Friday Links: A Diverse Collection for Black History Month

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’ve had a terrific week and are looking forward to an even better weekend. Personally, I’m looking forward to hunkering down with a good book, because I’ve had a couple of weeks that were pretty much full throttle. A little break is a good thing. Then next week I’ll be working for a few days out of The Knight Agency main office, getting some face-to-face time with my wonderful co-workers.

But plans aside, I’ve got some wonderful links for you this week. With Black History Month upon us, there are some excellent articles on black writers and increasing the diversity of the publishing industry. Of course, those are not things relegated just to February, but it’s an excellent excuse to step up our efforts to read and publish and call attention to more authors of color. And beyond that, I have the usual mishmash of reading recs, bookish goodness, and writing inspiration. There should be a little something for everyone, and I hope you discover something that sends you rushing off to get some writing of your own accomplished. Enjoy!

How Chris Jackson Is Building a Black Literary Movement – A great look at the efforts of one of the (unfortunately) few black editors in New York.

LA Celebrates Science Fiction Legend Octavia E. Butler with a Year of Events – A nice spotlight on this celebration that might inspire you to pick up one of Butler’s books if you haven’t, or revisit her work if you have.

Interview with a Bookstore: The Mysterious Bookshop – Peek inside the world’s oldest and largest mystery-specific bookstore.

The Real Censorship in Children’s Books – Daniel José Older discusses the recent criticism and removal of a children’s books with inappropriate depictions of black characters in history, and the broader problem.

This Year I’m Going to Write that Book – Some writing inspiration for those dreamers who haven’t quite gotten around to doing (or finishing).

How a City in France Got the World’s First Short-Story Vending Machine – I love this idea, and I’d love to find them on random street corners or in transportation hubs. Fun way to discover new or new-to-you authors.

Elizabeth Jane Howard: Hilary Mantel on the Novelist She Tells Everyone to Read – A look at the British author best know for the Cazalet Chronicles.

Fighting Erasure – A look at the importance of understanding the context for the current diversity discussion, which of course is much broader than publishing’s small corner of the world.

150 Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Books to Look Forward to in 2016: Part 1 – A great roundup organized by release month. If you scroll to the end of the page, you’ll find links to the second and third parts of the list.

Friday Links: People and Places Behind the Books We Love

TGIF! It’s been a long, kind of sad week, what with the passing of first David Bowie and then Alan Rickman. The first made me teary; the latter made me cry into my coffee on and off all day. Both were hugely creative individuals who left us with so much to remember them by, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t left a hollow space now they’ve gone, as well.

But as I said, it’s Friday, and time to look forward to the weekend. It’s a long one here in the U.S., as Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which means I can both get work done and also participate in the 24 in 48 Readathon. (There’s still time to sign up if you want to join in!) But before the weekend can kick off, I’ve got this week’s Friday Links to share. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Robert Kilpatrick on The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers – A thoughtful look and review over at the LA Review of Books.

New Map Explores the Streets of Fictional London – Fun map incorporating locations from over 600 books, plays, etc.

Association of American Publishers Partners with United Negro College Fund to Enhance Diversity Recruiting Efforts in Publishing – A new plan to help diversify the publishing world from behind the scenes.

28 Authors on the Books that Changed Their Lives – Pretty much as written.

Alan Rickman’s Best Bookish Roles – I will forever love Colonel Brandon best.

The Time My Grown-Up Novel Was Marketed as Young Adult – A look at shifts in literary genres.

Not Just in Cafés: An L–Z of Places to Write – For those of you who like to write in public and with a little background noise.

Friday Links: Reading and Writing into the New Year

Happy Friday! I’m excited to resume Friday Links today. It felt strange having the holidays fall on Friday the last two weeks, but between blogging daily for the December Writing Challenge and also being in Connecticut visiting my parents, it was also nice to take a little breather.

This week, however, I have a great collection of links to start the year off with a bang. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful few days and that reentry hasn’t been too painful. Personally, I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind. It’s amazing what piles up even when most people aren’t working. So I’m going to get right to the good stuff, and then vanish back beneath my slowly shrinking avalanche of submissions and client projects and emails.

