Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 13, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-13-2019

**If you missed our coverage of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, here are Days One, Two, and Three.**

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Tomorrow is Flag Day, so take a moment to admire the beauty of our flag and the best of what it symbolizes.

The big publishing news is the sale of Barnes & Noble to Elliott Management (more articles in the Business section below).

Kay Keppler takes apart a study to find out what matters to readers.

Check out this free Braille and talking book program for veterans.

Good news for graphic novel and comic lovers! The American Library Association is ready to shake things up with comics.

Looking for some professional development? Diana Hurwitz lists writing workshops from July to September 2019.


Diversity in our stories is something many of us strive for, but some writers are wary of adding in people of other experiences than their own for fear of offending someone inadvertently. Nancy Johnson tells us what white writers should know about telling black stories.

Writers are forever refining their writing process. Janice Hardy discusses why using fill in the blank writing templates doesn’t work, while Aminah Mae advises that there is no wrong way to write a book.

Often in writing, the devil is in the details. Indeed Michel Leiris looks at the great details that make great art. Janice Hardy asks if we’re using enough sensory details in our descriptions, and Jordan Dane gives tips for writing believable conspiracies for thriller fiction.

Details of craft elements can also elevate our writing. Dana Sitar explores using tone and voice properly in your writing, Linda Yezak explains past continuous and past perfect verb tenses, Melissa Donovan guides us in making the right word choices for better writing, Sherry Howard  demystifies motif, and Donald Maass reminds us that it’s all about the mystery.

Because who is telling the story is vital, Janice Hardy reviews point of view basics. Once we know what characters will inhabit our story, we need to flesh them out. John B. Jamison has 3 ways to discover who your characters really are, K.M. Weiland shares 6 requirements for writing better character goals, and Fae Rowen lists 6 f-words for compelling characters. And because those characters will talk to each other, Julie Glover gives us 5 tips from Gilmore Girls for writing great dialogue.

An otherwise great story can fail the reader in the ending if we aren’t careful. A. Howitt discusses endings and their requirements, and Janice Hardy talk about tying up the loose ends.

After we wrestle that ending onto the page, it’s time to revise. Michael James has 7 tips for getting through your second draft, Howard Underdown explains using a revision grid to break a story down into elements, and Donna Galanti discusses letting go in writing and in life. Tara East tells us how to reduce our word count, Janice Hardy wonders whether or not to hire and editor, and Hayley Millman offers 5 tips for editing a manuscript without an editor.

Churning out those words faster and more efficiently is a goal for many writers. Stavros Halvatzis investigates how long to write each day. Cheryl A. Ossola reminds us that sometimes the story writes itself, but if you are stuck Nathan Bransford has a trick to unstick your novel. Arthur Klepchukov advises that word count goals should not be our only goals, and Lynne Shelby has tips for getting in the zone.

There are plenty of obstacles and mistakes that can make writers want to quit. Terry Odell discusses how “write what you know” can be limiting, Nathan Bransford talks about the most common mistakes writers make, Jeff Somers addressed mistakes and writing, Katrin Schumann ponders how to know when to quit your novel, and James Scott Bell urges us all to stay thirsty.


More Barnes & Noble analysis: Lauren Hirsch’s look at Elliot Management acquiring B&N, and Ed Nawotka saying that Daunt relishes the challenge of leading B&N.

Jim Milliot goes deeper into the looming tariffs clouding the printing picture, Stephanie Chandler examines audiobook production and distribution options, and Jane Friedman urges writers not to crowdsource your cover design.

Agent Janet Reid addresses two topics today: what to do with those required bio fields on portal queries when you have no publishing credentials, and what happens when an author dies mid-contract. If you write nonfiction, Stephanie Chandler explains how to locate and work with nonfiction literary agents.

Marketing is tricky. Joe Konrath tells us why our marketing plan won’t work, Eileen Omosa shows us how to organize a book signing event, and Chrys Fey explains how to prepare for outdoor book and author events.

Blogs are still a solid way to market these days. Amy Collins details how to best approach book bloggers, Sandra Beckwith has 4 reasons to embrace guest blogging, and Christian Mihai lays out how to write a great blog post headline and 8 blogging mistakes that waste your readers’ time.

Social media presence is vital to reaching readers. Maggie Lynch shares a Facebook posting strategy for authors, Frances Caballo shows us how to conquer LinkedIn, and Henneke lists 29 ways to improve your writing skills and escape content mediocrity.


Did the Tony Awards make you want to go write a musical? Electric Literature provides a handy chart to help you decide what musical to write.

Neil Gaiman discusses adapting Good Omens for the small screen.

Valerie Thompson has put together the scientist’s summer reading list, and Tony Hillerman gives us a crime reader’s guide to the classics.

Books can be a lifeline. Tyler Wetherall describes how sharing books with his dad in prison made life bearable for both of them.

Ed Simon discusses William Blake, radical abolitionist, while Joy Lanzendorfer traces Jack London from rags to riches and back again.

James Harbeck ponders the future of accented characters [letters] in English, while Sabrina Imbler is similarly intrigued with why Medieval Europeans were so obsessed with long, pointy shoes.

Those who love poetry will be happy to hear that the Emily Dickinson Museum received a $22 million gift to help carry on its mission.

