Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 18, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-17-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! How is it the middle of September already? Fall is peeking in where I live—some chilly mornings recently. So grab a warm drink, cuddle up, and enjoy the links below!

PEN America names Ayad Akhtar its next president.

Frances Ryan makes the case that publishing must make room for disabled writers.

Say cheese! Colleen M. Story has the 7 top mistakes authors make with their author photos.

Kathryn Craft brings us a quiz that is actually helpful to writers.

Libraries are so much more than book warehouses. Jennie Rothschild exposes the inconvenient truth about library e-collections, and Porter Anderson reports that Sharjah World Book Capital is leading Beirut libraries restoration aid efforts.


Sarah Burton has tips on writing historical fiction, and Celia Martin examines historical fiction and accuracy.

If you are a memoir writer, Kristen Lamb investigates where the hero’s journey meets memoir.

Sophie Masson explores writing chapter books for young readers.

A fan of re-told tales? MacyKate Connolly shares a 5-step process for reworking a classic story.

Getting plot right can be a bear. David Brown and Michelle Barker look at situation vs. plot, Juliet Marillier tackles writing a many-stranded story, Melissa Donovan discusses plot vs. character in storytelling, and Laura Drake has advice for pantsers.

Finding our way to the end of a manuscript can be fraught. Jami Gold ponders: does every story need conflict?; Hank Phillippi Ryan says if you need a good idea, make a list; Laurence McNaughton shares the 3 minute scene fix, and Stavros Halvatzis shows how to get to the finalized manuscript.

What about those characters that inhabit our stories? Pamela Redmond explains how character names create great stories, and Heather Griffin walks us through how to create supporting roles in fiction.

Editing can smooth out the rough edges, but it’s not always an easy process. You have word pitfalls like moral vs. amoral vs. immoral, annoying eggcorns, and the fluidity of grammar in our ever-changing society. Jim Dempsey talks about editing at your own pace, while Lucia Tang reveals the art of the constructive critique.


In publishing news, September begins with a 17.5% gain in unit sales, bookstore unions are stepping up, and the wildfires are taking a tool on booksellers and publishers.

For self-publishers, Sandra Beckwith has compiled 25 things authors wished they had known before self-publishing, Joanna Penn shares lessons learned from 9 years as an author entrepreneur, and John Doppler lists 5 important tips for vetting community-specific publishers.

If you are looking to take your book audio, Tina Dietz answers 3 questions about the hidden potential of audiobooks, and Alexa Glazer has tips for publishing audiobooks.

For those seeking traditional representation, Janet Reid defines certain publishing terminology and discusses re-querying after major revisions, Mary Kole explains title formatting for manuscripts, and Janice Hardy tells us why query letters matter to self-published authors, too.

Marketing your book means getting the word out there. The AskALLi Team has the ultimate guide to the perfect books cover, Adam Connell compares 9 powerful email marketing services, and Judith Briles has 24 sites to send a press release.

For internet connection with readers, Cristian Mihai gives us 5 steps to becoming a better blogger, and Frances Caballo gives us 55 ideas for when we’re not sure what to tweet.


At First Draft podcast, Margot Livesey talks about choosing the right idea for a new book, and Cherie Dimaline discusses representing Native youth in her work.

On Quarantine Tapes with Paul Holdengraber, Daniel Mendelsohn examines how Greek tragedy speaks to our present moment.

Joanna Penn (with transcript) and Erin Wright look at publishing wide for the win.


Looking at black writers in America, Matt Sandler discusses Albert Allson Whitman, a radical black poet of the Reconstruction, and Book marks looks back at the first reviews of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Check out these Spanish-world authors as well, both obscure and well-known. Theresa Machemer remembers the forgotten women writers of 17th-century Spain, and Alvaro Santana-Acuna investigates if a revolution in Latin American publishing made One Hundred Years of Solitude the success it is today.

Classics come in all shapes and sizes—and sometimes in the mail. Neil Nyren examines Alexander McCall Smith’s crime classics, while W. Scott Olsen writes in praise of the mail order book clubs of his childhood.

Sadly, George R.R. Martin can’t build a castle library in New Mexico.

Speaking of libraries, do you need a library science degree to work in a library?

And what made black and blue pens standard?

When houses are characters in the story: The house that inspired Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is for sale, and Giovanna Centano discusses haunted houses and reading Shirley Jackson in quarantine.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 10, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers and Readers 09-10-2020

Posted by: Kerry Gans | September 3, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 09-03-2020

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | August 27, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-27-2020

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 20, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-20-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday!

