Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 4, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-04-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of June! It’s really feeling like summer now, and the countdown to the end of remote-learning school has begun. But we all know learning never stops for writers, so read on for literary links.

Writer Joyce Carol Oates wins France’s $218,000 Cino del Duca World Prize, often seen as a precursor to the Nobel.

The literary world lost two giants this week: Larry Kramer, pioneering AIDS activist and writer, died at age 84, and bookselling visionary Harry Hoffman died at 92.

Many cities in America have been in upheaval this week following the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests for long-overdue systemic change. Clare Kirch reports on Minneapolis bookstores dealing with fire and vandalism during this chaotic weekend.

The fight against racism continues in the writing world as well. Romance Writers of America aims for a happy end to their racism implosion with a new prize and new vision, John Maher talks to authors taking publishing’s diversity issue into their own hands, and Frances Caballo challenges all of us: what are you doing to encourage inclusivity and represent diversity in your marketing images?

In copyright news, AAP members file a copyright infringement suit against Internet Archive, with four major publishers joins the lawsuit.

If you are looking for work, Mary Kole of is hiring a copywriter.


There are different rules for different genres, and Christoper Oldcorn examine understanding difference audiences. Laird Barron looks at writing noir fiction when the raw is too real, Toni Susnjar discusses map building for fantasy writers, and Jason Wilson ponders travel writing in the absence of travel.

A strong structure is vital to a good story. Katharine Grubb has questions to ask when planning your three-act structure, Swati Teerdhala talks about when to tell and not show, and Terry Odell shares the power of asking yourself “why?”.

Once you’ve got the backbone in place, you’ve got all the little bones to add on and fill out. Jami Gold looks at word choice and what it means for our writing, Jessi Rita Hoffman discusses the problem of self-conscious writing, Matt Janacone tackles writing without the semicolon, Robert Lee Brewer defines empathy vs. sympathy vs. apathy, and Janice Hardy offers a checklist to strengthen the narrative drive in your scenes.

Characters bring the story to life. Halimah Marcus, Brandon Taylor, and Erin Bartnett examine using the first person plural POV, Kristen Lamb discusses deception as a storytelling device with an unreliable narrator, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to build characters in seven steps, Angela Ackerman looks at how much planning is needed for character building in part I and part II, Sacha Black has 3 ways to differentiate your characters, and Lisa Hall-Wilson shares 3 ways to dive deeper into character emotions.

Writer’s block is a problem most writers will face at some point. Bob Hostetler tells how to beat writer’s block, Robin LaFevers has tips to break through writer’s block, and Bonnie Randall introduces the antithesis method to get unstuck in a scene.

A writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Ruth Harris gives us a writers guide to patience and perseverance, David Shorb explains why you should plan to fail, and Jael McHenry urges us to get comfortable with failure.

Sometimes it’s hard to move forward, whether your obstacles are coming from outside or from within. Melissa Donovan has a few good writing tips to keep you on your toes, Heather Weidner shares tips for overcoming fear and doubt, and David Shorb reminds us that you don’t get what you don’t fight for.

Alexa Glazer explores what storytelling is and 4 ways stories bring people together. Sometimes people come together through reading a common story, so Paula Munier compiled her top 10 books about writers. Sometimes stories bring people together as writing partners, so Sarah Skilton tells us how to collaborate on our next novel.


Mark Williams maps the new normal: as bookstores in France reopen, early euphoria gives way to plummeting books sales in week two.

Want to self-publish? Elaine Del Valle tells us how to become a self-published author.

Agents and ex-agents had a lot to say this week. Janet Reid defines narrative nonfiction for children and discusses how to query when your protagonist doesn’t come in until later in the book, Nathan Bransford shows us how to write a one sentence pitch, Rachelle Gardner answers the question: what if an agent rejects a bestseller?; and Victoria Strauss discusses evaluating publishing contracts and 6 ways authors may be sabotaging themselves.

Author marketing likes to talk about platform. Marion Roach Smith and Joanna Penn explore how broad an author platform should be, Eldred “Bob” Bird has more thoughts on growing a fertile author platform, Bath Barany posts a marketing relationship roadmap for novelists, Sandra Beckwith lists 4 tips to turn your book marketing around, and Dave Chesson gives us 5 easy ways to increase your book sales.

While much of marketing is virtual now, Sherry Ficklin discusses why swag (including digital swag) is vital to author events. Crisitan Mihai examines 2 aspects of content creation with 7 phenomenal tips that are going to revolutionize the way you write blog posts and showing how you sabotage your blog by writing mediocre sentences, while Elizabeth S. Craig tells us how to claim your knowledge panel on Google.


Virginia Breen gathers up a struggle in 17 syllables: essential workers write COVID haiku.

There is often discussion about writing with pen and paper vs. on a computer. Matt Janacone brings another suggestion, extolling the advantages of a manual typewriter and why every writer should own one.

As we move into the video-conference-from-home age, the timeless art of the bookcase flex starts a new chapter.

Sometimes I wish I could escape from the news. Rob Brotherton tells of a time when all New York City stopped reading the news at once.

Martha Ackmann opens the letter that changed Emily Dickinson’s life.

Got some cash stashed away for a special purchase? Up for sale is the first printing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 1814 Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser.

Sue Coletta brings us the story of the world’s first free public library supported by taxation.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay safe and stay healthy, and we will see you next week.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 28, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-28-2020

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of May! May 30th is National Creativity Day, and May 31st is National Speak in Sentences Day.

Check out the finalists for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature and the 2020 laureates for the European Prize for Literature.

Take a gander at comics for a mobile generation—and another possible outlet for your work.