That’s all for this week! Join us again next week for more writerly links.


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | June 12, 2019

The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Photo Gallery


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia skyline, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

The Philadelphia skyline, 6-8-19


I spent last weekend at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference with fellow Author Chronicler Kerry Gans. The perfect weather—no rain, no heat wave, no humidity—made it tempting to spend the days outside, but attending the conference was well worth the time spent indoors.

Kerry and I registered separately and, by chance, chose most of the same sessions. Since Kerry did such a fine job of summing up Day One, Day Two, and Day Three of the conference, I’m going to give you a pictorial overview.

Guest speakers:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Asali Solomon, Opening Remarks, 6-7-19.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, Keynote Speech, 6-8-19


Workshop leaders with their participants:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Session I: The Elements of Plot with Shirley Hailstock, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Session I: The Writer’s Business Plan – The Art of the Pitch with Jonathan Maberry, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Workshop: Should You Self Publish with Karen Schobel-Maneely, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Workshop: The Hermit Crab Essay with Randon Billings-Noble, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry presents the keynote speech, 6-8-19


Workshop leaders:


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Shirley Hailstock, The Elements of Plot, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, The Writers’ Business Plan: Social Media and Personal Branding, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Kathryn Craft, Setting Story Fuel Aflame in the Here and Now, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Gail Priest, Characterization from an Actor’s Perspective, 6-7-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Lauren Sharkey, Building a Platform, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Donna Galanti, Foundations of World Building for Tweens and Teens, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Jonathan Maberry, Master Class: Writing an Action Scene, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Ferida Wolff, The Personal Essay, 6-8-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Karen Schobel-Maneely, Should You Self Publish, 6-9-19


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross,  Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Randon Billings-Noble, The Hermit Crab Essay, 6-9-19












I really enjoyed this conference–making connections with new writer friends and renewing connections with long-time friends, as well as learning more about the craft and business of writing. I left the conference Sunday with reluctance at parting from friends and with sorrow that there will be no conference to attend next year. At the same time, I felt relieved to finally have time to process the wealth of information (and to sleep off the exhaustion), while also full of eagerness to get back to writing.

If you’ve never attended a writers’ conference, find one near you and give it a try.



For some more conversation about writing, check out The Liars Club Oddcast #074–Philadelphia Writers Conference Roundtable–recorded during the conference.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas Ross, Philadelphia Writers' Conference

Liars Club cohosts Merry Jones, Kelly SImmons, Greg Frost, Keith Strunk, and Jon McGoran interview conference president Autumn Konopka on their Oddcast, 6-8-19



Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 9, 2019

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Day Three

Today was Day Three of the 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, held at the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, PA (full schedule and Award Winners below)! The final day of the conference is always bittersweet. It’s another day full of info and friends, but it’s also the last day.

My themes of perspective and freedom ran through today, although they were not as immediately obvious as the last two days.

My first class this morning was about Self-Publishing. Now that’s freedom! As workshop leader Karen Schobel-Maneely said, self-publishing means you get to do everything yourself…and it also means you get to do everything yourself. In truth it takes a team to self-publish, whether you use a reputable service or gather all the parts yourself.

We completed our three-day Elements of Plot workshop. The lively Q&A touched upon everything from plot elements to contracts as Shirley Hailstock gave us all last bits of wisdom to take with us into the world—good perspective from a multi-published author.

Our lunchtime walk to the Bourse included watching some of the Philadelphia Pride Parade. The exuberant cheering as people celebrated the freedom to be themselves was uplifting and heart-warming.

On this last day, Jonathan Maberry continued to talk about writing from a business perspective. He spoke about setting goals and behaving professionally, as well as talking a bit about taxes and LLCs.

Me, Jonathan Maberry, J Thomas Ross

Kathryn Craft finished off her Character workshop with an archery analogy, a few ballet moves, and a whole lot of discussion on how a character’s backstory creates a perspective that propels his or her future action.

The Conference wrapped with a first-ever Town Hall to get feedback and discuss the direction the Conference should take in the future. For those who didn’t notice it in the program, there will be no full 3-day conference in 2020 (but there will be some event!), so the Board can focus on making the changes that will help the PWC continue to find success and fulfill its mission well into the 21st century. Those who were not there will be able to give feedback in the follow-up survey, so keep an eye on your inbox.

And so we all drift back into our normal lives, but we carry the lessons, encouragement, opportunities, and friendships with us. Safe journey, fellow scribes, and write on.

