Posted by: Kerry Gans | October 1, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 10-01-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in October! Settle back with your pumpkin spice beverage or snack, and enjoy the links below.

The 2020 National Book Awards Longlists for Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, Young People’s Literature, and Fiction have been released.

Check out the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 honorees.

In literary losses, journalist, author, and one-time publisher of Random house Harold Evans dies at age 92, and Forrest Gump author Winston Groom dies at age 77.

Melanie D.G. Kaplan highlights how libraries are writing a new chapter during the pandemic.

While at the library, look for these 15 spooky horror books for middle school, and these books about Ruth Bader Ginsberg. David Ebershoff discusses editing Justice Ginsberg for a book.

In the UK, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood headline the Society of Authors fundraiser lineup to ease financial hardships for authors.

Olivia Snaije examines how the World Kid Lit project tackles translation rights and challenges in children’s books.

Be careful out there, fellow scribes. Victoria Strauss has a pay-to-play alert for Europe Books/Europa Edizioni/Gruppo Albatros Il Filo, and Jessica Strawser warns of Facebook hackers targeting author pages and everything you need to know.

The ALA releases a list of the top 100 banned and challenged books.


For those who write children’s literature: Donna Janell Bowman has 10 things to consider when writing a picture book biography, and Sherry Ellis looks at incorporating research into juvenile fiction.

Historical fiction scribes: Katie Moench discusses historical fiction and the power of stories, while Ellen Buikema talks about the journey of writing historical fiction.

For those of us writing series, Marty Wingate explains how to write a series that pleases readers old and new.

How much social responsibility do writers have? Emily Raboteau explores the role of literary writers in the fight against climate change, and Dustin Grinnell lists 7 ways Kurt Vonnegut poisoned readers’ minds with humanity.

So much goes into writing a successful book. Julie Duffy shows how to craft titles that hook readers and optimize success, while Claire Langley-Hawthorne talks about recurring personal literary themes in your work.

The conventional wisdom is that a scene should do more than one thing. Janice Hardy has the recipe for writing a great scene, Ellen Buikema examines writing humor to heal mind and body, Annie Lyons muses on the challenge of writing about death, and Bonnie Randall reminds us to employ the four seasons to enhance atmosphere in your novel.

Characters also have to be layered to be compelling. Jacqueline Myers has character creation made easy-ish, Katharine Grubb lists 20 things to give your characters that will make them more vivid, Melissa Donovan shares writing resources for naming your characters, and Lisa Hall-Wilson walks us through using deep POV in limited 3rd person.

Editing finishes off the process. Henry McLaughlin has advice when it’s time to revise your manuscript, Robert Lee Brewer says to look for mistakes using homonyms vs. homophones vs. homographs, and Holly Seddon gives us 10 avoidable mistakes when writing your first book.

Writing can be an emotional job—full of highs and lows. Katharine Grubb explains why you should join a writing community, Hannah H. Howard looks at why fiction feeds your soul, Mathina Calliope wrestles with the perennial question: am I good enough to be a writer?, and John Gilstrap explores reigniting the passion.

Many writers are experiencing exhaustion, frustration, and lack of creativity right now. Heather Webb discusses managing expectations one book at a time, and Laura Drake urges us to cut ourselves some slack.


Jane Friedman examines how Amazon’s importance to book sales keeps increasing. She investigates if Barnes & Noble can survive, while Alex Green reports that books stores need more than hope: they need sales, soon.

Agent Janet Reid weighs in with a trifecta this week: entering contests with publication as part of the prize, should I sell my Instagram stories to fans?, and clean up your social media before you query. Kristen Nelson discusses the definition of a “referral” to an agent, and how they can be powerful tools if used correctly.

On the marketing side, Penny Sansevieri explores how to promote your brand and how to market a self-published book without wasting so much time, Janice Thompson shares 10 ways to market your book on a budget, Mary Kole speaks specifically to author platform and nonfiction for children, and Sandra Beckwith addresses the power of author collaborations and the odd October occasions that are book promotion opportunities.

Online is the way to go these days, so Jane Friedman shows how to compete with other online book events, Brian Meert tells us how to increase sales on Facebook, Scott La Counte has 13 tips for indie authors for promoting a book on social media, and Diana Urban lays out the 5 crucial elements for your author website.


The Quarantine Tapes podcast with Paul Holdengraber hosts Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. on the urgency of James Baldwin’s lessons.

Going against type: Newberry Tart podcast with Jennie and Marcy talks with Erin Entrada Kelly on writing YA heroines who aren’t necessarily plucky and brave.

On The Creative Penn, Joanna Penn discusses starting from zero and success with BookBub ads with David Gaughran.

Carl Hiassen talks about satire as a product of anger on The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan.

On the First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin, David Szalay examines when one central character isn’t enough.

The History of Literature podcast with Jacke Wilson chats with Margot Livesey on the greatest writers in Scottish history.


We all deal with this: Ruth Harris shares 8 simple, effective ways to conquer lower back pain.

People tend to read to be taken to other places, but Christopher Louis Romaguera delves into the power of reading about your home.

Noelle Carter looks at how chef memoirs continue to mystify us with tales of mayhem and madness.

Peter Brooks investigates what is so special about Balzac’s thousands of characters?

The Best Seller List staff demystifies how the New York Times’ best seller list gets made.

For some fun, Tom Comitta compiles a literary supercut of sci-fi last sentences.

How about some bad first sentences? PJ Parrish is grateful that it is STILL a dark and stormy night.

James Scott Bell has some fun with bloopers.

For those dying to know your grammarian personality, Joshua C. Craig brings us the descriptivist or prescriptivist quiz.

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

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