The pandemic takes a toll in many forms. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre could close permanently due to the coronavirus, and Daniel DeFoe’s account of the 1665-1666 London plague focuses on how plagues always hit workers the hardest.

In spite of the pandemic, writing contests continue. Arthur Klepchukov compiles fiction writing contests worth your time in summer 2020.


We have lots of genre-specific advice today: Leslie Lutz has 6 tips to create suspense in a thriller novel; Natasa Xerri dives into writing a fairy tale and creating the magic behind the story; Lawrence Light shares 5 tips for writing financial thrillers; Sean Gray discusses building systems of tanistry into your fantasy; and Garry Rogers shares a real-life day of a detective.

Structure is the skeleton that holds up the entire story. Christine Hennebury lists 5 perfectly mundane ways to start a story, Katharine Grubb has 10 questions to ask when blueprinting a scene, Kris Brock examines turning points in the three-act structure, J.J. Barnes discusses plot twists, Cristina Delay says to jump into the third act, and Laurie Schnebly Campbell ponders the pros and cons of writing a series (which adds a whole other level of structure).

Some craft-y ways to engage the reader are using tension and subtext. Mary Kole says to avoid limbo with narrative tension, September C. Fawkes tells us how to write subtext, while Ellen Buikema takes a look at body language in writing.

There are plenty of other craft elements to consider while writing. Jami Gold dissects different Points of View and their nuances, Kathy Harris talks making it real, Meghan Ward shows how to improve the action in your story, J.J. Barnes figures out what is a good prose to dialogue ratio, and the AskALLi Team shares the ultimate guide to writing good prose.

And then there’s your characters, who carry your whole story on their shoulders. Barbara Linn Probst discusses creating characters who are fully alive, Stavros Halvatzis explores epiphany and self-realization in story, Jami Gold looks at how a character’s POV affects the story, and Janice Hardy lays out how to discover the front story of your non-point of view characters.

Once you’ve got that first draft, you are ready to fix it all up—and sometimes that means some pretty hefty revision. Nathan Bransford shows how to diagnose big picture problems in your novel, and Orly Konig shares 5 revision tips for pantsers.

Setting up good writing habits can help us find success. Susan DeFreitas reveals how to engrain your writing practice into your life, Katharine Grubb tells us how to make time for writing, Lisa Poisso shares a curated list of craft books about writing, and Kris Maze finds writing inspiration (even during quarantine).

With the world full of uncertainty, Emily Reyolds examines writing, coping, and facing the future, Catherine McKenzie moves forward with writing as collaboration, and Laina Turner lists 10 tips to building a sustainable writing business.


As with every other business, publishing has been hit hard by the coronavirus and changed buying habits. Poter Anderson reports that 72% of France’s publishers plan cutbacks, Jim Milliott says publisher sales fell 8.4% in March, and the PW staff tell us that print unit sales are up 7.7% in mid-May.

What ever happened to the much-anticipated “enhanced” ebook, which would have embedded sound and video, among other bells and whistles? David Kudler revisits the topic by discussing the problem with enhanced ebooks.

If you are a freelance writer, you will meet many different editors at many different magazines. Don Vaughn provides the writer’s field guide to editors to help identify and deal with them.

Agent Janet Reid addresses what to do when requested fulls are met with silence.

Marketing is tricky now. It’s different. It’s possibly even more frustrating that before. Janet Reid suggests going back to basics while marketing in the pandemic, Brian Jud discusses how to reach your book sales goals this year, and Corinne Moulder shares 4 steps to take before publicizing your book.

Marketing is all about making contact with your readers. John Gilstrap talks about platforms, Stephanie Chandler reveals where to send review copies of your book to get more book reviews, clients, media attention, and other opportunities; and David Hartshorne has a beginner’s guide to search engine optimization (SEO).

Even before the pandemic, much of our marketing had moved to the internet. Hank Phillippi Ryan gives us the secret to successful virtual author events, Cristian Mihai explores how blog posts go viral, and Sandra Beckwith has 3 social media mistakes authors must stop making right now.

For those of us uncomfortable with this technological world we live in, Bob Hostetler advises: be a Luddite, not a lunkhead.


We all know writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Maggie Doherty explores the creative communities that changed literature forever.

A writer writes. Benjamin Taylor tells us that even in retirement, Philip Roth wrote thousands of pages.

Olivia Gatwood uncovers the ethos of Edna St. Vincent Millay: defiant and unsinkable.

All fantasy has seeds of reality in it. Vanessa Thorpe explores the English towers and landmarks at inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbit sagas.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! As many parts of the nation reopen, please be smart and stay safe. We’ll see you back here next week for another literary link round-up!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | May 21, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-21-2020


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, robin on fence with insectThe Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, goldfinch on garden fence







Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This month is going by so fast—it’s hard to believe that Monday is Memorial Day. However you decide to celebrate the holiday, have fun but take precautions to stay safe and well.

To offset adverse effects of school closures, Donalyn Miller takes a look at how communities are working to reach kids who don’t have books at home.

Business shutdowns have been hard on bookstores. André Wheeler wonders: can America’s oldest black bookstore survive the pandemic? With positive news, John Mayer reveals that HBG is launching an assistance program to aid the reopening of indie bookstores.

What type of books are you reading during this pandemic? Natalie Jenner ponders why we reread our favorite books, while Amanda Craig claims that children’s books make good companions in a crisis.

Michael Cuby reports that Dana Kennedy is one reason the Pulitzer Prize is getting more diverse.

In memoriam: Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, has died at age 71 [reported by Michael Cader on Publisher’s Lunch].


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




How do you feel about the writing life? Barbara Linn Probst delves into why we write: artistry, identity, and legacy, while John Peragine addresses the limited limitless writing life.