Sunday’s Full Schedule

9:30 AM
Using Improv for Story Development – Caitlyn Corkery
Should You Self-Publish? – Karen Schobel-Maneely
The Hermit Crab Essay – Randon Billings-Noble
MASTER CLASS: Writing an Action Scene – Jonathan Maberry
MASTER CLASS: Poetry Color Study – Yolanda Wisher

Three Day Workshops

11 AM
Elements of Plot – Shirley Hailstock
Creating a Series for Network, Cable, or Streaming – Dianne Walsh
Erasure Poetry and Power – Jennifer McCreary
Marketing for Tweens and Teens: School Visits – Donna Galanti
MASTER CLASS: The Pit and the Page – Elizabeth Mosier

1:30 PM
Hooks and Plotting: Getting the Genre (Romance) into Your Genre Fiction – Terri Brisbin
The Writer’s Business Plan: Building Your Writing Business – Jonathan Maberry
Magazine Writing – Debra Wallace
Short Story: I Wanna Know What Love Is – August Tarrier
MASTER CLASS: Playwriting – Quinn D. Eli

3:00 PM
This is the Year You Write Your Memoir – Lori Tharps
Keeping the Future Target in Sight – Kathryn Craft
Screenplay Writing – David Greenberg
A Gentle Guide to Expand Your Practice Through Digital Tools – Warren Longmire
The Deadly Art of Writing Horror: What is Horror? – Brian McKinley

4:15-5:15 – PWC Town Hall




1st Place – “Apology” by Connie Swartzman
2nd Place – “Dance” by Steve Delia
3rd Place – “A Response to Janice Joplin’s Take a Little Piece of My Heart” by Beth Moulton
Honorable Mention – “The Latter Day Public Restroom” by Mike Cohen


1st Place – “Biloxi” by Jason Mangano
2nd Place – “Uther” by Francine Roche Kay


1st Place – “You Don’t Have to Thank Me for My Service” by Ed Kratz
2nd Place – “Appalachian Heritage Identity Crisis” by Jennifer Elam
3rd Place – “Even If Your Heart Would Listen” by Elise Schiller
Honorable Mention – “Born with a Broken Heart” by Beth Moutlon



1st Place  – “Visitor” by Fergal O’Donnell
2nd Place – “American Pie” by Beth Moulton
3rd Place – “Head Case” by Mike Cohen


1st Place – “Lucy” by Beth Moulton
2nd Place – “Awakening” by Gloria Matusick


1st Place – “The Woman Talking to Herself” by Steve Delia
2nd Place – “Mrs. Claus” by Beth Moulton
3rd Place – “How They Keep Us Safe” by Sarah Paulos


1st Place – “Yet Another Day” by Rachel Rhee
2nd Place – “Veronica Told Me to Call Her Mother” by Melody Noble
3rd Place – End of Summer” by Steve Delia

Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 8, 2019

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Day Two

Day Two of the 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, held at the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, PA (full schedule below)! I always like the atmosphere on Saturdays. People have started to bond and make friends, but we’re not yet all fried with the huge amount of information we’re inhaling.

Much to my surprise, yesterday’s theme of perspective carried over into today, but with a secondary theme added: freedom.

Nowhere was freedom more literally discussed than in my first class, Legal Issues for Writers. Workshop leader Tim Law deserves an extra shout out because the person who was supposed to lead the workshop couldn’t and he stepped in at the last moment. Tim gave us a great deal of information, including—but not limited to—the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech and the exceptions placed on it.

Shirley Hailstock’s Elements of Plot was up next, and we discussed the climax and other elements that come toward the end of the book. We also talked a bit about process and about learning by reading other writers. She made the point that sometimes what makes a book or writer successful is that writer’s voice, which is an element of writing almost impossible to copy. We all have our own voice unique to us, because our worldview—our perspective—is not the same as theirs.

For lunch J. Thomas Ross and I once again visited the Bourse Food Court, but many people participated in the Open-Mic Lunch where writers got to read their works in front of an audience. I am told there were some powerful pieces presented.

After lunch, I headed back to the Franklin Room for Jonathan Maberry’s Social Media Branding session. While many people find social media to be a time suck or a rabbit hole we fall into and can’t escape, just by changing our perspective on it we can control it rather than it controlling us. Jonathan advised thinking hard about what we want to get out of social media use, and that will guide us in how long we engage on it, what we post, and who we engage with.

Kathryn Craft returned with the next installment of her Character class: Setting Story Fuel Aflame in the Here and Now. Yesterday we spoke about how the backstory sets up the perspective our character has, and today we examined how that perspective drives the character in the present of the story, and how we can use multiple characters to explore multiple perspectives on an issue.

Finally, I rounded out the day with The Personal Essay, taught by Ferida Wolff. Ferida pointed out that you are the only one who knows your story. No one can write your story but you, because no one else has the same perspective as you.

Ending on a class that was all about perspective certainly kept that theme alive. But in each class I also heard the theme of freedom, about doing this writing thing in our own unique way, and that doing it differently does not mean we are doing it wrong. There are many different processes to write a book. There are many different ways to be successful on social media. There are many different ways to explore an issue or question through your characters. And there is no wrong way to tell your own story.

Our unique voices, unique perspectives, and unique paths all combine together to create the vibrant writing world we inhabit. Tomorrow is Day Three of the conference, where we will all revel in the camaraderie of the Quest for one more day before returning to the Ordinary World.

