Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | June 28, 2017

Writing as Child’s Play

My goal, for the summer, as a writer, is to play. Some of my personal baggage is that I tend to be hard on myself. Believe it or not, that’s not fun and it’s not helpful.

If you’d like to join me in this experiment, here is my plan.

Step One

Agree to give up any expectations of perfection. It just doesn’t matter. If you have to, remind yourself to choose a different thought when fear and doubt show up.

Step Two

Read enough to see something another writer has done in his or her writing that looks interesting.

Step Three

Try it out for yourself in a short story.

You can’t fail. This is play.

There is no right or wrong in play.

Writing is play.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 22, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-22-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! My child’s last day of school was on Tuesday, so I have now joined the ranks of parent-writers wondering how they are going to squeeze in writing over the summer month. Fear not, we will still find the time to bring you literary links!

Happy Bloomsday! Too bad James Joyce would have hated this.

Tracy K. Smith, the new U.S. Poet Laureate, calls poems her anchor.

Check out this Parthenon made of books, built by artist Marta Minujin at the site of a Nazi book burning.

This crowdfunding project aims to put 200 Holocaust diaries online.

Reading is a very personal activity, and it has profound effects on us. Studies show that learning to read as an adult changes deep regions in the brain, and how boys and girls differ as readers.

Once we achieve some measure of success, many people ask for our help and advice. Jane Friedman looks at how we decide who deserves our help and what we owe to society.

Celebrating diversity and own voices: The Well-Read Black Girl Writers’ Conference and Festival has exceeded its fundraising goal and will take place on September 9th in Brooklyn, Lisa Hix and Mike Madrid unmask comic book superheroines, and Daniel Jose Ruiz discusses the Redwall series, which has “powerful things to say about inclusion and representation.”

Independent bookstores are finding ways to thrive. Check out this post of a bookstore from each of the 50 states. And when you’re in Massachusetts, visit the Dr. Seuss Museum.

Over the summer, have your kids read these 13 children’s books that encourage kindness towards others.

Also, be on the lookout for the graphic novel of To Kill a Mockingbird, coming November 2018.

Neil Gaiman on why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.


Writers use many different programs to create, but many of us still use Microsoft Word. Debbie Young tells how to get the best out of Word when writing and self-publishing a book.

The beginning stages of a book can be the hardest to navigate. Janice Hardy discusses brainstorming your idea, Emily Rushkovick talks about how to ignore your instincts and find the real story, and Erika Raskin shares the disorganized novelist’s guide to outlines.

Once we start writing the story, we work with the building blocks of scenes and chapters. Janice Hardy lists 3 ways to increase the tension in your scenes, and Greer Macallister deals with the art of the chapter.

Creating characters is a ton of fun for most writers. K.M. Weiland has 5 ways to use Myers-Briggs for character development, Aimie K. Runyan discusses the art and craft of developing characters, and just in case your character (or you) ever gets buried alive, Sue Colleta details how to escape if buried alive.

After we’ve written that first draft, we need to polish our words to a shine. Jennie Nash gives us 4 perspectives on how to boost your self-editing superpowers, L.E. Sterling shows how to strengthen your verbs and your writing, and Deborah Raney shares 10 movie techniques to apply to your novel.

Kathleen Pooler has 7 tips for writing with intention and why it’s important for memoir writers, and Lizzie Shane shows how we can make our writing more authentic.

We’ve all heard the advice to write every day. Janice Hardy tells us why we shouldn’t write every day, and Debbie Young says why sometimes it’s good to be an irregular writer.

James Scott Bell gives us writing lessons from Ireland, and Jami Gold asks us: what’s your personal hero’s journey?


When you become an author, you open yourself to the public, whether you like it or not, and you need to decide how you want to interact with the public. Helen Sedwick discusses how to choose and set up a pen name, Dana Kaye has 3 steps to crafting your public persona for author speaking engagements (or really anytime you appear in public), and Tamela Hancock Murray shows how to decide if you should go to a conference or not.

Indie authors now have access to Bookscan numbers, but does that help or hurt when they want to try to get an agent? Janet Reid discusses the vagueness of Bookscan and how to incorporate those numbers in a query letter. Whether you use Bookscan data or not in your query, Nathan Bransford advises reading your query out loud before sending it.

Marketing is about connecting with your audience. Judith Briles defines and walks through the creation of a tagline for our author brand, Laura Morelli lays out how and why to submit a self-published book for review in Publisher’s Weekly, and Savvy Book Writers gives us an alternative to ACX for publishing our audiobooks.

The internet can be a powerful career tool. Nick Stephenson shows how to use email marketing to find your first 10,000 readers, Orly Konig-Lopez shares 4 Facebook lessons from a debut author, and Anne R. Allen outlines how blogging leads to many career paths.


Text generators are nothing new. See 3 very modern uses for Andrey Markov’s 19th-century text generator.

The Library of Congress preserves online culture in their Webcomics and Web Cultures Archives.

When you’re immersed in reading for study, it can be hard to read for fun. Laura Stoddart has tips on how to start reading for pleasure again after studying.

