Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | July 23, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-23-2020


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, beach dunes and grasses


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’re suffering through another week of high heat and humidity — a perfect time to stay inside and check out the writerly links below. And since today is National Vanilla Ice Cream Day, fix yourself an ice cream treat to enjoy while you read. The great thing about vanilla ice cream is that it goes well with any other flavor, as well as all kinds of toppings. Enjoy!

Regular readers of our blog will notice that we’ve added a new category today: Podcasts. We’ve been finding a lot more video offerings — interviews with authors and podcasts about writing or literary topics — so we decided to include some and give them their own special section. Hope you find the new section useful.

Nature has long provided a source of inspiration and creative renewal for authors. Because the pandemic has restricted traveling, local parks and open spaces have become more important than ever, and not just for creative people. We hope the revival in appreciation for such places will spur setting aside even more natural areas for people’s enjoyment. [Note: All the photos in today’s post were taken at New Jersey’s Island Beach State Park.]

The pandemic continues to impact our daily lives as we seek creative ways to cope. Alison Flood looks at how a literary festival becomes a drive-in event, while Alistair Black delves into how libraries have been vital in times of crisis — from conflict to Covid-19, and Tim Coates suggests libraries could be leaders once again.

Good news for parents: Andrew Albanese tells us that Penguin Random House is extending its open license for online story time and read-aloud videos through December 31, 2020.

For your quarantine reading pleasure, Preety Sidhu recommends 11 novels starring essential workers, and Guaraa Shekhar writes about the birth of quarantine zines.

If you like to write, Bill Ferris takes a tongue-in-cheek crack at rating writing instruments.

In Memoriam: Joanna Cole, author of the beloved Magic School Bus books, dies at age 75 [reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer]; and Australian novelist Elizabeth Harrower dies at age 92 [reported by Jason Steger in The Sydney Morning Herald].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, seagull taking flight, beach scene




Having a career as an author is not easy. Several blog posts offer helpful suggestions: Tanya E. Williams talks about maintaining steam as a fulltime author, Jenny Hansen considers finding your inner creative badass, Aletheia provides reasons why you should keep writing your story, and Jim Dempsey contemplates writing and napping.

Andrew Noakes enumerates 6 guidelines for writing historical fiction, and David James Poissant ponders how to write a timely novel in a world that won’t stop changing.

Jan O’Hara gives us a plotstorming technique, and Patty Jansen shares her notes from a Worldcon panel with Kaaron Warren, Jack Dann, and Kim Stanley Robinson: write what you know.

Stavros Halvatzis advises authors to add powerful emotions to their stories, and Jessica Strawser supplies 5 ways to power up your story’s momentum.

Scenes are the building blocks of stories. Winnie Griggs talks about making a scene, Peter von Stackelberg presents an intuitive 4-step process for creating vibrant scene structure, and Emily Golden and Rachel May delve into how scene choices determine successful character arcs.

Whether you’re writing nonfiction or fiction, Patrice Gaines recommends nothing less than honesty when writing your book.

For those wondering about narrative voice, Mara Purl compares two book series versus the TV series that came from them, narrative voice versus scripted scenes, and Katharine Grubb identifies 12 mistakes you could be making when creating narrative voice.

Crafting your characters? Annie Sullivan explains why every female protagonist doesn’t need to wield a sword to be strong, Angela Ackerman delves into how emotional wounds can steer a character’s job choice, and SCBWI’s Lee Wind recommends getting more body-positive books by doing better by fat characters. Also, for a resource on writing characters whose perceived flaws are a matter of perspective, check out this infographic from wholeheartedschoolcounseling.

Robert Lee Brewer clarifies larger vs. bigger vs. greater vs. higher, and Katharine Grubb discusses using metaphors to strengthen your prose.

When you’re revising that draft, James Scott Bell urges writers to stir your echoes (close repetition of a word or phrase), while Barbara Linn Probst goes into editing for theme.

If you write in the mystery genre, Adam Croft reveals why readers love crime thrillers.

Sophie Masson reveals what she’s learned about presenting online writing workshops.

With some technology tips, Laurence MacNaughton shares 4 free must-have writing apps, and Jami Gold supplies ideas for protecting our data: how to keep our stories and notes safe.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, osprey landing in next box

Osprey landing on its nest.




With some positive publishing news, Porter Anderson discusses the NPD BookScan report that, spurred by sales of politically related biography and memoir and children’s books, the U.S. book unit sales rose 2.8 percent in the second quarter, and Ed Nawotka informs us that $3.5 million in grants is available to nonprofit publishers and literary arts organizations through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s establishment of the Literary Arts Emergency Fund.

Jim Milliot writes that new Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt talks about reopening stores after lockdowns, layoffs, and a major redesign.

Using the internet is not without problems. Porter Anderson reports that Wattpad says it’s resetting passwords following a reported data breach, and Victoria Strauss warns writers about scammers impersonating legitimate agents.

Trying to sell your book? Sue Coletta sums up how to craft an elevator pitch that sells.

Marketing has many facets. If you haven’t thought of using videos, Cristian Stanciu shares 5 ways to use videos to promote authors and their books.

Dave Chesson explores Amazon editorial reviews and wonders if you’re using this incredible section, while Neha Yazmin sets out 3 reasons to revise and re-publish your backlist.

Diana Urban tells us about 35 authors using Pinterest for book marketing & inspiration, and Brian Jud suggests other places to sell your books: supermarkets and pharmacies.

For author bloggers, Sandra Beckwith lists 5 reasons why guest blogging is smart for novelists., and Cristian Mihai offers writing tips from great writers to help you become a phenomenal blogger and sets out 9 things you should know about blogging before you decide if it’s worth it.

With tips for your author website, Penny Sansevieri explains how to market a book with 5 simple website upgrades.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, yellow cactus fowers, bee on flower




In an interview with Nathan Bransford, David Gaughran shares marketing tips for reaching your first readers.

Joanna Penn talks about how to share the ideas and research behind your novel.

Interviewed by Courtney Balestier of WFMA, Wayétu Moore focuses on storytelling as an act of love.

On the How to Proceed podcast, Linn Ullmann talks to Ali Smith on what to do when you lose faith in the writing process.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, brown pelican flying low over the water

Brown pelican.




How much impact do writers and their writings influence society? Jeff VanderMeer reveals how fantasy literature helped create the 21st century, and Maren Tova Linett discusses viewing literature as a lab for community ethics.

More specifically, Nick Ripatrazone looks into the poets vs. the police on standing your ground in a Toronto park, and Aya de León asserts that crime fiction is complicit in police violence — but it’s not too late to change.

Ashawnta Jackson mentions that the first black-owned bookstore in the U.S. was opened in 1834 by black abolitionist David Ruggles.

Ikechukwu Ogbu speaks about the Igbo art of storytelling.

David Karashima writes that five Japanese authors share their favorite Murakami short stories.

For fans of the iconic spy, William Boyd reveals how he found James Bond’s precise address.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, shore shrubs on sand dune


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Keep cool, and come back next week for another roundup of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, empty beach looking south toward Barnegat Light




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