoir, Sarah Beth Durst provides 4 tips on writing an epic fantasy that’s also a page turner, and Eldred Bird highlights some guideposts for switching genres.

If you’re ready to revise and/or edit, Lincoln Michel expounds on the value of boring sentences, and Janice Hardy challenges writers to take a commonly misused words quiz.

Lisa Cooper Ellison advises writers to beware of chapter-by-chapter book critiques.




For writers searching for agents, Lucinda Halpern lists 3 things your query letter needs to succeed, and Alison Hill gives four tips to writers who hate pitching, while Janet Reid explains why your perfect fit agent might reject you, and agent Jessica Faust says she did not reject you for checking in.

If you’re new to submitting your work, Robert Lee Brewer explains the slush pile.

Victoria Strauss warns of a contract red flag: when a publisher claims copyright on edits.

Brett Bowen sets out everything a self-employed freelancer needs to know about taxes, and Evan Jensen debunks 11 freelancer stereotypes that are total B.S.

Do you write short stories? Rayne Hall explains how to publish your own short story collection.

With some tips on marketing your book, Penny Sansevieri zeroes in on eight critical mistakes authors make when selling books, Brian Jud presents tips on how to target your book’s audience, and John Peragine goes into the basics of virtual book tours.

Considering creating an audiobook? Diana Urban shares 16 tips from indie authors on how to self-publish audiobooks.

For authors overwhelmed by social media, Barbara Lynn Probst provides useful tips for working with a social media assistant.

Sandra Beckwith gives us new hope for old books.




Esmé Weijun Wang discusses the physical and visceral act of writing on Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner.

On the Reading Women podcast, Talia Hibbert talks about inviting disabled, chronically ill, and neurodivergent characters into rom-coms.

Yamen Manai speaks about waiting for the perfect allegory on Brad Listi’s Otherppl podcast.

On the History of Literature podcast with Jacke Wilson, Lauren Marino talks about the life and works of Willa Cather.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast brings us author Debbie Young and how to write a cozy mystery.




Sierra Garcia looks at how early sci-fi authors imagined climate change.

Marco d’Eramo tell us how Mark Twain documented the dawn of the tourist age.

Robert Alter ponders why readers have such strong feelings about Vladimir Nabokov.

Vivian Gornick reflects on the magnetism of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Nick Cornwell reveals the beautiful collaboration between John Le Carre and his wife.

Elizabeth Brooks reminisces about the undeniable lure of the historic literary home.

Paulina Bren explains how the Barbizon Hotel gave Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion freedom and creative autonomy.


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Have a great weekend!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 18, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-18-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We have crossed the midline for March and will soon be properly in Spring. Hopefully our creativity can bloom like the flowers.

This week, the literary world lost author of The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster, at age 91.

In great news for the arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities will receive $135m to distribute to cultural institutions.

Authors use their voices to shine light on dark times. Mike Gayle, the first man to win the Romance Novelists’ Association outstanding achievement award, tackles racism in his latest book.

Books open the world to people, but not always equally. Amazon is blocking libraries from lending more than 10,000 ebooks, and  Danika Ellis speaks to the inequality of school book fairs.

Mark Pratt repots that after Dr. Seuss’ estate announced it would stop allowing the publication of 6 books that contained racist images, his book sales skyrocketed.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss brings us a scam alert: Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions and its stable of imaginary agents.


Perhaps you are a poet and don’t know it? Melissa Donovan explains and gives examples of prose poetry.

Mary Chamberlain brings us her top tips for writing historical fiction.

There are many literary devices writers use to grab readers by the emotions. Kelly Jensen has an A to Z guide to literary devices and tools, and Angus Fletcher dissects 8 of literature’s most powerful inventions and the neuroscience behind how they work.

Setting can be a powerful force in your story. Sarah Stewart Taylor shares secrets of a setting master, while Jami Gold examines when we should treat our setting as a character.

Characters seemed to be on bloggers’ minds this week. Angela Ackerman has one thing to do if you want to write unforgettable characters, Monya Baker posts 6 tips for writing deep 3rd person POV, Janice Hardy lists 4 ways a strong POV strengthens a novel, and 4 steps for choosing what details to describe in a scene, and Kristina Adams discusses 5 ways to add depth to your character (by getting to know yourself).

Talking further about character, Laurence MacNaughton has 9 questions you must ask your main character, Piper Bayard reveals 10 common bedroom objects to use as weapons in a fight, Stavros Halvatzis examines how the status of well rounded characters plays into the story, and K. M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arcs series with part 6: the Crone arc.

