Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 21, 2013

Top Picks Thursday 03-21-2013

Welcome to our roundup for the week.

Through Ventana Sierra, author Ellen Hopkins is trying to help kids who turn 18 and are then abandoned by the foster care system get ahead in life.

Speaking of doing good, meet Room to Read—the most influential children’s publisher you’ve never heard of. And if you want to help get books into the hands of students, check out Donors Choose, where teachers ask for crowdfunding to finance projects their students need.

Love comics? On May 4th, 4.6 million free comics will be handed out.

The American Library Association announced that it will posthumously award their James Madison Award to Aaron Swartz for his tireless efforts at promoting and protecting the public’s access to research and government information.

Jennifer Howard explores the evolution of dictionaries in the digital era; Chris Gerwel examines the Western hero’s value to speculative fiction; and Rae Carson lists YA titles that will appeal to adults crossing-over to the genre for the first time.

Sally Roesch Wagner takes on blockbuster The Great and Powerful Oz, criticizing the movie for twisting Baum’s original egalitarian, matriarchal society into one in which only a man can rule. On a related topic, Chelsea Condron discusses the disservice we do to our young men when we divide YA by gender and assume boys cannot relate to any character not the white male ideal.

Sometimes success in writing is all about managing the details in your work life. Alan Henry tells us how to find a coffee shop that’ll let you sit and work for a while; Jill Duffy gives some tips for organizing your ebook library; and Grant Snyder takes a comic look at performance-enhancing drugs for writers.


Your novel needs many things to be successful, but one of the fundamental things your novel needs is structure. James Scott Bell introduces the two pillars of novel structure.

Once you’ve got the basic structure in mind, Kathy Leonard Czepiel has 5 tips for writing your first draft, and Roni Loren walks us through 5 steps from finished draft to polished manuscript.

We all know those first pages have to do the job of grabbing the reader, be it the public or an agent or editor. Agent Marie Lamba points out common 1st page problems she’s been seeing lately, and Tim Kane reminds us that in the era of ebooks and samples, we have to make our first 30 pages sing like a siren.

Stina Lindenblatt shows how to use symbolism to deepen the emotional impact of your story. Symbolism is often created using repetition, but Tracy Marchini highlights 4 ways repetition can kill your story.

Good writing is all about the details. Barbara O’Connor talks about the importance of good beats in dialogue, while K. M. Weiland lists the top 10 sentence slip-ups writers make. Jennifer Laughran responds to the question: Do you have to simplify your language when writing YA?

Our characters carry our story. Janice Hardy tells us how to get the most out of our main character, and Lisa Cron shows us why knowing the character’s backstory is crucial to writing a gripping character. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Overstreet examines the “hero” main character, the one that always must triumph, and reminds us that some of the best stories are ones with a different kind of hero (which he calls “saints”)—one who might lose the external battle but win the internal war.

Editing! Some people love it; some people hate it. But for your work to shine, it must be done. Kristin Lamb gives us 5 tips for tighter, cleaner writing; Victoria Grefer shares the questions she asks before cutting something; and Gail Gaymer Martin tells us how to avoid over-editing the life out of our work.

We writers are an imaginative bunch. Sometimes we imagine things that get in the way of our own success, such as waiting for things to get easier before we write. And sometimes we imagine that someone else’s success somehow diminishes our own chances of success. And sometimes we let our inner whiner try to convince us the our work is “good enough” when we know it’s not.

So how do you keep going as all your illusions are shattered? Jane Lebak gives us 5 ways to keep up your motivation, and Chuck Sambuchino shares his best advice: Keep moving forward.

A.S. King tells writers to write what they love and forget about what others tell them they should or shouldn’t write. Three Guys One Book goes even farther, with 50 things a writer shouldn’t do.

So many things impact our creativity at any given moment. Justine Musk explains how to be fearlessly creative, while Jennifer Chase advocates writing in the moment.

Evan James Roskos examines the connection between depression, writing, and creativity, while Nathan Bransford seeks calmness in an age of distraction.

The ultimate question remains: Can writers really make a living these days? Chuck Wendig talks about the Kickstarter model, and agent Rachelle Gardner begins a two part series on how to make a living as a writer—the first part of the equation is volume.


Amazon has created another firestorm by trying to corner the market on generic book trade domain names such as .book and .author. And Gabe Habash breaks down the data on how many copies it takes to become an Amazon bestseller.

John Scalzi discusses the power that new writers have to negotiate with publishers and his take on the recent changes to Random House’s e-only imprint contracts after Internet backlash over their terms.

We know why we go to writing conferences, but what about agents? Agent Linda P. Epstein explains what’s in a writing conference for an agent.

Dahlia Adler gives us some important questions we may not think to ask agents during The Call, but which need to be considered.

If you are seeking an agent, check out Jen Karbaek of Forward Literary, seeking literary, women’s, commercial and historical, and Kaylee Davis of Dee Mura Literary, seeking fantasty, sci-fi, spec fiction, YA, steampunk and more.

Once you’re into the marketing stage of your book, it’s a whole new world. Mike Mullin shares 7 things he learned about marketing his own books, and Karen McQuestion tells us how to connect with our readers.

Skype can be a great way to connect with older kids’ classes, but how about primary school grades? Lora Sarchet talks about author Kate Messner’s recent Skype visit with her first grade class.

Robert Lee Brewer has 4 social media tips for writers that can be used by any freelancer or business.


In a belated nod to St. Patrick’s Day, here are 20 Irish writers on being Irish.

As writers, we love words. You can make a lasting contribution to language by making up your own English words. Meanwhile, Carmel Lobello examines 18 obsolete words that never should have gone out of style; Ben Franklin lists 200+ synonyms for drunk; historian Greg Jenner collects his tweets on the surprising history of naughty words; and Loretta Chase rediscovers the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Like most writers, the Bronte family authors started writing as children. Take a look at Charlotte Bronte’s miniature literary romance.

Need research sources? If you’re writing a gunfight, try this link on wounds and this link on the effects of small arms on the human body. If you’re looking for more historical information, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has over 175 biographies to download as free podcasts.

Take a look at the beautiful books found at Montacute House.

If you’re worried that tablets are going to replace paper, France has a unique take on that.

That’s it for us this week! Happy Spring everyone!

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