Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 6, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-30-2020

Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 23, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-23-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! This week is National Library Week, Thursday, April 23rd is National Talk Like Shakespeare Day and National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Next Monday is National Tell a Story Day, and Tuesday is National Great Poetry Reading Day. So lots of writing-related celebrations going on!

Also celebrate Abdelouahab Aissaoui winning the International Prize for Arab Fiction.

Reading is essential for children, and Alain de Botton wrote a lovely letter to children about why we read. But what to read to them? A study shows children prefer books that teach them how and why the world works.

Speaking of reading, Italy gives bookshops permission to reopen! For us in the US, while still in quarantine, read those classic detective series you’ve always been meaning to read. Focusing while reading can be hard these days, so Elise Moser has tips to stay focused while reading.

Christopher Tomlins examines William Stryon’s misguided meditation on history and Nat Turner.

Watch out. Victoria Strauss has a contest scam alert: Legaia Books online book competition.


For short story writers: Matty Dalrymple and Mark Leslie Lefebvre walk thorough how to put together an indie anthology.

If you are writing memoir, Ana Maria Spagna explains how to foster more empathy in your memoir.

Science fiction and fantasy have long dealt with the problem of objectifying women. Oren Ashkenazi discusses why the argument “but men are objectified, too” doesn’t hold up.

Nathan Bransford wants to know: is the pandemic upending the plot of your novel?

It’s exciting to get a new story idea. Becca Puglisi shares 9 ways to originalize your story idea. Once you’ve got the idea in place, Laurence MacNaughton show how to plot your novel in three simple steps, and Janice Hardy advises how to get past hard-to-write scenes.

Taking care of the nitty-gritty craft elements can make your work stand out. Iola Goulton has 5 tips for ensuring your novel has sustainable conflict, Katherine Grubb relays 8 ways to make your writing funnier, Stavros Halvatzis talks story theme, Sacha Black encourages using the sense of touch in your story, Jan O’Hara discusses turning points, Jim Dempsey tackles symbolism, and James Scott Bell says don’t forget the decency factor.

After we’ve taken care of all of that, we need to edit to polish it all up. Mathina Calliope explores the easy-to-fix tense problem that might be tripping your readers up, Melissa Donaovan demystifies the comma, and Karstenberg has tips on how to keep it short.

At the best of times productivity can be hard to come by, and many of us are feeling even less productive during this pandemic. Susan DeFrietas discusses putting your writing in a place of importance in your life, Hank Phillippi Ryan has tips to get your writer brain back on track, Hunter Ligoure suggests ways to find coherence or mental clarity, Angela Ackerman explains goal-setting for writers during a pandemic, and Kathleen McCleary explores how to fuel your writing with feeling.

Dan Blank ruminates on anxiety, writing, and sharing, Garry Rodgers compares successful writers to experienced detectives, Robert Lee Brewer has 5 fun creative writing prompts for kids and parents, and K.M. Weiland shares 4 ways writing can improve your relationship with yourself.


In direct competition with Amazon, Bookshop online platform for independent bookstores is seeing success.

Ruth Comerford and Katherine Cowdrey discuss the Society of Authors survey finding authors are especially vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic impact, while Jason Boog explores how writers survived the Great Depression.

For self-publishers, Roz Morris describes how to un-self-publish a book to remove it from self-published channels if you want to do something else with it.

Even though audiobooks is a hot area, Melissa Bowersock reports that there is trouble in Audible.

If you are signing with an agent, Janet Reid has what to look for and look out in an author-agent contract.

Marketing is difficult at most times, and this period of time is especially confusing. Rachelle Gardner discusses how to handle social media during a pandemic, Rachel Thompson talks about how to promote your books right now, and Frances Caballo has a book marketing update.

Marketing does still happen, however. Karen Inglis shares 7 ways to market kids books, Brian Jud lists 9 tips to create good book marketing habits, and Jennifer Tucker gives us 4 key book promotion strategies for marketing young adult titles.

We have to “sell” our books to many people—agents, publishers, bookstores, and eventually readers. Each of these needs a different sales pitch. Florence Osmund explores the art of condensing an entire book into a brief sales pitch, while Barbara Linn Probst delves into what pushes readers to give a debut author a chance.

All authors should have an author website. Fauzia Burke discusses getting the most from your author website, and Pauline Wiles outlines author website must-haves.

Aside from author websites, there are other online tools to drive your marketing. Cristian Mihai has a blogging checklist of dos and don’ts and how to write an epic blog post, Tracy Atkins describes how Amazon is a data gathering and filtering tool, and Ann Smarty describes how to use YouTube to grow your blog traffic.


Words are our business, but also our pleasure. Sue Coletta dives into word porn and how word meaning changes over time, while Megan Garber makes the case against the grammar scolds.

Alex Trebek’s memoir is set for release in July.

Translator Richard Pevear explores the stories of Anton Checkov.

Sometimes adult writers dip into the children’s literature pool. Rebecca Rego Barry looks at when “serious” writers write books for kids.

Quarantine and plague are nothing new. Lapham’s Quarterly prints a letter from quarantine by John Keats, and Laura Marris discusses Albert Camus’s inoculation against hate: The Plague.

Finally, for those of you missing libraries and living on Zoom, make one of these 8 great libraries your Zoom background.

