Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 11, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-11-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! As we slide into summer, kick back with a lemonade and enjoy some writerly links.

PEN America announces that Chinese essayist Xu Zhiyong wins the Barbey/Freedom to Write Award.

Oscar nominated playwright and writer of the movie Splash, Bruce Jay Friedman died at age 90.

The cornavirus is still forcing changes all around the publishing world. Scholastic adjusts its summer reading program, Andrew Albanese looks at looming changes as libraries begin to reopen, and almost 500,000 stream the first online Hay Festival.

On top of the coronavirus, huge protests against police brutality and systemic racism have swept the nation (and the world), causing many to look and see how they can help. Nathan Bransford lists ways to make a difference in the book world, Jason Reynolds’ reminds us that choice of words matter, the PW staff gives us a fiction anti-racist reading list, John Maher reports that workers across the book world are taking collective action against racism, John Mayer looks at poets calling for change at the Poetry Foundation, and Mark Alpert examines writing and racism on an individual level.


Lots of authors are wondering what to do with this pandemic in their writing. Dane Isaacson discusses how to write (or not write) about the pandemic. Much depends on what genre you write in.

Speaking of genre, Paula Munier has a quiz to help you decide if you’re writing in the genre that suits you best.

Specific genres have specific craft elements to think about it. Annabelle McCormack looks at writing the history in historical fiction, Jessica Lynn Jacquez asks: does your memoir has a story the world needs to hear, while crime writers might want to check out Garry Rogers’ day in the life of a coroner.

The various threads of craft that go into a novel can be confusing and seem endless. Jami Gold examines foreshadowing, JJ Barnes handle flashbacks, Janice Hardy tackles both why you should tighten your novel’s focus and fleshing out a too-short novel, and Donald Maass reveals the quest within the quest for most stories.

Michelle Barker warns of the dangers of anecdotal writing, James Preston suggests you visualize your story through storyboarding, Jami Gold discusses formatting non-verbal communication, Chi Luu reminds us of the power of idioms, and K.M. Weiland shares the 5 elements of a resonant closing line.

Character has about as many facets to it as the rest of the craft elements we deal with. Katherine Grubb has 9 ways to write and emotionally abusive villain, Stavros Halvatzis explores spiritual growth and the age of a character, Kristen Lamb looks at how wounds fashion unforgettable characters out of damaged pieces, and Jenny Hansen lists the 8 C’s of character development.

Editing covers quite a lot of ground. It can be word level, with the difference between sight vs. site vs. cite or when to use whom vs. who, or as over-arching as how to navigate negative reviews and critiques. Roz Morris gives us a pain-free way to tackle beta reader comments, and the AskALLi Team has the ultimate guide to self-editing your manuscript.

As writers, we are always looking for ways to work faster and to find inspiration. Stacey Corrin lists 10 quick tips to help you write 5x faster, Laina Turner has SMART goals for the self-published author, Jodi Turchin recommends these 5 ways to put the fun back in writing, and James Scott Bell reflects on some favorite writing quotes.

Robert A. Burton explains that our brains tell stories so we can live, while Bill Ferris suggests the top 5 writing hacks to distract you from the nightmare of your daily life.

Sharon Ledwith aims for the author’s comfort zone, a balance between writing and marketing, Erika Liodice explains how and why to create an author mission statement, and Ellie Maas Davis walks us through how to write a book dedication.


The coronavirus will leave an indelible stamp on publishing. Richard Charkin describes 10 publishing things that will never be the same, Jim Milliot reports that NYC publishers won’t open until September, and Alex Green finds out what it’s like to be a frontline bookseller during a pandemic.

The racial injustice protests are also roiling the publishing world. Nathan Bransford points out that #PublishingPaidMe is just the tip of the iceberg, while Ann Kjellberg explores the hardships faced by black-owned bookstores.

Thomas Key demystifies a 9th circuit court copyright ruling that states that “single unit of publication” registrations require publication as a singular, bundled collection.

For those querying agents, Janet Reid reminds us that your perfect query can get rejected if your pages are not strong, Ally E. Machate tells us how to send the best sample pages to agents, and Jane Friedman has questions to ask your publisher before you sign the contract.

Marketing can be difficult, especially if you don’t enjoy it. Anne R. Allen reminds us that you don’t have to be sleazy to sell books, the AskALLi Team has the ultimate guide to author platform, Penny Sansevieri explains the strategy that leads to more book sales, and James Scott Bell tackles public speaking for writers.

How do you get your name and work out there? Keri-Rae Barnum lays out how to set up a blog tour (plus a list of reputable blog tour companies), and Janet Reid directs us to how to find places to submit short stories and how to start building an email list.

Websites, blogs, and social media are a main way to connect with readers these days. Nate Hoffelder shares 991 web-safe fonts you can use for free, Cristian Mihai explains what she learned about blogging from the masters of literature and why you need a strategy to be successful in blogging, while Katherine Grubb lists 8 tips to help you get attention on Twitter.


BookMarks shares this 1963 review of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.

The New Yorker prints a previously unpublished Hemingway story, “Pursuit as Happiness”.

Kate Siber brings us Mary Austin, the 19th-century writer who braved the desert alone and has been almost forgotten.

Dr. Jin Li investigates how Shanghai became a city of literary experimentation.

Genre-melding is common in all art forms. Alfonso Casas looks at how Freddie Mercury brought a rock audience to opera.

Once travel is safe again, horror/scifi/speculative fiction fans can visit the Frankenstein museum in Bath, UK. Mary Shelley’s museum right near the Jane Austen museum, so you can hit both literary lights in one go.

That’s all for Top Picks Thursday this week! Join us next week for more literary links.


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