Author Ian Rankin inaccurately described a pub in his novel—and they remodeled to make it match.

Learn why Anthony Burgess abandoned his Dictionary of Slang project.

View 17th-century England Through the Eyes of Celia Fiennes, one of the first modern travel writers.

Loretta Chase and Susan Holloway Scott explores the treasures of the Kensington Central Library.

Meet the spy who became England’s first successful female writer.

This one had Chronicler Nancy Keim Comley giggling: Regular people recreate 10 corny romance novel covers.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay cool, and we’ll see you next week!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 15, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-15-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We are midway through June already. Where did the time go?

Frank Deford, one of the great in American sports writing, has died.

Money in the publishing business can be hard to come by, but some does exist. Audible created a $5 million fund for emerging playwrights, while James Patterson increased his “holiday bonus” program to booksellers by $100,000.

And you think you publish slowly. J.R.R. Tolkien’s book Beren and Lúthien will be published after 100 years.

The Bronx has no bookstores. Noëlle Santos wants to change that.

If you can’t get to a bookstore, check out this list of 100 must read middle grade books for the summer.

Joe Canon says there’s no better place to write than the library. To that end, New York Public Library is publishing a zine that will “showcase works from the diverse communities the Library serves.

Books can save our sanity. An 18-year-old Syrian refugee discusses the books she read to escape the horrors of war.


For budding memoirists out there, Jane Friedman has some tough love while explaining why your memoir won’t sell.

On the other hand, Ian Stephen tells how to write about real-life adventures.

All writers get story ideas (often floods of them). How do we know if those ideas can go the distance? Janice Hardy walks us through turning inspiration into a story, Melissa Donovan defines story concept, and Larry Books explores the nuanced difference between concept and premise.

Once you’ve got your idea, you dive into your process. K.M. Weiland has 5 ways to write a perfect first draft (or nearly), while Bryan Collins lists 7 common writing mistakes that will stop you finishing your book.

Craft involves so many different techniques. Kathy Steinemann talks filter words and phrases to avoid, Daphne Gray-Grant discusses the magic of three, Kathryn Craft explores early hints of backstory, Zoe M. McCarthy defines metonymy & synecdoche: something called by another name, and Janice Hardy reveals the real problem with passive voice in fiction.

Characters bring our novels to life, so we’d better make sure we get the details right. Jami Gold discusses why Wonder Woman is the essence of a strong female character, Piper Bayard details the art of physical surveillance, John Gilstrap talks knife fighting, and Donald Maass reminds us that all of our characters live in a world with class “rules” and what that means to the conflict in our story.

Once writers have written, we must edit. Diana Hurwitz finishes her proofreading series, and Roz Morris reminds us to treat synonyms with care.

Productivity is always a concern for writers. Jami Gold asks: should we follow the advice to write every day?; C.S. Lakin has little hacks writers can use to be productive, Jillian Sullivan discusses closed doors and open pathways, Daphne Gray-Grant tells how writers can change self-doubt into idea doubt, and Nicole Avery has 5 rules to help you work more productively at home.

With a topic that bridges craft and business, Tracy Gold gives us a walk-through of the Revise & Resend (R&R) process.


David Gaughran explores Amazon’s fake book problem.

Jane Friedman has a detailed primer on how to get your book traditionally published.

Joel Pitney runs through the steps it takes to launch a book.

Many writers want a publisher, but how about this one? Meet Tunglið, the small Icelandic press that prints its books in batches of 69 on the night of a full moon —and burns every unsold copy.

If you are looking for an agent, you need a query letter. Rachel Stout explains how to personalize a query letter, while Jane Friedman shows how to immediately improve your query letter. Janet Reid tells us what happens to our money when we part ways with an agent, and also explores the idea of submitting excerpts of novels to literary magazines prior to getting an agent.

To get into literary magazines, you need a cover letter, so Elise Holland lays out how to write the perfect cover letter for a literary magazine.

Sometimes writers just don’t know what to make of the responses they get from literary agents and acquisition editors. Lisa Tener discusses how to interpret responses from literary agents and editors, and Julia Kite explains how to deal with non-constructive criticism from agents and publishers.

There’s a lot of business-side stuff to publishing, especially if you are self-publishing. Savvy Book Writers tells how to get multiple sales of your manuscript via subsidiary rights, and Susan Spann explores the legal side of writing for anthologies.

Marketing is a boogieman for a lot of writers. Chris Syme tells how to sell more books with less marketing, Frances Caballo has 5 skills every writer should develop, and Catherine Dunn and Nikki Halliwell give us 3 steps to know your audience for increased book sales.

Sometimes in marketing bigger is not always better. Richard Lowe shares what smart indie authors know about local networking, and Sharon Bialy reveals the secret promo power of obscure media outlets.

Much of our marketing focuses online. Beth Bacon shows how to write an author Q&A that compels readers to buy, Rachel Thompson explains how to reach your readers without spamming, and John Doppler explores identifying and managing online trolls.


With all the talk of Wonder Woman lately, get inspired by these 19 real life women heroes from World War I.

Meet England’s first blogger: Samuel Pepys.

