Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | January 30, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 01-30-2020



Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, hedgerow sassafras trees, winter trees

Winter hedgerow—sassafras trees


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Can you believe it’s the end of January? It seems like we just celebrated the start of the new year. No complaints, though—we’re one month closer to spring.

We don’t need to wait until spring to find something to celebrate. Porter Anderson tells us about Canada’s Family Literacy Day and next week’s World Read Aloud Day, both of which promote young readers’ literacy at home.

Next week is also International Networking Week, something we writers and other creatives are advised to do. Those looking for chances to network might want to check out Literary Hub‘s 2020 calendar of noteworthy literary events (by Emily Temple).

Have you checked out ebooks at the library? Book Riot‘s Susie Dumond reports that over 70 public libraries made 2019 a record year for digital checkouts.

It makes me shudder to think of it, but Beth Skwarecki claims cutting books in half is a hack.

Human kind’s fascination with stories began long before we invented writing. Meghan Cox Gurdon traces the history of oral storytelling.

For those who’ve served our country, Ericka McIntyre provides information about the Veterans Writing Project.

In memoriam: Jim Lehrer, PBS journalist and author of three memoirs and twenty novels, dies at age 85 [reported by Anne Azzi Davenport and Jeffrey Brown on PBS News Hour].


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, snow geese in a harvested corn field, January

Snow geese in a harvested corn field




If you haven’t gotten back into your writing rhythm after the holidays, Sharon Redmon shares 5 ways to start your writing year, and Jessica Strawser offers 5 ways to invest in your writing this year.

To bring us inspiration, Amy Jones presents 9 Virginia Woolf quotes about writing for writers (and readers).

Need some writing tips? Melony Teague identifies essential skills for writers, and Kim Bullock delves into the benefits of sensory deprivation for writers.

For those who write in particular genres, Raymond Fleishchmann discusses how to make historical fiction true to its time period without being stuffy, Rose Gardner insists tension is necessary in romance fiction, and Toni Šušnjar talks about fantasy fortifications—part 3: design.

With more on worldbuilding, Drew McVittie gives his take on worldbuilding: sowing seeds.

Stavros Halvatzis takes a look at the moral of the story, and Nathan Bransford explains the character arc, while James Scott Bell gives further reflections on the mirror moment, and The Writer’s Ally delves into conflict and tension in your narrative.

Working on your characters? Christina Kaye describes how to write a killer villain, while Jami Gold focuses on how to make the protagonist more proactive. SCBWI looks at layering voice to create more memorable characters, and Nathan Bransford explores the power of competing desires in a story.

To make your characters come alive, Ruth Harris gives us 15 keys to writing great dialogue.

Several bloggers consider point of view: Harry Connolly discusses POV and narrators, Janice Hardy looks at things to consider when adding a point of view character, and Lisa Hall-Wilson offers one quick fix for “telling” in deep point of view.

We’ve all heard that you should “write what you know,” but Kath Boyd Marsh wonders: how do I write what I know if I’m not a dragon?

When you’ve finished that first draft and are ready to revise and edit, Jenny Hansen advocates her favorite editing lifesaver, and Katy Kauffman recommends editing your writing to S-P-A-R-K-L-E.

Before you send out or publish that manuscript, Rachelle Gardner ponders whether you should use sensitivity readers.

Lisa Tener answers 32 of your book writing and publishing questions, and Rada Jones sets out 13 writing tips for non-native English authors.

Lindsay Mayer finds benefits in continuing researching after publishing a book.


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, winter cluds, old silo, January




For those following the traditional route to publication, Jessica Faust considers whether there’s a bad time to query; Janet Reid says you can schedule a call with an agent outside of normal working hours and responds to questions about whether publishers like working with agents; and Emma Lombard shares a system and template for tracking your submissions.

Agent Sara Megibow advises writers to make a list of personal influencers.

Writer Beware‘s Victoria Strauss warns us about junk book marketing: pay-to-play magazines.

For new indie authors, Dave Chesson identifies 4 mistakes amateur self-publishers make that the pros don’t.

Mike Shatzkin looks at what is causing the uptick in independent bookstores. This is good news for authors, in part because independent bookstores are ideal places to hold a book launch. Providing guidance for those launching a new book, Kristan Julius details how to prepare a successful book launch.

Sandra Beckwith reveals what’s even better than a reader review.

With helpful information regarding your online presence, Kim Lochery shares 25 social media marketing statistics & facts to turbo-charge your engagement, Nathan Bransford explains what it means to be your real self online, Beth Barany sets out 5 steps to create the tagline for your author brand, and Orna Ross clarifies SEO for authors: Google Search algorithm changes.

Elizabeth S. Craig looks into using Facebook Notes for promotional book excerpts, and Monique D. Mensah provides an author’s guide to social video marketing, while Debbie Burke reports on LinkedIn’s ties to book piracy.

If you’re an author blogger, Alice Corner looks at how to keep your blog looking fresh: follow these simple graphic design trends, while Cristian Mihai enumerates five super ways to improve your blog posts and tells us how to create engaging content.


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, bare branches




Looking back at some literary greats, Adam Nicolson writes about the friendship between Coleridge and Wordsworth, and Alexandra Samuel wonders if Jane Austen is the antidote to social media overload.

Jan Hennop tells us that Dutch art sleuth Arthur Brand has found a rare stolen copy of a 15th century book by the Persian poet Hafez.

John M. Bowers asks: did Tolkien write The Lord of the Rings because he was avoiding his academic work?

Isaac Bashevis Singer addresses the particular wonders of writing in Yiddish.

Franco Laguna Correa contemplates the continuing relevance of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man.

Finally, Bill DeMain shares 38 wonderful words with no English equivalent. We should definitely add some of these to the English language. Which ones would you like to include?


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, late afternoon sky, dramatic clouds, January

That wraps up Top Picks Thursday for this month. See you next week with another roundup of writerly links!


Top Picks Thursday, The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, rhododendron buds, January

Future rhododendron flowers.




  1. Awesome Top Picks list! Thanks for including me! These links will keep me busy LOL 🙂


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