Editing is a key to success. Anne R. Allen has reader pet peeves to look out for, Dana Isaacson lists 7 lessons from Maxwell Perkins, Jim Dempsey shares 5 reasons why you need a professional editor, Steve Hooley discusses cleaning up the story trail for beta readers, Lisa Cooper Ellison exposes 3 traps that subvert our ability to accept feedback, and remember, when you are in need of that elusive right word, great writers simply make them up.

To work better, faster, we need better habits. Jen Theuriet shows us how to change 3 mind-mush habits, while A. Howitt has 8 simple steps to better writing habits.

A successful career is part art, part business. David Duhr asks about writing process vs. product: do you focus on the doing or the having?; Mary Kole discusses unconventional writing and fiction rules, and Kathryn Craft finds that authenticity builds a satisfying career.


Casey Cep reports that a Kansas bookshop’s fight with Amazon is about more than the price of books.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc in the publishing world, but New England indie publishers had success by sticking with their niches in 2020.

Audiobooks are a hot market. Scribd announces an audiobook production line , highlighting independent publishers, while June Thomas tells us what sets a good audiobook apart.

If you are self-publishing, eventually you need to decide how big your book should be. Amy Collins gives details on picking a popular trim size for your book.

Publishing is a business, and we writers have to think like business people when it comes time to get our books out in the world. Lilly Dancyger explains that a contract that doesn’t suit your needs or expectations could be worse than no book deal at all, and Rachelle Gardner answers the twin questions: what can an agent do for me? do I need one?

The writing life is full of rejection, but we struggle on anyway. Katharine Grubb lists reasons why your manuscript may have been rejected, and C. S. Lakin reveals how writers can adopt a success mind-set.

Marketing online is a very different skill set than writing. Matt Moran investigates color psychology in marketing, Ron Stefanski has 8 expert strategies to help you stay fired up about your blog, and Sandra Beckwith clarifies the best way to comment on blogs.


Roz Morris’ So You Want To Be A Writer lays out how to organize events for selling your books.

The WMFA podcast with Courtney Ballestier hosts Dantiel W. Moniz on endings as windows rather than exits.

On the Otherppl podcast with Brad Listi, Vesna Maric discusses the freedom of working outside historical fiction’s rules.

The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman has Naima Coster on following narrative threads rather than chronology.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn talks copyright protection, smart contracts, digital scarcity, and NFTs, as well as blockchain for the publishing industry with Simon-Pierre Marion.


Emily Temple rounds up 50 very bad book covers for literary classics, and Isabelle Popp revisits Fabio romance novel covers.

Maria Aurora Couto reflects on her long association with famous novelist Graham Greene.

Rachel Rosenberg relates the history of dime novels and the cheap book boom.

With books a dime a dozen, how can you choose which to read next? Maybe you don’t have to. Sarah Rahman makes a case for reading multiple books at a time.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 11, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-11-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Sunday, March 14th is National Write Down Your Story Day. Even if you don’t have a fiction story to write, write down your family history story. As a genealogist, I can tell you that future generations will love you for it.

For International Women’s Day, Publisher issues a diversity toolkit to help publishers see where they are in diversifying, and giving tips to help them improve.

The line between music and poetry has always been a fine one, and Adam Bradley introduces the artists dismantling the barriers between rap and poetry.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware issues the following publisher cautions: Riverdale Avenue Books, Breaking Rules Publishing, and Adelaide Books.


Do you ever wonder how poets decide how to order their poems in a collection? There are many different ways to approach it, and Rachelle Toarmino describes how to arrange a poetry collection using mix tape rules.

Writing time-travel? Nicole Galland has 6 things to ask yourself about your time-travel story.

If you like to write short, Gina Barreca lists 6 essentials for writing flash fiction and nonfiction.

For all the crime and thriller writers: Russ Thomas shares 7 tips for writing police procedurals that readers love, and Garry Rodgers explains Locard’s Exchange Principle for mystery and thriller writers.

If your interests leans toward nonfiction, Melissa Donovan presents a guide to writing creative nonfiction.

Lots of writing craft can be broken down and analyzed and rules distilled, but some are more elusive. Terry Odell takes a look at voice, while Janice Hardy shows us 5 places to find your novel’s theme.