Wishing you a wonderful, productive week, filled with all things reading and writing!

24 in 48 Readathon – It’s back, and scheduled for January 16th and 17th. Frequent readers will be familiar with my discovery of readathons a year or so ago, and this is my favorite one. The aim is to spend 24 hours reading out of a 48-hour period, quite doable and still leaving time for sleeping and such. Scroll on the site for complete details and to sign up if you’re interested.

The New York Public Library Just Uploaded Nearly 200,000 Images You Can Use for Free – Rundown of the new public domain images that the library has digitized for everyone’s use. Great for use on blogs/websites, etc., but also just really fun and inspiring to browse.

52 Short Stories in 52 Weeks – 52 short prompts to use for short stories, the idea being to write one per week over the course of the year. Of course, we’re a week behind, but that’s no reason not to dive in anyway if you’re interested in a year-long writing challenge.

Did you know that no novels from Madagascar have been translated into English? – Until now. Nice short piece with a small excerpt.

Inspiration Tuesday: Michael Nobbs – Artist and writer Danny Gregory interviews artist Michael Nobbs on how he’s creative in very short spurts daily, and how much one can accomplish when those short spurts add up. (Video linked, not embedded, per request of creators.)

Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2016 Book Preview – The annual preview of books being released in the first half of the year. Mostly upmarket and literary, but a fabulous overview of upcoming titles regardless.

Opportunities for Writers: January and February 2016 – A list of contests, publishing opportunities, and other deadline-oriented goodies for writers.


Reading Wrap Up for 2015

I started this year with a number of reading-related goals, among them to read more published books (as opposed to manuscripts) than I have been managing recently, to read more diversely, and to try my hand at a number of reading challenges I’d found around the internet, one of which in particular focused on reading books you’ve had sitting on your bookshelves for a year or more instead of endlessly buying new ones. As it’s the last day of the year, it’s time to see how I’ve done.

In terms of reading more, I certainly managed that one. I’m one book shy of hitting my goal for the Goodreads Challenge, and I’m nearly finished with my current read, so I can safely say that’s one goal met. In terms of diversity, 63% of the books I read were by women, with the remaining 37% by men, and that’s about on par for me in terms of gender split, falling a little more heavily on the women-writers side than last year, but then I tend to read more women than men by default. As for writers of color, they accounted for 30% of this year’s reading, up slightly from last year’s 25%. It’s not a bad number, but I’d still like to raise it, so that’s a goal that will carry on into 2016.

As for the other challenges I took on, I failed pretty abysmally, indicating that perhaps given the small amount of time I have for personal reading, I should focus on fewer goals rather than spreading myself thin trying to find ways to read things that count for more than one challenge. So I’m sticking to my basic reading goals for the coming year: Read more books, read more diversely, and try not to buy quite so many new books when I have so many waiting for me at home already. I’d also like to read more books in translation, but I feel that dovetails nicely with my goal to diversify.

I’m happy to say I read some really wonderful books this year. I could probably go on for ages extolling the virtues of a few of the titles in particular, but instead I’m just going to list a few favorites, in no particular order. Please note that these books are all personal reads; none of the authors are clients.

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I’d love to hear what books have made an impression on you this year. New favorites? Recommendations? Or were there any books that were a true disappointment? Feel free to share your bookish thoughts in comments. I look forward to hearing what had you excited in 2015, and wish you all the best for a wonderful new year of reading and writing!



Friday Links: What Will You Read in the New Year?

Happy Friday! It’s a week until Christmas and day 18 of the writing challenge, and I think that calls for lots of Friday Links. For those of you planning ahead to the new year, I’ve got some reader challenges for 2016 in the mix, plus plenty of other goodies.

If you’re participating in the challenge, remember to post some writing time to your calendar this weekend and set up your alerts to help you keep those all-important writing dates with yourself (or your writing buddies). Wishing you a wonderful weekend of productivity and holiday enjoyment!

Neil Gaiman on Returning to ‘Sandman’ – A lovely interview over at NPR.

I Read 50 Books by Women of Color This Year – One reader’s recounting of her self-imposed reading challenge, with some great book recommendations.