Saturday’s Full Schedule

9:30 AM
Building a Platform – Lauren Sharkey
Getting Your Foot in the Door: Publishing in Literary Magazines – Meg Eden
Legal Issues for Writers – Tim Law
MASTER CLASS: Writing an Action Scene – Jonathan Maberry
MASTER CLASS: Poetry Color Study – Yolanda Wisher

Three Day Workshops

11 AM
Elements of Plot – Shirley Hailstock
Creating a Series for Network, Cable, or Streaming – Dianne Walsh
Erasure Poetry and Power – Jennifer McCreary
Writing Inspiration for Tweens and Teens – Donna Galanti
MASTER CLASS: The Pit and the Page – Elizabeth Mosier

12:30-1:30 PM – Open Mic Lunch

1:30 PM
Size Does Matter: Writing Romance Fiction Across Lengths and Intensities – Terri Brisbin
The Writer’s Business Plan: Social Media and Personal Branding – Jonathan Maberry
Magazine Writing – Debra Wallace
Short Story: I Wanna Know What Love Is – August Tarrier
MASTER CLASS: Playwriting – Quinn D. Eli

3:00 PM
This is the Year You Write Your Memoir – Lori Tharps
Setting Story Fuel Aflame in the Here and Now – Kathryn Craft
Screenplay Writing – David Greenberg
The Poem as Algorithm – Warren Longmire
The Deadly Art of Writing Horror: What is Horror? – Brian McKinley

Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM
The Personal Essay – Ferida Wolff
Write a Story in 30 Minutes – Andres Cruciani
MASTER CLASS: Make it Weird, Make it Your Own: Experiments in Voice and Form – Mike Ingram

6:00-7:00 PM – Keynote Happy Hour

8:00-9:00 PM – Keynote Address – Jonathan Maberry
Awards Ceremony


Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 7, 2019

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: Day One

Today was opening day for the 2019 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC), held at the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. Often Fridays are a little sparse, as people can’t get out of work, but this year the seats seemed satisfyingly full.

My morning began a half hour before my alarm went off, with my daughter waking me up saying she didn’t feel well and probably shouldn’t go to school. My husband stepped up and took off work so I could still go to the conference, so I still managed to arrive on time! (My gal is feeling a lot better now, thankfully.)

A writers’ conference is a patchwork affair, in that the courses offered are different squares that make up a whole quilt. As usual with the PWC, there is something for everyone (see full day schedule below), and often when I write these recaps I struggle to find a through-line that ties it all together. Today I had no such struggle, as the theme of the day was clear before I even finished my last class.

Today’s theme is perspective. How we each have our own perspective, and why that matters.

Opening speaker Asali  Solomon started us off, admitting that in the troubled times we are living in she has wondered: Do the things we write matter? Her answer: Yes. Confusing times are a call to arms for writers. For it is writers who will chronicle the old world and imagine the new.

We each have our own perspective on the times we live in, and whether we share the truth of our experiences in personal essays, memoirs, or more indirectly through fiction, that is an important record of the times. And writers imagine what we humans could be, at our best, giving us all something to strive toward—a guiding light in troubled times.

I then attended Elements of Plot, taught by the cheerful and knowledgeable Shirley Hailstock. The plot elements do not include perspective, but in a way they do, because the way an author chooses to tell a story—the characters we write, the plot points we conjure—can’t help but be embedded in some way with our personal perspective of the world.

Lunch found me and fellow Author Chronicler J. Thomas Ross at the Bourse building food court. Last year the Bourse was closed for renovation, and it has certainly changed! The new food court has a vast diversity of foods from all over the world. From my picky-eater perspective, this was frightening (where did my Sbarro pizza go!?) but my diversity-embracing perspective saw this as a celebration of the American Melting Pot that welcomed immigrants and tourists from around the world.

After lunch I went to Jonathan Maberry’s Art of the Pitch class. Jonathan has this insane idea that pitching is fun and spent the hour trying to convince us that he was correct. He gave great advice on how to think about your story prior to pitching, and gave performance tips to best draw the agent or editor in to your pitch. Several people successfully took his advice to real pitch sessions that were going on today.

Jonathan’s main point (for me) was that changing your perspective about pitching changes the stress level you have when pitching. Thinking of a pitch session as a conversation with an agent rather than an interview, and remembering that YOU are the expert on your book, can change your perspective and maybe even render pitching…fun.

Kathryn Craft’s Mining for Story Fuel in Your Character’s Backstory came up next, and that was literally all about perspective. Kathryn contends that our characters are not people, but perspectives, and we will investigate this idea more fully in the next two days. Perspective colors everything in your story, and is intimately tied to your story’s premise.

My final class of the day was Op. Ed. Writing with Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Page editor Sandy Shea. She discussed how the Inquirer chooses which topics to cover and the power of the public conversation had on the Opinion pages. To write a successful Op. Ed., it boils down to conveying the stakes about the issues and your authority in the matter—and your personal experiences give you authority. In other words, your perspective.

What I heard over and over today was that our unique perspectives matter. Whether we are chronicling the interesting times we live in for posterity or writing a letter to the editor about the gaping potholes in local roads, our experiences, our words, our thoughts, are important. No one else has lived the life we have, has experienced this world as we have. Confidently bringing this perspective to our writing is what makes our writing powerful.

I cannot wait to see what new perspectives on writing—and on life—Day Two brings.