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

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | April 16, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For writers & Readers 04-16-2020


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, cloudy dawn, misty spring morning

Turkey buzzard flying by on a misty spring morning.


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Can you believe April is half over? While individual days may drag during this stay-at-home time, the month is speeding by.

Today is National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day—something many of us have been doing for the last four weeks. If you’ve been writing poetry this month to participate in National Poetry Month, you might want to try haiku tomorrow, April 17th, which is National Haiku Poetry Day.

Although it might be celebrated differently this year, April 19th through 25th is National Library Week. As part of this event, Tuesday, April 21st, is National Library Workers Day, and Wednesday, April 22nd, is National Bookmobile Day. At this time, our libraries, as well as our booksellers, need our support more than ever.

I can’t forget to mention that April 22nd is also the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Take some time to appreciate the beauty of the springtime, and remember that protecting our environment protects our health.

Language is a writer’s tool, but how much time do we spend thinking about the intricacies of its use? Vivian Giang explores how language shapes our perception of reality.

Goodreads has been touted as an author’s friend, but Angela Lashbrook thinks almost everything about Goodreads is broken.

In memoriam: Canadian children’s author Jean Little dies at age 88 [reported by Shannon Maughan at].


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, daffodil




Sharing inspirational words from a well-known writer, Robert Lee Brewer gives us 10 Nicholas Sparks quotes for writers and about writing. With a different perspective, John Maher shares writing tips from the editors of Poets & Writers magazine.

Melinda Copp talks about how to live your best writing life and warns about four obstacles that will keep you from becoming a great writer, while Susann Cokal recommends daring yourself to do more than you think you can instead of setting goals.

Nina Amir suggests using meditation, prayer and intention to unleash your creativity, and Kevin Larimer and Mary Gannon discuss how having a writing community stimulates creativity. On the topic of a writing community, Susan DeFreitas considers community as essential to developing your writing practice.

For writers who are finding writing hard at this time, Robin LaFevers helps us find focus in a fractured world, Janice Hardy clarifies identifying loss of momentum vs writer’s block, and Nathan Bransford believes while it’s okay to not be productive now, for some people productivity is self-care.

For those who’ve been writing a long time, Nancy J. Cohen discusses obsolete files.

Are you writing a novel? Rachael Cooper gives us 5 methods for writing a novel, and Stavros Halvatzis takes a look at the first line of your novel.

If you’re writing in a specific genre, Liz Milliron gives us five tips to writing historical fiction, and K. O. Bailey adds tips for writing thrillers.

James Scott Bell brings us storytelling lessons in 60 seconds or less, and Jami Gold delves into how asking why can improve the story.

You might be planning to write a stand-alone novel, but Laina Turner goes into why you should write a book series.

Kathryn Craft looks at delivering the ring of truth, and Nathan Bransford says you probably don’t need that dramatic pause in dialogue.

When you’ve finished that first draft, Katharine Grubb lays out 7 reasons why you should read your manuscript out loud, Harry Guinness explains how to edit your own writing, and Jancie Hardy recommends the spit shine: things to check before you submit (or publish) your novel.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, yellow orchid




Are you working on your author platform? Eldred “Bob” Bird advocates growing a more fertile author platform.

For writers following the traditional publishing path, Rachel Deahl shares agents’ thoughts on whether to submit projects during the pandemic, Jeanne Kisacky discusses writing a killer proposal, and Janet Reid answers the question: how do you know when it’s time to give up querying a specific book and move on?

The pandemic is having an effect on all businesses, including publishing and bookselling. John Peragine discusses the world shift in publishing, Diana Urban looks at how publishers are approaching book marketing during COVID-19, and Alex Green reveals the toll the coronavirus has taken on independent bookstores.

Jennifer Mattern looks into how a freelance writing business can survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Troy Lambert has suggestions for overcoming the 7 marketing struggles every author faces. Also, for authors unable to attend events to market their books during this pandemic, Judith Briles lists apps that enable connecting globally.

Anne R. Allen’s advice: don’t become a social media ghost: appoint a social media executor.

For those who are blogging, Cristian Mihai explains the art of writing a sensational first line and how to blog every day without burning out.

Exploring visual media? Victor Blasco sets out how to make an awesome book trailer (and why), and John Gilstrap gives the scoop on movie deals.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, rainbow



Jessica Leigh Hester invites you to escape into these fantastical, imaginary maps.

Jennifer Nalewicki reports that Alan Nakagawa is asking people to record COVID-19 haikus for his project.


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, wildflowers, violets and dandelions


That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Stop back to visit us next week for another collection of writerly links.

Stay at home and stay well!


The Author Chronicles, J. Thomas, Top Picks Thursday, sunset and clouds



Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 9, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-09-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! April 10th is Encourage a Young Writer Day—and this is a good time to encourage journaling or other ways to express themselves in writing as they deal with these strange and stressful times.

This week, journalist and author Patricia Bosworth dies at 86 from complications of coronavirus.

Jacqueline Winspear examines women in war: on great correspondents past and present.

Artists have always had to fight against censorship and copyright infringement. Wallis Wilde-Menozzi discusses the time Guiseppe Verdi and other Italian radicals battled censorship, while Victoria Strauss explains the copyright issues with Internet Archive’s National Emergency Library and the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers speak up about the same.

