Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 6, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 09-06-2012

Author Tiffany Schmidt is raising funds for cancer charities. In Tiffany’s own words: The novel’s main character is a teenage girl who is diagnosed with cancer and the book is dedicated to one of my former students who battled cancer. Unfortunately, Morgan passed away in January. In her memory, I’ll be donating a $1 to cancer charities for everyone who sends me proof they’ve pre-ordered SEND ME A SIGN in September. Details can be found here.

In the same vein, Judy Blume went public with her battle with breast cancer.

If you’re unpublished, check out the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Unpublished Manuscript Program, highly touted by Janet Reid. Submissions will be accepted between September 15th through November 15th, 2012 only.

If you’re like us, you’re always looking for good recommendations for reading. New York’s indie booksellers recommend their favorites for the coming fall season; and The Best Children’s helps locate books that teach character lessons (such as having patience) without preaching.

It’s not a secret: We love libraries! Sadly, It’s that time again. Budgets are being slashed. Legislators contacted. If you have a moment, please contact Teen Librarian Toolbox’s advocacy page to help.

And if you want to make a tangible difference, help build a library from scratch: Check out this online drive to collect MG & YA books to create a school library for a middle/high school in California.


Melissa Donovan asks: What’s the difference between good writing and great writing? Meanwhile, Martina Boone reminds us that it’s not just the writing—it’s the story that hooks people.

Jeannie Campbell explains the art of subtlety in fiction, while Roni Loren explores two different kinds of theme: the novel’s theme and the author’s universal theme.

Our stories are made up of scenes. Lee Gutkind describes using scene to create compelling non-fiction, and Martha Alderson runs down the 7 essential elements of scene.

Scenes are made of sentences, so here’s Taylor Houston with a refresher on sentence types. Words make up sentences, and The Oatmeal brings you 10 words you need to stop misspelling.

Characters inhabit all the worlds we create. Jane Lebak has an interesting take on how reading self-help books can give you the knowledge to create characters beyond your own personal experience. And all your characters need awesome names, right? Brian A. Klems lists 7 rules of picking names for fictional characters.

We’ve all heard about character arcs, but C.S. Lakin prefers to think in terms of character journeys. Wherever the journey takes them, Susan Dennard reminds us that we must keep characters true to themselves in order to make them compelling.

Heroes and villains—gotta have ’em. Kristina Deffenbacher throws down the gauntlet with a comparison of 19th century novel heroines vs. today’s heroines—and you might be surprised by her conclusions. As to villains, Ash Krafton has the skinny on how to craft villains that will thrill your readers.

Face it, in real life we spend a lot of time sitting and chatting. Mary Kole warns us that characters in our novels sitting around and talking is usually a red flag. To fix that, Marcy Kennedy gives us 5 basics about dialogue we need to know.

We’ve all been there: Marie Lamba can’t seem to start her novel and Melinda R. Cordell explains why she hasn’t written lately. Psychologist and author Sarah Fine tackles those problems and more as she wraps up her series on writer’s block.

Many writers angst over what makes them “professional”—is it a sale? A certain dollar amount? Kristen Lamb argues that maturity makes the difference between an amateur and professional. Mette Harrison agrees, in that many new writers are not willing to revise and do the hard work. Maturity will also help when writing through a rough patch in life, as Tracy Hahn-Burkett did. And when we stress? Be mature enough to make your stress work for you, as explained my Rachelle Gardner. It takes a certain amount of maturity to maintain a career working from home, as Krissy Brady relates with forms of distractions and how to prevent them.

Writers read, and Francine Prose tells us how to read like a writer. Meanwhile, Bryan Thomas Schmidt gets real with the top 10 practical, everyday money saving tips for (starving) writers.

We’d all love to have the keys to the creativity kingdom, but the closest we have on how to keep the juices flowing is advice from authors who have been through it already.

Anais Nin explains why emotional excess is essential to writing and creativity; Roz Morris lists 7 tips to keep you motivated; Daphne Gray-Grant tells us how to stop yourself from being bored while writing; Sarah Baughman shares 5 tips to get back on track if you have a writing lapse; and
Book Riot takes us inside Lee Woodruff’s Lake George cottage to see where the magic happens.


Porter Anderson’s weekly roundup of recent publishing news, including the ongoing pay-for-good-review scandal; Rachelle Gardner takes on some prevalent ideas in publishing that need rethinking; and Harold Underdown has updates of editorial staff changes at children’s book publishers, and news of publishers.

Dianna Dilworth tells us that THE WRITER literary magazine has been acquired and will continue to operate; and Susan Carpenter explores the ongoing the boom in children’s literature prompted by Potter & Co.

Seems like everywhere you turn, people are trying to scam you these days. Peter Icasas highlights 7 freelance writer scams to avoid, while Emily Suess uncovers fake people trying to sell you Author Solutions products.

Query letters: we all do them, most of us stress over them. Tamela Hancock Murray gives the key points for cover letters; QueryShark says not to obsess over a perfect title, but please, please don’t let it be as actively BAD as this one; and Marie Lamba posts the now-cliched plots and twists she’s seeing in her inbox—and how you can avoid them.

And who knew?! Literary agents are HUMAN BEINGS!

In your marketing, being both professional and personable is key. Mary Kole talks email accounts, while Rachelle Gardner lists 6 tips for successful networking.

Many authors are asked to speak at schools or other events. Cynthia Leitich Smith shares notes and strategies for author-speakers, while Christine Brower-Cohen polls teachers and school librarians about what really makes an author’s school visit successful.

Chuck Wendig has been thinking a lot about marketing lately. First, he wonders what makes a good book trailer (and tries his hand at it) and then he ponders what makes for effective book promotion in general (and weighs in on the book review scandal at the same time).

Marketing via email newsletter is one path that can be effective when done right, but Roni Loren explains 3 reasons why coercing readers into newsletter subscriptions is a bad idea. And with blogs on more authors’ plates lately, Annabel Candy gives us 15 tips on getting more blog comments.

In a stunning development, there were no Unique Shelf posts this week!

That’s it for us!

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