For those having trouble writing during the pandemic, Julie Cantrell shares 4 productivity hacks you can use right now, and Bill Ferris lays out his top 5 writing hacks to distract you from the nightmare of your daily life, and Rachelle Gardner advises: find what you can control, and take action.

While some write for their own creative pleasure, others plan to sell their work. Kathy Meis looks at the intersection of creativity and commerce.

Ran Walker gives us 4 tips for writing short stories, and Jami Gold explains how and when to break writing rules.

Wondering how to start your story? Janet Reid weighs in on opening with action vs. opening with tension, and Kristen Lamb suggests creating a story-worthy problem that will captivate an audience.

If you’re in the planning stage, September C. Fawkes looks at how plotlines add dimension to novels, Kathryn Craft shares 8 ways to unblock your scene’s potential, and Elaine Viets explores writing cliffhangers.

For those working on their crafting their characters, Stavros Halvatzis writes about sympathy versus empathy in stories, and Janice Hardy asks: why should anyone help your protagonist?

Brian Andrews presents an infographic guide to the hero’s journey, and Laurence MacNaughton offers 3 ways to make failure fascinating.

Sooner or later your characters are going to talk to each other. Nathan Bransford brings us everything authors need to know about dialogue tags, while Tamela Hancock Murray adds her take with: he said, she said.

Some stories require a large cast of characters. Ann R. Allen brings us 8 ways to unconfuse your readers when you have too many characters.

For those ready to start revision, Robert Lee Brewer clarifies semantics vs. syntx vs. pragmatics (grammar rules); Janice Hardy stresses the necessity of clarifying ambiguous pronouns; and Terry Odell suggests that, in addition to removing overused words when you edit, you eliminate the banished words of 2020.

When you’ve done all you can on your own, Chantel Hamilton sets out a comprehensive guide to finding, hiring, and working with an editor.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, bee on flowers




Preti Taneja tells us why book prizes matter more than ever.

With good news for book publishers and authors, The Publishers Weekly staff reports that print unit sales rose nearly 5% at the end of April.

Agent Janet Reid answers the question: what does “on behalf of” mean in contract jargon?

For those considering self-publishing, the AskALLiTeam gives us the ultimate guide to hardback and premium books, and Debbie Burke speaks about the evolution of a book title and cover.

Thinking about including media with your ebook? David Kudler goes into the problem with enhanced books.

In this challenging time for launching a book, Michelle Anderstarr shows us how to throw a virtual book launch.

Authors need a social media presence. Frances Caballo shares social media tips you need to know.

For bloggers, Cristian Mihai explains why emotion is the key to great blogging and reminds us that the reader is always right.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, bird nests, bird nest with eggs




Literary Hub‘s Bookmarks celebrates the 95th anniversary of the publication of Virginia woolf’s debut novel with the first reviews of every Virginia Woolf novel.

Tracy O’Neill gives us a peek into the home lives of literary spies.

Ed Simon explores the book that invented the world. Can you guess what it is?

For fans of the mystery genre, Olivia Rutigliano lists the 45 most iconic detective sidekicks in literature, film, and television.

David Kamp examines why Sesame Street was a revolutionary force for children’s television.

Electric Literature‘s Emily Neuberger names 8 musicals that you might not know were based on books.

Claire Kirch has created a photo essay: bookstores are opening, cautiously, across the country.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, sparrow in river birch tree


That finishes up this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Join us again next week for another roundup of writerly links!


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, spring-flowering bush



Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 14, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-14-2020

Welcome to the mid-month Top Picks Thursday! A bit hard to believe we are already halfway through May, but we are.

In a time where literally every aspect of our lives has moved into our homes, Meg LaTorre discusses how to juggle writing and parenting.

Hillel Italie explores why Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death.

Katie Yee takes a look at the winners of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes.

Michael McClure, famed Beat poet who helped launch the San Francisco Renaissance, died at age 87.

For poetry lovers, Gabriella Smith lists free and cheap live poetry events you can watch online.


Sometimes knowing what genre you are writing in is difficult. S.L. Huang delves into what makes a book more thriller than sci-fi?

If  you are looking to build a freelance career, Kristy Stevenson shares 8 freelancing writing tips for regional publications.

We all have our own writing process, and Susan DeFreitas discusses developing your writing process by making it captivating.

Once we’re writing, there’s lots of craft elements we need to master. Melodie Campbell shows us how to survive the chaos point in your manuscript, Jami Gold tells us how to improve our story with action beats, and Katherine Grubb has 8 ways you may be bungling dialogue.

In addition, Julie Carrick Dalton dissects the earned plot twist, Fae Rowan describes how small decisions can have a huge story impact, and Janice Hardy has a two-fer with 5 ways to kick your writing up a notch, and the difference between painting a scene vs. dramatizing a scene.

Characters draw readers into the story, but they also do so much more. Nathan Bransford says to give your protagonist a mini-quest before the main plot kicks off, Tiffany Yates Martin reminds us to give our characters agency, Melissa Bowersock talks choosing a character name, Stavros Halvatzis examines great character description in stories, and Sara Letourneau explores how a protagonist’s motivations influence story themes.

After we write, we edit. Roz Morris explains how to prepare for comments on your book manuscript, Ann H. Gabhart shows us how to edit your word count after spewing words in early drafts, and Terry Odell lays out how to track your story.

Furthermore, Joanna Penn shares her technique for the first round of self-edits, Julie Glover writes in defense of editing as you go, and Jennie Nash says the secret to more efficient revision is pattern recognition.

Writers are influenced by everything in this world. Jessica Strawser shares 5 key lessons writers can learn from other artists, and Donald Maass reflects on the meaning of meaning.