Still, books and libraries are an important source of support and comfort in our strange world right now. Deborah and James Fallows explores public libraries’ novel response to a novel virus, Amanda Craig lists the best new children’s books for now, and Alex Green looks at new works by writers with disabilities as they hit publisher lists.

When we lose an indigenous language, we lose an entire cultural heritage. Lorraine Boissoneault follows the fight to keep indigenous languages alive through speaking, software, and daycare.

It’s April, which means taxes, so Jenny Hansen has a tax-time chat for authors.


BookCon launches a virtual Read-A-Thon to boost authors and provide entertainment to those of us stuck indoors.

Many creatives are having a rough time actually being creative right now. Anne R. Allen discusses writing through our collective grief, Lisa Cooper Ellison has tips on writing from the bottom rung, and Dave Chesson tells us how to be a productive, healthy writer during mentally draining times.

Many of us are sequestered at home, some with our children, some with spouses, some alone. Roni Loren has stay-at-home tips and apps for maintaining (some) sanity, while Emily Raboteau looks at homeschooling in a pandemic.

James Scott Bell looks forward and asks: how will our fiction change post-pandemic?


Why should we write and read historical fiction? Eliot Pattison explains how historical fiction allows us to discover new truths in the past.

Williard Spiegelman has some fun with the frabjous delights of seriously silly poetry.

Helena Dixon asks when we learned to read, and explores how what we read influences what we write.

Writers have to juggle many story elements, both large and small, to make a story work. Christina Kaye gives tips to plot and outline your novel, the Moonlight Writer examines what theme is, Dario Ciriello discusses what a chapter is and how long one should be, while Janice Hardy has a trifecta with how to set tone and mood in your scenes, 5 questions to ask for stronger scenes, and the subtle little things holding your novel back.

Characters bring there own set of craft elements to consider. Stavros Halvatzis delves into wants vs. needs, Jenn Walton shows how to deepen your characters by assessing their fears, Donald Maass looks at the upside of anxiety, and Jami Gold gets textual with whether or not character internalization should be italicized.

Editing your book is essential, and there are multiple approaches to getting it done. Estelle Erasmus has 11 tips for self-editing, while Melinda Copp gives us a complete guide to writing your book with a developmental editor.

We are always searching for ways to be more productive. Rhonda Kaysen and Michelle Higgins discuss how to organize your home office for best results, Katherine Grubb describes how Marie Condo can make you a more productive writer, Cathy Yardley examines how to a hit a balance between productivity and chaos, and Laina Turner advises how to hold yourself accountable as an author.

We’re all a tad distracted by world events right now. Susan DeFrietas uses metaphorical stepladders to help her, Matthew Stibbe has 22 ways to help you focus on writing, William Fazer talks getting rid of distractions while writing, Christine Hennebury lists 5 ways to ease distraction so you can write, and Becca Puglisi gives us practical tips for writing in the time of coronavirus.

We can always improve our skills. Daniel Parsons explores 5 literature degree lessons in 5 paragraphs, and Melinda Copp offers the Type-A guide to becoming a better writer.

Andrea Oh lists free or cheap resources for emerging writers, Rachelle Gardner has 11 things happy writers don’t do; and Sacha Black explains how to survive your first year as a full-time author.


The coronavirus is having a huge impact on publishing, as in all other aspects of life. Nathan Bransford has an interview with Mike Shatzkin on how corinavirus will change the publishing industry, Beth Meacham explains why publishing is in so much trouble right now, and Jim Milliot examines how coronavirus concerns are prompting cost cuts.

On the bookstore side, John Warner urges us to buy a book from our local indie bookstore, because we are going to need them when the lockdown is over, while Alison Flood reports that book sales surge as self-isolating readers stock up on “bucket list” novels.

Agent Janet Reid weighs the pros and cons of writing a memoir vs. novelizing the same subject, the Passive Voice advises people to read their contracts for Force Majeure clauses, and Karen DeBonis shares a creative way to handle rejections.

A lot of book marketing mainstays have fallen by the wayside in this time. Sandra Beckwith gathers suggestions for book marketing in a time of quarantine, while Amy Collins looks at book promotion in a time of pandemic.

Some parts of marketing never change. Beth Barany shares 4 elements to craft your author bio, David Gaughran has 13 ways to increase your email open rate, Mark Xavier Quadros explains the email marketing metrics every campaign should be based on, and Penny C. Sansevieri shares the ultimate guide to SEO for authors to increase your online presence.

Right now online contact is not only the most efficient, but the safest way to stay in contact with your readers. Lyn Wildwood compares the 6 best WordPress theme builders, Cristian Mihai explains how to make blog readers fall in love with your words and whether to niche or not niche your blog, while Frances Caballo dives deep into social media safety tips.


Kelly Blewett is rethinking Amy March in light of Lousia May Alcott’s sister May Alcott Nieriker.

An exhibition celebrates Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s long road to becoming a writer.

As writers, we like to play with words. LitHub examines foxed, fuddled, swallowed a hare, and other words for “drunk” from A Pocket Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Emily Temple examines what your go-to quarantine read says about you.

For a  bit of humor, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner envisions what Shakespeare actually did during the plague.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Enjoy Easter if you celebrate, stay safe, stay healthy!

Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 2, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-02-2020

Welcome to Top Picks Thursday! It is finally April! I hope you are all settling into the new normal of your lives and are safe.

To help pass time and keep us learning, Mary Kole has a workshop intensive called Story Mastermind, and Jane Friedman has a new Newsfeed for book publishing.

You can also help librarians and archivists from your living room!

In author news, writer and editor Richard Marek died at age 86, and award-winning author-illustrator Tomie dePaola died at 85.


Lots of people are taking time to write. David Barnett explores the phenomenon of new novelists in self-isolation, and Grant Faulkner talks about #StayHomeWriMo, brought to you by NaNoWriMo.

Carly Sandifer explains why you should write in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Margie Zable Fisher tells how to keep writing and making money during the coronavirus crisis.

Boone Ashworth examines how COVID-19’s impact on libraries goes beyond books, and Michael Agresta reminds us that the seminal novel about the 1918 flu pandemic was written by a Texan.

This is National Poetry Month in the USA. Heather Webb finds beauty and comfort in poetry’s words, and Sir Patrick Stewart reads a Shakespearean sonnet a day on Instagram.

The pandemic is teaching us all a lot of lessons. Roni Loren shares befores and afters: 10 things she’s learning during this pandemic, while Bill Ferris uses his usual comedy in the hack’s guide to writing in a pandemic.


In these shifting times, Joyce Carol Oates discusses new forms of storytelling—and old ones, too.

Amy Jones explores finding the story when writing for very small children.

Many people are thinking of freelancing in their time at home, so Michael Stover has a comprehensive guide for the new freelance writer.

If you are specifically writing a profile piece on someone, Joel Foster lists 8 tips for writing a compelling profile piece.

Since most of us are at least trying to write, craft remains important. Jacqueline Meyers has 4 little letters that will transform your writing process, Rosie O’Neill tells us how to craft a compelling scene, Ruth Harris shows how to rescue an endangered book, and Janice Hardy examines the pros and cons of studying the writing craft and how to plot your novel with mini-arcs.

Our characters are the heart and soul of our story. Jami Gold explores how point of view affects dialogue, Nathan Bransford warns to only show characters crying when they are truly at their wit’s end, Janice Hardy shows how to reveal a character’s past without falling into backstory, Stavros Halvatzis explains how character shapes action, and Lisa Hall-Wilson reveals how to write a compelling emotional trigger.

Editing is the final step to crafting our masterpiece. Alycia W. Morales shares 5 ways newbie fiction writers can improve their manuscripts, Barbara Linn Probst compares peer critique vs. professional editing and when to use each, Henry McLaughlin discusses the art of self-editing, Diana Y. Paul contemplates editing and revising with mindfulness, and Bonnie Randall examines finishing your novel and the grieving process.

Malarie Gokey has 7 reasons ebooks are better than printed books, Robert Lee Brewer compiled 8 Andy Weir quotes for writers and about writing, and Cassie Werber examines how non-English speakers learn this crazy grammar rule you know but never heard of.

Katharine Grubb shares 7 ways to be more creative, Tiffany Joy has 6 secrets to becoming a more productive writer, Amitava Kumar examines the long tradition of writers needing ritual, Erica Wright dispels the myth of perfect writing locations, and Colleen M. Story discusses how to avoid completely wasting your time when trapped at home.


COVID-19 is pulling no punches, and turning lots of people’s worlds upside down. Coastal regional bookstore associations offer additional help to struggling stores, Barnes & Noble closes over 400 stores, Jim Milliot depicts how the coronavirus takes its toll on publishing, and the American Library Association cancels its 2020 annual conference.

If you are self-published, Savannah Cordova shares 5 reasons to consider translating your work, and as you design your book Ellen Buikema discusses white space in writing.

Lots of people consider a pen name when they start writing. David Kudler makes an argument against pen names, except in certain situations.

Truth is, right now nobody knows what’s going on in publishing—or in much of the rest of the business world. Janet Reid offers her advice on querying during the next few months, and on how to approach the reality of the pandemic in the fiction of your work.

None of this is business as usual, even though people are trying hard to keep things as normal as possible. So cut yourself a break, and also give grace and patience to everyone else. We’re all trying to figure it out together.

Marketing, too, has been greatly impacted by the state of the world. Frances Caballo suggests changing the way you market in the COVID-19 era, Sandra Beckwith shares 7 things you need to know about working with a publicist, Sarah Bolme discusses how to overcome the top three challenges to selling books, and Sharon Bially explores the sunny(er) side of launch event cancellations.

With online being the safest way to be with your readers now, Rae Steinbach has tips for authors to convert readers by writing effective calls-to-action, while Cristian Mihai discusses the art of blogging for an audience, and has 10 tips to take your blogging to the next level in 2020.


We wordsmiths often like word games. Adrienne Raphel gives us a brief history of word games.

Looking to pass the time? Rolling Stone lists the 50 greatest rock memoirs of all time.

Environment influences your art. Young William Faulkner’s time in the French Quarter influenced his developing writing style.

Adam Kirsch explores T.S. Eliot’s animus: the role of the poet-critic.

There are some people you don’t want to be on lockdown with: W.H. Auden was a messy roommate.

Then there are quarantine situations that blow your mind: Hemingway was once quarantined for the summer with his wife, son…and mistress.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home if you can!


Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 26, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-26-2020

Welcome to the Twilight Zone…er, Top Picks Thursday! March 27th is National Scribble Day, which sounds fun, and April, which somehow is next week already, is National Poetry Month! Poetic Asides is hosting a daily poetry prompt and challenge all month, for those with time on their hands.

For Women’s History Month, here’s a look at stats on women authors in literary fiction (and other genres) book sales in the US.

In a defeat for creatives everywhere, the US Supreme Court decided in Allen vs. Cooper that US states have sovereign immunity from copyright damages.

Sometimes lightning strikes where you least expect it—sales soar 2000% on a children’s book about hand washing.

Unfortunately, Tony-award-winning playwright Terrance McNally died at age 81 from complications of coronavirus.


We’re all facing unprecedented times here. Some of us are writing. Some find we cannot. All are disrupted and many are frightened. As usual, though, the writing community is reaching out to help each other, so here are some links you might find useful or uplifting.

Indie bookstore are closing their physical spaces to keep their customers and staff safe, but they aren’t ceasing to serve their communities. In the UK indie booksellers are getting inventive, while in New York the stores search for community online. What should you order from your store? Matthew Norman has compiled a reading list to make you laugh, while more serious reading can be found with Chelsea Haith tracing pandemics from Homer to Stephen King. If any of our readers has suggestions of books to pass the time, lift the spirits, or make people laugh, feel free to put them in the comments!

The publishing industry as a whole is also stepping up. Porter Anderson reports on publishers’ resource lists amid the pandemic, and how international publishers are making COVID-19 research content freely available.

Individuals are bringing their A-game, too. Claire Kirch shows us the novelists who ignited A Mighty Blaze in response to extinguished book tours, Janice Hardy offers two free at-home workshops, and Dan Sheehan spotlights big-hearted individuals who have made their Little Free Libraries into Little Free Panties.

How do we handle the emotions of this crazy time? Linda S. Clare explains corona-crisis journaling, Roni Loren has a few ideas for coping with COVID-19 anxiety, and Angela Ackerman suggests asking ourselves: in difficult times, what would our characters do?

Julianna Baggott examines creating in the time of quarantine, Jordan Dane has a writer’s guide to surviving social distancing and quarantine, Sue Coletta reminds us the world needs creatives more than ever, and K.M. Weiland reveals the power of hopeful stories in a stressful time.


This week seems to have people thinking about crime and suspense writing. Elizabeth Mitchell shares a step-by-step guide to writing suspense, Terry Odell has an overview of romantic suspense, and Karen Dietrich looks at red herrings in contemporary crime literature.

In other genres, Amy Fish has 5 tips for adding humor to a self-help book, and Robert Lee Brewer parses fable vs. parable vs. allegory.

Big craft elements are sometimes difficult for writers to get their minds around. Lucy V. Hay explains why all writers need a structural toolbox, Frank McCourt discusses telling the underlying story, Joseph Scapellato talks about story shape, and Kristen Lamb sees the collision of powerful ideas at the center of all great stories.

Some of us outline, and some of us don’t. Melinda Copp shares tips for writing a book outline, E.J. Wenstrom discusses how she tricks her pantser brain into plotting, and James Scott Bell admonishes us to write tight.

We’ve got to have characters in our novels, and usually they talk to each other in some way. Katharine Grubb lists 5 character types that make great antagonistic forces, and Harrison Demchick has 5 undervalued tips that will make your dialogue stronger.

Creativity is the heart of what we do, but sometimes it’s hard to come by. Jennifer Mendez explores using limitations and constraints to boost imagination, Angela Ackerman gives us a creative kick in the pants, and Matthew Duffus examines the sounds of silence: when writer’s block strikes.

Inspiration is always welcome, so Melinda Copp has 10 evergreen ways to improve your writing life, and Robert Lee Brewer compiles 10 Walt Whitman quotes for writers and about writing.


Since we should all understand the contracts we are signing, take a look at the Author Guild’s new model trade book contract.

Rosalie Morales Kearns lays out 3 unique research methods for identifying small publishers.

Piper Bayard examines indie publishing 101, part III.

In a move that is not a surprise, Amazon deprioritizes book sales amid coronavirus crisis.

With so many bookstores closing, Amy Roost talks about the terrible ripple effect of canceled book tours.

Querying an agent is stressful process. Janet Reid discusses reasons she might have passed on your query, Rachelle Gardner likens publishing to being in the Shark Tank, and Steve Laube explains how an agent can manage so many clients.

As if writing the book isn’t enough, there are plenty of other types of marketing writing we need to master as authors. Laina Turner shows how to write compelling back cover copy, Amy Stark coaches us on how to write a synopsis without losing your mind, and Barbara Linn Probst discusses blurbing and getting blurbed.

Reviews are vital to marketing efforts. Anne R. Allen dives into Amazon’s new review rules, while Sandra Beckwith gives us 3 reasons to embrace 1-star reader reviews.

Selling books is a shared goal we all have. Brian Jud discusses how to reach your book sales goals this year and how to sell children’s books, while Joanna Penn describes how to sell your books directly to readers and get paid immediately.

Our online presence is part of our author brand. Sandra Beckwith helps us find our author brand, Nate Hoffelder walks us through changing our author blog into an author website, and Cristian Mihai shares 4 simple steps to building a blog audience and why hacks and shortcuts don’t work anymore.


In a rather dramatic tale, Valentina Di Liscia tells us of a formerly lost, glimmering manuscript by Persian poet Hafez.

Adrienne Raphel talks to poets about their love of crossword puzzles.

Matthew Wills examines how Emily Dickinson wrestled with Darwinism.

Because it’s fun, Emily Temple hunted up the stories behind the names famous authors gave their pets.

Andrew Belonsky looks at how America’s oldest bookstore has survived across the centuries.

That’s it for Top Picks Thursday! Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home if you can!

Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | March 19, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-19-2020

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, winter tree trunks in early morning sun


Welcome to Top Picks Thursday on this first day of spring! Here’s hoping your weather is nice enough to allow you to take breaks from reading and writing by spending a little time outside … at a proper social distance from others, of course.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everyone’s lives in the past week. We hope you all are taking the recommended precautions to slow the rapid spread of the disease. Keep in mind that these precautions also will put a damper on the flu, colds, and other illnesses. We are living in a difficult time, but we humans are strong and resilient. We can get through this.

Many writers have shared thoughts about the effect of the virus, more than we can include. Here’s a sampling: Literary Hub editor Jonny Diamond takes a look at the literary community in a time of global pandemic, Janet Reid discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the publishing issue, and Alex Green and Ed Nawotka consider the spreading impact of the coronavirus on the publishing industry. On a more personal level, editor Sara Reggiani talks about life in quarantine in Italy, and Laurie Swift Raisys relates the difficulties facing a Washington bookstore owner because of the coronavirus. Providing insight on the impact on authors, Amy Klein tells us what it’s like to promote a book in the middle of a pandemic.

On the brighter side, SCBWI’s Lee Wind celebrates 28 black children’s book creators.

In Memoriam: Tony Award-winning playwright Mart Crowley dies at age 84 [reported by Harrison Smith in The Philadelphia Inquirer], and Barbara Neely, activist and writer who created Blanche White, dies at age 78 [reported by Sam Roberts in The New York Times].


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, a clump of late winter daffodils




At times, we all feel down in the dumps. James Scott Bell gives us a pep talk: don’t stress over things you can’t control, and Lisa Tener shares tips for clearing the mind of negativity in order to create. Nathan Bransford looks at writing in a time of anxiety and asks what will you write during the pandemic?

Are you finding writing slow going? Elizabeth S. Craig recommends spring cleaning for writers, and Jennifer Shirk advocates writing like a runner, while Angela Ackerman asks: need a creative kick in the pants?

Colleen M. Story focuses on 10 common time management mistakes writers should avoid.

Jim Dempsey ponders writing when you’re not writing., while Carol Despeaux Fawcett shows how to slay writer’s block once and for all.

Nina Amir stresses 7 ways you can write for change, and Olga Mecking offers tips on writing for a global audience.

Rachael Cooper delves into how to write a book for children in the age of technology.

Story structure is important. Mary Kole shares a novel outline template, while Laurence MacNaughton sets out a 6-point story checklist for powerful scenes.

Working on your characters? Kathryn Craft advocates letting your protagonist’s light shine, and E. J. Wenstrom explains how to make unlikeable characters compelling.

Where does your story take place? Jennifer S. Alderson takes a look at researching settings from the comfort of your home., and Emily Golus suggests ways to establish vivid settings without slowing your plot.

Jami Gold asks: what’s the right pace for your story? and how can we ensure our pacing is good? One way, she suggests, is to give every story element a purpose.

If you’re interested in genre fiction, Mark Alpert gives his take on the coronavirus and the crisis novel.

For those editing their stories, Iola Goulton makes sense of using italics in fiction, and Nathan Bransford reassures us: don’t fear repeating pronouns.



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, Canadian geese, geese in the back yard




J. T. Patten advises authors to fake it till you make it: how to sell yourself as a career author when you’re on the road to becoming one, while E. G. Radcliff contemplates why authors use pen names.

If you’re in the process of selling your book, Jessica Faust looks at understanding deal terms: auction, pre-empt, and exclusive.

John Doppler sets out 5 reasons small publishers fail (and how to avoid them).

For those considering self-publishing, Piper Bayard presents Indie Publishing 101 — part 1 and part 2, and Evelyn Maguire contributes 13 authors’ advice on how to self-publish a book.

Looking at more specific areas of self-publishing, David Bergsland shares some free font design resources, Lynn Cantwell considers how to match your cover to your genre, and Nathan Bransford talks about how to choose a book title.

Tracy Atkins reminds us Amazon is a search engine, so make your book searchable.

Marketing tips: Nate Hoffelder lists 13 tips to get the most out of your first book fair, and Keri-Rae Barnum goes into how to run a successful ebook promotion with or without BookBub.

If you’re blogging or thinking about starting a blog, David Hartshorne explores how to choose a domain name for your blog, and Kylie gives us a guide to how to share a blog post 10 different ways.

Janet Reid speaks about when you inherit a novel that an ancestor wrote and never published.



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, purple crocuses




William Shakespeare’s work continues to have relevance in our modern world. James Shapiro talks about Shakespeare and the culture wars: on the movement for color-blind casting, and Ben Cohen looks at how the plague ravaged William Shakespeare’s world and inspired his work, from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth.

With a look at the enduring work of another author of classics, Hillary Kelly explains why Emma is still Jane Austen’s most pleasurable heroine.

Sara B. Franklin writes about how Judith Jones radically transformed American food writing.

The origin of words is a fascinating subject. Luis Jaramillo ponders the rich wonderful old vocabulary of sailing.

Here’s more evidence (not that any of us writers really need more) of the importance of libraries. Julia Rampen tells us about the mobile library reaching refugees’ hearts and minds in Greece.

We love reading about bookstores. Andrew Belonsky writes about how America’s oldest bookstore has survived across the centuries.

Sam Jones reveals that a unique Pablo Neruda archive will go on sale in Barcelona next week.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, yellow crocuses


One final thought. We are a community, and as a community we have strength to do what needs to be done. We need to keep in touch with each other and help one another. Remember that local small businesses, including bookstores, will have a hard time during this crisis. We can help these local businesses and our fellow authors by going to their websites and buying online. Also, remember you can avoid grocery store crowds by ordering take-out or delivery from your local restaurants. Together we can triumph.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, late winter blue irises


That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. Stay well and visit us again next Thursday for another roundup of writerly links.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, log with moss and lichen, NC, late winter



Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 12, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-12-2020

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! As the coronavirus keeps us inside, make good use of the time: Saturday, March 14th, is National Write Down Your Story Day! And when you are done writing, check out all the links below.

In author news, award-winning mystery writer Barbara Neely died at 78 this week.

Take a look at PEN America’s 2020 literary award winners.

Check it out. Latinx in Publishing launches their mentorship program.

Will the publishing world soon be the Big Four? ViacomCBS is selling off Simon and Schuster.

Jami Gold has some ideas on how to support literacy and help authors and readers.

Chris Winkle shows how to describe women without degrading them.

Looking for work? Mary Kole is hiring an executive assistant.


If you are writing a series, Nathan Bransford has everything writers need to know about book series, and Bryn Greenwood looks at the difference between sophomore slump and derailment.

How do you get your ideas? Brian Andrews uses the question that launched a thousand writing careers: what if?, and Donald Maass suggests an alternative: it can’t happen here.

Plotters outline before they right, but many pansters follow Debbie Burke’s method and outline in reverse.

The hardest part of writing is that all the pieces have to be right, from structure to punctuation. Janice Hardy discusses why that “perfectly good scene” might be boring your readers, Stavros Halvatzis explores reversals in stories, and Robert Lee Brewer shows how to make your semicolon use daring and correct.

Characters will make or break our work. Florence Osmund has tips for hooking the readers with characters they care about, J.R. Bee suggests using people watching to create believable characters, Jessi Jezewska Stevens extols the hidden power of the passive protagonist, Janice Hardy shares tips on showing character motivation, Nathan Bransford warns to avoid these generic reactions, and Kassandra Lamb explores the importance of backstory (or how the brain connects the present to the past).

Hearing criticism of our books is always hard, even when it is valid. RJ Crayton explain how to handle genuine feedback on your novel, while Rose Fox talks about how to handle negative book reviews.

Sometimes we need to find inspiration to keep the creative flow going. Susann Cokal lists 4 reasons to spend time with “bad” books, Eldred “Bob” Bird enjoys coloring with words, and Judith Briles suggests we try jucilating.

Julie Gover compiles 10 noteworthy podcasts for writers, Robert Lee Brewer gives us 8 James Patterson quotes, and Sandra Beckwith reminds us don’t be afraid to fail.

Writing often entails going to conferences and finding time to write. Katie Forrest shares 9 time management tips for writers, Nancy J. Cohen has a packing checklist for a writers conference,  and Sophie Masson discusses creating and presenting writing workshops.


Anne R. Allen looks at the biggest mistake novelists and memoirists make.

Michele Debczak explains why hardcover books are published before paperbacks.

What’s up with Barnes & Noble? Thomas Buckley and Scott Deveau say Barnes & Noble’s new plan is to be more like an indie bookseller.

Self-Publishing Review explores what Amazon KDP’s terms mean for self-published authors in 2020.

We all want to be a bestseller, but what does that really mean? John Peragine chases the elusive and enigmatic bestseller.

Querying is a job unto itself. Reedsy shows how to write a picture book query in 6 simple steps, and James Scott Bell has synopsis writing made easy. Jessica Faust talks about the impact of previously self-published books on the query process, while Janet Reid tackles querying a middle grade with lots of formatting and author-agency agreement termination clauses.

Marketing comes in many forms. Nancy Johnson discusses the importance of your title (and how to pick one), E.J. Wenstrom dissects the elements of a book launch, and Laurisa White Reyes reminds us that to be successful, we need to learn our craft.

Blogging is a popular way to connect with your readers. Brandon Cornett explores 5 reasons to start blogging and 3 ways to do it right, and Cristian Mihai shares 5 tips from a full-time blogger and the ultimate article writing checklist.


Information is power. Alana Mohamed examines how J. Edgar Hoover used the power of libraries for evil.

Rachel Zarrow marvels that the best part of Little Women is that it contains no bad men.