Speaking of diaries, snoop inside Henry David Thoreau’s journals at this new exhibit.

Scholars rediscover a forgotten Edith Wharton play.

Play “guess the handwriting” with scholars trying to match scribes’ penmanship.

Check out Jane Austen’s 1817 grave: Sweetness, purity, but no mention of anything tatty like writing novels.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! As school comes to an end, enjoy your summertime activities.

Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | June 13, 2017

A testament to creativity

“I will see you again in twenty-five years.”

These were the last words Laura Palmer spoke to Dale Cooper in a dream at the end of the original series of Twin Peaks, which finished airing in mid-1991.

The Return of Twin Peaks to television in 2017 (the creators tried valiantly to get it done for 2016 to make it a perfect 25 years) is a testament to those who love fiction dearly and is nothing short of amazing, given the eerily accurate words of Laura Palmer.

It’s certainly a testament to the passionate fans of the Twin Peaks franchise who fell in love with the characters, the story-line, and most of all, David Lynch’s quirky film style. His movies are a must if you like abstract art in film and analyzing every detail of every scene to better understand what’s going on in the story.

But I think the celebration here means something more than just the world of Twin Peaks. David Lynch and Mark Frost, the creators of Twin Peaks, created a story that made the audience think. There are multiple ways of viewing what’s going on in the story. The use of symbolism and metaphor are used heavily throughout the series from the early days to the present.

Example: there are red balloons in the background of this one scene, and there’s a red deflating balloon in another. Are they connected? Are the characters in the two scenes related in some way? What if one is a dream sequence of the other?

A large portion of the movie and television viewing public will not appreciate this kind of product. But for those that do, the story keeps getting better. As I watch it now, I don’t know if the scene I’m watching is just a slowly filmed expression of silliness designed to ratchet up the tension or if something very significant is about to happen. I’m on the edge of my seat and I cannot wait for the next show.

The fans are going crazy right now (on mostly) and we have all grown up with Twin Peaks. Some are professional audio engineers or video editors now, and those skills come in handy when watching Twin Peaks and analyzing it afterwards. Oh, David Lynch is a musician and audio engineer as well. There are occasionally sounds or words whispered backwards. 😀

As for me, the lead character upon which the original story centered, Laura Palmer is 2 years older than me. A number of other characters were around my age as well. Now I see them twenty-five years later and it’s like seeing old friends. For those actors that were much older than I, these are their last years. Several have shot scenes and were not able to finish the series, including some that came out of retirement to do it.

All of this is, as I say, a testament to the lovers of fiction and what can happen in a story. But this is also a testament to another critical component in creativity: improvisation.

While reading many interviews of the actors that were in the original Twin Peaks (most expertly and wonderfully collected by a former fanzine publication named Wrapped in Plastic), I found that they all consistently remarked upon the spontaneous creativity of Lynch. Some of the finer points:
– He didn’t have them do any readings; he preferred just talking to them and getting a feel for their person.
– He often didn’t give anyone a script, or if he did it was only for a scene or two.
– He would often change the scene on the spot, basically rewriting everything in his head.
– He took many suggestions from the actors along the way who were getting to know their characters in their own way.
– He went with the moment, including making a prop staff member a major role (and star) because they accidentally were in a scene. This refers to the famous episode where Frank Silva, one of the prop hands, couldn’t get out of the way fast enough before the cameras started filming. David Lynch liked the look of Frank and asked him to sneak around toward the camera, making scary faces. The rest is history, as he became one of the most iconic images of the franchise.
– He has often said that “things happen for a reason”. If an actor isn’t available for filming, you have to go with something else in the story to accommodate that. It’s all a call for creativity.

There are many actors that were in the first series and wanted to be in the current one but there’s no room for them in the story. That reflects a loyalty and appreciation to David Lynch’s approach to creativity.

It’s been a while since I’ve had such a “crush” on creativity from something in a movie or television. Nothing I’ve ever seen or read comes close to this. Okay, I’m probably exaggerating here, but I still can’t get over that 25 years.

I’m looking forward to what influence this may have on my own writing. 🙂

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 11, 2017

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference – Day Three

I was not at the conference today. I attended BooksNJ in Paramus instead. Just like life to schedule the ONLY two book-related events I’ve had in months on the same weekend, isn’t it?

I do know that had I attended today, the day would have been heavily marketing oriented. Sheree Bykofsky’s class rotated around why you need an agent and how to find one. Denise Camacho dissected our taglines, loglines, and elevator pitches. Diane Arrelle would be a bit of a break as we read aloud some short works we wrote for homework. Finally, Erin Entrada Kelly walked us through the publishing process.

After the workshops ended at 4:15, the Awards Banquet was scheduled, then everyone would stagger off home, their brains bursting with new information and new inspiration.

See you all next year!