Looking to self-publish? Apple Books for Author launches with a PC version, and David Gaughran discusses what that means, Rafal Reyzer explains how font choices affects the minds of readers, and the AskALLi Team shows how to sell books on your author website.

Laurisa White Reyes says successful self-publishing starts with a great book, Lisa Tener discusses how to proceed and succeed in the future of publishing, and Melinda VanLone explores how much a book cover should cost.

Corrine Segal reports that the pandemic is giving rise to a new movement to organize labor in publishing, while Ruth Comerford tells us that small presses in the UK and Ireland fear being “wiped out” by autumn.

Kathey Meis examines how reading habits have changed during the quarantine—and how you can turn that into an opportunity.

Agent Janet Reid explores when it’s time to cut off exclusives to agents and spread your work more widely, while Joyce Sweeney gives advice from an author turned agent.

Marketing is online now more than it ever was. K.B. Jensen lays out how to throw a virtual book launch using Facebook Live, Sandra Beckwith shares 4 features that give you more control,  Nick Stephens lists 5 types of email you should send to your subscribers (and why), and Cristian Mihai reminds us that our words matter, and gives us 5 tips to help you write like yourself.


Writers are shaped by the times the live in. Abigail Santamaria examines how a pandemic and nuclear threats shaped Madeline L’Engle’s writing and worldview.

Heloise Wood looks to history to see what kind of books will thrive in this pandemic era.

Reading is vital to many people for many reasons. Livia Gershon shows how reading got farm women through the Great Depression, Aaron Robertson shares the reading habits of major 20th century authors, and Emily Temple has compiled the 50 best contemporary novels under 200 pages for those who have little time to read.

Crime novels have all sorts of awful marriages in them, so Kimberly McCreight went in search of the elusive “good marriage” in crime fiction.

Wondering if your favorite museum will survive the pandemic? James Gardner discusses how the Louvre has survived wars, uprising, and yes, a plague.

In “A Letter from Officer Clemmons,” Francois Clemmons writes a letter to Mr. Rogers on friendship, the neighborhood, and gratitude.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay healthy, and we’ll see you next week for more writerly links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 7, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-07-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We hope you are all safe and healthy.

The great debate is over! Microsoft has made it official: two spaces after a period is now flagged as an error.

Check out the 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners.

The world lost some literary lights this week. Children’s book author Robert Kimmel Smith died at age 89, and legendary Irish poet Eaven Boland died at age 75.

Missing your library? You are not the only one. Amy Shearn writes on missing libraries, while Claire Voon brings us 7 spectacular libraries you can explore from your living room.

The Publishers Weekly staff keeps track of COVID-19 impact listings: cancellations, closings, policy changes, and more.


As the pandemic rages, authors who are writing contemporary books are wondering what they should do about it in their manuscripts. Agent Janice Reid gives her opinion on whether to include or exclude a reference to the pandemic.

Write science fiction or fantasy? Alexis Furr tells how to write for an alien when you’ve never been an alien, and Zachary James has a step-by-step guide to creating and publishing your fantasy book.

Getting started is an exciting time, but can be difficult sometimes. Marie Lamba talks about how journaling led her to a book idea, Rachelle Gardner addresses the issue of so many ideas, so little time; Sara Coughlin shares 4 mindfulness steps every freelancer should do before starting their day, and Susan DeFreitas discusses the role neurohacks play in developing a writing practice.

Once you’ve got your idea, you can start. Stavros Halvatzis explains how great plot can come from moral weakness, Janet Reid looks at whether your first pages should set a scene or dive right in, and Dana Isaacson discusses choosing a novel’s point of view.

Characters carry the whole story, and engage your readers—or not. C.S. Lakin explains the 3 Ms of character setup, Janice Hardy explores creating character voices in non-POV characters, Bethany Henry gives us 5 reasons our characters need to fail, and Ellen Buikema discusses loving your hateful antagonist. And if any of your characters work at a morgue, Garry Rodgers tells us what really goes on at the morgue.

There are a lot of details authors need to manage throughout the story. Nathan Bransford looks at weaving in exposition naturally, Sonja Yoerg reminds us to pay attention to the timelines, Jami Gold discusses how we should format non-English words, and Ellie Maas Davis explores editing manuscripts: writing style, writer intuition, and working with an editor.

Lots of great advice for writers on the web. Anne R. Allen lists 4 newbie mistakes that can derail a book idea, Nils Odlund has 3 tips for impressing your readers, and Gwen Hernandez shares a roundup of handy Scrivener features.

Writers are often very sensitive to emotions, and living through this pandemic can feel like an avalanche as we deal with our own emotions and the weight of those around us. This can lead to creative blocks for many. Allie Pleiter gives us 6 ways to write while the world is stressing you out, Richard North Patterson advises write what you care about, Tiffany Yates Martin tells us how to become a better writer during quarantine, Bonni Randall harnesses the power of journaling through difficult times, Terry Odell focuses on how to write in distracting times, and James Scott Bell reminds us that even now (maybe especially now) our imaginations need regular play time.


If you haven’t yet heard of Bookshop, look into it. Sindya N. Bhanoo explores how a coalition of indie stores managed to take a slice of Amazon’s business, and Aaron Robertson reports that Bookshop has raised $1 million for independent bookstores.

If you are a self-publisher, Justine Bylo takes a look at indie publishing in the time of COVID-19.

Stacy Juba gives advice on how to write your first novel and get published, and Verity Bright explains how to double your chance of landing a book deal (before you’ve written a single word).

For those querying agents, Nathan Bransford says you probably don’t need publishing credits. Janet Reid tackles the question of what to do when the publisher backs out of book 3 of a 3 book deal.

