Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 8, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 4-8-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Saturday, April 10th, is Encourage a Young Writer Day. So send them a link to here to get them started with advice!

Mentors are valuable for beginning writers. Julie Artz explains how to get into mentorship programs for writers.

The quest for diversity and representation in literature continues. Translators weigh in on the Amanda Gorman controversy.

Porter Anderson reports that the US Book Industry Charitable Foundation raised $1 million for bookstores for COVID-19 relief.

Looking for places to get feedback on your work? Diana Hurwitz lists 2021 workshops and conferences from April to June, and Rachelle Gardner addresses whether you should enter writing contests.


If you write picture books, Mary Kole discusses picture books that show character change.

For more genre-specific advice: James Scott Bell on writing hardboiled fiction, Amanda Dennis writes on the narrative thrills of detective fiction, and Alma Katsu has 5 tips for writing a spy thriller novel.

Want to include animals in your work? Moriah Richard discusses how to select or create fantastic animals, and Carla Hoch discusses animals in fight scene.

Writers must master craft elements from the obvious to the subtle. The Book Designer has an overview of story elements, Stavros Halvatzis looks at the power of evocative language, Matthew Norman says scenes matter most, and Garry Rodgers breaks down the process of writing into the dark.

Characters carry our stories. K.M. Weiland explores the Maiden’s shadow archetypes, Sue Coletta discusses character foils, and Katharine Grubb tells how to create a happy protagonist.

Writers are always trying to improve our stories. Anne R. Allen compares writing rules vs. writing fashion, Nathan Bransford explains when to hire a freelance book editor, and The Book Designer has a comprehensive punctuation guide, and detailed guides to periods, commas, and exclamation points.

We can learn a lot about writing from other media. Nancy Johnson shares the valuable writing lessons she learned as a television reporter, Lisa Tener reveals what puzzles teach us about writing, and Deanna Cabinian learned 4 writing lessons from binge-watching TV.

Good writers constantly evolve. Kris Maze has 13 ways your writing inspiration already surrounds you, Roni Loren lists 5 ways to use a reading journal to improve your writing, and Sulaiman Addonia explores how writers without access to books develop a craft.


In further publishing contraction, News Corp nears a deal to buy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s consumer publishing arm.

Robert Frank investigates the winner-take-all behavioral economy of the book world.

Are you a freelancer? Carol Tice explains why freelance writer job ads almost always pay crap, and personal finance tips for freelancers, and Andrea Davis compiles 7 greeting card companies that pay freelancers.

For our self-publishers, The Book Designer has Amazon self-publishing facts and FAQs.

Sarah Hannah Gomez reveals how proof listeners make sure the audiobook matches the print, and how you can break into that job.

Marketing your book can be difficult. Kristin Lamb looks at how you can sell more books when you’re terrified of selling, while Penny Sansevieri has unique branding and content ideas for April and an infographic on how to sell books by strategically engaging readers.

In online marketing, Jane Healey shares 5 secrets to a successful webinar series, Charmaine Hammond describes how to get a book sponsor, SCBWI reveals the power of #BookTok, and Belinda K. Griffin advises that sometimes guest blogging is better than blogging.


If you are ever invited to be on a podcast, Colleen M. Story has tips on how to give a great podcast author interview.

On The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman, Jo Ann Beard on what we’re writing when we write personal essays.

Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature podcast revisits the work of Frances Burney, “mother of English fiction.”

On the First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin, Carol Edgarian says we write from our own urgency, our own questions.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast, she has a two-fer: fix your writing tics with Chris Banks and writing dialogue and character voice with Jeff Elkins.


Ashawnta Jackson explains how Kitchen Table Press changed publishing.

In a project meant to protect indigenous knowledge, UCLA’s Archive of Healing, a trove of medical folklore, is now online.

Shakespeare has been around for centuries, but Livia Gershon asks: are we getting Shakespeare’s rhythms all wrong?

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

Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 1, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-01-2021

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in April! It may be April Fool’s Day, but it’s no joke: April has a ton of writer events. April is both English Language Month and National Poetry Month. Every year in April, Writers Digest’s poetry blog holds a poem-a-day event, offering a daily poetry prompt at Write Better Poetry.  Also, National Library Week is April 4-10. In addition to being Easter, April 4th is National School Librarian Day, April 6th is National Library Workers Day, and April 7th is National Bookmobile Day. Celebrate the written word all month!

The writing world lost several icons this week: Beverly Cleary, author of beloved children’s books, died at 104; Larry McMurtry, Pulitzer Prize winning author and scriptwriter, died at 84; and Nawal El Saadawi, Egyptian feminist author and activist, died at age 89.

Like audiobooks? Check out the Audio Publishers Association’s 2021 Audie Awards winners.

Having the wonderful diversity of our country on display in our literature is something worth striving towards. SCBWI provides Equity and Inclusion Resources to explore, and Alaina Lavoie explains how sensitivity readers can make publishing more accountable if we let them.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware spots a growing trend: scammers taking Big 5 publisher’s names in vain.