Friday’s Full Schedule

9:30 AM – Opening Remarks: Asali Solomon

Three Day Workshops

11 AM
The Ekphrastic Selfie: Life Writing from a Photograph – Miah Jeffra
Elements of Plot – Shirley Hailstock
Creating a Series for Network, Cable, or Streaming – Dianne Walsh
Erasure Poetry and Power – Jennifer McCreary
Writing Inspiration for Tweens and Teens – Donna Galanti

1:30 PM
Romance Writing and Publishing Today: Why Him? Why Her? Why You? – Terri Brisbin
The Writer’s Business Plan: The Art of the Pitch – Jonathan Maberry
Magazine Writing – Debra Wallace
Short Story: I Wanna Know What Love Is – August Tarrier
Indie Filmmaking – Mara Leseman

2:00-5:00 PM – Agents and Editors Pitch Sessions

3:00 PM
This is the Year You Write Your Memoir – Lori Tharps
Mining for Story Fuel in Your Character’s Past – Kathryn Craft
Screenplay Writing – David Greenberg
The Poem as a Visual Object – Warren Longmire
The Deadly Art of Writing Horror: What is Horror? – Brian McKinley

Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM
Characterization from an Actor’s Perspective – Gail Priest
Op. Ed. Writing – Sandy Shea
MASTER CLASS: Make it Weird, Make it Your Own: Experiments in Voice and Form – Mike Ingram

6:00-8:00 PM – Agents and Editors Buffet

8:00-10:00 PM – Fiction and Poetry Raps


Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 6, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 06-06-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Today is the anniversary of D-Day, as well as National Higher Education Day. So let’s get educated!

Mary Davis asks: do people read anymore?

An All-Star baseball closer is trying to save bookstores as he travels with his team.

On the dark side of writing, prosecutors in Turkey are targeting novelists who tackle difficult subjects such as child abuse and sexual violence.


Getting started can sometimes be the hardest part. Mary Kole discusses choosing your main character, Nathan Bransford shows how to outline a novel, A. Howitt explores beginnings, and Laurie Schnebly explains how to make the first scene grab and keep your readers.

Our entire book is built with scenes, so we’d better get them right. K.M. Weiland tells us how to write interesting scenes, Nathan Bransford lays out how to organize a chapter (which also can work for a scene), and Janice Hardy has 5 tips for when you’re stuck in a scene.

Any writer knows there are a multitude of elements we have to juggle at any one time. Alan Gelb shares 4 elements of narrative that anyone can learn, Janice Hardy has the fix for a novel’s sagging middle with the midpoint reversal, detective Adam Richardson discusses writing conflict in crime fiction, Stavros Halzatzis explores the role of the archetype in stories, and James Scott Bell reveals the power of the telling detail.

Editing is essential to bringing out the most powerful version of your story. Hayley Milliman teaches us how to love self-editing, Janet Reid says over-explaining is the sign of an insecure writer and to cut out all “ands” that connect things that aren’t actually linked, Dr. Alexandria Szeman explains why good editing is good marketing, Frank Strausser advises authors to have actors read their novels, and Lori Freeland explores when it is time to break writing rules.

Creativity and productivity can be our best friends or our worst enemies. Jami Gold talks about the importance of balance in our lives, Sam Ripple suggests journaling your way to freedom, Jael McHenry discusses making room for silence, Celeste Hart recommends 3 books that help with writing, Lynn Dickinson reveals 5 essential things you need to know about writing habits, and Jennifer Blanchard has 3 unexpected principles for optimal creativity.

While many of our links here apply to all fiction works, some is for specific genres and formats. Hanna Jameson explores the enduring lessons of apocalyptic fiction, Ian Fleming explains how to write a thriller, Tobias Carroll examines what gets lost (and found) in translating prose to comics, Hannah Mary McKinnon wonders if there are any subjects too dark for crime fiction, and Patricia Colleen Murphy discusses writing and publishing poetry.


There are many esoteric pieces to the publishing industry. D. Eadward Tree explains why paper prices are likely to remain high for publishers, and Roger Parloff says Google and Oracle’s $9 billion “copyright case of the decade” could be headed for the Supreme Court.

Getting published can take many different paths. Nancy Jorgensen tells how she caught a publisher unexpectedly, and Anne R. Allen reveals the 1 mistake that leaves self-publishers vulnerable to publishing scams.

Publishing—especially self-publishing—requires working with many other people. Tim McConnehey shows how to work with a book designer, and Becca Puglisi has tips for a successful writing collaboration.

Looking for an agent or publisher? Janet Reid comforts a writer who is working on a book with the same premise as one that just came out, and Stephanie Chandler serves up a nonfiction book proposal.

Marketing often brings on what Judith Briles calls “the author-in-the-headlights syndrome”. Beth Alvarado gives us 9 ways to market your book, and Melissa Bowersock focuses on making your book descriptions pop on Amazon.

Marketing needs a plan to be most effective. Beth Barany shows how to create a book marketing roadmap, Bonnie Randall explains how to raise your novel’s visibility: blog posts & leveraging literary contacts, and Jackie Karneth discusses marketing poetry: tips from a literary publicist.

Book reviews and newsletters are solid marketing tools. Book reviewer Jennie Rosenblum answers 7 questions, and E.J. Wenstrom lists the top 4 metrics to watch to see if your author newsletter is working.

