Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 26, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 7-26-2012

Margaret Mahy, 76, author of Changeover, A Lion In The Meadow, A Summery Saturday Morning, and more died in New Zealand this week.

In the wake of the Colorado shootings, Nathan Bransford asks us all to think about, and start a discussion about, the violence in our books, movies, and other entertainment media. While not advocating censorship in any way, he believes a responsible dialogue about violence should occur and instead is usually shrugged off.

Getting kids to read is a primary goal for parents, teachers, librarians, and authors. Authors Barry Hutchison and Tommy Donbavand have founded the Start the Story digital magazine to help teachers inspire kids to read.

And what’s more kid friendly than a scavenger hunt? In a fusion if smart marketing and summer fun, the YA Summer Scavenger Hunt authors have been announced.

Like YA fiction? Go to NPR’s site and cast your vote for your favorite YA book (winners announced in August). A full list of the finalists can be found here, if you want to print them out and add them to your reading list! 

The latest book stats show great gains in children’s fiction in 2011. Good news!

In a video interview, George R.R. Martin talks about how he came to write the ‘Game of Thrones’ books.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gives frank writing advice to a young friend: You’ve got to sell your heart.


Research adds so much to our writing. For you steampunk writers and Victorian historical writers, check out the British Library’s online Victorian newspapers—some free, some paid.

If you want to Fast Draft, Denise Jaden suggests a process for outlining for a fast draft.

Jane Lebak states that an opening needs to be engaging—which is not the same as action-packed. On the other end of the manuscript, Jeff Gerke shares 4 ways to improve your plot/climax.

Jordan Dane gives tips on world building from scratch, while Dr. Antonio del Drago list 5 essential tips for writing fantasy.

K.M. Weiland reminds us that every scene must have a purpose; Lori Devoti says purpose is also important when using flashbacks in fiction; Sarah LaPolla asks: Is this meaningful dialogue?; and Tim Kane advises on both interior monologue and the sprinkling-breadcrumbs approach to handling description.

Words are everything—use them wisely. Helen Sword warns against zombie nouns (nominalizations); C.S. Lakin says to beware the weasel words; Mignon Fogarty demystifies “and/or”in a sentence and verb agreement; and Allie at Hyperbole and a Half hilariously introduces us to the Alot.

Character voice also begins with word choice, as Darcy Pattison reminds us. Tim Kane explores voice more deeply by urging us to see the world through our characters’ eyes. If you’re writing in multiple voices, Nicole Steinhaus warns of mistakes to avoid when using multiple POVs.

What makes a character unforgettable? Jody Hedlund lists 3 key ways to create characters that grip readers’ hearts; Word for Teens shares thoughts on defining characters through slut-shaming in YA; Chuck Wendig has 25 things you should know about antagonists; Gabriela Pereira shares her lessons learned on character from Thrillerfest; and a master lesson in creating character from John Le Carre.

Writing is rewriting. Moody Writing talks about the accordion effect that often happens in first drafts, and how to fix it; Carol Bodensteiner realizes that her flat story really means she needs to cause more trouble for her characters; and Veronica Roth shows how to painlessly trim fat verbiage from your manuscript.

As always, the advice flows from fellow scribes. Laura Zera shares 10 things she learned at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2012 writers’ conference; Joanna Penn and Garry Rodgers discuss writing about death and crime scenes, and what authors often do wrong; and Robert Smedley reminds us that no story is original—and that’s okay.

Hunter S. Thompson has 10 quotes about writing; Wise, Ink shares 5 tips to great writing; and Sean M. Chandler with some honest Writerly Advice: the good, the bad, and the cliché.

Ellen Jackson tackles dealing with rejection, while Kimberly Turner explains 5 ways your brain sabotages your writing…and what to do about it.

Creativity can become a habit. Jeff Goins shares how to form a daily writing habit, while J.C. Andrijeski lists 10 sure-fire ways to kill your fiction writing.

Some people advocate the less is more approach to creativity. Daphne Gray-Grant explores why you should LIMIT your writing time, and Joe Bunting says that taking a break from creating can increase your creativity in the long run.  


By now most of you know that Pearson, Penguin’s parent company, bought Author Solutions, a self-publishing giant of often dubious reputation. Jane Friedman looks at what the Pearson-ASI merger means for publishing as a whole, while David Gaughran takes the indie viewpoint on the Author Solutions acquisition.

The DOJ collusion suit goes on, with the judge deciding to ignore most of the comments sent in opposing the settlement terms reached with 3 of the defendants. Greg Sandoval of CNET covers the booksellers’ concerns with the DOJ settlement, and The Hill has the Justice Department’s reaction to Apple.

B&H Publishing launches a new children’s imprint, B&H Kids.

Apparently there is a new genre out there: New Pulp. After finding himself listed as a New Pulp-er, Chuck Wendig tries to figure out what the heck New Pulp really is.

Kristen Lamb advises what self-published authors need to to better to thrive.

Most self-pubs have ebooks rather than print these days. Dena Little considers if ereaders have killed the book cover (and touches upon the problem of digital discoverability and browseability); Alexis Grant shares 8 tools to create an irresistible ebook; and Jason Black admits that even editors need a book designer.

In an interesting attempt to compete with ebooks: a bookshop publishes (and sells out of) a book written in disappearing ink.

Did you know that Writer’s Digest interviews literary agents about what they do and what they look for? In that spirit, here’s new agent Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary—seeking sci-fi, fantasy, young adult, mid grade & nonfiction.

Queries are still a necessary part of publishing. Krissy Brady explains the one thing that will make your query stand out, while Jennifer Laughran answers the question: Can we query you again if you said no the first time?

Striking out on your own in business can be scary (and face it, all authors are our own small business, no matter how we are published). Dan Johnson has found that most entrepreneurs in the creative arts share the same fears, and tells us how to overcome three big fears of creative entrepreneurs. Rusty Shelton shares 5 ways to make Google your “assistant publicist,” and Chris Robley spills the beans with the secret of publishing success in 4341 easy steps.

Roni Loren warns other bloggers: You CAN get sued for using copyrighted pictures on your blog, even if you did it unintentionally. For those bloggers who struggle to get ideas for posts, Katherine Ramsland shares where to get ideas for blog posts. Brad Shorr highlights 12 horrible pieces of blogging advice he hears regularly, and Tonya Kappes advises on the rules of etiquette on blogs and Facebook Pages.

Cassandra Carr lists 13 reasons to use Twitter, and while you’re on there, check out these hashtags for writing teachers and writers.


For some really cool writing, check out The Junket online magazine.

The sweet smell of books is now available as perfume. Perfect for a date at library.

The Underground New York Public Library is a visual library featuring the Reading-Riders of the NYC subways.

The Talbot Shrewsbury Book has been uploaded to the Digitized Manuscripts website. The manuscript was a gift from John Talbot, the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1453) to Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) in honor of her betrothal to Henry VI (1422-1461). It is a unique and stunningly beautiful collection.

Want to see some Medieval doodling? Funny faces from the past, and a scribe who really goes nuts trying out his pen (11th c and older).

That’s it for this week! Can you believe next week is August already?


  1. Awesome compilation of links! Thanks for the link to the Wise Ink blog post.


    • You’re welcome! We love finding new voices to add to our round-up.


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