9 AM

MASTER CLASS – Flash Fiction Fabulous – Cathy Colborn

MASTER CLASS – Adapting the Thriller – From Novel to Movie – Robert Blake Whitehill

9:30 AM

Five Reasons You Need an Agent – Sheree Bykofsky

To Reveal or Conceal – Day 2 – Therese Halshceid

Three Day Workshops

11 AM

Creating Characters Readers will Love – Austin Camacho

Breaking through the Abstract – Peter Murphy

How to get Published – Denise Camacho

Storytelling Craft for Journalists, Memoirists & Other Non-fiction Writers – Sally Grotta

1:30 PM

Thrilled to Death – Jon McGoran

The Good, the Bad, and the Truth of Writing and Selling Memoir – Doreen McGettigan

Tempest in a Teacup: Writing the Short Short Story – Diane Arrelle

Screenwriting: Challenging the Odds – James Breckenridge

3:00 PM

Using Fiction to Capture Truth – Harriet Millan

The Fundamentals of Writing KidLit – Erin Entrada Kelly

Non-Fiction: The Newspaper Column as Magical Mystery Tour – Thom Nickels

Turn Toward Me: Writing Social Commentary in Poetry – Chrys Tobey

4:15 – Awards Banquet (WINNERS CAN BE SEEN HERE)



Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 10, 2017

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference – Day Two

Another sunny day on Philly greeting conference attendees. Coffee flowed and we began stuffing our minds with more information–as if we weren’t already on overload from yesterday!

My 9:30 class was Sheree Bykofsky‘s The Six Characteristics of Successfully Published Authors. It boiled down to be professional and persistent–and don’t make moose calls at agents (you’d understand if you’d been there).

Denise Camacho’s class How to Get Published delved into the things you can and can’t control, then moved on to loglines, taglines, and pitching, oh my! I’m decent at creating loglines and pitches, but I’m not so good with the catchy tagline. Always some new skill to master!

I snuck away for another quiet lunch, then met with two if my workshop leaders for critiques. My short story was well-written but a too wordy (there’s a reason I write novels), and my sci-fi YA had only minor suggested changes. So good news overall!

After lunch, I attended the continuation of Tempest in a Teacup: Writing the Short Short Story with Diane Arrelle. We talked about the many different types of short fiction, including all the various subcategories of flash fiction (I had no idea flash fiction had subcategories). Diane also noted that writing should be a joy, and if it isn’t for you, perhaps you aren’t writing what you should be writing.

Then I hopped next door to The Fundamentals of Writing KidLit with Erin Entrada Kelly. While the topic was mostly about techniques to use in KidLit, the thing she said that struck the biggest chord with me was that we as writers typically devalue our own experiences. She said that we all have a story that only we can tell, and that we may not know what story we are meant to tell until we write it. A lot of thinking to do about what you want to say as a writer and why you want to say it.

I finished out the day with Grants & Other Opportunities with Sally Grotta. We discussed some of the particulars about applying for grants. The most important thing to remember is that a grant application is a business plan. The other helpful thing about grant applications is that doing them will help you really understand what your book or project is about. They ask many searching questions, including why is this project meaningful to you?

The theme I sensed today was the need to understand why you write what you write. Why we are all compelled to write at all is somewhat of a mystery, but what draws us to the themes and messages we convey in our stories? Why is it important to us to share those with other people? What about writing brings us joy, and if there is no joy, why are we writing? Figuring out what makes writing the particular things we write meaningful to us is a soul-searching question, but one well worth asking.

I will miss tomorrow’s conference, but I will post Sunday’s intended class topics, the full schedule, and hopefully the link to the Award Winners tomorrow.


9 AM

MASTER CLASS – Flash Fiction Fabulous – Cathy Colborn

MASTER CLASS – Adapting the Thriller – From Novel to Movie – Robert Blake Whitehill

9:30 AM

The Six Secrets of Published Authors – Sheree Bykofsky

To Reveal or Conceal – Day 1 – Therese Halshceid

Three Day Workshops

11 AM

Creating Characters Readers will Love – Austin Camacho

Breaking through the Abstract – Peter Murphy

How to get Published – Denise Camacho

Storytelling Craft for Journalists, Memoirists & Other Non-fiction Writers – Sally Grotta

1:30 PM

Thrilled to Death – Jon McGoran

The Good, the Bad, and the Truth of Writing and Selling Memoir – Doreen McGettigan

Tempest in a Teacup: Writing the Short Short Story – Diane Arrelle

Screenwriting: Challenging the Odds – James Breckenridge

3:00 PM

Using Fiction to Capture Truth – Harriet Millan

The Fundamentals of Writing KidLit – Erin Entrada Kelly

Non-Fiction: The Newspaper Column as Magical Mystery Tour – Thom Nickels

Turn Toward Me: Writing Social Commentary in Poetry – Chrys Tobey

Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM

Grants & Other Opportunities- day 2 – Sally Grotta

Selling & Writing the Non-Fiction Book – Catherine DePino

MASTER CLASS – Mood Indigo: Writing Blue(s) Poems – Yolanda Wisher

6:00 PM – Banquet/Keynote – Speaker: J. H. Sullivan







Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 9, 2017

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2017 – Day One

Once again the pilgrims arrived at the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. We came bearing backpacks and bags full of conference survival tools—notebooks, pens, laptops, phones, food, and the occasional sweater or sweatshirt.

