Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 4, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-04-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of June! It’s really feeling like summer now, and the countdown to the end of remote-learning school has begun. But we all know learning never stops for writers, so read on for literary links.

Writer Joyce Carol Oates wins France’s $218,000 Cino del Duca World Prize, often seen as a precursor to the Nobel.

The literary world lost two giants this week: Larry Kramer, pioneering AIDS activist and writer, died at age 84, and bookselling visionary Harry Hoffman died at 92.

Many cities in America have been in upheaval this week following the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests for long-overdue systemic change. Clare Kirch reports on Minneapolis bookstores dealing with fire and vandalism during this chaotic weekend.

The fight against racism continues in the writing world as well. Romance Writers of America aims for a happy end to their racism implosion with a new prize and new vision, John Maher talks to authors taking publishing’s diversity issue into their own hands, and Frances Caballo challenges all of us: what are you doing to encourage inclusivity and represent diversity in your marketing images?

In copyright news, AAP members file a copyright infringement suit against Internet Archive, with four major publishers joins the lawsuit.

If you are looking for work, Mary Kole of is hiring a copywriter.


There are different rules for different genres, and Christoper Oldcorn examine understanding difference audiences. Laird Barron looks at writing noir fiction when the raw is too real, Toni Susnjar discusses map building for fantasy writers, and Jason Wilson ponders travel writing in the absence of travel.

A strong structure is vital to a good story. Katharine Grubb has questions to ask when planning your three-act structure, Swati Teerdhala talks about when to tell and not show, and Terry Odell shares the power of asking yourself “why?”.

Once you’ve got the backbone in place, you’ve got all the little bones to add on and fill out. Jami Gold looks at word choice and what it means for our writing, Jessi Rita Hoffman discusses the problem of self-conscious writing, Matt Janacone tackles writing without the semicolon, Robert Lee Brewer defines empathy vs. sympathy vs. apathy, and Janice Hardy offers a checklist to strengthen the narrative drive in your scenes.

Characters bring the story to life. Halimah Marcus, Brandon Taylor, and Erin Bartnett examine using the first person plural POV, Kristen Lamb discusses deception as a storytelling device with an unreliable narrator, Stavros Halvatzis shows how to build characters in seven steps, Angela Ackerman looks at how much planning is needed for character building in part I and part II, Sacha Black has 3 ways to differentiate your characters, and Lisa Hall-Wilson shares 3 ways to dive deeper into character emotions.

Writer’s block is a problem most writers will face at some point. Bob Hostetler tells how to beat writer’s block, Robin LaFevers has tips to break through writer’s block, and Bonnie Randall introduces the antithesis method to get unstuck in a scene.

A writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Ruth Harris gives us a writers guide to patience and perseverance, David Shorb explains why you should plan to fail, and Jael McHenry urges us to get comfortable with failure.

Sometimes it’s hard to move forward, whether your obstacles are coming from outside or from within. Melissa Donovan has a few good writing tips to keep you on your toes, Heather Weidner shares tips for overcoming fear and doubt, and David Shorb reminds us that you don’t get what you don’t fight for.

Alexa Glazer explores what storytelling is and 4 ways stories bring people together. Sometimes people come together through reading a common story, so Paula Munier compiled her top 10 books about writers. Sometimes stories bring people together as writing partners, so Sarah Skilton tells us how to collaborate on our next novel.


Mark Williams maps the new normal: as bookstores in France reopen, early euphoria gives way to plummeting books sales in week two.

Want to self-publish? Elaine Del Valle tells us how to become a self-published author.

Agents and ex-agents had a lot to say this week. Janet Reid defines narrative nonfiction for children and discusses how to query when your protagonist doesn’t come in until later in the book, Nathan Bransford shows us how to write a one sentence pitch, Rachelle Gardner answers the question: what if an agent rejects a bestseller?; and Victoria Strauss discusses evaluating publishing contracts and 6 ways authors may be sabotaging themselves.

Author marketing likes to talk about platform. Marion Roach Smith and Joanna Penn explore how broad an author platform should be, Eldred “Bob” Bird has more thoughts on growing a fertile author platform, Bath Barany posts a marketing relationship roadmap for novelists, Sandra Beckwith lists 4 tips to turn your book marketing around, and Dave Chesson gives us 5 easy ways to increase your book sales.

While much of marketing is virtual now, Sherry Ficklin discusses why swag (including digital swag) is vital to author events. Crisitan Mihai examines 2 aspects of content creation with 7 phenomenal tips that are going to revolutionize the way you write blog posts and showing how you sabotage your blog by writing mediocre sentences, while Elizabeth S. Craig tells us how to claim your knowledge panel on Google.


Virginia Breen gathers up a struggle in 17 syllables: essential workers write COVID haiku.

There is often discussion about writing with pen and paper vs. on a computer. Matt Janacone brings another suggestion, extolling the advantages of a manual typewriter and why every writer should own one.

As we move into the video-conference-from-home age, the timeless art of the bookcase flex starts a new chapter.

Sometimes I wish I could escape from the news. Rob Brotherton tells of a time when all New York City stopped reading the news at once.

Martha Ackmann opens the letter that changed Emily Dickinson’s life.

Got some cash stashed away for a special purchase? Up for sale is the first printing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 1814 Baltimore Patriot and Evening Advertiser.

Sue Coletta brings us the story of the world’s first free public library supported by taxation.

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

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