With in-person events not feasible for the foreseeable future, authors are relying on virtual events. The AskALLi Team shares the ultimate guide to hosting a successful online event, Diana Urban has 8 ideas from authors on virtual book launch events, and Claie Kirch wonders if, even after this is over, virtual author events are the next big thing.

Marketing is different now, but not so different—it’s still hard! To make it easier, Sandra Beckwith lists 6 ideas for promoting your book while watching TV, Christina Kaye tells us how to market your book in 4 easy steps, and Karen Lock Kolp has 5 tips for building a community of readers.

Online is the way we are connecting nowadays. Rob Eager shares 3 Amazon secrets every author needs to know, Evelyn Maguire brings us 15 ways to use Instagram to overcome distancing challenges, Sean Platt shows how to get good reviews for your books, and Cristian Mihai asks: are you sabotaging your blog by being a perfectionist?


In honor of Harper Lee’s birthday, check out the first reviews of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Vijay Seshadri explores why T.S. Eliot has remained an enigma.

Fake news has been around for as long as there has been news. Dean Jobb investigates the bizarre newspaper hoax that nearly ruined Lizzie Borden.

Gil Hornby examines Cassandra Austen and her influence of Jane’s life and writing.

Emily Temple compiles 20 artists’ visions of Alice in Wonderland over 155 years.

Vincent van Gogh was a reader as well as a painter. Mariella Guzzoni discusses the writers van Gogh loved, from Dickens to Harriet Beecher Stowe.

We can all sympathize with lockdowns now. Julia Webster Ayuso tells the tale of a literary lockdown involving translating a Dan Brown novel, and the thriller plot that grew from it.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay healthy, stay safe, and we will see you next week!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 6, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-30-2020

Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 23, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-23-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This week is National Library Week, Thursday, April 23rd is National Talk Like Shakespeare Day and National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Next Monday is National Tell a Story Day, and Tuesday is National Great Poetry Reading Day. So lots of writing-related celebrations going on!

Also celebrate Abdelouahab Aissaoui winning the International Prize for Arab Fiction.

Reading is essential for children, and Alain de Botton wrote a lovely letter to children about why we read. But what to read to them? A study shows children prefer books that teach them how and why the world works.

Speaking of reading, Italy gives bookshops permission to reopen! For us in the US, while still in quarantine, read those classic detective series you’ve always been meaning to read. Focusing while reading can be hard these days, so Elise Moser has tips to stay focused while reading.

Christopher Tomlins examines William Stryon’s misguided meditation on history and Nat Turner.

Watch out. Victoria Strauss has a contest scam alert: Legaia Books online book competition.


For short story writers: Matty Dalrymple and Mark Leslie Lefebvre walk thorough how to put together an indie anthology.

If you are writing memoir, Ana Maria Spagna explains how to foster more empathy in your memoir.

Science fiction and fantasy have long dealt with the problem of objectifying women. Oren Ashkenazi discusses why the argument “but men are objectified, too” doesn’t hold up.

Nathan Bransford wants to know: is the pandemic upending the plot of your novel?

It’s exciting to get a new story idea. Becca Puglisi shares 9 ways to originalize your story idea. Once you’ve got the idea in place, Laurence MacNaughton show how to plot your novel in three simple steps, and Janice Hardy advises how to get past hard-to-write scenes.

Taking care of the nitty-gritty craft elements can make your work stand out. Iola Goulton has 5 tips for ensuring your novel has sustainable conflict, Katherine Grubb relays 8 ways to make your writing funnier, Stavros Halvatzis talks story theme, Sacha Black encourages using the sense of touch in your story, Jan O’Hara discusses turning points, Jim Dempsey tackles symbolism, and James Scott Bell says don’t forget the decency factor.

After we’ve taken care of all of that, we need to edit to polish it all up. Mathina Calliope explores the easy-to-fix tense problem that might be tripping your readers up, Melissa Donaovan demystifies the comma, and Karstenberg has tips on how to keep it short.

At the best of times productivity can be hard to come by, and many of us are feeling even less productive during this pandemic. Susan DeFrietas discusses putting your writing in a place of importance in your life, Hank Phillippi Ryan has tips to get your writer brain back on track, Hunter Ligoure suggests ways to find coherence or mental clarity, Angela Ackerman explains goal-setting for writers during a pandemic, and Kathleen McCleary explores how to fuel your writing with feeling.

Dan Blank ruminates on anxiety, writing, and sharing, Garry Rodgers compares successful writers to experienced detectives, Robert Lee Brewer has 5 fun creative writing prompts for kids and parents, and K.M. Weiland shares 4 ways writing can improve your relationship with yourself.


In direct competition with Amazon, Bookshop online platform for independent bookstores is seeing success.

Ruth Comerford and Katherine Cowdrey discuss the Society of Authors survey finding authors are especially vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic impact, while Jason Boog explores how writers survived the Great Depression.

For self-publishers, Roz Morris describes how to un-self-publish a book to remove it from self-published channels if you want to do something else with it.

Even though audiobooks is a hot area, Melissa Bowersock reports that there is trouble in Audible.

If you are signing with an agent, Janet Reid has what to look for and look out in an author-agent contract.

Marketing is difficult at most times, and this period of time is especially confusing. Rachelle Gardner discusses how to handle social media during a pandemic, Rachel Thompson talks about how to promote your books right now, and Frances Caballo has a book marketing update.

Marketing does still happen, however. Karen Inglis shares 7 ways to market kids books, Brian Jud lists 9 tips to create good book marketing habits, and Jennifer Tucker gives us 4 key book promotion strategies for marketing young adult titles.

