Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 18, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-18-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We have crossed the midline for March and will soon be properly in Spring. Hopefully our creativity can bloom like the flowers.

This week, the literary world lost author of The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster, at age 91.

In great news for the arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities will receive $135m to distribute to cultural institutions.

Authors use their voices to shine light on dark times. Mike Gayle, the first man to win the Romance Novelists’ Association outstanding achievement award, tackles racism in his latest book.

Books open the world to people, but not always equally. Amazon is blocking libraries from lending more than 10,000 ebooks, and  Danika Ellis speaks to the inequality of school book fairs.

Mark Pratt repots that after Dr. Seuss’ estate announced it would stop allowing the publication of 6 books that contained racist images, his book sales skyrocketed.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss brings us a scam alert: Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions and its stable of imaginary agents.


Perhaps you are a poet and don’t know it? Melissa Donovan explains and gives examples of prose poetry.

Mary Chamberlain brings us her top tips for writing historical fiction.

There are many literary devices writers use to grab readers by the emotions. Kelly Jensen has an A to Z guide to literary devices and tools, and Angus Fletcher dissects 8 of literature’s most powerful inventions and the neuroscience behind how they work.

Setting can be a powerful force in your story. Sarah Stewart Taylor shares secrets of a setting master, while Jami Gold examines when we should treat our setting as a character.

Characters seemed to be on bloggers’ minds this week. Angela Ackerman has one thing to do if you want to write unforgettable characters, Monya Baker posts 6 tips for writing deep 3rd person POV, Janice Hardy lists 4 ways a strong POV strengthens a novel, and 4 steps for choosing what details to describe in a scene, and Kristina Adams discusses 5 ways to add depth to your character (by getting to know yourself).

Talking further about character, Laurence MacNaughton has 9 questions you must ask your main character, Piper Bayard reveals 10 common bedroom objects to use as weapons in a fight, Stavros Halvatzis examines how the status of well rounded characters plays into the story, and K. M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arcs series with part 6: the Crone arc.

Editing is a key to success. Anne R. Allen has reader pet peeves to look out for, Dana Isaacson lists 7 lessons from Maxwell Perkins, Jim Dempsey shares 5 reasons why you need a professional editor, Steve Hooley discusses cleaning up the story trail for beta readers, Lisa Cooper Ellison exposes 3 traps that subvert our ability to accept feedback, and remember, when you are in need of that elusive right word, great writers simply make them up.

To work better, faster, we need better habits. Jen Theuriet shows us how to change 3 mind-mush habits, while A. Howitt has 8 simple steps to better writing habits.

A successful career is part art, part business. David Duhr asks about writing process vs. product: do you focus on the doing or the having?; Mary Kole discusses unconventional writing and fiction rules, and Kathryn Craft finds that authenticity builds a satisfying career.


Casey Cep reports that a Kansas bookshop’s fight with Amazon is about more than the price of books.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc in the publishing world, but New England indie publishers had success by sticking with their niches in 2020.

Audiobooks are a hot market. Scribd announces an audiobook production line , highlighting independent publishers, while June Thomas tells us what sets a good audiobook apart.

If you are self-publishing, eventually you need to decide how big your book should be. Amy Collins gives details on picking a popular trim size for your book.

Publishing is a business, and we writers have to think like business people when it comes time to get our books out in the world. Lilly Dancyger explains that a contract that doesn’t suit your needs or expectations could be worse than no book deal at all, and Rachelle Gardner answers the twin questions: what can an agent do for me? do I need one?

The writing life is full of rejection, but we struggle on anyway. Katharine Grubb lists reasons why your manuscript may have been rejected, and C. S. Lakin reveals how writers can adopt a success mind-set.

Marketing online is a very different skill set than writing. Matt Moran investigates color psychology in marketing, Ron Stefanski has 8 expert strategies to help you stay fired up about your blog, and Sandra Beckwith clarifies the best way to comment on blogs.


Roz Morris’ So You Want To Be A Writer lays out how to organize events for selling your books.

The WMFA podcast with Courtney Ballestier hosts Dantiel W. Moniz on endings as windows rather than exits.

On the Otherppl podcast with Brad Listi, Vesna Maric discusses the freedom of working outside historical fiction’s rules.

The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman has Naima Coster on following narrative threads rather than chronology.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn talks copyright protection, smart contracts, digital scarcity, and NFTs, as well as blockchain for the publishing industry with Simon-Pierre Marion.


Emily Temple rounds up 50 very bad book covers for literary classics, and Isabelle Popp revisits Fabio romance novel covers.

Maria Aurora Couto reflects on her long association with famous novelist Graham Greene.

Rachel Rosenberg relates the history of dime novels and the cheap book boom.

With books a dime a dozen, how can you choose which to read next? Maybe you don’t have to. Sarah Rahman makes a case for reading multiple books at a time.

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


  1. This is my first time reading your blog – at least as much as memory kicks in. Anyway there are so many great read connections here I fear I may never get any writing done at all.

    I signed up to get your future postings. This is an amazing collection and this is only one week! Of course now I will have to go back and read past ones. Hmmm. I may never get out of this rabbit hole.

    Thanks so much!


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