Two different perspectives on the same initiative. Alison Flood talks about the #ReclaimHerName program where 25 historic works by women will be published under their authors’ real names for the first time, while Olivia Rutigliano claims the program ignores the authorial choices of the writers it represents.

Book tsunami! Alex Clark explains why the literary world will be overwhelmed by 600 books published in one day.

Has diversity in publishing reached a turning point? In Canada, the Giller Foundation donates $50,000 to Indigenous and Diaspora literature, and Calvin Reid looks at diversity in publishing in the age of Black Lives Matter.

Books bring knowledge, escape, and comfort to many readers. Natalie Wexler discusses a new curriculum that shows kids the joy of reading, Katharine Grubb tells how to love your local library, and Andrew Albanese reports that library supporters urge action as Senate recesses without a relief bill.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware warns of a spate of spammers impersonating reputable agents.

Mary Kole wants to know what questions you would like her to answer on her blog.


To Covid or not Covid? That is the question of the year. Steven Spatz and others discuss whether to include coronavirus in your latest book.

Jax Miller has 5 things to consider when writing true crime books.

If poetry is your gig, little infinite shares 7 tips for writing good poetry for aspiring poets.

Planning your book can help make the work flow easier. Leigh Cheak explores using sticky notes for plotters and pantsers, while Dana Isaacson lays out how to chart a fictional timeline.

The beginning of your story bears much of the burden for capturing the reader. Barbara Linn Probst looks at beginning at the beginning…or maybe not. Kathryn Craft demystifies the power couple of the “must read now”: the hook and inciting incident.

Once we’ve hooked the reader, we have to keep them on the line. Kris Bock advises putting characters in conflict, and September C. Fawkes gives us 6 tips to layer on stakes.

Our characters are part of what keeps readers hooked. Melissa Donovan shows how to identify the protagonist in a story, Paula Munier tells us how to introduce your protagonist so readers care, Stavros Halvatzis reminds us that the character arc must serve the story, Lisa Hall-Wilson shares 8 FAQs about deep point of view, and Laurence McNaughton lists 6 crucial character relationships.

There are many things to keep in mind when we write. Nancy J. Cohen speaks to the writer’s learning curve, Elaine Viets warns against gender-biased stereotyping in our physical descriptions of characters, Vie Stallings Herlocker reminds us of two quick research tools for writers, and Bill Ferris has an amusing list of everyday activities that definitely count as writing.

Nathan Bransford explores writing as a series of lenses, Steve Laube discusses what happens when disagreements arise during the publishing process, Randy Susan Meyers says that being terrified about writing your novel is excellent, and Chrys Fey defines writer’s burnout.


In publishing news, US publishers, authors, and booksellers call out Amazon’s “concentrated power” in the book market, booksellers scrutinize the ABA’s relationship with Bookshop, and August kicks off with a big gain in print unit sales.

Meanwhile, Alexander Larman laments the demise of the second-hand bookshop, and UK-based Book Aid International donated 1.2 million books in 2019.

Marketing is not a lightning strike, it’s a long-haul process. Jane Friedman discusses building a career-long marketing foundation, Gillian Harvey probes the good, the mediocre, and the ugly in reviews, and Elizabeth S. Craig has an audiobook promotion tip.

The pandemic has forced us into a virtual marketing strategy. Cristin Stickles shows how to create the best virtual author event ever, Claire Annette Noland talks about launching a debut book in the middle of a pandemic, and Tamela Hancock Murray looks at how big should an author’s platform be?

Barb Drozdowich explains how to use simple psychology and basic common sense to sell more books, Judith Briles walks us through the must-do steps for Amazon campaigns for ebooks, Frances Caballo shares 5 basic rules of social media, and Kim Lochery has the definitive guide to the best times to post on social media.

If blogging, Cristian Mihai reveals how to use procrastination to becomes a more productive blogger and gives us this often overlooked technique that will vastly improve your blog articles. Or you can follow Mark Alpert’s advice and use podcasts to promote your novels.


(Video) Jessica Faust discusses how writers should choose their pseudonyms.

Courtney Balestier interviews Celeste Ng about the need to grab the reader from the start.

On Thresholds podcast, Jordan Kisner hosts Ocean Vuong on how language builds an architecture for our souls.

The NewberyTart podcast ponders what does young adult fiction even mean?