We have to “sell” our books to many people—agents, publishers, bookstores, and eventually readers. Each of these needs a different sales pitch. Florence Osmund explores the art of condensing an entire book into a brief sales pitch, while Barbara Linn Probst delves into what pushes readers to give a debut author a chance.

All authors should have an author website. Fauzia Burke discusses getting the most from your author website, and Pauline Wiles outlines author website must-haves.

Aside from author websites, there are other online tools to drive your marketing. Cristian Mihai has a blogging checklist of dos and don’ts and how to write an epic blog post, Tracy Atkins describes how Amazon is a data gathering and filtering tool, and Ann Smarty describes how to use YouTube to grow your blog traffic.


Words are our business, but also our pleasure. Sue Coletta dives into word porn and how word meaning changes over time, while Megan Garber makes the case against the grammar scolds.

Alex Trebek’s memoir is set for release in July.

Translator Richard Pevear explores the stories of Anton Checkov.

Sometimes adult writers dip into the children’s literature pool. Rebecca Rego Barry looks at when “serious” writers write books for kids.

Quarantine and plague are nothing new. Lapham’s Quarterly prints a letter from quarantine by John Keats, and Laura Marris discusses Albert Camus’s inoculation against hate: The Plague.

Finally, for those of you missing libraries and living on Zoom, make one of these 8 great libraries your Zoom background.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay healthy, stay safe, and we’ll see you next week!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | April 16, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For writers & Readers 04-16-2020


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, cloudy dawn, misty spring morning

Turkey buzzard flying by on a misty spring morning.


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Can you believe April is half over? While individual days may drag during this stay-at-home time, the month is speeding by.

Today is National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day—something many of us have been doing for the last four weeks. If you’ve been writing poetry this month to participate in National Poetry Month, you might want to try haiku tomorrow, April 17th, which is National Haiku Poetry Day.

Although it might be celebrated differently this year, April 19th through 25th is National Library Week. As part of this event, Tuesday, April 21st, is National Library Workers Day, and Wednesday, April 22nd, is National Bookmobile Day. At this time, our libraries, as well as our booksellers, need our support more than ever.

I can’t forget to mention that April 22nd is also the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Take some time to appreciate the beauty of the springtime, and remember that protecting our environment protects our health.

Language is a writer’s tool, but how much time do we spend thinking about the intricacies of its use? Vivian Giang explores how language shapes our perception of reality.

Goodreads has been touted as an author’s friend, but Angela Lashbrook thinks almost everything about Goodreads is broken.

In memoriam: Canadian children’s author Jean Little dies at age 88 [reported by Shannon Maughan at].


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, daffodil




Sharing inspirational words from a well-known writer, Robert Lee Brewer gives us 10 Nicholas Sparks quotes for writers and about writing. With a different perspective, John Maher shares writing tips from the editors of Poets & Writers magazine.

Melinda Copp talks about how to live your best writing life and warns about four obstacles that will keep you from becoming a great writer, while Susann Cokal recommends daring yourself to do more than you think you can instead of setting goals.

Nina Amir suggests using meditation, prayer and intention to unleash your creativity, and Kevin Larimer and Mary Gannon discuss how having a writing community stimulates creativity. On the topic of a writing community, Susan DeFreitas considers community as essential to developing your writing practice.

For writers who are finding writing hard at this time, Robin LaFevers helps us find focus in a fractured world, Janice Hardy clarifies identifying loss of momentum vs writer’s block, and Nathan Bransford believes while it’s okay to not be productive now, for some people productivity is self-care.

For those who’ve been writing a long time, Nancy J. Cohen discusses obsolete files.

Are you writing a novel? Rachael Cooper gives us 5 methods for writing a novel, and Stavros Halvatzis takes a look at the first line of your novel.

If you’re writing in a specific genre, Liz Milliron gives us five tips to writing historical fiction, and K. O. Bailey adds tips for writing thrillers.

James Scott Bell brings us storytelling lessons in 60 seconds or less, and Jami Gold delves into how asking why can improve the story.

You might be planning to write a stand-alone novel, but Laina Turner goes into why you should write a book series.

Kathryn Craft looks at delivering the ring of truth, and Nathan Bransford says you probably don’t need that dramatic pause in dialogue.

When you’ve finished that first draft, Katharine Grubb lays out 7 reasons why you should read your manuscript out loud, Harry Guinness explains how to edit your own writing, and Jancie Hardy recommends the spit shine: things to check before you submit (or publish) your novel.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, yellow orchid




Are you working on your author platform? Eldred “Bob” Bird advocates growing a more fertile author platform.

For writers following the traditional publishing path, Rachel Deahl shares agents’ thoughts on whether to submit projects during the pandemic, Jeanne Kisacky discusses writing a killer proposal, and Janet Reid answers the question: how do you know when it’s time to give up querying a specific book and move on?

The pandemic is having an effect on all businesses, including publishing and bookselling. John Peragine discusses the world shift in publishing, Diana Urban looks at how publishers are approaching book marketing during COVID-19, and Alex Green reveals the toll the coronavirus has taken on independent bookstores.

Jennifer Mattern looks into how a freelance writing business can survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Troy Lambert has suggestions for overcoming the 7 marketing struggles every author faces. Also, for authors unable to attend events to market their books during this pandemic, Judith Briles lists apps that enable connecting globally.

Anne R. Allen’s advice: don’t become a social media ghost: appoint a social media executor.

For those who are blogging, Cristian Mihai explains the art of writing a sensational first line and how to blog every day without burning out.

Exploring visual media? Victor Blasco sets out how to make an awesome book trailer (and why), and John Gilstrap gives the scoop on movie deals.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, rainbow



Jessica Leigh Hester invites you to escape into these fantastical, imaginary maps.