Every occupation has its own jargon, and writing is no different. Lincoln Michel looks at genre jargon: how the ssf and literary worlds speak about themselves and each other.

Romance sells well, but Michelle Major reveals how to write a romance series that keeps readers coming back for more.

Action scenes can happen in many genres, but they are a skill set unto themselves. Brian Andrews bring us how to write amazing action scenes, part 2.

Memoirs can be tough to write for many reasons. Ericka McIntyre suggests using novel writing techniques in your memoir, and Susan DeFreitas examines 3 common pitfalls when writing from your own life.

We have to juggle many craft elements, large and small, to make our stories they best they can be. C.S. Lakin lists the 5 turning points of a novel, Steve Hooley explores how boundaries make for good conflict, and Janice Hardy explains how to show (and not tell) without raising your word count.

Nathan Bransford shows how to write clear physical description, while Ann Harth advises describing your setting on the go. Janet Reid weighs in on the invisibility (or not) of “said”, and James Scott Bell looks at writing tasty fiction.

There are overarching character elements to master, as well as details, but in the end you want a character that a reader will invest themselves in. K.M. Weiland introduces the 12 shadow archetypes, Stavros Halvatzis connects character actions and character arc, Becca Puglisi examines your character’s emotional shielding and why it matters, and John J. Kelley discusses capturing profound character moments.

Janice Hardy has 4 ways to create emotional peril in your characters, Katharine Grubb gives tips for writing a worthy anti-hero, Steve Goble asks: are your minor characters working hard for you?; and Lisa Hall Wilson shares 2 ways to help your readers connect emotionally with your characters.

The great thing about writers is that they are not shy about giving advice to help other writers. Janet Reid discusses how to get better as a writer, Becca Puglisi examines Heinlein’s rules of writing, Laura Drake gathers writing wisdom from the bestsellers, and Diana Giovinazzo compiles 7 things she learned from interviewing authors.

Writing is a deeply emotional craft. Andrew J.Graff explores learning to go with the flow in rafting and in writing, Ellen Buikema lists 10 ideas for inspiring your writing with music, and PJ Parrish looks at what we can learn from movies about failed writers.

Whatever process we use to do it, we all must get to The End to finish our story. Sharon Oard Warner examines finding your way to the end, and Tiffany Yates Martin gives us a final checklist to be able to know when your story is finished.


Freelancing can be profitable, but it’s not always easy. Carol Tice shows how to write an article that pays, and John Fisher shares an old writer’s 5 smart moves to get freelance work.

Different online platforms can lead to freelance work. Carol Tice returns with a focus on LinkedIn with headline tips and examples for freelance writers, while Sara Fischer investigates a new Facebook feature that would allow writers and journalists to make money.

Marketing may be mostly online now, but that doesn’t mean it’s all impersonal. Jessica Strawser discusses the art of the multi-author event, while Penny Sansevieri has an infographic of 5 essential book marketing strategies for mystery authors and how to market a book while keeping up with Amazon’s recent changes.

One way to get interest in your book is with a pre-sale push. Justine Bylo describes how to set up a future on-sale date as part of your book marketing strategy, and Ruth Harris warns us not to make this mistake that could cost you a book sale.

With so much online competition, how do you get noticed? Sandra Beckwith shows us how to create book promotion quote graphics, Adam Connell lists 7 top WordPress landing page plugins, and Lyn Wildwood shares the 10-step process to writing the perfect list post.


Have you ever thought about starting your own podcast? Tif Marcelo lists 5 reasons to start your own podcast.

On the First Draft podcast with Mitzi Rapkin, Dantiel W. Moniz speaks on impostor syndrome and the morbidity of girlhood.

Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature podcast has a reckoning with Nabokov’s classic, controversial novel Lolita, with Jenny Minton Quigley.


We are all looking for the end of this pandemic tunnel. To find out what happens next, Jill Lepore canvases literature to see how plague stories end.

Book Marks reprints a 1959 review of Philip Roth’s debut novel, Goodbye, Columbus.

David Quammen writer on the accidental writing career of E. O. Wilson.

A nerdy history of the ampersand, brought to you by Kelly Jensen.

Margaret Kingsbury shares 10 facts about Madame d’Aulnoy, who coined the word fairytale.

Writers tend to love libraries, but Danika Ellis’ quiz will tell you if you are a library power user.

Jennifer De Leon writes a touching article on how the art of writing can close the divide between worlds.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary tips and tricks.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra Beckwith gives us new hope for old books.




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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 18, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-18-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We have crossed the midline for March and will soon be properly in Spring. Hopefully our creativity can bloom like the flowers.

This week, the literary world lost author of The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster, at age 91.

In great news for the arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities will receive $135m to distribute to cultural institutions.

Authors use their voices to shine light on dark times. Mike Gayle, the first man to win the Romance Novelists’ Association outstanding achievement award, tackles racism in his latest book.

