Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 23, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-23-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This week is National Library Week, Thursday, April 23rd is National Talk Like Shakespeare Day and National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Next Monday is National Tell a Story Day, and Tuesday is National Great Poetry Reading Day. So lots of writing-related celebrations going on!

Also celebrate Abdelouahab Aissaoui winning the International Prize for Arab Fiction.

Reading is essential for children, and Alain de Botton wrote a lovely letter to children about why we read. But what to read to them? A study shows children prefer books that teach them how and why the world works.

Speaking of reading, Italy gives bookshops permission to reopen! For us in the US, while still in quarantine, read those classic detective series you’ve always been meaning to read. Focusing while reading can be hard these days, so Elise Moser has tips to stay focused while reading.

Christopher Tomlins examines William Stryon’s misguided meditation on history and Nat Turner.

Watch out. Victoria Strauss has a contest scam alert: Legaia Books online book competition.


For short story writers: Matty Dalrymple and Mark Leslie Lefebvre walk thorough how to put together an indie anthology.

If you are writing memoir, Ana Maria Spagna explains how to foster more empathy in your memoir.

Science fiction and fantasy have long dealt with the problem of objectifying women. Oren Ashkenazi discusses why the argument “but men are objectified, too” doesn’t hold up.

Nathan Bransford wants to know: is the pandemic upending the plot of your novel?

It’s exciting to get a new story idea. Becca Puglisi shares 9 ways to originalize your story idea. Once you’ve got the idea in place, Laurence MacNaughton show how to plot your novel in three simple steps, and Janice Hardy advises how to get past hard-to-write scenes.

Taking care of the nitty-gritty craft elements can make your work stand out. Iola Goulton has 5 tips for ensuring your novel has sustainable conflict, Katherine Grubb relays 8 ways to make your writing funnier, Stavros Halvatzis talks story theme, Sacha Black encourages using the sense of touch in your story, Jan O’Hara discusses turning points, Jim Dempsey tackles symbolism, and James Scott Bell says don’t forget the decency factor.

After we’ve taken care of all of that, we need to edit to polish it all up. Mathina Calliope explores the easy-to-fix tense problem that might be tripping your readers up, Melissa Donaovan demystifies the comma, and Karstenberg has tips on how to keep it short.

At the best of times productivity can be hard to come by, and many of us are feeling even less productive during this pandemic. Susan DeFrietas discusses putting your writing in a place of importance in your life, Hank Phillippi Ryan has tips to get your writer brain back on track, Hunter Ligoure suggests ways to find coherence or mental clarity, Angela Ackerman explains goal-setting for writers during a pandemic, and Kathleen McCleary explores how to fuel your writing with feeling.

Dan Blank ruminates on anxiety, writing, and sharing, Garry Rodgers compares successful writers to experienced detectives, Robert Lee Brewer has 5 fun creative writing prompts for kids and parents, and K.M. Weiland shares 4 ways writing can improve your relationship with yourself.


In direct competition with Amazon, Bookshop online platform for independent bookstores is seeing success.

Ruth Comerford and Katherine Cowdrey discuss the Society of Authors survey finding authors are especially vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic impact, while Jason Boog explores how writers survived the Great Depression.

For self-publishers, Roz Morris describes how to un-self-publish a book to remove it from self-published channels if you want to do something else with it.

Even though audiobooks is a hot area, Melissa Bowersock reports that there is trouble in Audible.

If you are signing with an agent, Janet Reid has what to look for and look out in an author-agent contract.

Marketing is difficult at most times, and this period of time is especially confusing. Rachelle Gardner discusses how to handle social media during a pandemic, Rachel Thompson talks about how to promote your books right now, and Frances Caballo has a book marketing update.

Marketing does still happen, however. Karen Inglis shares 7 ways to market kids books, Brian Jud lists 9 tips to create good book marketing habits, and Jennifer Tucker gives us 4 key book promotion strategies for marketing young adult titles.

We have to “sell” our books to many people—agents, publishers, bookstores, and eventually readers. Each of these needs a different sales pitch. Florence Osmund explores the art of condensing an entire book into a brief sales pitch, while Barbara Linn Probst delves into what pushes readers to give a debut author a chance.

All authors should have an author website. Fauzia Burke discusses getting the most from your author website, and Pauline Wiles outlines author website must-haves.

Aside from author websites, there are other online tools to drive your marketing. Cristian Mihai has a blogging checklist of dos and don’ts and how to write an epic blog post, Tracy Atkins describes how Amazon is a data gathering and filtering tool, and Ann Smarty describes how to use YouTube to grow your blog traffic.


Words are our business, but also our pleasure. Sue Coletta dives into word porn and how word meaning changes over time, while Megan Garber makes the case against the grammar scolds.

Alex Trebek’s memoir is set for release in July.

Translator Richard Pevear explores the stories of Anton Checkov.

Sometimes adult writers dip into the children’s literature pool. Rebecca Rego Barry looks at when “serious” writers write books for kids.

Quarantine and plague are nothing new. Lapham’s Quarterly prints a letter from quarantine by John Keats, and Laura Marris discusses Albert Camus’s inoculation against hate: The Plague.

Finally, for those of you missing libraries and living on Zoom, make one of these 8 great libraries your Zoom background.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay healthy, stay safe, and we’ll see you next week!


  1. Thanks for the shout-out!


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