Our day began with opening speaker Yolanda Wisher. Ms. Wisher is the poet laureate of Philadelphia. Her speech soared with eloquence, each phrase capturing an essence far larger than the words. She spoke of her “kinfluences”–the people and stories in her life that made her into a poet.

She addressed the question: what does poetry matter in real life? Ms. Wisher answered that we need poetry to fill in the gaps, to make sense of life, to name places being erased by time.

After Ms. Wisher’s gorgeous, inspirational speech, I moved on to my first 3-day workshop (full Friday schedule below). I attended How to Get Published with Denise Camacho. Ms. Camacho’s lively presentation covered the gamut from self-publishing to the Big Five. Her deep knowledge of all the facets of publishing was evident, as she touched on everything from book covers to editing to marketing.

Ms. Camacho’s ultimate takeaway? Decide what you want for your book, then find the best fit. There really is something for everyone. Just make sure you follow the submission guidelines, lest you end up in the circular file.

At the lunch break, I chatted with some fellow authors for a bit, then found a (relatively) quiet place on the shade of a tree to eat lunch. For an introvert like me, having that alone time let me recharge, enabling me to return for the afternoon session ready to roll.

After lunch the Agents and Editors Pitch Sessions took place throughout the afternoon (see the list of all the Agents and Editors). First I went to Tempest in a Teacup: How to Write the Short Story with Diane Arrelle. I left it halfway through to pitch two of my books. I had wrangled back-to-back pitch sessions, which was either brilliant or stupid.

Turned out to be a brilliant idea. I had no time in between to worry or work myself up. First I met with the very cool Melissa Edwards from Stonesong Agency. Her denim jacket mirrored mine, so I felt right at home. My book didn’t quite fit her list, but we had a nice chat.

Then I talked with Denise Camacho of Intrigue Press. We had met at this conference several years ago, and she had shown interest on a book I had just begun. That book is now almost complete, and she is still excited about it, so I will send it to her after my editor gives it back to me.

After my meetings, I went back to Short Story with Diane Arrelle. She covered the elements of short story and how we can mix and match depending on the length of the short story. Tomorrow she will cover more of the various types of short fiction and their pros and cons.

After going short I went young, diving into The Fundamentals of KidLit with Erin Entrada Kelly. Ms. Kelly’s high energy workshop explored the different tiers of KidLit from board books to YA, and the elements of KidLit that binds them all. She also touched on misconceptions about KidLit, and then discussed how we as adults can recapture the voice and mindset of the age we write about. Although I write middle grade and YA, I sometimes have trouble getting the voice right, and I hope that some of the techniques we will discuss will help me pinpoint where my problem lies.

Day One wrapped with the first day of a 2-day workshop by Sally Grotta, Grants and Other Opportunities. The good news is that there is money out there! The bad news is not a lot of it is for writers, and none of it will actually pay you to write your book. However, there are ways to get paid for things that support community involvement, such as speeches, workshops with your potential audience, and events of that nature. Tomorrow we’re going to work on the actual mechanics of filling out an application because many people find Grant application quite intimidating. I’m looking forward to seeing how artists and writers can get money to do what we are passionate about.

My theme for the day can be summed up with one wonderful word borrowed from Ms. Wisher: “kinfluences.” Today was a day when old relationships circled back and found new meaning. At the conference, I re-met Ms. Camacho, who is still interested in a book I started last time we met. I ran into someone who had attended a book talk I gave last year. For the first time in real life, I met three women I had only ever met online. I saw Uriah Young, who when I first met him was attending his first PWC and is now on the board. To top it all off, this evening I went to the Doylestown Bookshop and attended a book event with Jonathan Maberry, an old friend who has done much for my career and for many others. At the event, I chatted with friends I have known for up to eleven years, friends who have been with me since I started this professional writing journey. “Kinfluences,” indeed.

That is one reason I keep returning to the PWC: the people who have made me who I am as a writer, and the people I have yet to meet that will shape me in the future. I wonder who I will meet tomorrow?


9:30 AM – Opening Speaker – Yolanda Wisher

 Three Day Workshops
11 AM
Creating Characters Readers will Love – Austin Camacho

Breaking through the Abstract – Peter Murphy

How to get Published – Denise Camacho

Storytelling Craft for Journalists, Memoirists & Other Non-fiction Writers – Sally Grotta

1:30 PM

Thrilled to Death – Jon McGoran

The Good, the Bad, and the Truth of Writing and Selling Memoir – Doreen McGettigan

Tempest in a Teacup: Writing the Short Short Story – Diane Arrelle

Screenwriting: Challenging the Odds – James Breckenridge

3:00 PM

Using Fiction to Capture Truth – Harriet Millan

The Fundamentals of Writing KidLit – Erin Entrada Kelly

Non-Fiction: The Newspaper Column as Magical Mystery Tour – Thom Nickels

Turn Toward Me: Writing Social Commentary in Poetry – Chrys Tobey

Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM

Grants & Other Opportunities- day 1 – Sally Grotta

Self Publishing: Perks & Pitfalls – Catherine DePino

MASTER CLASS – Mood Indigo: Writing Blue(s) Poems – Yolanda Wisher

6:00 PM – Agents and Editors Buffet

8:00 PM – Fiction and Poetry Raps




Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 8, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-08-2017

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We have some hot links for you all this week.