Books open the world to people, but not always equally. Amazon is blocking libraries from lending more than 10,000 ebooks, and  Danika Ellis speaks to the inequality of school book fairs.

Mark Pratt repots that after Dr. Seuss’ estate announced it would stop allowing the publication of 6 books that contained racist images, his book sales skyrocketed.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss brings us a scam alert: Paper Bytes Marketing Solutions and its stable of imaginary agents.


Perhaps you are a poet and don’t know it? Melissa Donovan explains and gives examples of prose poetry.

Mary Chamberlain brings us her top tips for writing historical fiction.

There are many literary devices writers use to grab readers by the emotions. Kelly Jensen has an A to Z guide to literary devices and tools, and Angus Fletcher dissects 8 of literature’s most powerful inventions and the neuroscience behind how they work.

Setting can be a powerful force in your story. Sarah Stewart Taylor shares secrets of a setting master, while Jami Gold examines when we should treat our setting as a character.

Characters seemed to be on bloggers’ minds this week. Angela Ackerman has one thing to do if you want to write unforgettable characters, Monya Baker posts 6 tips for writing deep 3rd person POV, Janice Hardy lists 4 ways a strong POV strengthens a novel, and 4 steps for choosing what details to describe in a scene, and Kristina Adams discusses 5 ways to add depth to your character (by getting to know yourself).

Talking further about character, Laurence MacNaughton has 9 questions you must ask your main character, Piper Bayard reveals 10 common bedroom objects to use as weapons in a fight, Stavros Halvatzis examines how the status of well rounded characters plays into the story, and K. M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arcs series with part 6: the Crone arc.

Editing is a key to success. Anne R. Allen has reader pet peeves to look out for, Dana Isaacson lists 7 lessons from Maxwell Perkins, Jim Dempsey shares 5 reasons why you need a professional editor, Steve Hooley discusses cleaning up the story trail for beta readers, Lisa Cooper Ellison exposes 3 traps that subvert our ability to accept feedback, and remember, when you are in need of that elusive right word, great writers simply make them up.

To work better, faster, we need better habits. Jen Theuriet shows us how to change 3 mind-mush habits, while A. Howitt has 8 simple steps to better writing habits.

A successful career is part art, part business. David Duhr asks about writing process vs. product: do you focus on the doing or the having?; Mary Kole discusses unconventional writing and fiction rules, and Kathryn Craft finds that authenticity builds a satisfying career.


Casey Cep reports that a Kansas bookshop’s fight with Amazon is about more than the price of books.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc in the publishing world, but New England indie publishers had success by sticking with their niches in 2020.

Audiobooks are a hot market. Scribd announces an audiobook production line , highlighting independent publishers, while June Thomas tells us what sets a good audiobook apart.

If you are self-publishing, eventually you need to decide how big your book should be. Amy Collins gives details on picking a popular trim size for your book.

Publishing is a business, and we writers have to think like business people when it comes time to get our books out in the world. Lilly Dancyger explains that a contract that doesn’t suit your needs or expectations could be worse than no book deal at all, and Rachelle Gardner answers the twin questions: what can an agent do for me? do I need one?

The writing life is full of rejection, but we struggle on anyway. Katharine Grubb lists reasons why your manuscript may have been rejected, and C. S. Lakin reveals how writers can adopt a success mind-set.

Marketing online is a very different skill set than writing. Matt Moran investigates color psychology in marketing, Ron Stefanski has 8 expert strategies to help you stay fired up about your blog, and Sandra Beckwith clarifies the best way to comment on blogs.


Roz Morris’ So You Want To Be A Writer lays out how to organize events for selling your books.

The WMFA podcast with Courtney Ballestier hosts Dantiel W. Moniz on endings as windows rather than exits.

On the Otherppl podcast with Brad Listi, Vesna Maric discusses the freedom of working outside historical fiction’s rules.

The Maris Review podcast with Maris Kreizman has Naima Coster on following narrative threads rather than chronology.

Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn talks copyright protection, smart contracts, digital scarcity, and NFTs, as well as blockchain for the publishing industry with Simon-Pierre Marion.


Emily Temple rounds up 50 very bad book covers for literary classics, and Isabelle Popp revisits Fabio romance novel covers.

Maria Aurora Couto reflects on her long association with famous novelist Graham Greene.

Rachel Rosenberg relates the history of dime novels and the cheap book boom.

With books a dime a dozen, how can you choose which to read next? Maybe you don’t have to. Sarah Rahman makes a case for reading multiple books at a time.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more literary tips and tricks.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 11, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-11-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Sunday, March 14th is National Write Down Your Story Day. Even if you don’t have a fiction story to write, write down your family history story. As a genealogist, I can tell you that future generations will love you for it.

For International Women’s Day, Publisher issues a diversity toolkit to help publishers see where they are in diversifying, and giving tips to help them improve.

The line between music and poetry has always been a fine one, and Adam Bradley introduces the artists dismantling the barriers between rap and poetry.