For those missing their libraries, these library watercolors will sooth your anxious soul.

Emanuele Lugli dives into the dark, forgotten history of coloring books.

Private detectives have evolved through the ages. Susanna Lee examines the world of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser and the birth of the 1970’s private detective.

Tale as old as time. One of the oldest Buddhist manuscripts has been digitized and put online.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Hope you join us next week for more literary links.


Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 13, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-13-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Mid-August is upon us already and the summer doldrums are here. Break your heat-induced ennui with some cool writerly links.

Check out the 2020 Hugo Award winners.

Lisa Tener brings us good news data about reading. And if you’re looking for something to read, get happier by re-reading your childhood favorites.

Anthony Breznican examines how black storytellers are using horror to battle hate.

Tired of working for “exposure”? William Deresiewicz says we need to treat artists as workers, not decorations.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware warns us of problems cropping up at Filles Vertes Publishing.


Artificial intelligence—friend or foe? Farhad Manjoo examines GPT 3 AI automation and wonders if writers will survive, while J.D. Lasica discusses how artificial intelligence can help authors write a better novel.

Tips for specific genres: Damyanti Biswas tells how to write an international thriller, and Angela Ackerman shows how to put a fresh twist on the office romance.

If you are thinking about writing a series, William L. Hahn delineates 3 types of series to choose from, and if you want to break from the linear writing path, Nathan Bansford shares tips for non-linear narratives.

Every story has a plot arc, and the writing process does, too. Paula Munier dissects the anatomy of a story idea, Larry Brooks reveals how to mine the facets of premise for story gold, Jody Turchin urges us to drive through the muddy middle of our novel, Gabrielle Pollack demonstrates how to write a happy ending that doesn’t seem contrived, and Debbie Burke discusses the power of poignancy to give your ending a lasting punch.

There are many “intangibles” that make a story compelling. Stavros Halvatzis looks at how we make stories feel real, Ronan Hession says the quest for kindness is one of fiction’s greatest challenges, and Donald Maass deals with suspense.

You can’t have a story without characters, so we need to find ways to make them interesting. Katharine Grubb lists 9 things your characters need from you, Stephanie Churchill explores intuitive writing and character formation, and TD Storm shares 2 imperatives for compelling dialogue. Lisa Hall-Wilson tells us how to research mental health and trauma for your characters, and Linda S. Clare discusses writing supporting characters.

When reviewing your draft, there are things large and small to consider. Sean Gray looks at worldbuilding and the role of secret societies in revolutions, while Robert Lee Brewer considers the differences between compliment vs. complement vs. supplement.

Sometimes it’s really hard to get motivated to write. Janice Hardy explains why you should edit that last scene before moving on, Melinda Copp advises what to do if you’re struggling to write your book, Jenny Hansen has 3 writing tips from Nora Roberts, and Jennifer Baker reminds us that Toni Morrison let us know that we are more than the work we do.


Publishing goes on, even in a coronavirus world. Jeva Lange looks at how book publishing has filled the coronavirus entertainment void, Jim Milliot shows how some big publishers are finding ways to cope, and Publishers Weekly reports that print unit sales end July with a 15% increase.

Self-publishing is an entire ecosystem unto itself. Roz Morris answers 4 questions posed at a self-publishing conference (covering editing, cross-genre publishing, and author control), and Meg LeTorre lists the best self-publishing companies for novels in 2020.

Steve Laube has 12 steps to publication, Rachelle Gardner says to get an agents’ attention write another book, and Denise Massar answers the question: are editors responding to submissions during the pandemic?

Marketing covers a lot of ground, and it changes as the times change. Amy Collins discusses changing your perspective on marketing during the pandemic, V.F. Sharp has 7 tips for marketing your book from a fantasy author, and Kristina Olegovna has 6 marketing tips from a 12-year-old author.

Branding and image are central to marketing. Melinda VanLone explores updating your books cover, Sandra Beckwith shares 5 common book press release mistakes, Sherry Howard has suggestions for getting the word out about your book release, and Eldred “Bob” Bird walks us through how to give back to our readers.

Blogging and social media are a prime way to reach people now. Dave Chesson tells us what to write about on our author blogs (with blog topics), Cristian Mihai has a pre-publishing checklist for your blog article and 7 tips from famous authors that will make you a better blogger, while James Scott Bell sends us notes from the social media deportment department.


Roz Morris discusses how to write books for children and young adults, while Joanna Penn interviews Susie K Quinn about how to write a bestseller.


Leslie S. Klinger and Lisa Morton resurrect the weird women: the forgotten female horror writers of the 19th century and beyond.

We can learn how to tell a story from many different sources. Odie Lindsey talks about learning to write from Willie Nelson.

If you’re looking for something to fill your quarantine time, Olivia Rutigliano ranks the 35 most iconic caper movies.

Bob Blaisdell examines Pushkin’s influence on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Where we write can have a profound influence on what we write. Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle discusses writing in the ancestral Cherokee homeland.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | August 6, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 08-06-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday of August! Tropical Storm Isaias just blew through here and knocked out our power, but nothing stops the delivery of our literary links to you! Also, August 9th is National Book Lovers Day, so let’s all celebrate by talking up our favorite books.

Eddie S. Glaudie Jr. explores the vow James Baldwin made to young civil rights activists, while Amy Stolls and Jessica Flynn announce that Lucille Clifton’s Baltimore home will becomes a sanctuary for young artists.

Overseas, Italy’s publishers hail new COVID relief fund for small publishers, and Stacy Mattingly looks at a new generation of writers in Bosnia and Herzegovina narrates life beyond war.

As the world tries to regain its footing, literary museums are reopening amid uncertain futures.


If you like precision and nonfiction, Karen Babine outlines a taxonomy of nonfiction.

Tim Waggoner discusses the many faces of horror and its revitalization.

Every genre comes with its own expectations, and Leslie Budewitz looks at the cozy mystery writer and the conundrum of keeping it clean.

Each writer has a different process, but they all aim at the same result: a solid story that keeps the readers turning the pages. Jael R. Bakari describes a process that develops a coherent story, while Laurie Schnebly Campbell explores how to keep the tension going.

Don’t overlook the sentence-level stuff. Mary Kole warns against overusing the simile, and Elizabeth S. Craig has a quick reminder on transitions.

Description can be a stumbling block for writers. Firn Hyde shares 7 ways to spice up your description, and Bonnie Randall shows how to weave setting into deep point-of-view.

Your characters have to be realistic in how they act and how they sound. James Scott Bell suggests doing a best day and worst day for your characters to get to know them, Nathan Bransford tells us how to spice up relationships in novels, and Stavros Halvatzis explores how to write memorable dialogue.

When writing characters, getting their jobs right is important. Brian Andrews reveals the secret to writing about the Secret Service, E.L. Skip Knox delves into carpentry with history on tree-wrights and others, John Gilstrap demystifies firehouse slang, and Garry Rogers instructs us how to speak cop.

Editing can seem a never-ending process. Beth Barany gives us a checklist to edit for our reader, Debbie Burke list 12 tips to write tight, and Lori Freeland reveals how to process critiques effectively by tuning in vs. tuning out.

If you want to edit, critique, or review other people’s work, there are some things to consider. Jane Friedman shares 3 keys to freelance editing success, while Olivia Folmer Ard explains how to leave a kind review.

Writing a book is never easy. Writing a book in the current times is even harder. Olga Khazan shares how to write a book without losing your mind, Kris Maze has 4 steps to better writer self-care, Bethany Henry gives us 7 ways to deal with burnout, Kim Bullock shows how to use uncertainty to enhance your writing, and Janice Hardy has tips for getting your mojo back in a corona-colored world.


The pandemic has not yet killed publishers. Jane Friedman says US book publishing remains resilient, with print and ebook sales growing, while Jim Milliot looks at publishers playing the pandemic waiting game.

Elizabeth Della Zazzera looks at how The Bookman invented the best seller.

If you write non-fiction, Anne Trubek tells us how to write an email well enough to land a book deal.

When it comes to trying to sell your book to agents, Nathan Bransford reminds us that there’s no excuse for not knowing where your book fits in the market.

Authors are often asked for blurbs. Greer Macallister shares 4 ways to answer a blurb request.

Marketing has moved heavily online with the pandemic. Kate Reed Petty says instead of mimicking in-person events, virtual book readings should make use of the possibilities of the internet. Chrys Fey tells how to do honest and legal giveaways as an author, and Erik Nilsson outlines how book summaries make sales for nonfiction authors.

Katharine Grubb lists 10 local resources that could help you sell books, and M.C.A. Hogarth wonders if Kickstarter is right for you.

Christian Mihai shares 3 creative strategies to grow your blog’s audience in 2020, Nicola Blue has the blogger’s guide to writing better headlines, and Sarah Bolme shows how to engage readers in your book marketing strategy.


This week’s podcast finds:

On The Literary Life with Mitchell Caplan, Susan Wiggs discusses the power and magic of bookstores.

On The Creative Penn, Joanna Penn shares writing and business lessons learned from 500 episodes and 11 years of the Creative Penn Podcast.


For those of us who like to write outside the home, Emily Temple wonders if the coronavirus is the end of us writing in cafes.

If you loved The Little Prince, check out these reviews of the original English release of Saint Exupery’s classic.

Every comic strip has an origin story. Jeet Heer looks at the complex origins of Little Orphan Annie.

Take a peek at the unfortunate and unlikely tale of the world’s “greatest literary sisters,” the Bronte sisters.

David Crystal reveals that some of the earliest written dialogues were in Middle English literature.

Ever wonder where certain words and expressions came from? Merrill Perlman explores the literary etymology of “cake”, while Dan Nosowitz traces the long linguistic journey to “dagnabbit.”

In the era of cell phones, Sophie Haigney pens an elegy for the landline in literature.

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 30, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 7-30-2020

Welcome to the final Top Picks Thursday of July! As the summer heat settles in, find a cool spot and enjoy some literary links.

In awards this week, check out the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Longlist, and Walden, Takei, Telgemeier, and Tamaki win the 2020 Eisner Awards in an online ceremony.

Sadly, award-winning author Robert Hellenga died at 78.

Wondering what to add to your reading list? Emily Temple collected what 100 writers have been reading during quarantine.

Also consider reading these 50 most impactful black-authored books of the last 50 years. Then listen as 10 BIPOC creators discuss turning racism into art.

There’s always someone trying to take advantage of you. Debbie Burke highlights some scams that target writers, while Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware looks at some troubles developing at Lethe Press and Seventh Star Press.

If you are searching for a critique group or critique partner, hop over to Janice Hardy’s twice-yearly group to match people together.


Getting started can be the hardest part of a work. D.I. Hughes reviews the elements of a solid novel, plus steps to take before you even start writing; Jennifer Kerslake has a 10 step guide to planning your novel, and once you’re ready to go, Brian Andrews reveals how to write a powerful, enticing, intriguing, amazing opening line to your novel.

Terry Odell examines foreshadowing in our work by discussing breadcrumbs in writing and making the reader buy the premise.

Our characters bring our story to life. Bob Hostetler talks naming characters, Jami Gold thinks about characters’ jobs, Stavros Halvatzis stresses the importance of finding the viewpoint character in your story, Antonio del Drago examines intelligent and immoral villains, and Ellen Buikema explores creating memorable animal characters.

Editing takes up a large chunk of time—and sometimes money. Christina Consolino lists 10 tips to help you self-edit, Melissa Donovan suggests referring to the Chicago Manual of Style, and Sue Coletta shares keyboard shortcuts to help keep us in the flow when writing.

Writers always strive for some sort of resonance or relevance in their writing. David James Poissant questions how to write a timely novel in a world that won’t stop changing, Jessica Faust discusses the changing world and your writing, and Marion Roach Smith tells us why to write memoir right now.

Anne R. Allen looks at what to write when you can’t write what you know, Jasmine Guillory admits she can’t be a writer if she doesn’t write every day, and Sandra Beckwith urges writers to start their book publishing journey with knowledge.

Writers are often readers. Rachelle Gardner explains why you should be if you are not, and Sacha Black explores the true meaning of “read more to improve your writing.”

Sometimes the writing comes hard. Chrys Fey looks at what writer’s block is, Stan Parish tells us how he cured his writer’s block with techno, and Austin Kleon laments that he forgot how to write again.

In these disruptive times, Lisa Tener explains how to stay focused and write, while Barbara O’Neal explores how to write during a pandemic even if it feels like you can’t.


Audiobooks and podcasting are on the rise, according to Duncan Stewart, Mark Casey, and Craig Wigginton.

A popular self-publishing platform, PublishDrive is moving to an all subscription model. David Kudler breaks down what that means to authors.

Every author wants to get on the best-seller list. David Barnett wonders if it is fair for an author to get higher on the bestseller lists by buying his own books?

There has been talk of compensation equity in publishing of late. Paul D. Marks shares his view on whether comparing contracts is helpful or not. In self-publishing, Kristine Kathryn Rusch examines the Kickstarter game changer that could shake the foundations of publishing.

In this time of limited travel, Karen Seiger discusses a guidebook editor’s dilemma.

If you want to reach audiences around the world, you need your book translated. Linda Ruggeri has 6 tips to translate your work effectively.

Marketing means getting the word out about your book. Dan Blank explains the concept of human-centered marketing, Sabrina Ricci gives us 176 resources and tools to market and launch your book, and Sharon Bially promises that “spoilers” won’t spoil your book if used properly in book promotion.

Online is the way to go these days. Chrys Fey walks us through how to create a free book trailer using Adobe Spark, David Hartshorne compares the 7 best managed WordPress hosting companies, the AskALLi Team posts the ultimate guide to content repurposing, and Cristian Mihai urges us to blog outside the box with 18 unconventional ideas to help you bed the rules.


We are finding more podcasts of interest now, so any week we have more than one podcast in our list we will break them out into their own group. Some podcasts also have a transcript attached, if you prefer reading to listening. Here are this week’s:

Roz Morris discusses how to write a sequel and when not to.

In an interview, Joanna Penn asks Nick Thacker about writing action adventure fiction and systems thinking.

Penny Sansevieri examines how to reach Bookstagrammers.


PJ Grisar investigates why Dorothy Parker’s ashes were interred at NAACP headquarters.

Books are windows into the soul. Shelia Liming shares what Edith Wharton’s library tells us about her reading habits.

Rachel Cohen delves into Jane Austen’s politics of walking, while Sophie Gee writes about the consolations of Jane Austen.

Want a challenge while in quarantine? Don Vaughan gives us literary world records for books and authors.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay cool, stay safe, and we will see you next week.


Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | July 23, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-23-2020


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, beach dunes and grasses


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’re suffering through another week of high heat and humidity — a perfect time to stay inside and check out the writerly links below. And since today is National Vanilla Ice Cream Day, fix yourself an ice cream treat to enjoy while you read. The great thing about vanilla ice cream is that it goes well with any other flavor, as well as all kinds of toppings. Enjoy!

Regular readers of our blog will notice that we’ve added a new category today: Podcasts. We’ve been finding a lot more video offerings — interviews with authors and podcasts about writing or literary topics — so we decided to include some and give them their own special section. Hope you find the new section useful.

Nature has long provided a source of inspiration and creative renewal for authors. Because the pandemic has restricted traveling, local parks and open spaces have become more important than ever, and not just for creative people. We hope the revival in appreciation for such places will spur setting aside even more natural areas for people’s enjoyment. [Note: All the photos in today’s post were taken at New Jersey’s Island Beach State Park.]

The pandemic continues to impact our daily lives as we seek creative ways to cope. Alison Flood looks at how a literary festival becomes a drive-in event, while Alistair Black delves into how libraries have been vital in times of crisis — from conflict to Covid-19, and Tim Coates suggests libraries could be leaders once again.

Good news for parents: Andrew Albanese tells us that Penguin Random House is extending its open license for online story time and read-aloud videos through December 31, 2020.

For your quarantine reading pleasure, Preety Sidhu recommends 11 novels starring essential workers, and Guaraa Shekhar writes about the birth of quarantine zines.

If you like to write, Bill Ferris takes a tongue-in-cheek crack at rating writing instruments.

In Memoriam: Joanna Cole, author of the beloved Magic School Bus books, dies at age 75 [reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer]; and Australian novelist Elizabeth Harrower dies at age 92 [reported by Jason Steger in The Sydney Morning Herald].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, seagull taking flight, beach scene




Having a career as an author is not easy. Several blog posts offer helpful suggestions: Tanya E. Williams talks about maintaining steam as a fulltime author, Jenny Hansen considers finding your inner creative badass, Aletheia provides reasons why you should keep writing your story, and Jim Dempsey contemplates writing and napping.

Andrew Noakes enumerates 6 guidelines for writing historical fiction, and David James Poissant ponders how to write a timely novel in a world that won’t stop changing.

Jan O’Hara gives us a plotstorming technique, and Patty Jansen shares her notes from a Worldcon panel with Kaaron Warren, Jack Dann, and Kim Stanley Robinson: write what you know.

Stavros Halvatzis advises authors to add powerful emotions to their stories, and Jessica Strawser supplies 5 ways to power up your story’s momentum.

Scenes are the building blocks of stories. Winnie Griggs talks about making a scene, Peter von Stackelberg presents an intuitive 4-step process for creating vibrant scene structure, and Emily Golden and Rachel May delve into how scene choices determine successful character arcs.

Whether you’re writing nonfiction or fiction, Patrice Gaines recommends nothing less than honesty when writing your book.

For those wondering about narrative voice, Mara Purl compares two book series versus the TV series that came from them, narrative voice versus scripted scenes, and Katharine Grubb identifies 12 mistakes you could be making when creating narrative voice.

Crafting your characters? Annie Sullivan explains why every female protagonist doesn’t need to wield a sword to be strong, Angela Ackerman delves into how emotional wounds can steer a character’s job choice, and SCBWI’s Lee Wind recommends getting more body-positive books by doing better by fat characters. Also, for a resource on writing characters whose perceived flaws are a matter of perspective, check out this infographic from wholeheartedschoolcounseling.

Robert Lee Brewer clarifies larger vs. bigger vs. greater vs. higher, and Katharine Grubb discusses using metaphors to strengthen your prose.

When you’re revising that draft, James Scott Bell urges writers to stir your echoes (close repetition of a word or phrase), while Barbara Linn Probst goes into editing for theme.

If you write in the mystery genre, Adam Croft reveals why readers love crime thrillers.

Sophie Masson reveals what she’s learned about presenting online writing workshops.

With some technology tips, Laurence MacNaughton shares 4 free must-have writing apps, and Jami Gold supplies ideas for protecting our data: how to keep our stories and notes safe.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, osprey landing in next box

Osprey landing on its nest.




With some positive publishing news, Porter Anderson discusses the NPD BookScan report that, spurred by sales of politically related biography and memoir and children’s books, the U.S. book unit sales rose 2.8 percent in the second quarter, and Ed Nawotka informs us that $3.5 million in grants is available to nonprofit publishers and literary arts organizations through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s establishment of the Literary Arts Emergency Fund.

Jim Milliot writes that new Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt talks about reopening stores after lockdowns, layoffs, and a major redesign.

Using the internet is not without problems. Porter Anderson reports that Wattpad says it’s resetting passwords following a reported data breach, and Victoria Strauss warns writers about scammers impersonating legitimate agents.

Trying to sell your book? Sue Coletta sums up how to craft an elevator pitch that sells.

Marketing has many facets. If you haven’t thought of using videos, Cristian Stanciu shares 5 ways to use videos to promote authors and their books.

Dave Chesson explores Amazon editorial reviews and wonders if you’re using this incredible section, while Neha Yazmin sets out 3 reasons to revise and re-publish your backlist.

Diana Urban tells us about 35 authors using Pinterest for book marketing & inspiration, and Brian Jud suggests other places to sell your books: supermarkets and pharmacies.

For author bloggers, Sandra Beckwith lists 5 reasons why guest blogging is smart for novelists., and Cristian Mihai offers writing tips from great writers to help you become a phenomenal blogger and sets out 9 things you should know about blogging before you decide if it’s worth it.

With tips for your author website, Penny Sansevieri explains how to market a book with 5 simple website upgrades.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, yellow cactus fowers, bee on flower




In an interview with Nathan Bransford, David Gaughran shares marketing tips for reaching your first readers.

Joanna Penn talks about how to share the ideas and research behind your novel.

Interviewed by Courtney Balestier of WFMA, Wayétu Moore focuses on storytelling as an act of love.

On the How to Proceed podcast, Linn Ullmann talks to Ali Smith on what to do when you lose faith in the writing process.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, brown pelican flying low over the water

Brown pelican.




How much impact do writers and their writings influence society? Jeff VanderMeer reveals how fantasy literature helped create the 21st century, and Maren Tova Linett discusses viewing literature as a lab for community ethics.

More specifically, Nick Ripatrazone looks into the poets vs. the police on standing your ground in a Toronto park, and Aya de León asserts that crime fiction is complicit in police violence — but it’s not too late to change.

Ashawnta Jackson mentions that the first black-owned bookstore in the U.S. was opened in 1834 by black abolitionist David Ruggles.

Ikechukwu Ogbu speaks about the Igbo art of storytelling.

David Karashima writes that five Japanese authors share their favorite Murakami short stories.

For fans of the iconic spy, William Boyd reveals how he found James Bond’s precise address.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, shore shrubs on sand dune


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Keep cool, and come back next week for another roundup of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Island Beach State Park, empty beach looking south toward Barnegat Light




Posted by: Kerry Gans | July 16, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 07-16-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! It’s mid-July and it’s hot, so here are some cool links to check out.

In awards news, Colson Whitehead was awarded the 2020 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, while the National Book Awards makes the move to digital November 18.

This week, renowned author and UW creative writing professor Brad Watson died at age 64.

Writers are often the victims of piracy and scams. The AskALLi Team examines if copyright is broken in their guide to managing piracy, while John Doppler shares case studies of how victims of vanity presses become repeat victims.

Rachel Deahl explores how #PublishingPaidMe exposed racial inequalities.

If you are missing your library, you can virtually visit some of Europe’s great libraries.

Looking for something new to read? The final Terry Pratchett never-before-published stories are to be published in September.


For those who love poetry or who are just finding their way to poetry, Melissa Donovan looks at finding meaning in poetry.

If you want to sell your story when it’s done, understanding genre is important. Stavros Halvatzis describes what genres are, and Mary Kole examines the feasibility of writing in different children’s books genres and categories.

When you are in the beginning stages of your work, planning and brainstorming, there are many big-picture elements to handle. James Scott Bell suggests drawing your plot, while Kris Maze lists 7 unstoppable YA plot ideas to make your novel fabulous. Eleanor Konik advises crafting a myth cycle by thinking of your deity as a celebrity, and Kathryn Craft zeros in on identifying and crafting your inciting incident.

When dealing with your characters, Nathan Bransford reminds us that shy characters don’t have to be passive, and Katharine Grubb has 13 mistakes you could be making in narrative voice.

We discussed some big-picture issues above, but there’s a myriad of tiny issues to be aware of as well. Dana Isaacson has 14 rules for writing numbers in fiction, Robert Lee Brewer demystifies creak vs. creek, Terry Odell tackles roaming body parts, and Elaine Viets flags words we love to hate.

Editing is vital to getting a good product out into the world. Terri Nixon discusses the process of editing, Henry McLaughlin has the art of self-editing (part 3), and John Peragine looks at the importance of the triple edit.

Sandra Beckwith reminds us why quality counts in the writing business. Reedsy examines typography and how you can get it right, Katharine Grubb shows how to enhance your prose with poetry, and Becca Puglisi takes lessons on improving your writing by studying the brothers Grimm.

Writing is a very mental profession—it can be a struggle to get words on the page for various emotional and psychological reasons. Jami Gold suggests organization for our creativity and our career, Glenn Leibowitz urges us to consider “the curse of knowledge” in our writing, Laurisa White Reyes gives us tips to help  us finish, and Melanie Conklin examines the huge psychological difference in writing book two.


In the publishing world, it’s all about the numbers. Jim Milliot reports that print units posted a surprising increase in the first half of 2020, and Anne Trubek explains how publishers decide what books to publish.

For those of us in the query trenches, Tamela Hancock Murray tackles the question: how long should writers wait for an answer?

Marketing means getting your book out there into the world. Julie Glover reveals your very best author marketing plan, Brian Jud tells us how to make inroads into the homeschool market, Ilham Alam shares 6 steps to get your self-published book into libraries, Ed Nawotka shows how book launches are getting more creative, and Carol Newman Cronin walks us through creating a virtual book launch.

There are a ton of online ways to present your work to best advantage, if we know how to get the most out of each avenue. Dave Chesson lays out how to best use the Amazon editorial review section, Nate Hoffelder explains why you need a template for your newsletter and what to put in it, Anne R. Allen shares Yoast SEO secrets, and Cristian Mihai lists the 5 most overlooked habits of extremely successful bloggers.


With many of us still seeking in-home entertainment, Paula Munier has her top 10 documentaries about writers (part 2).

Brian Castleberry writes on Saul Bellow’s celebration of the messy and manic.

Shakespeare is classic, but Michael Glover explores what’s so hard about painting Shakespeare.

On the literary anniversary of Frog and Toad, Phillip Maciak compiles author and illustrator reflections on what Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad series means to them.

Alex Ross comments on Willa Cather’s quietly shattering war novel.

For those of us feeling trapped at home, Andre Aciman chases literary ghosts in St. Petersburg.

In these days of political upheaval Kristian Williams examines the men who brought political radicalism to Oscar Wilde.

For a bit of fun: Electric Literature has a handy infographic for writing your “leaving New York” essay.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll see you all next week for more literary links.

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