Copyright is something all authors need to understand. Reedsy has everything you need to know about copyright.

Best-selling author Tess Gerritsen is helping find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Donna Levin explores why your next favorite fictional protagonist might be on the autism spectrum.

Sandy McDowell investigates LightSail, a middle school digital library that’s changing the way kids learn to read.

As the opioid crisis reaches their doorstep, librarians at McPherson Square library wield Narcan as warriors in their neighborhood.

In more cheerful library news, late fees no longer exist at Salt Lake City libraries.

Martina Boone waxes philosophical as she wonders how we as writers combat the nasty way people treat each other that has reared its head in the world lately—up to and including threats against authors.


Geeks Guide to the Galaxy takes a look at why colleges are so hostile to fantasy writers.

Christina Delay shares why you should never, ever go on a destination writing retreat (snark alert!).

Writers have to deal with many elements at one time. Janice Hardy has 3 things to consider when writing descriptions, while Jo Eberhardt explores sub-plots and story.

Our characters carry the story—if they aren’t compelling, readers put the book down. Jami Gold shows how to strengthen our characters with strong writing, Julia Fierro investigates the 3 tiers of point of view technique: observation, interpretation, and imagination, and Cara Black explores villains and villainesses as architects of story.

Writers need to handle all sorts of technical elements, too. Lynne Cantwell gives the rundown on when to use italics, Melissa Donovan tells how to make grammar a part of your daily life, and Mary Kole addresses children’s book manuscript chapter length.

Once we have words on the page, we need to polish them. Janice Hardy talks about shifting between drafting and editing, Diana Hurwitz has proofreading tips, and Ann R. Allen tells us when to hire an editor and how to avoid scams.

Writing can be psychologically demanding for authors. Roni Loren warns that what you think you know about yourself might be holding you back, and Julianna Baggott wonders if writer’s block is a form of self-protection.

We all have times when life throws us curve balls. Karen Woodward tells how to write through the unexpected, and Kristen Lamb explains how to handle reality vs. expectations and stay calm when things go pear-shaped.

We are lucky to live in an age when established authors can share what they have learned with those coming up. Listen to a podcast interview with authors E.C. Myers & Sam J. Miller, read Arundhati Roy on why it took 20 years to write her second novel, learn about the achievement of Chinua Achebe, and see just what’s behind the love affair between Elmore Leonard and Hollywood.


Publishing is ever evolving. Jordan Dane notes some interesting publishing trends to watch in 2017.

Author collaboration has become more common in fiction. J. Thorn points out 5 critical mistakes of author collaboration and how to avoid them.

June Stevens Westerfield asks: should you create your own book cover?

You’ve got your self-published book. Now what? Fred Johnson has a five minute guide to pricing your self-published book, Michelle Deery compares selling your ebook on your own website vs. on Amazon, and David Kudler looks at distribution through Pronoun and PublishDrive.

If you write non-fiction, Jane Friedman shares 5 research steps to do before you write your book proposal.

Hayley Cuccinello examines how fanfiction went from a dirty little secret to a money machine.

Looking for a literary agent? Nathan Bransford outlines how to research a literary agent, Janet Reid shares some reasons agents reject manuscripts, and Laura Weymouth has the 3 best questions to ask an agent who offers to represent you.

Now we’ve got to sell the book. Dale Kutzera says to plot your marketing in this mad marketing world, while Chris Syme lists 5 steps to make your marketing more efficient.

A large portion of marketing is getting reviews of your book—not an easy task. Sarah Robinson describes how to use BookRazor to get a targeted list of reviewers, and Claire McKinney shares 8 tips to keep in mind when seeking book reviews.

Author brand is what sells these days. Leila Dewji has 3 steps to building your author brand, while John Fleming explores how AI chatbots are evolving the author platform.


Jasmin Nahar reveals 18 TV shows you may not have realized were based on books.

Andy Golder shares 18 posts that’ll be hilarious to book nerds.

Here are 10 books you can finish on a plane when traveling.

Edith Wharton recruited the world’s greatest artists to raise money for WWI refugees.

Patricia Thang explores real life places made more special by books.

Rivka Galchen examines how children read is different than the way adults read.

Amazing! Here are beautiful miniature books worth straining your eyesight to see.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | June 1, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-01-2017

Welcome to Top Picks Thursday on this first day of June! May turned out to be the ninth wettest May on record here on the East Coast, so we’re hoping for a warmer, drier, sunnier month of June. Even Memorial Day was gray and drizzly, but the parade in Beverly, New Jersey, went on as usual. We’re including a few photos of the parade today because, in truth, every day should be a day to honor all those who served and are serving.

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Memorial Day , Beverly NJ

2017 Memorial Day Parade, Beverly, New Jersey

For those who love reading, Kelly Jensen offers practical tips for book lovers. If you feel the need to justify your reading time, Jessi Lewis declares we love how healthy reading can be.