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware issues the following publisher cautions: Riverdale Avenue Books, Breaking Rules Publishing, and Adelaide Books.


Do you ever wonder how poets decide how to order their poems in a collection? There are many different ways to approach it, and Rachelle Toarmino describes how to arrange a poetry collection using mix tape rules.

Writing time-travel? Nicole Galland has 6 things to ask yourself about your time-travel story.

If you like to write short, Gina Barreca lists 6 essentials for writing flash fiction and nonfiction.

For all the crime and thriller writers: Russ Thomas shares 7 tips for writing police procedurals that readers love, and Garry Rodgers explains Locard’s Exchange Principle for mystery and thriller writers.

If your interests leans toward nonfiction, Melissa Donovan presents a guide to writing creative nonfiction.

Lots of writing craft can be broken down and analyzed and rules distilled, but some are more elusive. Terry Odell takes a look at voice, while Janice Hardy shows us 5 places to find your novel’s theme.

Structural analysis can help you find the issues with your story, and point the way to fixing it. Gabriela Houston discusses intimate vs. epic narration, Kristen Lamb points to common story-telling flaws in horror, and Janice Hardy examines how the midpoint reversal works and asks: does your novel have a problem?

Beyond structure, there are myriad other craft components to consider. Marilyn Simon Rothstein has 6 ways to add humor to your novel, Stavros Halvatzis urges us to infuse texture, color, and music in your writing, Becca Puglisi shares 11 techniques for transforming clichéd phrasings, Janice Hardy reveals 6 places info dumps like to hide in your novel, and Jenna Harte gives us tips on writing “the boring stuff” readers tend to skip.

Characters—and their interactions—push the story forward. K.M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arc series with the King arc, Carla Hoch talks fight scenes and dialogue, and Kris Maze lists 5 dialogue quick tips for page-turning fiction.

We all know good editing makes or breaks books. Jeanette at DIYMFA has 8 essential edits, Porter Anderson extols the benefits of professional editing, and Steve Laube shares proofreading tips and tricks.

Ever wonder what it takes to collaborate with another author? Each team likely has their own way of working, but Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty explain how to co-author a book: building continuity and avoiding pitfalls, and Shakil Ahmad and Ehsan Ahmad have 3 tips for writing with a co-author.

Making the most of our time is a constant effort. Shannon Swendson lays out how to make the most of the 24 hours we all get, Lincoln Michel investigates the invisible architecture that we use to keep us writing, and James Scott Bell discusses turning envy into energy.

So much of the writing process is subconscious and emotional. Tilia Klebenov Jacobs ponders where ideas come from, Rebecca Yarros has 5 tips for evoking emotion in writing, Katharine Grubb lists 9 signs of amateur writing, and Lisa Tener suggests a nonfiction writing meditation for digging deeper.

Writers have many obstacles to overcome. C.S Lakin tells how to face down writer fear, Isabel Allende writes on literary ambition and the power of mentorship, and Alexandra Oliva discusses being a writer when you literally cannot visualize scenes.


Where can freelancers find jobs? Evan Jensen has 14 freelance comedy writing jobs that pay you to make people laugh, and reports on LinkedIn Marketplaces: 4 updates on a new platform for writers.

If you are going indie, Kim Catanzarite lists 11 signs you’re ready to self-publish.

Going traditional? Janet Reid answers if you are pitching book 2 of a series, how much of book 1 should you mention?; Angie Hodapp tells how to pitch a character-driven novel, and Rachelle Gardner explains how to find comps for your books.

Marketing is all about platform. Nathan Bransford defines what an author platform is, Laura Drake discusses author as brand in 2021, Kacen Callender talks unfair social media expectations publishers throw on authors, and Courtney Maum believes that passion can be platform.

Mark Walker-Ford has the 8 best social media platforms to market your business in 2021, Sonja Yoerg explains how to make great visual ads, and Leila Hirschfeld lists 30 ways authors use videos to engage with readers.

Elizabeth S. Craig gives tips for easier book launch days, Penny Sansevieri shows how your Amazon bio can sell more books, and Sandra Beckwith brings us 10 free ways to increase author website traffic.

Once at your website, Lyn Wildwood  tells how to write an About page for your blog, Jane Friedman looks at blogging vs. email newsletters for writers, and Lindsay Liedke shows how to add both a contact form and a photo gallery to your WordPress website.


On The Creative Penn podcast, Joanna Penn discusses writing, marketing, and mindset with Steven Pressfield.

The Quarantine Tapes podcast with Paul Holdengraber has a two-fer this week: Wayne Koestenbaum on his quarantine-induced need to read poetry, and Johnny Temple on the elitism of the publishing industry.

On The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan, Carol Edgarian reminds us that with every book, you have to woo your readers again.

Mitzi Rapkin’s First Draft podcast features George Saunders on thinking of story as ceremony.


Language is shaped by world events. Pia Araneta shows how people are tracking the changing ways we talk  in the Covid-19 era.

W.S. Winslow visits darkest New England in exploring what is the Northern Gothic literary tradition.

