Posted by: Kerry Gans | December 19, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 12-14-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ve got end-of-year reading lists to keep you busy over the holiday, and lots of other writerly links to enjoy.

Author William Gass died December 16, 2017, but Gass’ advice for writers lives on.

In his Nobel Prize speech, Kazuo Ishigura calls for cultural and generic diversity: “Good writing and good reading will break down barriers. We may even find a new idea, a great humane vision, around which to rally.”

Sarah Seltzer examines how we eclipse women’s literary brilliance with “scandal”.

Yaika Sabat shares things not to say to your library workers while you search for reading material.

And if you can’t find something to read in the library, maybe something on one of these lists will grab your interest: Winners of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards, the 10 Best Comics and Graphic Novels of 2017, NPR’s Book Concierge Guide to 2017’s Great Reads, and 50 DIY Reading Challenges to Make 2018 the Best Year of Your Reading Life.


As we enter the holiday season, Tara Sparling brings us the 12 Days of Christmas Writing Cliches.

Building a compelling story requires strong foundation elements. Janice Hardy offers a fill-in-the-blank plot template to keep you on track, while Lynne Griffin demonstrates building tension in fiction.

Every writer wants their reader to get so caught up in the story that the real world disappears. Jefferson Smith discusses story immersion, Donald Maass states that suspending disbelief starts with a story world that feels real, and Rebecca Bradley reminds us that getting the facts right is paramount.

Mark Alpert shares 4 keys to creating likeable characters, while James Scott Bell advocates channeling your childhood heroes.

After we’ve written a draft, there are many things we need to address to clean it up and make it publishable. Zoe M. McCarthy looks at varying your sentence lengths to give your paragraphs a pleasing rhythm, and Katherine Grubb lists the top 10 things to do when you’ve written a hot mess.

A lot of writing is getting past your own inner demons, especially fear. Piper Bayard discusses winning the anxiety war, Kathryn Magendie tackles the big ol’ scary monster at our window: fear, and Nicole Baart hypothesizes that perhaps “faking it until you make it” is not disingenuous, but brave.

Writing requires creativity, but how do we call that creativity up when we need it? Sue Coletta examines our brains and creativity, Allie Larkin tells us how to fill the creative well, James Scott Bell gives us 10 ways to goose the muse, and Julie Glover explores what motivates you to finish.

Some writers struggle with even identifying as a writer. Arianna Rebolini shares 13 pieces of indispensable wisdom from Ursula K. Le Guin, Elisa Gabbert answers the question: Am I still a writer if I don’t feel compelled to write?, and Melissa Donovan weighs skill vs. talent in creative writing.


Hannah Holt surveyed 48 young adult authors, and gathered data useful to all who write YA. Here are the results of Writing for Young Adults: A Look at the Numbers.

Janet Reid explains why format guidelines need to be followed (and it’s NOT to make us crazy), and reminds us that if an agent sends you an R&R on one book, we should be sure those same problems are fixed in any future manuscripts we send to that agent.

Writing can be lonely, but publishing takes a village. Sharon Bially examines the power of a writing group for publishing success, and Fae Rowen shares ideas gathered when a friend threw her a debut party.

Successful sales come from leveraging the large internet book sites. Big Al finds big book data for the little guy using the author research tool Google NGram, Sandra Beckwith shares that the Goodreads ebook giveaway program is now open to self-publishers, and Amanda S. Green tells how Amazon has changed its review policy.

We all want to get the most out of our online tools. Judith Briles has 9 tips for your website due diligence, Edie Melson has blogging lessons learned from her dog, and Frances Caballo urges us to use GIFs to ignite our book marketing.


Matthew Haag explores the 10,000 books banned by Texas prisons.

Hillary Chute looks at Gary Panter, Matt Groening, and the dual history of punk and comics.

Maya Jasanoff shows how Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness revealed the horror of Congo’s rubber trade, and led to the investigation of human rights abuses.

Anwen Crawford analyses the letters of Sylvia Plath and the transformation of a poet’s voice.

Maybe you can’t write like a poet—but you can bake like one! Emily Temple tells us how you, too, can bake like Emily Dickinson this holiday season.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more writerly links!


  1. Thanks so much for the shout out. It’s an honor to be on this list.


  2. Thanks so much for the mention. I truly appreciate it! Wonderful list.


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