Have you ever been unable to finish a novel? Jody Hedlund shares 7 reasons why I stop reading a novel.

For writers: Heather Webb offers time management tips for writing through our busy lives, and Erica Verillo of Publishing … and Other Forms of Insanity lists 34 writing contests in June 2017 with no entry fees.


Creativity doesn’t always flow easily. Will Meier suggests 5 types of rest every creative should adopt, and Frances Caballo identifies 7 habits every writer should develop. James Scott Bell reflects on the benefits of allowing less focus for better writing, while Tracy Hahn-Burkett discusses what to do when it’s hard to maintain your focus at all.

Writing may be primarily a solitary business, but Heather Weidner advises don’t go it alone — find a writers’ group. Or you might consider attending a writers’ conference. Andrea Merrell thinks writers conferences are like a box of chocolates. If you’re considering participation in a writing retreat, Christina Delay presents the tongue-in-cheek post: why you should never, ever go on a destination writing retreat.

Learning is an important part of the writing journey, and writers can find lessons in many places. Gabino Iglesias relates 10 things about writing he (re)learned from graphic novels, and Fred Johnson considers what video games can teach you about storytelling, while Kathy Edens explains what American Horror Story taught me about anti-heroes.

While learning the craft, have you come across rules of writing? Ruth Harris explains why writing rules (usually) don’t work, but writing guidelines do, and Janice Hardy considers breaking the rules of writing.

Several bloggers wrote about the elements character, voice, and setting. Jami Gold explains how we should deal with character stereotypes, and how to strengthen our characters with strong writing. Padma Venkatraman writes about voice: writing lean, spare, or lush, rich, and Tasha Seegmiller discusses enhancing your story through macro & micro setting descriptions.

For writers who want to outline but hate doing so, Janice Hardy suggests a quick way to outline without outlining.

A well-crafted story has a beginning, middle, and end. Kristen Lamb avers that every great story idea is birthed from shame, Larry Brooks offers deeper thinking about writing your scenes, and John Gilstrap insists that endings really matter.

For those writing in these genres, Mary Kole considers the question of using politics in children’s books, K. M. Weiland lays out 4 ways to write meaningful comedy, and Ash Krafton provides resources and tips for writing historical fantasy.

If you want to keep the reader’s interest, James Scott Bell asks where’s your edge?

Have you finished a novel? Anne R. Allen cautions against publishing practice novels: 10 reasons why you shouldn’t publish that first novel…yet. Along the same lines,Taryn Johnston advises Indie authors to take the time to self-publish well.


Jane Friedman asks: fast, cheap, and good — what publishing compromises are you making?

For those looking for agents, Janet Reid considers whether an author should disclose a failed self-published book from years ago in an agent query, Kristin Nelson mentions 5 questions authors don’t ask but should when an agent offers rep, and Sangeeta Mehta asks literary agents Eric Smith and Saba Sulaiman how they approach diversity.

If an agent requires a synopsis or a book proposal, Suzanne Purvis zeroes in on how to write a sizzling, scintillating synopsis, and Jane Friedman discusses how to write a book proposal.

Marketing. Love it or hate it, it’s important. Joan Stewart advises those new to book publicity to start marketing local, Chris Syme offers 5 steps to kick your marketing FOMO to the curb, and Mike Shatzkin introduces a new software tool to help optimize marketing for your book, while Brooke Warner describes what authors need to know about price promotions.

Is there a problem with your published book? Roz Morris offers positive solutions for dealing with damaged POD books, and Lucienne Boyce shares how to respond when a reader claims there’s an error in your book.

With advice about blogging and social media, Chris Robley relates how to write a great author bio that will connect with readers, Mandy James explains why writers need social media, and L. J. Sedgwick shows us how to avoid writing boring outlines using the IKEA method.

Jane Friedman offers a more nuanced look at the Amazon buy-button bruhaha, advising don’t immediately trust mainstream sites on publishing stories.


Buzzfeed’s Shyla Watson wonders if you know the original language of famous works.

Before she began writing poetry, Emily Dickinson engaged in “the gathering, growing, classification, and pressing of flowers.” Maria Popova shows us Emily Dickinson’s herbarium.

Joe Otterson reports that a mini series about “Typhoid Mary” is being adapted from Mary Beth Keane’s novel Fever.

Kat Eschner reveals that “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is based on a true story. Who knew?

Susan B. Barnes writes that more than 250,000 bibliophiles are about to descend on “The Town of Books.

Looking for something different to do this month? Cailey Rizzo suggests walking across the Brooklyn Bridge as Bill Murray reads you poetry this June.

Saturday is National Trails Day, so if you need a break to refresh and reignite your creativity, get on your walking shoes and take a hike!

That wraps up this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you next week!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 25, 2017

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-25-2017

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of May! We hope everyone enjoys the Memorial Day weekend. Have fun, stay safe, and remember the men and women who died to protect our freedoms and our country.

Author Jean Fritz, who wrote history books for children, died at 101 this week.

Lee Wind has the SCBWI 2017 Crystal Kite Award winners!