James Scott Bell introduces us to Bat Masterson, writer.

Spring is here (almost)! Kelly Jensen gathers ideas to upgrade your space by decorating with books.

Allison Flood asks: why are Lewis Carroll misquotes so common online?

Melissa Febos writes on the word “loose.”

Get excited: Julius Lobo has a brief history of the exclamation mark.

Alexandra Andrews delves into the great, mixed-up literary tradition of doppelgangers and impostors in crime novels.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! We’ll be back next week with more writerly links.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | March 4, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 03-04-2021

Welcome to the first Top Picks Thursday in March! Today, March 4th, is National Grammar Day, followed on Monday, March 8th, with National Proofreading Day, so you can go fix all the mistakes you learned you made on National Grammar Day.

The literary world said goodbye to the prolific and versatile poet, activist, and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti this week.

In awards news, SCBWI has announced their Spark Awards for the best books published non-traditionally in 2020.

Lila Shapiro looks at the changing face of publishing by interviewing the diverse book publishing power club.

Brandie DeRusha gathers 20 biography books for kids to help them dream big.

If you are more into audio books, The Book Designer lists legit places you can get free audiobooks.

Are you missing your bookish events? Matt Grant has virtual book festivals to get excited about in the next three months.

Looking for work? Mary Kole is now hiring market spies for a secret new project.


Short fiction writers, we have a few tips for you today. Rachelle Shaw has 5 tips on writing a short story, and Julie Duffy focuses on short fiction.

Hank Phillippi Ryan tells how to write a bestselling thriller.

Sometimes fiction exposes truth better than non-fiction. Kim Echlin explores telling stories of the unthinkable—when fiction bears witness to a crime against humanity.

For anyone who may be unsure, The Book Designer demystifies what a preface is and its purpose.

Stories are propelled by the choices characters make and their reasons for making those choices. Janice Hardy examines how the Act Two choice works in a novel, while Stavros Halvatzis works with backstory and Susan DeFrietas has 4 key tactics for dealing with backstory and exposition.

You don’t ever want to lose the reader’s attention, which means not confusing, boring, or jarring them. Nathan Bransford advises describing characters and setting when they’re first introduced, Janice Hardy shares tips to understand and control your novel’s pacing, Bob Hostetler urges us to dump the cliché simile, and Chris M. Arnone explains the history and future of the singular they.

You want your reader invested in your character and their struggle. Laurie Schnebly Campbell discusses why character motivation matters, Katharine Grubb has tips for clarity and creativity when writing multiple points-of-view, K.M. Weiland explores the Queen character arc, and Janice Hardy reveals a core question for getting to know your character.

Once that first draft is done, it’s time for a hard look at what you’ve actually got. Sharon Oard Warner says to find the ending before returning to the beginning, Melissa Donovan reminds us that writing is rewriting, and Orly Konig shares 3 steps to a full rewrite for pantsers.

There is no one-size-fits-all writing process. It can vary even from project to project. Julianna Baggott reveals the results of a survey on process to see how others do it, Ruth Harris suggests that your notebook is your superpower, and Sarahlyn Bruck starts her process with setting.

Eileen Cook gives good reasons why you should join a writing community. Such a community can help with practical things like Gwen Hernandez’s instructions on how to find anything in Scrivener 3, or with the creative things like PJ Parrish’s making up words.

Marti Leimbach gets meta with advice on writing advice, Tasha Seegmiller asks: are you a whole-hearted writer?; and James Scott Bell expounds on writing to escape.


Attention freelancers! Christin Nielsen has collected 14 e-commerce markets that pay freelancers.

If you are self-publishing, one of the big questions you need to answer is how will you use Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. C.S. Lakin examines the pros and cons of staying exclusive with Amazon or going wide.

Readers often contact authors. Elizabeth S. Craig looks at how to respond to readers across platforms.

Music is powerful and evocative, and authors are often tempted to use it in their books. So Rachelle Gardner answers the question: can I use song lyrics in my book?

Everything authors do in public is part of their brand. Keeping that in mind, John Gilstrap has branding redux, and Frances Caballo shares tips for an author website.

For many authors, marketing is confusing and frightening. Sandra Beckwith has 3 book marketing tactics you can ignore, J. Elle lists 5 buzz-building tips from an instant New York Times bestselling debut, and Penny Sansevieri shows how to work more reviews into your book marketing plan and  30+ ideas for bite-sized books marketing.


On the Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner, Lydia Millet discusses letting the work change you.

The Reading Women podcast with Kendra Winchester has Jenny Offill talking about the ambition of short novels.

Jacke Wilson’s History of Literature podcast explores the brief life and towering accomplishments of Lorraine Hansberry.

The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan has Dantiel W. Moniz on writing stories that are felt in the body.

On The Creative Penn podcast, Joanna Penn and Patrick O’Donnell  delve into how to write authentic crime fiction.


Test your literary chops. How many of the 100 most famous passages in literature can you identify?