Online is the most practical way to connect with readers. Cristian Mihai has ideas for beginning bloggers to try, and talks about what to do when you fall out of love with your blog. Shelley Sturgeon  shows us how to use Snapseed to edit social media photos and more, and Asif gives us 15 practical ways to make your content more engaging.


It’s summer! Allison Duncan looks at what is a beach read, and why (plus some recommendations).

Some poets had surprising other lives. Walt Whitman was an unsung newspaperman, and Pablo Neruda was a diplomat in Sri Lanka.

For your research needs: a history of the wench.

And just because…check out this gallery of bookish pets.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 30, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-30-2019

Welcome to the last Top Picks Thursday of May! As we slide into summer, come refresh yourself with writerly links.

Check out the winners of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.

Christina DesMarais lists 4 reasons you should be reading books daily, according to science; and for those kids who can’t get to the library, librarians are bringing books to laundromats.

K.M. Weiland examines 4 challenges of writing for a modern audience.

Finally, Roz Morris unveils a manifesto for maverick creatives.


Writers want the readers to keep turning the pages. Janice Hardy has 5 ways to hook your readers, C.S. Lakin shares 4 ways to improve tension and pacing in your novel, and Braeden Phillips reminds us that making a lasting impact with a story isn’t exactly easy.

Improving our craft is always a goal for writers. Allegra Huston tells us the two basic rules of editing and the rookie mistake many writers make, Roger Johns advises to write tired and edit rested, and Joyce Sweeney provides a writing self-assessment to know where you shine and where you need to learn more.

We always want to improve productivity, too. Jessica Greene looks at the data, and finds that the true cost of multitasking isn’t productivity—it’s mental health.

Writing can be emotionally stressful. Harlan Coben gives us 5 writing tips to get us through, Nathan Bransford opens up about the scary part of writing, Ruth Harris explore rejections and 7 ways to make it hurt less, and Jami Gold urges us to stop and smell the sense of accomplishment.


Jennifer Laughran demystifies the deal reporting on Publisher’s Marketplace, Dan Rhodes explores the curious incident of the dog and the missing royalties, and Lee Foster discusses how you can sell your books in bite—byte—size chunks.

The US Copyright Office has been busy. They released a report called Authors, Attribution, and Integrity: Examining Moral Right in the United States (a PDF file), and within that report Jennifer E. Rothman discusses the idea that the Copyright Office might consider federal right to publicity legislation.

If you are querying, agent Janet Reid explains how to query a whodunit and reveals at what point awards become too old to mention in queries.

Marketing! Jami Gold talks Branding 101: defining our brand, and Bethany Cadman tells us why you need to treat your writing like a business.


Jane Friedman discusses the Indie Author Project, highlighting the best self-published books by state.

In the wake of a court case, Germany hands Israel thousands of a Kafka confidant’s papers.

Anjie Zheng examines the uncertain future of Sweden’s floating libraries.

And I thought I was bad about returning books on time… A Donegal library book was returned after more than 80 years.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary links!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 23, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-23-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This Memorial Day weekend kick back and relax with these writerly links.

A writing legend died this week. Pulitzer Prize winner Herman Wouk died at age 103.

The winners of the 100th Annual O. Henry Prize were announced this week. Check them out.

SCBWI announces new scholarships: Matt de la Peña and Christopher Paul Curtis create SCBWI scholarships for IPOC women.

Reading is central to a successful (and enjoyable) life. So how do you turn kids into bookworms? 10 Children’s Laureates share tips. Further, studies show that unread books at home still spark literary habits, and Melissa Chu shares a complete guide on how to read the right way.

Looking for work? Mary Kole is now hiring an administrative assistant and seeking editorial, proofreading, and ghostwriting referrals.


There are challenges at every stage of the writing process—none of it is easy, even though we all have our favorite parts. But from conception to the middle to the deeper meaning of the work, it’s all difficult. Jami Gold discusses the writing process whether you are a pantser, plotter, or something in between; Sacha Black shows how to use conflict to nip and tuck a saggy middle, and Laurence McNaughton reveals what every writer should know about theme.

Location, location, location. Porter Anderson takes a deep look into the place of place (both emotional and physical) in our writings, while Nils Odlund shares 6 tips for adding life to your locations.

When building your characters, Janice Hardy reminds us to make sure your characters have their own voices, and Becca Puglisi demonstrates how to avoid clichéd emotional responses in your work.

It can be hard to find time to write in our busy world. Jami Gold encourages us to stop comparing ourselves to other writers and just focus on what we can realistically do, Daphne Gray-Grant shows what we can write in 20 minutes or less, Rochelle Melander urges using a journal to boost productivity, Bethany Henry has 5 tips for writing with small children (or in any other busy life), and Bill Ferris has a hack’s guide to finding time to write.

Laura Drake advises us to dare to be vulnerable in our writing, Jim Dempsey helps us to tune out our self-doubt, Jessica Frances Kane faces the problem of too much metaphor, K.M. Weiland shares 20 of the most instructive quotes about writing, and Clémentine Beauvais ponders: do you think that one day you’ll stop writing?


In book business, Jim Milliot warns that books are now a target of the new China tariffs; Makato Tokudome explains how to turn your book into a podcast; and Cathi Stevenson discusses getting the right cover for your book.

