Posted by: Kerry Gans | January 23, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-23-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Today is National Handwriting Day, for those writers who do their drafts by hand.

In a sad day for Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien, responsible for editing and publishing much of his father’s work, dies at age 95.

In awards news, Sibylle Berg, a Zurich-based author of more than 15 books, wins this year’s Swizz Grand Prix Literature, Switzerland’s top literary Prize. In the US, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a total of $1.2 million in fellowships for translators and creative writers.

The rather astonishing reason why Goodnight Moon is not on the New York Public Library’s list of the 10 most-checked-out books of all time.

Check out these 9 books that celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

For those who write short stories, this is welcome news: The Atlantic has committed itself to publishing more short fiction.

Browse and register for these writing workshops and conferences from January to March 2020.

California has passed—and other states including New Jersey are trying to pass—a law that could severely impact freelance writers. Victoria Strauss has what you need to know about how California’s new law AB-5 affects writers.


Each of us started our writing journey somewhere. Many started writing as children, some started later in life, but at some point we decided to be an author. Louise Brady shares 10 tips for the aspiring author, and Susan DeFrietas examines if you have what it takes to be a writer.

But what happens at the end of your career? If you have a series or character that has dominated your portfolio? Lee Child is letting Jack Reacher go by transferring the series to another author.

Almost everything we write needs some sort of research. Tara East has 7 tips for researching a novel, Janet Reid tells us about the resource, and Nathan Bransford has a list of societal changes and threats to consider when building your world.

Sometimes we have trouble starting to write. Marla Bishop gives us 10 writing prompts to jump start our brain, and Stavros Halvatzis discusses story templates to guide our thoughts.

Writers use craft elements to keep readers from putting down the book. Spencer Ellsworth looks at the core of every novel: the big want and the big fear; Janice Hardy shares a simple trick to keep readers turning pages, and Dana Isaacson urges us to deliver what your readers want.

Characters are wonderful to write, when they are not making us crazy. Wendy Heard examines writing multiple points of view, Nathan Bransford has 9 ways to spice up characters, and Angela Ackerman looks at cause and effect: does your character’s behavior make sense?

Editing is a vital step in finishing your story. Kristina Stanley lays out everything you need to know about fiction editing, RJ Crayton has 4 tips to help you self-edit, Jennie Nash answers why writers hire book coaches, and Jeanne Cavelos examines the compelling, emotional complex sentence.

Writing a book is a long-term project. Paula Munier describes running the novel-writing marathon, TD Storm shows how your attitude and approach toward habits can revitalize your writing practice, Daphne Gray-Grant has 7 ways to make the most of your writing time, and Katharine Grubb tells us how to make time for your writing.

Although writing is mostly done alone, we often depend on our writing community to help get us through the rough patches. A. Howitt discusses writing groups, Victoria Turk examines dealing with “friendship overload” in the age of social media, and Harry Lee Poe shares 10 things you (probably) didn’t know about C.S. Lewis.


Nick Kolakowski warns authors that LinkedIn’s SlideShare is a vast emporium for pirated books.

Sacha Black shares 6 steps to setting yourself up financially as a writer in 2020.

Self-publishing? David Kudler has fun with formats: mobi/Kindle, Rosalind Minett discusses choosing the right audiobook narrator, and David Mackintosh has top 10 illustration and design tips for picture books.

Many writers enter writing contests, and there are many good reasons to do so. Dea Parkin explains why to enter a writing competition and how to win, while Tamela Hancock Murray tells why a contest win might not help get you published.

Pitching and querying is a staple of the author life. Sandi Ward discusses pitching your novel in person and how it differs from the email query, while Anne R. Allen discusses writing a professional query. Barbara Poelle talks about how to choose an agent amid competing offers, while Janet Reid explains why you shouldn’t pay to revert your rights.

Marketing is difficult, but it offers opportunities to be innovative. Sandra Beckwith suggests you let your characters engage with fans online, SCBWI looks at Ellen Meeropol’s ARC tour, and Debbie Burke has 12 tips for new public speakers.

When marketing online, it helps to have tools. David Gaughran lists 12 free graphic design tools for authors, Frances Caballo shares 11 must-have Instagram apps for writers, and Cristian Mihai explains the blogging mindset of reciprocity.

Trying to attract new readers often requires a multi-pronged approach. Jimmy Kindree talks about submitting short stores for publications, Janet Reid offers the best way to post reviews when you’re a writer, and Jordan Dane suggests cultivating new readers by donating your books to worthy causes.

Zoe M. McCarthy has an easy way to write a book cover blurb, Kris Maze gives us 3 reasons to consider “readability” before you publish, and Laurence McNaughton says if you want to get published, read every day.


Read 12 thought-provoking quotes from 1984 by George Orwell.

Juana Summers delves into the fading art of diagramming sentences.

James Woods examines what’s at stake when we write literary criticism.

A rival to Disney? There are plans for a new Russian theme park based on the poems and fairy tales of Alexander Pushkin.

Janine Barchas discusses the obscure editions of Jane Austen’s novels that made her internationally known.

Ben Mazer investigates the enigma of Delmore Schwartz, the luminous poet who fell from grace.

Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for: the backstory you need to understand the movie Cats (2019).

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

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