Celebrate the Perseverance Mars landing with 18 books for all ages about Mars.

We read about how reading novels today teaches empathy. Ritchie Robertson investigates if the novels of the Enlightenment also taught empathy.

Can you imagine your work still being read two centuries after you are gone? Five poets discuss John Keats’ best poems 200 years after his death.

Women writers are on people’s minds this week. Jonathan Lethem explains why Shirley Jackson is a reader’s writer, Arielle Moscati draws a map of Mary Oliver: a reading pathway; and Isabelle Popp lists 13 ways of examining Sylvia Plath.

Underlying some video games’ coding are the bones of classic literature. Cindy Frenkel examines how teaching classic lit helps game designers develop better stories.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! See you next week for more tips and talks!

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

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-25-2021



The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, snow in the woods along Oxmead Road


Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! It’s been a snowy month here in the Delaware Valley, as you can see from my photos. The days are getting longer, though, and it’s warming up as we head into a new month. In addition, the end of February and beginning of March brings us a wealth of literary events: tomorrow is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day; next week (the first week of March) is Newspapers in Education Week, Read an E-Book Week, and Words Matter Week; and next Tuesday, March 2nd, is National Read Across America Day.

With all those events, you might be short on time to read, so Emily Temple suggests 50 great classic novels under 200 pages.

Diversity in the publishing industry has been prominent in the news this year. Alaina Lavoie tells us that We Need Diverse Books and Penguin Random House have announced the Black Creatives Fund, and Susan Montoya Bryan relates that fresh funding by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation aims to revitalize digitizing indigenous oral history.

Arthur Klepchukov lists fiction writing contests worth your time in spring 2021, and SCBWI’s Lee Wind announces the Golden Kite Award finalists.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, snow-edged stream by the horse farm on Oxmead Road




Are you having trouble writing? Alison Flood ponders writer’s blockdown: after a year inside, novelists are struggling to write.

Here are some tips for getting started: Barbara Linn Probst shares four of the best writing exercises ever, an unidentified guest author on The Book Designer details how to make a book, and Rayne Hall writes about how to fan your short story idea sparks into a bright fire.

Writers need to know their audience. Christina Delay zeroes in on identifying your reader.

Having trouble with the beginning of your story? Zoe M. McCarthy discusses elements to include in a novel’s first 5 pages (part 1), and Janice Hardy identifies 4 mistakes that doom the first page of your manuscript. Also check out 5 book openings critiqued by a literary agent, YA author AJ Dickinson and Roz Morris.

The ending of the story is also important. Gilbert Bassey explores story resolutions: mastering the happy-sad ending.

Anne R. Allen points out five common beginning writer storytelling mistakes, and Katharine Grubb gives us tips for writing a redemptive story.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, mourning dove on snow

Mourning dove

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, white-throated sparrow on snow

White-throated sparrow


For writers of specific genres: Eva Leigh writes about the pleasures and perils of writing historical fiction, Sebastian Fitzek sets out 5 features for writing psychological thrillers, and Toni Šušnjar examines fantasy and monarchy.

If you’re working on the elements of your story, Stavros Halvatzis explains how to tap into the power of setting, Bonnie Randall shares how to write rich characterization, and K. M. Weiland elaborates on archetypal character arcs (part 3): the hero arc, while Brian Andrews focuses on how to write amazing action scenes (part 1).

Things to think about when editing and revising: Bob Hostetler declares a cliché simile is a bad simile, and Dave King advises writers to keep it real.

Tiffany Yates Martin differentiates between criticism versus critique, while Nathan Bransford cautions writers not to listen to condescending feedback.

Garry Rodgers gives his take on AI for authors.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, flooded creek on Jacksonville Road




Jim Milliot reports that Scholastic and Penguin Random House remain untouchable as top children’s publishers.

Penny Sansevieri reveals what authors need to understand about different book publishing options, and Jacquelyn Lynn asks: is self-publishing a good choice for your novel?

For those following the traditional publishing route, Kate McKean ponders the question of finding a good agent, and acquisitions editor Kara Leonino shares 5 common proposal mistakes.

When it comes to promoting and marketing your book, Penny Sansevieri recommends working awards and contests into your book marketing plan (an infographic), Sandra Beckwith sets out 5 reasons you should speak for free, and Terry Odell discusses branding: it’s not just for cows.

With tips for using social media, Thomas Umstattd, Jr. explains what the 2021 Facebook changes mean for authors, and Andrew Hutchinson talks about new insights shared by Facebook into how to maximize the reach of your video content.

Do you have a website? John Burke offers the complete guide to creating an author website.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, female cardinal on snow

Female cardinal

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, male cardinal on snow

Male cardinal










Lit Century podcast’s Sandra Newman and Catherine Nichols discuss the teenage angst of 20th-century literature.

On the History of Literature podcast with Jacke Wilson, Anahid Nersessian talks about the lovability of Keats.

Sara Rosett gives tips on how to structure and write a series on The Creative Penn podcast with Joanna Penn.