Dealing with an agent can be tricky as more writers write across genres. Agent Janet Reid talks about what to do when you want to write broadly but your agent only represents a narrow genre, and whether or not having multiple agents is a good idea. If you hold your media rights to your book, Charles Harris lays out how to pitch your nonfiction book for film or TV.

Book promotion and publicity is a skill set many of us struggle to master. David Kudler answers how we can promote our book for free, Sandra Beckwith advises tailoring press releases to a local market, and Barbara Linn Probst tells us how we can rule in and rule out publicists when shopping for one.

Building relationships can help greatly with marketing. Doctor J shows us how to make author network connections with five easy elements, Cristian Mihai has the concise guide to building relationships with other bloggers, and Emilie Rabitoy explains how working with an author assistant helps writers.

Most marketing is done online, as is more networking these days. Frances Caballo shares 4 dirty little secrets about social media marketing for authors, Shaunta Grimes tells us how to use Medium to build a market for your books, Penny Sansevieri has 5 essential strategies for selling romance novels, and Charli Mills discusses why credibility forges a strong brand.

Tyler Doornbos gives us an insider’s guide to author websites, Shelley Sturgeon points us to 72 free image sources for authors, Barb Drozdowich shows us how to improve our newsletter right now, and David Gaughran wonders if it is time to dump MailChimp.


Sometimes it seems that kindness is hard to find in today’s world, but bookish people are sharing the love. Amy Chillag brings us a story of surprise money and note in a book that starts a pay-it-forward chain, and Julie Carrick Dalton writes of the power of writerly kindness.

Is it a library if it has no books? Winnie Hu explains why the New York Public Library has 7 floors of stacks with no books.

Leo Damrosch tells us how Samuel Johnson met James Boswell in a bookstore—of course.

For you crime fans, Molly Odintz runs down the 20 best speeches in the history of crime cinema.

For all of us book geeks, Noel Murray celebrates the rise of the literary miniseries.

Solved? A researcher claims to have solved the mystery of a 15th century text known as the Voynich manuscript.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Enjoy Memorial Day and stay safe!


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | May 16, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For writers & Readers 05-16-2019

The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, spring flowers, flowering bushes and dogwood

May flowers at dawn


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’re half way through May, the month of flowers … and rampant weed growth. (Anyone else falling behind in the battle?)

It’s felt like winter here the past few days, but swimsuit season is just around the corner. For those who like to plan ahead, Roni Loren lists 15 tips to read more this summer.

If you enjoy nonfiction, pick up a biography today in honor of National Biographer’s Day. Since it’s also National Love a Tree Day, whatever you read, sit outside in the lovely spring weather and enjoy your book under the shade of a tree.

Writers and pets are often found together. Juliet Marillier investigates the relationship between the writer and the writer’s dog.

In memoriam: Alvin Sargent, Oscar-winning screenwriter, died May 9 at age 92 (reported by Peter Debruge in Variety).


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, bee on pink flowers

A bee visits my flowers



Having doubts about your craft? Kerry Schafer shares five steps to embracing your identity as a writer.

Creativity is a cornerstone of any art. Marc Graham shows us how to unlock creativity and end writer’s block for good, while Jess Costello sets out five simple tips for conquering creative burnout.

Seeking to improve your skills? K. M. Weiland looks at 5 ways writers (try to) fake their way to good storytelling, and Shaunta Grimes focuses on how to be a better artist (there is only one way).

Sometimes writers have too many ideas. Rose Andrews discusses choosing the right idea.

Writing comedy can be a challenge. Jess Zafarris presents Jerry Seinfeld’s 5-step comedy writing process.

For writers confused about POV, Janice Hardy clarifies the difference between a limited vs. a tight point of view.

Conflict drives plot. Vivian Otoo tells us how to create more conflict in our stories, Kathryn Craft gives us 6 tips for creating good bridging conflict, and Stavros Halvatzis asserts that conflicting story characters make for better tales.

If you’re developing characters, Kristen Lamb delves into crafting the perfect ‘unlikable’ character, while Piper Bayard discusses backstory: the more I know, the less you have to.

Suyi Davies Okungbowa looks at worldbuilding from the inside out, and Elaine Viets suggests authors do “road work,” using streets to give the story real direction.

Terry Odell shares information about writing suspense (part 2), and Laurisa White Reyes mentions five things to avoid when writing a real page-turner.

When you’re ready for revision, Stephanie Chandler lists five common editing mistakes and typos found in manuscripts, and Brian Rowe explains why your novel now needs to be aimed at an ideal reader.

For those writing chldren’s books, Darcy Pattison and Leslie Helakoski demystify how you can tell if you’ve written a picture book.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, book and notebook with pencil and phone and laptop

Photo by Aleks Dorohovich on Unsplash



Is your manuscript ready for publication? Sophie Masson gives her take on big publishers, small publishers, and contract negotiations, while Meg LaTorre answers the question: how should I publish my book? Plus, Melissa Donovan gives suggestions on how to publish your poetry, and Jami Gold discusses self-publishing and entrepreneurship.

Cassie Lipp tells us what it feels like to get your first book advance.

Agent Janet Reid gives advice on writing for a packager and advises writers to always be ready to pitch. Jami Gold offers insights on pitching from movie trailers.

