Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 8, 2015

Top Picks Thursday 10-08-2015

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday link-fest! Today is also National Poetry Day, so here’s to all the poets out there.

This week is Nobel Prize Week. Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus wins the Nobel Prize for Literature!

Last week saw the 2015 Tween Reads Festival in Houston, TX. Check out the fun photos.

The writing world lost several luminaries this week. Irish playwright Brian Friel died at age 86, Swedish novelist and creator of Inspector Kurt Wallander Jonathan Kandell passed away, and agent Carmen Balcells died, leaving the fate of her literary agency uncertain.

Ebook sales are down. No, they’re up. No, wait…There’s a lot of conflicting reporting about ebook sales lately. Martha Conway tries to demystify the ebook sales confusion.

Now that October is here, many writers are prepping for November’s write-a-thon, NaNoWriMo. Janice Hardy helps plan your novel so you’re ready to go November 1st, and K.M. Weiland shares 7 ways to use NaNoWriMo to make you a better writer all year long.

Marisa Bluestone shares 10 banned or challenged Young Adult books, while SF Said explains how children’s books can help build a better world.

Arianna Rebolini gathers 14 powerful quotes from Malala that will make you hopeful for the future.

From the funny-because-it’s-true files, Patrick Samphire gives us Writing and Parenthood: Scenes from an Exhausted Land, and Libba Bray parodies the whirlwind roller coaster that is the life of an author.


Deciding what to write about can be the hardest part of writing. Do you stay in your wheelhouse, or venture abroad? Rachel Horwitz discusses how to respectfully write what you don’t know.

Writing what you don’t know involves research. Even writing what you do know can involve research. Archer Mayor explores how much to research—or whether to research at all.

Then you’ve got to start the writing. But where in the story to begin? K.M. Weiland gives us 2 ways to tell you’re beginning your story too soon.

The plot of your story needs to carry tension—but Cathy Yardley points out the difference between making a plot complex versus over-complicated. Time shifts can be powerful storytelling tools, and Lisa Lenard-Cook explores when and how to use time shifts in your story for greatest impact.

Sometimes character can be hard to nail down. Janice Hardy shows how to make critical character traits part of your plot (rather than an infodump), Ellen Mulholland explains using your own traits to develop a character, and Martina Boone shares 3 steps for nailing your author and character voice. Gavin McCrea talks about inventing the inner life of real people in historical fiction. If you are using real people in your story, know the legalities. Helen Sedwick discusses invasion of privacy as it applies to writing.

The road to finishing a book can be bumpy. When you’ve stalled out, or aren’t happy with what you’ve got, C.S. Lakin gives us 10 key questions to ask of your story and Melissa Donovan lists 23 fiction writing ideas that will revitalize your story. Sometimes routine is what gets you through the rough patches, so Tanya Golash-Boza describes how to develop a daily writing habit.

Once you’ve finished the draft, the revision starts. John Adamus discusses why editing matters, Rachelle Gardner has 5 things to do before hiring a freelance editor, Tracy Gold lists 43 words to kill, Nat Russo asks: does it serve the story?, and Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas share 4 options for a fiction manuscript evaluation.

Mark Alpert thinks the highest hurdle comes after you’ve finished revising and want to move on to another book. Melissa Donovan urges us on with the ultimate guide for writing better, Keith Cronin introduces an improvement to the standing desk, and Joe Moore reminds us that writers are magicians—we create an illusion.

Sometimes mindset is more important to success than talent. Jade Varden shows us the art of being stubborn, Mary Vee tells us how to avoid distractions, Grace Wynter dissects how pressure, perception, and probability stymie new writers, and Claudia Harrington reminds us that success isn’t exclusively found in the big moments.


Authors are doing more and more on the business end of writing. Jami Gold completes her blog series exploring the various publishing paths for indies, and Jane Friedman makes 5 observations about the evolution of author business models.

If you decide to query to agents, Martina Boone shares 5 online resources you should consult when querying. Janet Reid tells us how publishers define “unpublished” works, and she gives us a great list of questions to ask a potential agent. Chuck Sambuchino adds 15 questions to ask an agent before signing. Agent Danielle Burby of HSG Agency seeks YA, mystery, women’s fiction, and fantasy, so try your luck if you fit the bill.

We all know we need an author “brand” in this day and age. Kristen Lamb reveals the secret to a powerful author brand, and Frances Caballo has tips to grow your Twitter tribe.

Marketing can be confusing, largely because what works for one book or author doesn’t always work for another. Jon Bard shares the 6 most common marketing mistakes made by authors, while Jami Gold examines the risks of offering a freebie. To see that there is hope, Rebekah Davis, marketing manager for author husband John J. Davis, explains how he sold 80,000 books in one year.


Have you ever read a book and then wanted to go visit the place where it’s set? Tao Tao Holmes discusses awesome places (arguably) ruined by popular books.

Many library’s special collections are moving into the digital age. This is a huge boon to writers researching for their books (such as Yale’s newly-available archive of over 170,000 photos from the Great Depression), but it’s not all rosy. Sarah Werner explains how to destroy special collections with social media.

Talk about a posthumous release! 20 new lines from the Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2100 BC) have been discovered.

The amazing combination of art and books—sculptural masterpieces made from old books.

How life impacts art: when Rudyard Kipling’s son went missing from the Battle of Loos in 1915, and 8 authors who were also spies.

The University of St. Andrews is finding buried treasures amongst their rare book library stacks.

Gill Hornby explains why Jane Austen never goes out of style.

I always feel that seeing handwriting creates a deeper connection to another person, even if that person is long gone. Here is the handwriting of the future queen Elizabeth I, age 19, writing to her half-brother Edward VI shortly before his death in 1553.

Check out this beautiful children’s book: The Baby’s Own Aesop, published in 1908 and illustrated and simplified by William Crane.

Which of these outlandish newspaper titles from the 19th century are real and which are fake? (The answers are here.)

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!

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