Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 5, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-05-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in March! Is this month coming in like a lion for you? Get your red pens out—Sunday, March 8th, is National Proofreading Day!

Following the lead of other international book fairs, the London Book Fair has been cancelled over coronavirus fears.

In author news, YA author Myron Levoy dies at age 89 and award-winning children’s author Betsy Byars dies at age 91.

Fostering reading is a cause dear to most writers’ hearts. Donna Ferguson explains how she raised a bookworm in the digital age, Alison Flood looks at giving older children story time to halt falling young reader numbers, Julie Beck explain why we forget most of the books we read, Alex Fusco explores bikes and books in Afghanistan: improving literacy with a mobile library, and Shafiqah Othman asks if there is anything wrong with being a slow reader.

Laws that would censor books and punish librarians are popping up in many states. Nicole Cook explains a proposed censorship law in Missouri that could jail or fine librarians, and Andrew Albanese looks at a similar law in Tennessee with parental review boards for public libraries and prison time for non-compliant librarians.

Victoria Strauss investigates mass contract cancellations at mystery publisher Henery Press.

Arthur Klepchukov lists fiction writing contests worth your time in Spring 2020.


For our sci-fi and fantasy writers: Patty Jansen discusses how much science needs to be in Science Fiction, while Toni Susnjar explores types of castles for your fantasy fortifications.

Writing requires various skills. Jess Zafarris explains mastering high concept ideas, Simon Van Booy looks at becoming a multigenre writer, and Melissa Bowersock shows how to manage your book series.

So how do you get started on a project? Liana Turner lays out how to have an effective brainstorming session.

Scenes are the building blocks of our stories. Barbara Linn Probst calls scene-by-scene work the “middle” level of writing, Ellen Buikema uses visuals to inspire scenes, Jordan Dane has key ways to add depth to any setting, and John Gilstrap advises thinking small to make big scenes work.

Try as we might, writers often make mistakes as we forge ahead with our work. Colleen M. Story shares 5 mistakes to avoid if you want to finish your book, Sarah Chauncey gives us 5 mistakes when writing flashbacks, and Jami Gold explores the pitfalls of our stories having unintended deeper meanings.

Characters inhabit our scenes, so we need to make them count. Nathan Bransford discusses making characters interesting through contradiction, Janice Hardy looks at strengthening character goals, and James Scott Bell urges us to have shocking coffee with our lead character.

For first person narratives, consider Patty Jansen’s “danger” of writing in first person and Carol Goodman’s exploration of the first person persona and writing behind the mask of “I”.

Revision is the step that can’t be skipped but many dread. Jami Gold tells us where to find advice from editors, David Farland explains what makes a great writing group, Kris Maze has 5 steps to superstar self-editing, and Nathan Bransford reminds us we gotta tell the story.

When editing we have to pay attention to things ranging from punctuation to structure. Helene Schumacher wonders: have we murdered the apostrophe?; Robert Lee Brewer ends the debate by explaining why the Oxford comma is so cool, Jessica Faust tells us if your first pages are slow you have to revise, not tell people “it picks up later”; and PJ Parrish reveals what it’s like to rewrite your whole darn book.

Advice (often unsolicited) is ubiquitous. Some of it turns out to be good, some not so good. Anne R. Allen gives us 10 clueless pieces of advice people give writers, while Katherine Grubb shares 8 excellent reasons why you should write every day, and Carolyn Grady lists 10 ways to overcome writer’s block.

Teddy Wayne compiles what he’s learned interviewing 300 authors over 7 years, Bonnie Randall reminds us the story in your heart is the story readers want to hear, and Liana Turner asks: what’s the worst that can happen if you go for your dreams?; while Maggie Wells explains the dangers of chasing the “blockbuster” dream.


Lynn Steger Strong reveals a dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it.

Want to self-publish? Florence Osmund dives into how much self-publishing is going to cost.

Interested in doing an audiobook? Jane Friedman tells us how to get started in audiobook publishing.

Agent Janet Reid answers if asking for a smaller advance as an author is good or bad business.

Your author brand defines you to your readers. Beth Barany shows how to attract your readers with 4 steps to your author branding statement, Sean Platt explains how to write your author bio, the ALLi team discusses fiction content marketing, and Sandra Beckwith outlines how to get awesome book cover blurbs.

Much of marketing is online. John Burke shares the complete guide to creating an author website, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million images into the public domain, Penny Sansevieri lists 3 ways to prevent Amazon reviews from vanishing, and Greer Macallister suggests instead of promotion, try participation.

Adam Connell has the 10 best social media listening tools to monitor your brand, Cristian Mihai asks: is your blog who you are? and points out the 5 sins of blogging you must avoid at all costs; and Heather Webb explores social media meltdowns: tackling burnout for writers.


Brittany Vickers is on the trail of African American writers and artists in Paris.

Martha Ackmann gives us a glimpse inside the best summer of Emily Dickinson’s life.

Even iconic works can have rough starts. Take a look at what reviewers thought of John Steinbeck’s 5 most iconic works.

What really caused Poe’s death? A study concludes that Edgar Allen Poe likely didn’t kill himself.

We all have heard of the epic poems like The Odyssey. But how do we know that ancient epic poems were recited from memory?

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We will see you next week for more writerly links.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: