Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | March 25, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-25-2021


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday on this last full week of March and first week of spring! We hope your week has been as beautiful as ours.

When I went to our WordPress site to finish this post last night, I discovered that everything had changed, and I had lost all but six of our links. The thought of having to search for all the blog posts again made me want to just crawl in bed and forget it, but eventually, I found my last saved post from Tuesday night and was able to copy and paste it into a new post in code editor mode (which I don’t really know how to use).

I had some great spring photos to include this week, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to insert them in this format. I hope we can figure it all out by next week.

For those women writers feeling overwhelmed who are also mothers, Denise Massar shares some encouragement for mom writers thinking of quitting, and Kelly McMasters talks about the journey back to writing as a single mother.

David Laskin delves into why so many novelists write about writers.

Why do you write—or read? Bonnie Randall sees an intersection between cathartic writing & cathartic reading.

Jamie Vander Broek looks at how a library is like a museum.

What reader ever has enough bookmarks? Cassie Gutman offers tips on how to make a pressed flower bookmark.

Kudos: Ed Nawotka names the eight writers awarded $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prizes in drama, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

In memoriam: celebrated Polish poet Adam Zagajewski dies at age 75 [reported by Monika Scislowska, Associated Press], and prolific children’s author Joan W. Anglund at age 95 [reported by Emily Langer, Washington Post].




Feeling can sometimes get in the way of writing. Elizabeth S. Craig offers tips on handling perfectionism, and Nancy Stohlman discusses jealousy in the time of quarantine.

Do you have a mentor? Garry Rodgers writes about mentoring for writers.

Check out Jessica Strawser’s take on writing about life or death, and Kelsey Allagood gives us six writing lessons from an actual backyard gardener.

For those ready to begin a book, Lucy V. Hay mentions 3 things worth thinking about BEFORE you start your book, and Zoe M. McCarthy continues with elements to include in a novel’s first 5 pages–part 2.

Writers can learn from both bestsellers and the classics. Charlie Jane Anders identifies 7 wrong lessons creators learned from Game of Thrones., and C. S. Lakin writes about 5 insightful things a writer can learn from 5 timeless classics.

Readers are very important to writers. Lisa Cron takes a look at what readers really want from a story, Robin Farmer contributes 14 techniques to write emotional truth to engage readers, and Katharine Grubb investigates capturing your readers with character hooks.

K. M. Weiland continues her series on archetypal character arcs with part 7: the mage arc.

For those working on story structure, Janice Hardy makes sense of how the act three plan works in a novel, while Lorraine Zago Rosenthal focuses on the delicate art of creating the backstory.

Nathan Bransford elaborates on how to write clear physical description, and Brenda Copeland suggests that writers show AND tell.

Stavros Halvatzis looks into desire and fear in stories, and Brooke Bailey Peters clarifies what makes a good sex scene.

Laura Drake focuses on when “in medias res” works and when it doesn’t.

What genre do you prefer? Memoir? Fantasy? More than one? Roz Morris discusses what you need to do after writing the first draft of a memoir, Sarah Beth Durst provides 4 tips on writing an epic fantasy that’s also a page turner, and Eldred Bird highlights some guideposts for switching genres.

If you’re ready to revise and/or edit, Lincoln Michel expounds on the value of boring sentences, and Janice Hardy challenges writers to take a commonly misused words quiz.

Lisa Cooper Ellison advises writers to beware of chapter-by-chapter book critiques.




For writers searching for agents, Lucinda Halpern lists 3 things your query letter needs to succeed, and Alison Hill gives four tips to writers who hate pitching, while Janet Reid explains why your perfect fit agent might reject you, and agent Jessica Faust says she did not reject you for checking in.

If you’re new to submitting your work, Robert Lee Brewer explains the slush pile.

Victoria Strauss warns of a contract red flag: when a publisher claims copyright on edits.

Brett Bowen sets out everything a self-employed freelancer needs to know about taxes, and Evan Jensen debunks 11 freelancer stereotypes that are total B.S.

Do you write short stories? Rayne Hall explains how to publish your own short story collection.

With some tips on marketing your book, Penny Sansevieri zeroes in on eight critical mistakes authors make when selling books, Brian Jud presents tips on how to target your book’s audience, and John Peragine goes into the basics of virtual book tours.

Considering creating an audiobook? Diana Urban shares 16 tips from indie authors on how to self-publish audiobooks.

For authors overwhelmed by social media, Barbara Lynn Probst provides useful tips for working with a social media assistant.

Sandra Beckwith gives us new hope for old books.




Esmé Weijun Wang discusses the physical and visceral act of writing on Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner.

On the Reading Women podcast, Talia Hibbert talks about inviting disabled, chronically ill, and neurodivergent characters into rom-coms.

Yamen Manai speaks about waiting for the perfect allegory on Brad Listi’s Otherppl podcast.

On the History of Literature podcast with Jacke Wilson, Lauren Marino talks about the life and works of Willa Cather.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast brings us author Debbie Young and how to write a cozy mystery.




Sierra Garcia looks at how early sci-fi authors imagined climate change.

Marco d’Eramo tell us how Mark Twain documented the dawn of the tourist age.

Robert Alter ponders why readers have such strong feelings about Vladimir Nabokov.

Vivian Gornick reflects on the magnetism of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Nick Cornwell reveals the beautiful collaboration between John Le Carre and his wife.

Elizabeth Brooks reminisces about the undeniable lure of the historic literary home.

Paulina Bren explains how the Barbizon Hotel gave Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion freedom and creative autonomy.


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Have a great weekend!


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