Wendy Sparrow explores the importance of “own voices” in diversity, Sheba Karim discusses belonging as a Muslim YA author at a Tennessee book festival, and Harlem playwright Shaun Neblett honors the works of Malcolm X and Lorraine Hansberry at the I,Too Art Collective.

Scholastic research shows that more ebooks and independent reading time are needed in U.S. schools. Suggested reads could be this graphic novel about managing friendships, or these books recommended by indie booksellers.

Laura Brown discusses the nuances of writing American Sign Language in a story. How do you write a visual language?

The Brooklyn Public Library starts a trend: drag queens as public libraries’ newest storytellers.

Publishing is an evolving business. Kathryn Craft examines a publishing decade in review, while Jane Friedman looks at key publishing paths in 2017.


Classic literature is classic for a reason. Gloria Steinem calls The Handmaid’s Tale “a rare book, and the only novel I know, that portrays reproductive freedom as the basis of everything else.” and Langston Hughes still reigns as a poet for the unchampioned.

Kathryn Craft examines warning flags when writing about true events.

Writers can learn craft from many sources. Andrea Jury discusses what tabletop gaming taught her about storytelling.

Your book needs to take place somewhere, so why not make the setting memorable? Michaela Whatnall explores fantastic settings and how to write them.

Writers want readers to love their protagonist, but what about the antagonist? Jordan Dane explains how showing your baddie R-E-S-P-E-C-T can make them memorable. Your other characters need to carry their weight, too. K.M. Weiland shows how to take advantage of your 4 most important characters, Jonathan Vars shares 3 more lesser known archetypes, Bonnie Randall discusses character minutiae and seemingly irrelevant details.

When the book is done, it needs editing to make it well done. Blake Atwood describes what it’s actually like to work with a book editor, Stephane Dees investigates whether long-term critique partnerships are myth or magic, Jerry Jenkins tells how to become a demanding self-editor, P.J. Parrish examines how to get out of rewrite hell alive, and Colin Dickey discusses the fraught and often invisible work of editors.

Want to be more efficient? Nicole Dieker says forget your endless to-do list and try time blocking instead.

William Kenower examines a writer’s worst fear, and Hannah Ross discusses your daily writing pleasure.

Do you love writing in coffee shops? Sarah Degeorge gives 4 guilt-free reasons to love coffee shops.

We all have them—“practice” novels tucked in drawers or on hard drives. It would be so easy to publish them these days… But Anne R. Allen gives 10 reasons NOT to publish your practice novels.


If you freelance or are an indie author, you may be wondering what the best business entity for your taxes is. Jonathan Medows explains sole proprietorships, LLCs, and S-corps, and the pros and cons of each.

David Barnett looks at the new Amazon Charts, to see what it means for the book industry.

Rachel Deahl asks: is mass market dying or just evolving—again?

If you need cash for your book project, Nicholas Forristal tells us how to set up your book’s Kickstarter campaign.

Jami Gold shares some self-publishing resources for fun and profit.

If you are formatting your own book (or marketing materials), Joel Friedlander warns us to look out for these elements of bad typography.

Bill Ferris has 8 great traits of great book titles.

Sending queries is part science, part art. Tamela Hancock Murray tells how to make her jump off the fence, Steve Laube talks typos, Dan Balow examines test marketing books, and Jane Friedman wonders how much you should personalize a query letter. Agent Brooks Sherman will join Janklow & Nesbit as a literary agent on May 23, continuing to represent fiction for young adult and middle-grade readers, picture books, select literary and commercial adult fiction, and nonfiction in the areas of humor, pop culture, and narrative nonfiction.

Marketing your books can be difficult. Kate Sullivan shows us how to do smart Goodreads marketing, Paul Teague discusses email marketing for authors, Carolyn Howard Johnson has 15 book publicity commandments, and Chris Sim examines how keywords impact sales.

Ali Luke investigates how to blog consistently when you have very little time, and Chuck Wendig serves up a hot steaming stack of business advice for writers.


One of my favorite books: learn the true story behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankeiler and her mixed-up files.

Are we dating ourselves? The Librarian of Congress (Carla Hayden)weighs in on why card catalogs matter.

Matt Zoller Seitz explores how TV’s best shows are taking their cues from literature.

William Friedkin walks what remains of Marcel Proust’s Paris, from his former apartment building to the lycée where he wrote his earliest stories.

Lidia Yuknavitch reviews Neil Gaiman’s audiobook of Norse Mythology.

Surprise! The Icelandic translation of Dracula is actually a different book.

Lest you think authors only have adventures in their heads: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle went on his own adventures—to the Arctic.

Literary women examined: an online exhibit of Charlotte Bronte letters and fantasy, an exploration of Dorothy Wordsworth—writer, sister, and amanuensis; and six portraits that deepen the mystery of Jane Austen.

Ever wonder what it would have been like if Jane Eyre had email?

Discover why a modern cosmetics company is mining Armenia’s ancient manuscripts.

Jessica Bakkers brings us a thorough comparison of US vs. UK English.

Beware the dangers of reading in bed!

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you in June!

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