That’s it for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! If you’re Irish, enjoy St. Patrick’s Day next week, and then come see us on Thursday for more literary links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 5, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-05-2020

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in March! Is this month coming in like a lion for you? Get your red pens out—Sunday, March 8th, is National Proofreading Day!

Following the lead of other international book fairs, the London Book Fair has been cancelled over coronavirus fears.

In author news, YA author Myron Levoy dies at age 89 and award-winning children’s author Betsy Byars dies at age 91.

Fostering reading is a cause dear to most writers’ hearts. Donna Ferguson explains how she raised a bookworm in the digital age, Alison Flood looks at giving older children story time to halt falling young reader numbers, Julie Beck explain why we forget most of the books we read, Alex Fusco explores bikes and books in Afghanistan: improving literacy with a mobile library, and Shafiqah Othman asks if there is anything wrong with being a slow reader.

Laws that would censor books and punish librarians are popping up in many states. Nicole Cook explains a proposed censorship law in Missouri that could jail or fine librarians, and Andrew Albanese looks at a similar law in Tennessee with parental review boards for public libraries and prison time for non-compliant librarians.

Victoria Strauss investigates mass contract cancellations at mystery publisher Henery Press.

Arthur Klepchukov lists fiction writing contests worth your time in Spring 2020.


For our sci-fi and fantasy writers: Patty Jansen discusses how much science needs to be in Science Fiction, while Toni Susnjar explores types of castles for your fantasy fortifications.

Writing requires various skills. Jess Zafarris explains mastering high concept ideas, Simon Van Booy looks at becoming a multigenre writer, and Melissa Bowersock shows how to manage your book series.

So how do you get started on a project? Liana Turner lays out how to have an effective brainstorming session.

Scenes are the building blocks of our stories. Barbara Linn Probst calls scene-by-scene work the “middle” level of writing, Ellen Buikema uses visuals to inspire scenes, Jordan Dane has key ways to add depth to any setting, and John Gilstrap advises thinking small to make big scenes work.

Try as we might, writers often make mistakes as we forge ahead with our work. Colleen M. Story shares 5 mistakes to avoid if you want to finish your book, Sarah Chauncey gives us 5 mistakes when writing flashbacks, and Jami Gold explores the pitfalls of our stories having unintended deeper meanings.

Characters inhabit our scenes, so we need to make them count. Nathan Bransford discusses making characters interesting through contradiction, Janice Hardy looks at strengthening character goals, and James Scott Bell urges us to have shocking coffee with our lead character.

For first person narratives, consider Patty Jansen’s “danger” of writing in first person and Carol Goodman’s exploration of the first person persona and writing behind the mask of “I”.

Revision is the step that can’t be skipped but many dread. Jami Gold tells us where to find advice from editors, David Farland explains what makes a great writing group, Kris Maze has 5 steps to superstar self-editing, and Nathan Bransford reminds us we gotta tell the story.

When editing we have to pay attention to things ranging from punctuation to structure. Helene Schumacher wonders: have we murdered the apostrophe?; Robert Lee Brewer ends the debate by explaining why the Oxford comma is so cool, Jessica Faust tells us if your first pages are slow you have to revise, not tell people “it picks up later”; and PJ Parrish reveals what it’s like to rewrite your whole darn book.

Advice (often unsolicited) is ubiquitous. Some of it turns out to be good, some not so good. Anne R. Allen gives us 10 clueless pieces of advice people give writers, while Katherine Grubb shares 8 excellent reasons why you should write every day, and Carolyn Grady lists 10 ways to overcome writer’s block.

Teddy Wayne compiles what he’s learned interviewing 300 authors over 7 years, Bonnie Randall reminds us the story in your heart is the story readers want to hear, and Liana Turner asks: what’s the worst that can happen if you go for your dreams?; while Maggie Wells explains the dangers of chasing the “blockbuster” dream.


Lynn Steger Strong reveals a dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it.

Want to self-publish? Florence Osmund dives into how much self-publishing is going to cost.

Interested in doing an audiobook? Jane Friedman tells us how to get started in audiobook publishing.

Agent Janet Reid answers if asking for a smaller advance as an author is good or bad business.

Your author brand defines you to your readers. Beth Barany shows how to attract your readers with 4 steps to your author branding statement, Sean Platt explains how to write your author bio, the ALLi team discusses fiction content marketing, and Sandra Beckwith outlines how to get awesome book cover blurbs.

Much of marketing is online. John Burke shares the complete guide to creating an author website, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million images into the public domain, Penny Sansevieri lists 3 ways to prevent Amazon reviews from vanishing, and Greer Macallister suggests instead of promotion, try participation.

Adam Connell has the 10 best social media listening tools to monitor your brand, Cristian Mihai asks: is your blog who you are? and points out the 5 sins of blogging you must avoid at all costs; and Heather Webb explores social media meltdowns: tackling burnout for writers.


Brittany Vickers is on the trail of African American writers and artists in Paris.

Martha Ackmann gives us a glimpse inside the best summer of Emily Dickinson’s life.

Even iconic works can have rough starts. Take a look at what reviewers thought of John Steinbeck’s 5 most iconic works.

What really caused Poe’s death? A study concludes that Edgar Allen Poe likely didn’t kill himself.

We all have heard of the epic poems like The Odyssey. But how do we know that ancient epic poems were recited from memory?

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 27, 2020

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-27-2020

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