Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 4, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-04-2021

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in March! Today, March 4th, is National Grammar Day, followed on Monday, March 8th, with National Proofreading Day, so you can go fix all the mistakes you learned you made on National Grammar Day.

The literary world said goodbye to the prolific and versatile poet, activist, and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti this week.

In awards news, SCBWI has announced their Spark Awards for the best books published non-traditionally in 2020.

Lila Shapiro looks at the changing face of publishing by interviewing the diverse book publishing power club.

Brandie DeRusha gathers 20 biography books for kids to help them dream big.

If you are more into audio books, The Book Designer lists legit places you can get free audiobooks.

Are you missing your bookish events? Matt Grant has virtual book festivals to get excited about in the next three months.

Looking for work? Mary Kole is now hiring market spies for a secret new project.


Short fiction writers, we have a few tips for you today. Rachelle Shaw has 5 tips on writing a short story, and Julie Duffy focuses on short fiction.

Hank Phillippi Ryan tells how to write a bestselling thriller.

Sometimes fiction exposes truth better than non-fiction. Kim Echlin explores telling stories of the unthinkable—when fiction bears witness to a crime against humanity.

For anyone who may be unsure, The Book Designer demystifies what a preface is and its purpose.

Stories are propelled by the choices characters make and their reasons for making those choices. Janice Hardy examines how the Act Two choice works in a novel, while Stavros Halvatzis works with backstory and Susan DeFrietas has 4 key tactics for dealing with backstory and exposition.

You don’t ever want to lose the reader’s attention, which means not confusing, boring, or jarring them. Nathan Bransford advises describing characters and setting when they’re first introduced, Janice Hardy shares tips to understand and control your novel’s pacing, Bob Hostetler urges us to dump the cliché simile, and Chris M. Arnone explains the history and future of the singular they.

You want your reader invested in your character and their struggle. Laurie Schnebly Campbell discusses why character motivation matters, Katharine Grubb has tips for clarity and creativity when writing multiple points-of-view, K.M. Weiland explores the Queen character arc, and Janice Hardy reveals a core question for getting to know your character.

Once that first draft is done, it’s time for a hard look at what you’ve actually got. Sharon Oard Warner says to find the ending before returning to the beginning, Melissa Donovan reminds us that writing is rewriting, and Orly Konig shares 3 steps to a full rewrite for pantsers.

There is no one-size-fits-all writing process. It can vary even from project to project. Julianna Baggott reveals the results of a survey on process to see how others do it, Ruth Harris suggests that your notebook is your superpower, and Sarahlyn Bruck starts her process with setting.

Eileen Cook gives good reasons why you should join a writing community. Such a community can help with practical things like Gwen Hernandez’s instructions on how to find anything in Scrivener 3, or with the creative things like PJ Parrish’s making up words.

Marti Leimbach gets meta with advice on writing advice, Tasha Seegmiller asks: are you a whole-hearted writer?; and James Scott Bell expounds on writing to escape.


Attention freelancers! Christin Nielsen has collected 14 e-commerce markets that pay freelancers.

If you are self-publishing, one of the big questions you need to answer is how will you use Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. C.S. Lakin examines the pros and cons of staying exclusive with Amazon or going wide.

Readers often contact authors. Elizabeth S. Craig looks at how to respond to readers across platforms.

Music is powerful and evocative, and authors are often tempted to use it in their books. So Rachelle Gardner answers the question: can I use song lyrics in my book?

Everything authors do in public is part of their brand. Keeping that in mind, John Gilstrap has branding redux, and Frances Caballo shares tips for an author website.

For many authors, marketing is confusing and frightening. Sandra Beckwith has 3 book marketing tactics you can ignore, J. Elle lists 5 buzz-building tips from an instant New York Times bestselling debut, and Penny Sansevieri shows how to work more reviews into your book marketing plan and  30+ ideas for bite-sized books marketing.


On the Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner, Lydia Millet discusses letting the work change you.

The Reading Women podcast with Kendra Winchester has Jenny Offill talking about the ambition of short novels.

Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature podcast explores the brief life and towering accomplishments of Lorraine Hansberry.

The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan has Dantiel W. Moniz on writing stories that are felt in the body.

On The Creative Penn podcast, Joanna Penn and Patrick O’Donnell  delve into how to write authentic crime fiction.


Test your literary chops. How many of the 100 most famous passages in literature can you identify?

Celebrate the Perseverance Mars landing with 18 books for all ages about Mars.

We read about how reading novels today teaches empathy. Ritchie Robertson investigates if the novels of the Enlightenment also taught empathy.

Can you imagine your work still being read two centuries after you are gone? Five poets discuss John Keats’ best poems 200 years after his death.

Women writers are on people’s minds this week. Jonathan Lethem explains why Shirley Jackson is a reader’s writer, Arielle Moscati draws a map of Mary Oliver: a reading pathway; and Isabelle Popp lists 13 ways of examining Sylvia Plath.

Underlying some video games’ coding are the bones of classic literature. Cindy Frenkel examines how teaching classic lit helps game designers develop better stories.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week for more tips and talks!

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