Structural analysis can help you find the issues with your story, and point the way to fixing it. Gabriela Houston discusses intimate vs. epic narration, Kristen Lamb points to common story-telling flaws in horror, and Janice Hardy examines how the midpoint reversal works and asks: does your novel have a problem?

Beyond structure, there are myriad other craft components to consider. Marilyn Simon Rothstein has 6 ways to add humor to your novel, Stavros Halvatzis urges us to infuse texture, color, and music in your writing, Becca Puglisi shares 11 techniques for transforming clichéd phrasings, Janice Hardy reveals 6 places info dumps like to hide in your novel, and Jenna Harte gives us tips on writing “the boring stuff” readers tend to skip.

Characters—and their interactions—push the story forward. K.M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arc series with the King arc, Carla Hoch talks fight scenes and dialogue, and Kris Maze lists 5 dialogue quick tips for page-turning fiction.

We all know good editing makes or breaks books. Jeanette at DIYMFA has 8 essential edits, Porter Anderson extols the benefits of professional editing, and Steve Laube shares proofreading tips and tricks.

Ever wonder what it takes to collaborate with another author? Each team likely has their own way of working, but Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty explain how to co-author a book: building continuity and avoiding pitfalls, and Shakil Ahmad and Ehsan Ahmad have 3 tips for writing with a co-author.

Making the most of our time is a constant effort. Shannon Swendson lays out how to make the most of the 24 hours we all get, Lincoln Michel investigates the invisible architecture that we use to keep us writing, and James Scott Bell discusses turning envy into energy.

So much of the writing process is subconscious and emotional. Tilia Klebenov Jacobs ponders where ideas come from, Rebecca Yarros has 5 tips for evoking emotion in writing, Katharine Grubb lists 9 signs of amateur writing, and Lisa Tener suggests a nonfiction writing meditation for digging deeper.

Writers have many obstacles to overcome. C.S Lakin tells how to face down writer fear, Isabel Allende writes on literary ambition and the power of mentorship, and Alexandra Oliva discusses being a writer when you literally cannot visualize scenes.


Where can freelancers find jobs? Evan Jensen has 14 freelance comedy writing jobs that pay you to make people laugh, and reports on LinkedIn Marketplaces: 4 updates on a new platform for writers.

If you are going indie, Kim Catanzarite lists 11 signs you’re ready to self-publish.

Going traditional? Janet Reid answers if you are pitching book 2 of a series, how much of book 1 should you mention?; Angie Hodapp tells how to pitch a character-driven novel, and Rachelle Gardner explains how to find comps for your books.

Marketing is all about platform. Nathan Bransford defines what an author platform is, Laura Drake discusses author as brand in 2021, Kacen Callender talks unfair social media expectations publishers throw on authors, and Courtney Maum believes that passion can be platform.

Mark Walker-Ford has the 8 best social media platforms to market your business in 2021, Sonja Yoerg explains how to make great visual ads, and Leila Hirschfeld lists 30 ways authors use videos to engage with readers.

Elizabeth S. Craig gives tips for easier book launch days, Penny Sansevieri shows how your Amazon bio can sell more books, and Sandra Beckwith brings us 10 free ways to increase author website traffic.

Once at your website, Lyn Wildwood  tells how to write an About page for your blog, Jane Friedman looks at blogging vs. email newsletters for writers, and Lindsay Liedke shows how to add both a contact form and a photo gallery to your WordPress website.


On The Creative Penn podcast, Joanna Penn discusses writing, marketing, and mindset with Steven Pressfield.

The Quarantine Tapes podcast with Paul Holdengraber has a two-fer this week: Wayne Koestenbaum on his quarantine-induced need to read poetry, and Johnny Temple on the elitism of the publishing industry.

On The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan, Carol Edgarian reminds us that with every book, you have to woo your readers again.

Mitzi Rapkin’s First Draft podcast features George Saunders on thinking of story as ceremony.


Language is shaped by world events. Pia Araneta shows how people are tracking the changing ways we talk  in the Covid-19 era.

W.S. Winslow visits darkest New England in exploring what is the Northern Gothic literary tradition.

James Scott Bell introduces us to Bat Masterson, writer.

Spring is here (almost)! Kelly Jensen gathers ideas to upgrade your space by decorating with books.

Allison Flood asks: why are Lewis Carroll misquotes so common online?

Melissa Febos writes on the word “loose.”

Get excited: Julius Lobo has a brief history of the exclamation mark.

Alexandra Andrews delves into the great, mixed-up literary tradition of doppelgangers and impostors in crime novels.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll be back next week with more writerly links.

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