On Otherppl podcast, Brad Listi talks with Candace Jane Opper about the importance of stories from the outer circle of grief.

On The Quarantine Tapes podcast, hosted by Paul Holdengräber, George Prochnik ponders the role of the artist in calamity.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, downy woodpecker on suet feeder

Downy woodpecker

The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, white-breasted nuthatch on suet feeder

White-breasted nuthatch












Pardis Parker and Andrew Hamm present a comic strip on the art of emailing.

Viet Thanh Nguyen looks at what Amanda Gorman teaches us about our shared America.

Literary Hub‘s Book Marks shares a variety of 1885 reviews of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

In The Paris Review, Bernard Ferguson searches for Gwendolyn Brooks.

Melissa Baron reveals the authors of fonts in a history of type foundries.

Arielle Gray discusses Toni Morrison as an editor who changed book publishing forever.

Rebecca Rego Barry looks at Bonibooks, the paperback experiment that paved the way for Penguin. There’s a complete set for sale if you’re interested.


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, vultures in tree


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, red-tailed hawk in tree

Red-tailed hawk









That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday. See you again next week with another roundup of writerly links!


The Author Chronicles, Top Picks Thursday, J. Thomas Ross, cloud-studded dawn with snow




Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 18, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-18-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Much of the US is experiencing extreme cold or strong winter weather, so I hope all of you are safe and warm.

Award-winning  science fiction author and scholar James E. Gunn died at age 97.

Is publishing living up to its promise to diversify?  Shelly Romero and Adriana M. Martínez Figueroa check in with The Unbearable Whiteness of Publishing, Revisited.

Meet the indie bookstore owner behind National Black Literacy Day.

February is also Library Lovers Month, and Susie Dumond has 6 ways to support your local library.


While most craft tips can apply across the board, sometimes others are genre-specific: Brit Haines has 10 tips for writing true-life stories, Dana Stabenow shares 7 tips for writing crime fiction, Jaclyn Goldis gives us 6 tips for confidently writing historical fiction, and Savannah Cordova lists 5 tips for writing stellar romantic subplots.

Scenes are the building blocks of any story. Marissa Graff examines 3 critical elements of opening scenes, Janice Hardy explores how the inciting incident works in a novel, and Lisa Cooper Ellison shows how to fix your scene shapes to quickly improve your manuscript.

Other craft elements, large and small, work together to make your story unforgettable. Lori Freeland tells us how to dodge the backstory info dump, Kathryn Craft unleashes the power of declaration, James Scott Bell is enamored of the em dash, and Eldred Bird urges us to write locations like charcters.

Characters are the spine of our stories. Stavros Halvatzis does character arc structure at a glance, Dr. Craig Wynne has 4 tropes and cliches to avoid when writing characters who are single, Rebecca Sacks lays out how to keep track of your characters with index cards, string, and a lot of clothes pins, Emily Wenstrom reveals how to get away with murdering a character, Melissa Donovan looks at archetypal characters in storytelling, while K.M. Weiland dives deep into the archetypal Maiden arc.

Done writing? Let the editing commence! Jim Dempsy explains what makes a good editor, Laurence MacNaughton has 6 steps to fast and easy revision, Robert Lee Brewer revisits when to capitalize president, Ellen Buikema shares 10 self-editing tips, and Jose Pablo Iriarte lists 6 ways to fit more story into less space.

Jen Silverman shares a few notes on writing across media, and Kristina Adams explores how building your self-awareness makes you a better writer.


Christine Ro investigates reducing the environmental toll of paper in the publishing industry.

A book’s cover can make or break sales. L.L. Wohlwend examines book cover colors.

Agent Rachell Gardner says every author must answer this question: why should someone want to read your book?

In marketing, Patricia Smiley looks at why you should hire a freelance publicist, Lisa Kusel is in search of the alluring author photo, and Jessica Strawser has 5 reasons you should attend other authors’ events.

Penny Sansevieri lists 13 marketing ideas to consider before you hit publish, Mike O’Mary explains how to get reader reviews now to drive sales later, and Joe Fields gives us 10 tips to boost your LinkedIn presence in 2021.


On The Literary Life podcast with Mitchell Kaplan, Gabriel Byrne muses on navigating past and present, fact and imagination.

On The Creative Penn podcast, Joanna Penn discusses how to write a non-fiction book proposal with Alison Jones.


Eriq Gardner reports on Paramount’s fight with the Truman Capote Literary Trust to remake Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

For poets and lovers of metaphors, Dick Davis gives a brief history of metaphor in Persian poetry.

Ever meet a character you think would be perfect for you? Rachel Brittain has a quiz: who is your literary soulmate?

We all hate those scam phone callers, and now they’ve moved onto computer hijacking with ransomware. Elaine Viets tells a delicious tale of scamming the scammers.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Stay warm and safe, everyone, and we’ll see you back here for next week’s tips and tricks.