Jennifer Nalewicki reports that Alan Nakagawa is asking people to record COVID-19 haikus for his project.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, wildflowers, violets and dandelions


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Stop back to visit us next week for another collection of writerly links.

Stay at home and stay well!


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, sunset and clouds



Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 9, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-09-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! April 10th is Encourage a Young Writer Day—and this is a good time to encourage journaling or other ways to express themselves in writing as they deal with these strange and stressful times.

This week, journalist and author Patricia Bosworth dies at 86 from complications of coronavirus.

Jacqueline Winspear examines women in war: on great correspondents past and present.

Artists have always had to fight against censorship and copyright infringement. Wallis Wilde-Menozzi discusses the time Guiseppe Verdi and other Italian radicals battled censorship, while Victoria Strauss explains the copyright issues with Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library and the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers speak up about the same.

Still, books and libraries are an important source of support and comfort in our strange world right now. Deborah and James Fallows explores public libraries’ novel response to a novel virus, Amanda Craig lists the best new children’s books for now, and Alex Green looks at new works by writers with disabilities as they hit publisher lists.

When we lose an indigenous language, we lose an entire cultural heritage. Lorraine Boissoneault follows the fight to keep indigenous languages alive through speaking, software, and daycare.

It’s April, which means taxes, so Jenny Hansen has a tax-time chat for authors.


BookCon launches a virtual Read-A-Thon to boost authors and provide entertainment to those of us stuck indoors.

Many creatives are having a rough time actually being creative right now. Anne R. Allen discusses writing through our collective grief, Lisa Cooper Ellison has tips on writing from the bottom rung, and Dave Chesson tells us how to be a productive, healthy writer during mentally draining times.

Many of us are sequestered at home, some with our children, some with spouses, some alone. Roni Loren has stay-at-home tips and apps for maintaining (some) sanity, while Emily Raboteau looks at homeschooling in a pandemic.

James Scott Bell looks forward and asks: how will our fiction change post-pandemic?


Why should we write and read historical fiction? Eliot Pattison explains how historical fiction allows us to discover new truths in the past.

Williard Spiegelman has some fun with the frabjous delights of seriously silly poetry.

Helena Dixon asks when we learned to read, and explores how what we read influences what we write.

Writers have to juggle many story elements, both large and small, to make a story work. Christina Kaye gives tips to plot and outline your novel, the Moonlight Writer examines what theme is, Dario Ciriello discusses what a chapter is and how long one should be, while Janice Hardy has a trifecta with how to set tone and mood in your scenes, 5 questions to ask for stronger scenes, and the subtle little things holding your novel back.

Characters bring there own set of craft elements to consider. Stavros Halvatzis delves into wants vs. needs, Jenn Walton shows how to deepen your characters by assessing their fears, Donald Maass looks at the upside of anxiety, and Jami Gold gets textual with whether or not character internalization should be italicized.

Editing your book is essential, and there are multiple approaches to getting it done. Estelle Erasmus has 11 tips for self-editing, while Melinda Copp gives us a complete guide to writing your book with a developmental editor.

We are always searching for ways to be more productive. Rhonda Kaysen and Michelle Higgins discuss how to organize your home office for best results, Katherine Grubb describes how Marie Condo can make you a more productive writer, Cathy Yardley examines how to a hit a balance between productivity and chaos, and Laina Turner advises how to hold yourself accountable as an author.

We’re all a tad distracted by world events right now. Susan DeFrietas uses metaphorical stepladders to help her, Matthew Stibbe has 22 ways to help you focus on writing, William Fazer talks getting rid of distractions while writing, Christine Hennebury lists 5 ways to ease distraction so you can write, and Becca Puglisi gives us practical tips for writing in the time of coronavirus.

We can always improve our skills. Daniel Parsons explores 5 literature degree lessons in 5 paragraphs, and Melinda Copp offers the Type-A guide to becoming a better writer.

Andrea Oh lists free or cheap resources for emerging writers, Rachelle Gardner has 11 things happy writers don’t do; and Sacha Black explains how to survive your first year as a full-time author.


The coronavirus is having a huge impact on publishing, as in all other aspects of life. Nathan Bransford has an interview with Mike Shatzkin on how corinavirus will change the publishing industry, Beth Meacham explains why publishing is in so much trouble right now, and Jim Milliot examines how coronavirus concerns are prompting cost cuts.

On the bookstore side, John Warner urges us to buy a book from our local indie bookstore, because we are going to need them when the lockdown is over, while Alison Flood reports that book sales surge as self-isolating readers stock up on “bucket list” novels.

Agent Janet Reid weighs the pros and cons of writing a memoir vs. novelizing the same subject, the Passive Voice advises people to read their contracts for Force Majeure clauses, and Karen DeBonis shares a creative way to handle rejections.

A lot of book marketing mainstays have fallen by the wayside in this time. Sandra Beckwith gathers suggestions for book marketing in a time of quarantine, while Amy Collins looks at book promotion in a time of pandemic.

Some parts of marketing never change. Beth Barany shares 4 elements to craft your author bio, David Gaughran has 13 ways to increase your email open rate, Mark Xavier Quadros explains the email marketing metrics every campaign should be based on, and Penny C. Sansevieri shares the ultimate guide to SEO for authors to increase your online presence.

Right now online contact is not only the most efficient, but the safest way to stay in contact with your readers. Lyn Wildwood compares the 6 best WordPress theme builders, Cristian Mihai explains how to make blog readers fall in love with your words and whether to niche or not niche your blog, while Frances Caballo dives deep into social media safety tips.


Kelly Blewett is rethinking Amy March in light of Lousia May Alcott’s sister May Alcott Nieriker.

