Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 20, 2012

Top Picks Thursday 12-20-2012

Our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the Newton, CT shooting. There are not enough words to express our grief and horror at what happened—and our sincerest wish that such tragedies do not continue to happen in the future.

In the face of such loss, it is sometimes hard to return to the mundane business of everyday life, but life does go on. The holiday season is upon us, and perhaps this year will be a little more meaningful to all in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy. If you want to help, Publishing Hearts Connecticut is holding an auction to benefit the Newtown families.

Now, back to our everyday business.

Celebrating diversity in children’s lit, the New York Times put together a list of children’s lit books with Latino main characters, and Novel Novice put together a Best of Middle Grade 2012 list.

Unfortunately, a new study shows that American students are getting worse at reading.

If they had a library like this incredible town library in Maranello, Italy, to hang out in, maybe reading would have more allure.

For those who are reading in e-devices, the Masquerade Crew answers the question “Who’s tracking your reading habits?” with An E-Book Buyer’s Guide to Privacy, 2012 edition.

Remember Edinburgh’s mysterious book sculptor? She’s back, leaving more amazing literary art pieces made out of books all over Scotland.

’Tis the holiday season for a number of religions this month. For those of the Jewish faith, check out these 15 quirky Menorahs (number 10 is a book!) from Mental Floss.

Looking for gifts? How about some history books for hard-to-shop-for dudes. Or here’s Chuck Wendig’s 25 gifts for writers to spur your imagination.

Just in case the world does end this week, you might want to read this introduction to The Green Beret Survival Guide for The Apocalypse, Zombies, and More by Bob Mayer.

And if the world’s still here come Januray 1st, here’s Keith Cronin’s 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers to inspire yours.

CRAFT

We talk often about cultural diversity (or its lack) in literature. Annie Schutte talks about the prevalence of whitewashing YA book covers, while Foz Meadows points out that our “default” narrative setting of “white males rule all” is NOT an apolitical stance.

A successful book is one that keeps the readers turning the pages, right? How do you do that? Lee Child gives us a simple way to create suspense; Roz Morris tells us how to add jeopardy before the main conflict starts; Laura Carlson shows how to pick up the pace by cutting filler; and K.M. Weiland explains why stupid characters do not create suspense—stupid characters just make for stupid stories.

Tim Kane has an interesting take on why so many YA books are written in present tense; Ann Friedman tells us how to find out if you’re being offered a fair rate of pay for your work; and Khalil A. Cassimally gives tips for harnessing social networks for information when you write a story.

Sarah Pinneo explains why she uses Scrivner. Can it help you get organized, too? But don’t despair if your process or manuscript looks a mess: even Proust was a messy writer, and it turned out okay for him.

Most of us writers are juggling more than just writing. We get into a groove where everything’s clicking and then bang—something changes. And then the writing time goes haywire. Kaitlin Ward gives tips on how to adjust when your schedule changes.

Do your wrists hurt after you’ve been typing awhile? Jami Gold has wrist exercises for writers that might help.

Ever wondered how well picture books translate from language to language? Tracy Philips gives us an inside look at how a picture book gets translated into other languages.

Henrik Edberg sharesZig Ziglar’s timeless guide to motivation; Anne Emerick tells us to sound appealing in order to achieve writing dreams; and Sarah LaPolla muses on what John Lennon teaches us about writing—tips from the man who urged us all to “imagine”.

Sometimes the things that stop us from writing or achieving are internal. Janna Malamud Smith lists 3 quiet fears that stop writers from writing, while Jim Butcher shares the most important thing an aspiring author needs to know.

BUSINESS

In a move to clear the way for the Random House-Penguin merger, Penguin settles the agency pricing case with the Department of Justice.

As for traditional publishers, Susan Zakin says reports of publishing’s death are exaggerated; Steve Rosenbaum suggests a way to de-risk book publishing; South Carolina book publishers go hyper-local and flourish; and a new e-only press, Riverdale Avenue Books, launches.

Agent Rachelle Gardner’s been answering lots of questions from writers this week, from “should you re-query an agency that has rejected your ms.?” to questions on copyright, editing, and self-publishing.

Gotta get word of your book out there! Ash Krafton shares promotional techniques for authors that have worked for her, and Pete Kistler gives tips on how to write your bio.

THE UNIQUE SHELF

Kit Steinkellner pokes some fun imagining the secret fanfic origins of popular YA books.

For poetry buffs: Richard Armitage reads the T.S. Eliot poem “Empty Silences”, and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” as a Christmas poem.

Take a peek at a first edition of The Joy of Cooking. Speaking of pleasant aromas, here’s why old books smell good.

Peer into history: the Scottish Book Trust just uploaded 3,500 historic aerial photos of Scotland, Germany & the Netherlands from 1940/50s.

Letters are awesome (something that has been lost in the age of emails). Some rare Charlotte Bronte letters have been unearthed and bought by the Bronte Society. And, Salvator Cillis’ illustrated letters are displayed in A Soldier’s Story of World War I in Words and Pictures.

Wind in the Willows fans: look at The Wind in the Willows with a beautiful Moroccan leather binding, as well as an illustrated Wind in the Willows book.

The King’s College of London is exhibiting a special collection surrounding Dickens, Scrooge, and the Victorian poor, while the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto is digitizing some of its manuscripts to increase accessibility.

That’s it for us! Have a safe and happy holiday, everyone!

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