Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | March 17, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 03-17-2016

Welcome to the mid-March edition of Top Picks Thursday, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We wish you a green and beautiful day with lots of delicious food. In spite of the snowy forecast for Sunday in our area, spring is just around the corner. We can’t wait!

Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day

Irish Soda Bread [recipe below]

We at Author Chronicles are big fans of libraries, and this one especially touches our hearts: Andre Borges reports from India that a 9-year-old girl in Bhopal is running a library for underprivileged children who can’t read.

In “Write, Erase, Do It Over: on Failure, Risk, and Writing Outside Yourself,” an interview with Toni Morrison by Rebecca Gross, the renowned author discusses how learning how to fail well is as crucial to a writer’s craft as putting words on a page.

If you want to encourage your children to read, Samantha Darby shares 7 picture books for kids afraid of the dark and Gwen Glazer of the New York Public Library recommends books featuring young adult heroine sleuths.

The stories and books children read can stay with them throughout life. One book that has stayed with me is To Kill a Mockingbird. I first read it in high school, have read it many times since then and taught it to high school students. Reading Constance Grady’s story on how discontinuing the most popular edition [mass market] of To Kill a Mockingbird will hurt schools troubled me. Schools have enough difficulty finding funds to buy books, and I hate to think that the higher cost could remove this wonderful book from the school curriculum.

Reading is important to adults too. Ashlie Swicker relates how following authors on Twitter enhances her reading, while Sarah E. Boucher suggests reading comfort books to recover from a rough day.

Two bloggers share their 10 special tips: Deborah Patterson celebrates Shakespeare Week with the top 10 tips on how to write like William Shakespeare and Tessa Emily Hall gives 10 tips for reading through the eyes of a writer.

For those writers who need pampering or prodding, Jami Gold recommends self-care for writers, Sonia Thompson gives pointers on how to keep writing even when you feel like a fraud, Cristian Mihai discusses passion for writers, and James Scott Bell provides tips on getting inspired to write.

If you’re heading for a writers conference this spring, Bob Mayer shares some thoughts on writers conferences.

And we can’t neglect to mention our own Kerry Gans, who will be having the book launch party for her first novel, The Witch of Zal, a middle grade steampunk take on The Wizard of Oz. If you’re in the area on March 19, join us at 5:00pm at The Doylestown Bookshop, 16 S Main Street, Doylestown, PA 18901. Come say hello, sample the refreshments, and check out Kerry’s book.

Kerry Gans of Author Chronicles signing copies of her middle grade book The Witch of Zal

Kerry signing copies of THE WITCH OF ZAL.


At the beginning of your project? James R. Tuck discusses how to start your book and Rachelle Gardner considers that all-important first line, while Leona Hilton presents 11 amazing tools to boost your writing productivity and Rachelle Gardner has suggestions for writers with so many ideas and so little time.

Dr. John Yeoman reveals the five “insider” secrets of top fiction writers and Jennifer Mason-Black considers the issue of pantsers versus plotters.

If you are deep into the writing of your story, a number of bloggers offer tips on using basic story elements. Jami Gold lays out how to weave story elements and avoid info dumps, C. S. Lakin explains how writers can create continuity in showing the passing of time, and Janice Hardy shares thoughts on writing a scene.

Plot may be a necessary element in fiction, but K. M. Weiland asserts that plot isn’t story, while Robert Gregory Browne reveals the wonderful world of subplots and Martina Boone stresses turning points: the most effective way to build a compelling story.

For those struggling to create compelling characters, Kristen Lamb discusses getting into character — deep POV, part two and Dave King gives some tips for getting into other people’s heads. To help you with your characters’ conversations, Janice Hardy illuminates how to punctuate dialogue.

If you are writing for children, Laurisa White Reyes explains age categories for children’s books.

Janice Hardy discusses story endings: getting readers to the end and making them glad they came.

For those who tend toward wordiness, K. M. Weiland suggests 5 ways to trim your book’s word count.


For writers seeking an agent, Marie Lamba lists query no-no’s and Sara Megibow dissects a successful query letter.

Whether your book is traditionally published or self-published, you may need to give a reading at your book launch or other author events. Gigi Rosenberg lists 7 tips for giving a powerful public reading.

For Indie authors, Amy Collins lists 9 steps to getting your self-published books into libraries and Emily Grosvenor gives tips on how to use Kickstarter to fund a children’s picture book.

Here’s some social media advice for Indie authors that may benefit traditionally published writers as well: Frances Caballo shares 11 reasons Indie authors need social media (and how to get it right), Roz Morris explains how to blog your book … without giving too much away, and Frances Caballo suggests social media steps for those publishing first books.

David Gaughran reports that Amazon takes aim at scammers but hits authors because many authors’ ebooks have been blocked (since their table of contents is coded in the back instead of the front) — and many take-downs are without notice and in the middle of promotions, resulting in lost money and ranking. Lynne Cantwell tells authors how to set your book free on Amazon.

Janet Reid considers a writer’s question about personal information on the web.

naturalized daffodils with white petals and yellow trumpets, blue spruce in the background 3-15


In case any writers do not want their work to be remembered, Anne Boyd Rioux explains how to make sure your writing is forgotten.

Fans of Game of Thrones and Dr. Suess’s Oh The Places You’ll Go should enjoy artist Alex Cohen’s remake of the latter with characters from the former, shown in an article by BuzzFeed’s Andy Neuenschwander.

Some people spend a lot on books. This is true now and was true in the past. Here’s a London bookseller’s bill from 1727 for the equivalent of $25,000, via John Overholt.

Cat owners know that cats love to spread out on keyboards, books, and newspapers. Apparently, they are also fascinated by maps, as shown by these cat footprints on a 17th century map.

Verb tenses aren’t just confusing today. Here’s a mid-19th century manuscript illustrating verb tenses.

Alan White reports that a remote Scottish library is trolling another remote Scottish library because J. K. Rowling visited. However, not everyone is happy with Rowling’s latest story on Pottermore, which according to Susan Cheng, has sparked a major backlash for her depiction of native Americans. Ashley Ross reports on how J. K. Rowling’s magical history stacks up against real history.

Students aren’t the only ones who use “the dog ate my homework” excuse — John Steinbeck did too!

Check out The Anti-Slavery Alphabet, an 1846 book that teaches children the ABCs of slavery’s evils.

Latin anyone? Josh Jones tells the story of Lorem Ipsum: how scrambled text by Cicero became the standard for typesetters everywhere. Speaking of typesetting, Hayley Campbell relates how the world’s most beautiful typeface was nearly lost forever in the Thames.

Take the BBC quiz: how Jane Eyre are you?

That completes this week’s Top Picks Thursday lineup. Enjoy the longer evening hours of daylight!


bare tree limbs against colorful clouds at sunset, 3-16

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins

Makes 1 loaf.

cooking oil spray
1 Tbsp cornmeal
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oats or oat flour
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups raisins
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup fat-free sour cream
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp flour


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9″ cast iron skillet (or 9″ round baking pan) with cooking oil spray. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp cornmeal.

2. In a large bowl, combine flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and raisins. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, combine lightly beat eggs, buttermilk, sour cream, and canola oil.

4. Stir liquid mixture into dry ingredients until flour is just moistened. Knead dough in the bowl about 10 to 12 strokes. Dough will be sticky.

5. Place dough in prepared skillet and pat down. Cut two perpendicular 5″ slits in the top of the bread. Dust with 1 Tbsp flour.

6. Bake the loaf at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack.


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