Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 26, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-26-2020

Welcome to the Twilight Zone…er, Top Picks Thursday! March 27th is National Scribble Day, which sounds fun, and April, which somehow is next week already, is National Poetry Month! Poetic Asides is hosting a daily poetry prompt and challenge all month, for those with time on their hands.

For Women’s History Month, here’s a look at stats on women authors in literary fiction (and other genres) book sales in the US.

In a defeat for creatives everywhere, the US Supreme Court decided in Allen vs. Cooper that US states have sovereign immunity from copyright damages.

Sometimes lightning strikes where you least expect it—sales soar 2000% on a children’s book about hand washing.

Unfortunately, Tony-award-winning playwright Terrance McNally died at age 81 from complications of coronavirus.


We’re all facing unprecedented times here. Some of us are writing. Some find we cannot. All are disrupted and many are frightened. As usual, though, the writing community is reaching out to help each other, so here are some links you might find useful or uplifting.

Indie bookstore are closing their physical spaces to keep their customers and staff safe, but they aren’t ceasing to serve their communities. In the UK indie booksellers are getting inventive, while in New York the stores search for community online. What should you order from your store? Matthew Norman has compiled a reading list to make you laugh, while more serious reading can be found with Chelsea Haith tracing pandemics from Homer to Stephen King. If any of our readers has suggestions of books to pass the time, lift the spirits, or make people laugh, feel free to put them in the comments!

The publishing industry as a whole is also stepping up. Porter Anderson reports on publishers’ resource lists amid the pandemic, and how international publishers are making COVID-19 research content freely available.

Individuals are bringing their A-game, too. Claire Kirch shows us the novelists who ignited A Mighty Blaze in response to extinguished book tours, Janice Hardy offers two free at-home workshops, and Dan Sheehan spotlights big-hearted individuals who have made their Little Free Libraries into Little Free Panties.

How do we handle the emotions of this crazy time? Linda S. Clare explains corona-crisis journaling, Roni Loren has a few ideas for coping with COVID-19 anxiety, and Angela Ackerman suggests asking ourselves: in difficult times, what would our characters do?

Julianna Baggott examines creating in the time of quarantine, Jordan Dane has a writer’s guide to surviving social distancing and quarantine, Sue Coletta reminds us the world needs creatives more than ever, and K.M. Weiland reveals the power of hopeful stories in a stressful time.


This week seems to have people thinking about crime and suspense writing. Elizabeth Mitchell shares a step-by-step guide to writing suspense, Terry Odell has an overview of romantic suspense, and Karen Dietrich looks at red herrings in contemporary crime literature.

In other genres, Amy Fish has 5 tips for adding humor to a self-help book, and Robert Lee Brewer parses fable vs. parable vs. allegory.

Big craft elements are sometimes difficult for writers to get their minds around. Lucy V. Hay explains why all writers need a structural toolbox, Frank McCourt discusses telling the underlying story, Joseph Scapellato talks about story shape, and Kristen Lamb sees the collision of powerful ideas at the center of all great stories.

Some of us outline, and some of us don’t. Melinda Copp shares tips for writing a book outline, E.J. Wenstrom discusses how she tricks her pantser brain into plotting, and James Scott Bell admonishes us to write tight.

We’ve got to have characters in our novels, and usually they talk to each other in some way. Katharine Grubb lists 5 character types that make great antagonistic forces, and Harrison Demchick has 5 undervalued tips that will make your dialogue stronger.

Creativity is the heart of what we do, but sometimes it’s hard to come by. Jennifer Mendez explores using limitations and constraints to boost imagination, Angela Ackerman gives us a creative kick in the pants, and Matthew Duffus examines the sounds of silence: when writer’s block strikes.

Inspiration is always welcome, so Melinda Copp has 10 evergreen ways to improve your writing life, and Robert Lee Brewer compiles 10 Walt Whitman quotes for writers and about writing.


Since we should all understand the contracts we are signing, take a look at the Author Guild’s new model trade book contract.

Rosalie Morales Kearns lays out 3 unique research methods for identifying small publishers.

Piper Bayard examines indie publishing 101, part III.

In a move that is not a surprise, Amazon deprioritizes book sales amid coronavirus crisis.

With so many bookstores closing, Amy Roost talks about the terrible ripple effect of canceled book tours.

Querying an agent is stressful process. Janet Reid discusses reasons she might have passed on your query, Rachelle Gardner likens publishing to being in the Shark Tank, and Steve Laube explains how an agent can manage so many clients.

As if writing the book isn’t enough, there are plenty of other types of marketing writing we need to master as authors. Laina Turner shows how to write compelling back cover copy, Amy Stark coaches us on how to write a synopsis without losing your mind, and Barbara Linn Probst discusses blurbing and getting blurbed.

Reviews are vital to marketing efforts. Anne R. Allen dives into Amazon’s new review rules, while Sandra Beckwith gives us 3 reasons to embrace 1-star reader reviews.

Selling books is a shared goal we all have. Brian Jud discusses how to reach your book sales goals this year and how to sell children’s books, while Joanna Penn describes how to sell your books directly to readers and get paid immediately.

Our online presence is part of our author brand. Sandra Beckwith helps us find our author brand, Nate Hoffelder walks us through changing our author blog into an author website, and Cristian Mihai shares 4 simple steps to building a blog audience and why hacks and shortcuts don’t work anymore.


In a rather dramatic tale, Valentina Di Liscia tells us of a formerly lost, glimmering manuscript by Persian poet Hafez.

Adrienne Raphel talks to poets about their love of crossword puzzles.

Matthew Wills examines how Emily Dickinson wrestled with Darwinism.

Because it’s fun, Emily Temple hunted up the stories behind the names famous authors gave their pets.

Andrew Belonsky looks at how America’s oldest bookstore has survived across the centuries.

That’s it for Top Picks Thursday! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home if you can!

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