Tamela Hancock Murray shares book proposal basics—competitive titles.

Ready to market that book? Brian Jud creates the equation for book-marketing success, The Indie Reader staff examines how book pricing is a powerful strategy to sell more books, and Mark Cavannagh looks at marketing a book series: the power of read-through.

Tara Alemany uses the “Dear Reader” exercise to focus book writing and marketing, and David Gaughran addresses how reader targeting influences everything in writing.

Before you start marketing, check out Hayley Milliman’s how an author platform helps promote your work, and Anne R. Allen’s your author persona: how to be yourself online, only better.

James Navé and Allegra Huston detail how to plan a book reading that will delight your audience.

For those looking for help with social media, Frances Caballo reveals 4 dirty little secrets about social media marketing for authors, and Cristian Mihai shares 90 super easy tips that will turn even a novice blogger into an expert.

Nate Hoffelder lays out 9 reasons authors need newsletters, and Shelley Sturgeon offers 72 free images sources for authors.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, book and book shelves

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash



Literary Hub‘s David K. Randall writes about how the bubonic plague almost came to America.

Anne Valente wonders why it’s so hard to write about music in fiction.

Arundhati Roy asserts that literature provides shelter and that’s why we need it.

Gabrielle Bellot reveals what The Great Gatsby reveals about the Jazz Age.

In The New York Times, Ratha Tep retraces Truman Capote’s moment in the Mediterranean sun.

Electric Literature‘s Erin Barnett shares great authors’ letters to their long-suffering mothers.

Samantha Leach asks how Danielle Steele has managed to write 179 books.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, red honeysuckle



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


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, noght sky and evergreen trees

Photo by Ryan Hutton on Unsplash



Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 9, 2019

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 05-09-2019

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Enjoy the links we’ve rounded up for you.

The publishing industry mourns the death of Rachel Held Evans at age 37.

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi wins the 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award.

Writers always want to know what makes certain books irresistible to readers, and what makes readers walk away from others. Here with some hard data, Barbara Linn Probst has results of a survey asking why do readers love some novels. On the other end, Sandra Beckwith explains why she won’t buy you self-published novel.

Diversity is a goal for many writers and publishers. Natasha Tynes discusses the complicated reality of a  minority writer.

We love our libraries. BookMarks looks at an experimental library growing in Brooklyn, and click on over to The Open Library and see what they’re all about.

Winning a writing contest is a thrill, but beware! Anne R. Allen has 8 red flags to suss out bogus writing contests.


Getting started is half the battle. Rose Andrews talks about choosing the right idea, Scott Wilson says to think outside the books by writing the query letter first, and K.M. Weiland has 8 quick tips for show, don’t tell.

Once we’ve started, the characters take the readers along for the ride. Mary Kole advises avoiding one dimensional characters, Savannah Gilbo shares questions to help you write compelling characters, and Janice Hardy discusses how to mix character actions and internal thoughts.

Who is in the story is very important, but where the story takes place can be just as vital. Jami Gold explains that worldbuilding is for every story, while Kyle A. Massa shows how and why to treat your setting like a character.

Once we’ve got a draft, the editing begins. Richard Bradburn teaches the basics of editing terminology, Mary Norris and Benjamin Dreyer talk grammar and style, Kyle A. Massa tells us how to identify sticky sentences in your writing, and Michael Gallant has tips for the final edit. Writing groups can be a great place for feedback. However, Kathryn Craft gives us 5 reasons it may be time to leave a writer’s group.

Meg Dowell discusses what a “flow state” is and how it helps us write more, faster, Ivi Jayde has 5 self-care tips for writing with a chronic illness, and Paulette Perhach explains how to bring value to your readers.


Authors can publish traditionally or self-publish. If you have a health-based book, Mayo Clinic is launching its own publishing imprint. If you are self-publishing, Lindsay Buroker explains the Amazon conundrum otherwise known as Kindle Unlimited.

Debbie Young explains why we need to drive readers into bookstores, and Joel Friedlander walks us through everything we need to know about our book’s back matter.

Agent Janet Reid answers some reader questions. First, what to do if an agent that passed on your manuscript then requests it during an online pitch contest. Then, she discusses how to deal with Hollywood if someone expresses interest in your unpublished manuscript.

Marketing is all about spreading the word. Stephanie Chandler explains how to build your tribe of influence (even if you think your platform is small), Amy Collins suggests exploring all the display options in bookstores, and Sue Rovens has tips for a successful author fair.

Online is a good place to spread the word. Carl Pritzkat announces that BookLife offers free book reviews for independent authors, Cristian Mihai has 12 questions you should ask yourself before hitting that blog publish button, and Nate Hoffelder tells us how to find free and legal images online.


Reading is integral to most writers’ lives. But what happens when you over-read…or under-read? Lyndsie Manusos discusses overcoming her postpartum reading slump, and Ankita Devasia asks: Can you read too much?

Jonathan Bate explores why Shakespeare was wary of writing about religion.

Mervyn Horder delves into the life and writing of Dorothy Parker: political activist, melancholic, and bootleg scotch drinker.

In England, fire breaks out in Ashdown Forest, the iconic woods of Winnie the Pooh.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more writerly links.

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