Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 22, 2016

Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 09-22-2016

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! The last of the heat waves have passed, and now fall is upon us—which also means book award time!

Check out the National Book Award Long List nominees and the Man Booker Prize Short List.

Some literary lights have gone out this week: playwright Edward Albee dies at 88, and author W.P. Kinsella dies at 81.

This week would have marked Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday.

The controversy of the week concerns Lionel Shriver’s speech about cultural appropriation. Author Suki Kim discusses the situation eloquently, and Yassmin Abdel-Magied explains why she walked out of the speech.

As Viet Thanh Nguyen reminds us, to have true diversity in the literary industry—or any industry—the powerbrokers, gatekeepers, and owners need to be diverse.

If you know anyone who thinks public libraries are no longer relevant, point them to this article: Pew Research shows that public libraries remain vital to communities.

Tim Vernimmen examines where creativity comes from.

As writers, we often are asked why we write. Roz Morris discusses the question: is your writing a hobby, an art, a business, a vocation, or a profession? (Hint: there’s no single right answer).


With October just around the corner, deadlines for spooky stories are popping up. Ross MacKenzie shares 5 tips for writing scary stories.

When writing any story, we have to get the story elements balanced and make them carry their weight. Jami Gold tells us when backstory is necessary, and Margie Lawson explains how to finesse backstory.

Angela Ackerman discusses the storyteller’s Swiss Army knife—setting, and Alex Bledsoe gives 5 practical tips for worldbuilding.

Almost every story has a plot, and plot comes with its own elements and conventions to deal with. Melissa Donovan defines plot, Zoe M. McCarthy describes the role the inciting incident plays in both plot and character, and Brian DeLeonard takes a look at rebooting “the chosen one” trope.

Character seems to have been on a lot of people’s minds this week—hardly a surprise given how vital characters are to a successful story. Martina Boone reminds us that all stories are character driven, Kim English shows how to make characters round, and John Thornton Williams explores interiority of character utilizing indirection of image.

David King advises to give your characters roots, Becca Puglisi explores what’s in a character’s name, and K.M. Weiland shares the secret to writing dynamic characters.

Alex Limberg explains how body language can add depth to your fiction, Lee Wind reveals what to call different groups of people, and Sacha Black delves into the 6 most sinister villain personalities.

When we’ve got that first draft in the bag, we need to revise to make it amazing. Janice Hardy looks at the different types of revisions you may be facing (and how to handle each one), Mark Nichols examines 5 types of punctuation problems, Susan Brooks talks about the importance and knowing your genre, and Jami Gold has guidelines for balancing all the elements of your story.

Ursula K. Le Guin discusses her first attempt at a novel, and Catherine Ryan Howard explores why people refuse to believe that your fiction is exactly that—fiction, and not based on your life.

Nancy L. Erickson shows how dedicated reading time can improve your writing, Larry Brooks talks about the importance of craft, and James Scott Bell warns us never to assume we don’t need more improvement.


Amy Collins brings us the latest news on Barnes & Noble concept stores, Pew Research authors can use, and the rise of self-published books on the USA Today Bestseller lists.

Caleb Mason posits that the future of book publishing is all about scale.

Andrew Liptak reports that orders for comics have hit a 20-year high.

Since people DO judge a book by its cover, Diana Urban rounds up 19 fantastic book cover design resources.

Does having to find comp titles make you crazy? You are not alone. Agent Janet Reid talks about comp titles and keeping your sanity. If you are searching for an agent, new agent Jess Dallow of Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency seeks YA and adult fiction writers.

Marketing is something all writers must deal with. Amazon reviews are a must for a book to be successful, and Cate Baum goes over what is and is not allowed in Amazon book reviews, while Rachel Straub shows how she tackled Amazon’s Top Reviewer list.

One way to get reviews is to mobilize any and all publicity avenues to get the word out about your book. Robert Wilder discusses the power of pods, and getting friends to lead mini-brigades for you, and Debbie Young examines outside-the-box ways to sell your self-published books.

The online world is where much of our author outreach happens. Kristen Lamb explores if Facebook sells books and if writers need an author page, while Anne R. Allen shares 5 things authors should never do when email marketing.


Check out these 16 book covers that match New York Fashion Week styles (some matches are amazing!)

Know your words? Take the 4-minute vocabulary test, learn these 28 underused English words, and try to pass this punctuation and capitalization quiz.

Speaking of vocabulary, look at how the Oxford English Dictionary chooses new words.

Ever have a time in your life when you just don’t want to read? Sharanya Sharma explains why it’s okay to be in a reading slump.

For Mary Stewart fans, a newly uncovered novella has been published.

You can find almost anything in the New York Public Library, including every issue of The New York Times (first published September 18, 1851) and the Library’s radical zine collection.

If you vacation in the British Isles, you can spend time following one of these famous British authors’ trails.

If you want the literary cachet but not the travel, you could own F. Scot Fitzgerald’s house.

Rumaan Alam rounds up the great rooms in children’s literature, and Patrick Smith has 17 funny and thoughtful books for children under 5.

Victoria Dawson examines the significance of Nat Turner’s Bible in his rebellion.

Although we five chroniclers don’t live close to each other, we do live in the same region — southern and central New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania — and we’re going to show our support for libraries by concluding with a photo of a local library for the next several weeks (until we run out of them!) This week, we’ll give a shout out to the Ocean City Free Public Library, in Ocean City, NJ.

Amazing murals in the Children's area at Ocean City Library

Amazing murals in the Children’s area at Ocean City Library

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





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