Take 2016’s Ultimate Reading Challenge – Courtesy of PopSugar.

Making Creativity a Habit – Artist and author Danny Gregory talks about showing up every day to make your art.

The Best British Novels of All Time – A list compiled by foreign critics. Do you agree with their choices?

In Translation – Author Jhumpa Lahiri talks about writing in a foreign language.

The 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge – Back for its second year.

14 Brilliant Australian Books that Won Prizes in 2015 – Some books to check out if you’re looking to read more globally.

More Holiday Gifts for Readers and Writers


In years past, I’ve posted some fairly extensive lists of suggested gifts for the readers and writers in your life, or that you might want to hint about to people wondering what to buy for you. This year I’m being a bit more low key about it, as I’ll admit I’ve not done as much scouting for cool writerly stuff recently. Last Friday I posted a few links to some great gift lists other sites have compiled, and today I’m going to share some of my favorite items to round them out. Please note, this is not a sponsored post, merely a list of items I personally have used/read/found useful.

Writing Tools

Writers write, so it’s a no brainer to pick up something they can write with. This can mean stuffing their stocking with an entire box of their favorite everyday pen from the stationery store (I’m fond of the Pilot Precise V5 extra fine, personally), or investing in a lovely refillable pen that they’ll cherish for years to come. Many writers are members of the cult of the fountain pen, and the sea of colorful inks they can use, but there are also rollerball and ballpoint pens that come with nice gift boxes and refills available. I recommend Goulet Pens for their enormous selection, informational videos, and excellent customer service, but an online search will also net you the name of your nearest stationery store that stocks pens and pen supplies.

If you’re looking to gift your favorite writer (or aspiring writer) with a new writing program for their computer, check out Scrivener. Many authors swear by this multi-faceted program that allows writers to compile their story in any way they wish — linearly, piecemeal, etc. — and include research, references, and inspirational photos all in a single file. The program is available for both Mac and PC, and can be found at Literature and Latte, along with helpful video tutorials.

Whether a writer prefers to write longhand or on the computer or a combination of both, they can always use a pocket-sized notebook on hand to jot down ideas or bits of information when they come across it. I love these little Field Notes notebooks. They’re sturdy enough to take a bit of throwing around, but not so precious that you worry if a corner gets bent or the cover gets a coffee stain on it. They come with your choice of interior — lined, plain, or graph paper — or you can purchase a combo pack.

Books for Writers

I’ve a few go-to writing books that I recommend when asked or during presentations. This year I’ve added a new favorite to the bunch: Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. It’s a quiet little book that’s part memoir, part advice for how to navigate the challenges of a creative practice.

A similar-yet-different book that I’ve recommended for years is Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers. See comes down more on the advice side of things, with a number of practical tips for writers regarding things to consider before they even get a book deal.

For a book that focuses more on craft, check out The Making of Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante. This big, detailed book includes both exercises and readings, just as you might expect from a Norton book of this type.

More General Books

Whether you’re looking to give a book to a reader who just reads or one who writes as well, book subscriptions or mystery boxes can be a fun way to go. Book Riot currently has a book package on offer featuring four of the best books (by their estimation) of 2015, all of which they believe have flown somewhat under the radar (meaning it’s less likely someone’s already read them all). The book also includes three bookish-items (think tote bags, magnets with book covers on them, etc.). They also have a seasonal subscription that features a new bookish box quarterly, and a second one focused on young adult books.

Or create your own! Pick a few of your favorite reads from the year and assemble a box with some other bookish treats — tea and shortbread, a fun bookish bag, a small reading lap, etc.

Other Odds and Ends

If you don’t want to go the obvious route (reading and writing), think about some of the other things a reader or writer might appreciate. My favorites include:

Coffee or tea: One or the other is likely to please. Make up a nice gift basket or fill a stocking with an assortment pack.

Gift certificates: For a massage, manicure and/or pedicure, or anything else that will ease them after hours at a desk.

The gift of time: Promise them a break to read or write while you take their kids out for the day; provide them with a professional housecleaning; or give them a long weekend in a nearby inn or hotel, either to relax or to get their manuscript done.