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 11, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-11-2021

Posted by: Kerry Gans | February 4, 2021

Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 02-04-2021

Welcome to this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Mark your calendars, the second week of February is Freelance Writers Appreciation Week. We’ve got lots of snow on the ground here, but it’s perfect weather to curl up with some hot chocolate and literary links.

Poetry in motion? Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman will recite an original poem at the Super Bowl LV pregame show.

Porter Anderson brings us the AAP prose awards for 2021. Add them to your reading list!

The one upside to the pandemic is that many conferences have gone remote. Christin Nielsen has the top 18 virtual training events for freelance writers in 2021.

Know your rights. Joseph Perry gives an overview of key provisions in a publishing contract.

If you are looking for work, Mary Kole is now hiring a research assistant.

Writer Beware warns of vanity press Waldorf Publishing.


Some advice is genre-specific. Phyllis Still shares 5 steps to write thrilling historical fiction for teens, Moriah Richard discusses structuring your unique system of magic, and Joel Shulkin, MD, lists 7 mistakes authors make when writing medical scenes.

There are certain over-arching decisions to be made about your story. K.M. Weiland gives an introduction to archetypal stories, Clare Langley-Hawthorne looks at tense in a novel, and Tiffany Yates Martin demystifies the different third person points of view.

Once into the writing, there are plenty of craft elements to consider using. Paula Munier discusses plot jumpstarters for when you get stuck, Milan Terlunen examines the art of the plot twist, Katharine Grubb lists questions to ask when writing a scene, Lisa Hall Wilson has 4 ways to write deeper with personification, and Spencer Ellsworth shows how to sneak flashbacks into your novel.

While craft elements are vital, we also can’t neglect our characters. Janice Hardy explains how to shame your characters and win readers, Stephanie Wrobel reflects on writing dysfunctional families, Stavros Halvatzis studies the hero’s twin struggles, and Bonnie Randall shares 3 quick building blocks to create crackling character chemistry.

Susan DeFrietas tells us the one thing your novel absolutely must do, Janice Hardy says if nothing changes in your novel, you have no story; and Kris Maze explains how to break your writing slump and get into the flow.

Some people wonder what’s the point of writing a book, especially now. Mark de Silva speaks in defense of writing brooks that might never be read, Anne Youngson shows how writing is a lot like digging, Maurice Chammah explores what fiction can teach journalists, and James Scott Bell asks for more escapism, please.


Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Dana Mattioli report that Connecticut is investigating Amazon’s ebook business.

The Authors Guild and five other writers groups ask the Department of Justice to stop the Penguin Random House’s purchase of Simon & Schuster.

Apple wants to make it harder for platforms to collect your data. Facebook is countering the move. Why should authors care? Because it may impact the targeting of Facebook ads.

For those of us looking for agents, Rachelle Gardner answers the question: why is it so hard to find an agent? A.J. Aronstein discusses the art of the cover letter, and Kate McKean talks about how to do a book proposal for an illustrated book (such as a coffee table or cook book) and what happens if you get an offer from an editor before you have an agent.

It seems that many bloggers had email on their minds this week. Janet Reid warns against making this email error, Nathan Bransford talks email thread etiquette, and Ruth Harris has the weird and wild emails from readers.

Marketing takes many forms, but one of them is media appearances. A.G. Billig has 5 easy steps to a successful media appearance, and Jennifer Tucker provides a media interview preparation checklist.

Ricardo Fayet extols the importance of finding your marketing sweet spot, Elizabeth S. Craig has tips to fit platform building into a busy life, and Penny Sansevieri says timing is key to a successful self-published book launch.

Mark Walker-Ford gives us an infographic with the perfect social media posting schedule, while Lee Purcell explores marketing a book beyond social media.


On the Beyond the Page podcast, recently deceased writer Barry Lopez says “we don’t need the writer – what we need is the story, because this keeps us alive.

Thresholds podcast with Jordan Kisner hosts Margo Jefferson, who ponders, “If I can’t find a way to do that … why am I writing a memoir?”

The Quarantine Tapes podcast with Paul Holdengraber discusses painting, music, and poetry with Joy Haro, who says, “All of it is still the poetic voice.”

On the History of Literature podcast, Jacke Wilson searches for Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s would-be suitor, Tom Lefroy.

The Creative Penn podcast with Joanna Penn urges us to stop worrying, start selling: change your author mindset with Sarah Painter.


Emily Martin gives us 10 facts about the incomparable Toni Morrison.

As writers, we love libraries. Christine Ro gathers 10 tidbits about libraries for visually impaired and print-disabled people.

Andre Callihanna traces nine idioms to their origins.

The number of books printed today is overwhelming. Ann Blair says this multitude of books is not new: people started complaining about the number of books in circulation as soon as the printing press was invented.

Looking for a good spy novel to read? Paul Vidich lists 10 spy novels with women protagonists.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Arvind Dilawar tells the story of the extraordinary disappearing act of a novelist banned by the Nazis.

That’s all for this week’s Top Picks Thursday! Join us next week for more tips and tricks.


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