An exhibition celebrates Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s long road to becoming a writer.

As writers, we like to play with words. LitHub examines foxed, fuddled, swallowed a hare, and other words for “drunk” from A Pocket Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Emily Temple examines what your go-to quarantine read says about you.

For a  bit of humor, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner envisions what Shakespeare actually did during the plague.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Enjoy Easter if you celebrate, stay safe, stay healthy!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 2, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-02-2020

Welcome to Top Picks Thursday! It is finally April! I hope you are all settling into the new normal of your lives and are safe.

To help pass time and keep us learning, Mary Kole has a workshop intensive called Story Mastermind, and Jane Friedman has a new Newsfeed for book publishing.

You can also help librarians and archivists from your living room!

In author news, writer and editor Richard Marek died at age 86, and award-winning author-illustrator Tomie dePaola died at 85.


Lots of people are taking time to write. David Barnett explores the phenomenon of new novelists in self-isolation, and Grant Faulkner talks about #StayHomeWriMo, brought to you by NaNoWriMo.

Carly Sandifer explains why you should write in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Margie Zable Fisher tells how to keep writing and making money during the coronavirus crisis.

Boone Ashworth examines how COVID-19’s impact on libraries goes beyond books, and Michael Agresta reminds us that the seminal novel about the 1918 flu pandemic was written by a Texan.

This is National Poetry Month in the USA. Heather Webb finds beauty and comfort in poetry’s words, and Sir Patrick Stewart reads a Shakespearean sonnet a day on Instagram.

The pandemic is teaching us all a lot of lessons. Roni Loren shares befores and afters: 10 things she’s learning during this pandemic, while Bill Ferris uses his usual comedy in the hack’s guide to writing in a pandemic.


In these shifting times, Joyce Carol Oates discusses new forms of storytelling—and old ones, too.

Amy Jones explores finding the story when writing for very small children.

Many people are thinking of freelancing in their time at home, so Michael Stover has a comprehensive guide for the new freelance writer.

If you are specifically writing a profile piece on someone, Joel Foster lists 8 tips for writing a compelling profile piece.

Since most of us are at least trying to write, craft remains important. Jacqueline Meyers has 4 little letters that will transform your writing process, Rosie O’Neill tells us how to craft a compelling scene, Ruth Harris shows how to rescue an endangered book, and Janice Hardy examines the pros and cons of studying the writing craft and how to plot your novel with mini-arcs.

Our characters are the heart and soul of our story. Jami Gold explores how point of view affects dialogue, Nathan Bransford warns to only show characters crying when they are truly at their wit’s end, Janice Hardy shows how to reveal a character’s past without falling into backstory, Stavros Halvatzis explains how character shapes action, and Lisa Hall-Wilson reveals how to write a compelling emotional trigger.

Editing is the final step to crafting our masterpiece. Alycia W. Morales shares 5 ways newbie fiction writers can improve their manuscripts, Barbara Linn Probst compares peer critique vs. professional editing and when to use each, Henry McLaughlin discusses the art of self-editing, Diana Y. Paul contemplates editing and revising with mindfulness, and Bonnie Randall examines finishing your novel and the grieving process.

Malarie Gokey has 7 reasons ebooks are better than printed books, Robert Lee Brewer compiled 8 Andy Weir quotes for writers and about writing, and Cassie Werber examines how non-English speakers learn this crazy grammar rule you know but never heard of.

Katharine Grubb shares 7 ways to be more creative, Tiffany Joy has 6 secrets to becoming a more productive writer, Amitava Kumar examines the long tradition of writers needing ritual, Erica Wright dispels the myth of perfect writing locations, and Colleen M. Story discusses how to avoid completely wasting your time when trapped at home.


COVID-19 is pulling no punches, and turning lots of people’s worlds upside down. Coastal regional bookstore associations offer additional help to struggling stores, Barnes & Noble closes over 400 stores, Jim Milliot depicts how the coronavirus takes its toll on publishing, and the American Library Association cancels its 2020 annual conference.

If you are self-published, Savannah Cordova shares 5 reasons to consider translating your work, and as you design your book Ellen Buikema discusses white space in writing.

Lots of people consider a pen name when they start writing. David Kudler makes an argument against pen names, except in certain situations.

Truth is, right now nobody knows what’s going on in publishing—or in much of the rest of the business world. Janet Reid offers her advice on querying during the next few months, and on how to approach the reality of the pandemic in the fiction of your work.

None of this is business as usual, even though people are trying hard to keep things as normal as possible. So cut yourself a break, and also give grace and patience to everyone else. We’re all trying to figure it out together.

Marketing, too, has been greatly impacted by the state of the world. Frances Caballo suggests changing the way you market in the COVID-19 era, Sandra Beckwith shares 7 things you need to know about working with a publicist, Sarah Bolme discusses how to overcome the top three challenges to selling books, and Sharon Bially explores the sunny(er) side of launch event cancellations.

With online being the safest way to be with your readers now, Rae Steinbach has tips for authors to convert readers by writing effective calls-to-action, while Cristian Mihai discusses the art of blogging for an audience, and has 10 tips to take your blogging to the next level in 2020.


We wordsmiths often like word games. Adrienne Raphel gives us a brief history of word games.

Looking to pass the time? Rolling Stone lists the 50 greatest rock memoirs of all time.

Environment influences your art. Young William Faulkner’s time in the French Quarter influenced his developing writing style.

Adam Kirsch explores T.S. Eliot’s animus: the role of the poet-critic.

There are some people you don’t want to be on lockdown with: W.H. Auden was a messy roommate.

Then there are quarantine situations that blow your mind: Hemingway was once quarantined for the summer with his wife, son…and mistress.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home if you can!


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