Friday Links: Holiday Gifts for Readers and Writers


Happy Friday! We’re two weeks from Christmas, smack in the middle of Hanukkah, and on day 11 of the December Writing Challenge. All of which says to me that most people are probably extremely busy.

In terms of the challenge, I’m simply going to remind you to make some writing dates for yourself over the weekend. Call up your writing friends and arrange to meet for hot chocolate and a couple of writing sprints, or schedule some solo writing time. Put your writing dates in your phone and/or planner, set alerts to remind yourself, and treat them the way you would any other important appointment. Good luck!

As for this week’s Friday Links, I have all sorts to share. Unsurprisingly, we’re slipping into the “best of” time of year, when all the lists of books start popping up. Even though they can get a bit out of hand, I still always love checking them out to see if I might discover a great title that flew under my radar earlier in the year. So yes, I’ve got a few lists in the links. But there’s also ideas for holiday shopping, as well as the typical writerly/bookish stuff. I hope they make for an enjoyable break or tangent today or at some point over the weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Best Books of 2015: The NPR App – One of my favorites when in comes to these annual lists. This covers all sorts of genres and interests, and allows you to winnow the list if you’re looking for the best of a particular type of read.

26 Brilliant Gifts Only English Nerds Will Appreciate – Some great ideas for the writers and/or readers in your life.

American Publishers Put Out Significantly Fewer Works in Translation in 2015 – A look at the major dip in this segment of the publishing industry.

The Best of the Bests: Ranking the 2015 Best Books Lists – Brooklyn Magazine sorts through some of the many lists out there.

30 Gifts Under $30 for Writers and Book Lovers – More fun ideas.

Notes from a Bookseller Under Pressure – On selling books through the holidays.

The Best Diverse YA Books of 2015 – An excellent round-up.

One Goal to Rule them All: Five Things to Consider before You Write an Epic Fantasy – Some wonderful advice regarding all the balls you need to juggle writing in this sub-genre.

Friday Links: Literary Leveling Up

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week, and that you’re getting lots of writing done through the December Writing Challenge. I’ve kept an eye out for some particularly inspiring links in order to give you an extra push to keep those words flowing. Reach a little higher, strive a little harder. But I’ll be back a bit later with the day’s official pep talk, so for now I’ll just wish you a productive day and a wonderful weekend. Happy writing!

23 Short Story Competitions in 2016 – Mark your calendars and plan your strategies now.

Five Ray Bradbury Stories that Tell Us Everything We Need to Know about Writing – Bradbury always makes for a good read, and if you can learn something, even better.

Important Infrequently Used Words to Know – Frequency of use probably varies, but this is a fun list for vocabulary building (or learning how to spell that word you’ve only ever heard aloud).

Molly Crabapple: My Life in a Parisian Bookstore – The artist and author shares her experiences in Shakespeare and Company.

How the Ballpoint Pen Changed Handwriting – An intriguing peek into the mechanics of writing.

The Millions: A Year in Reading 2015 – Every year The Millions gathers reading wrap-ups from authors and contributors, racking up a terrific collection of diverse book recommendations. Keep checking back, as they will continue to add posts until the end of the year.

Eli Horowitz Wants to Teach You How to Read – The former managing editor of McSweeney’s wants to change the world of books (again).

Friday Links: Late-and-Lazy Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Yesterday, instead of posting my usual Friday links, I spent the day napping, reading, and eating leftovers. However, it was not my intention to take the entire weekend off from this blog, so here I am with some belated linkage and a two-part announcement/reminder.

Those of you who have frequented this blog for some time know that as NaNoWriMo comes to a close, I like to let participants know that, while I applaud and encourage your November writing efforts, I don’t want to see queries for them come the start of December. With very few exceptions, what you’re writing for your NaNo novel is a draft only — a first draft — and likely also too short to be considered a novel unless you’ve exceeded your 50,000-word goal. What you have is a starting point; please take that and finish it. Lengthen, reread, revise, send to critique partners, and revise some more. I’m happy to hear about your fabulous book, but only once you’re done making it fabulous.

The second part of my announcement is that for the past several years I’ve issued my own little writing challenge for the month of December. I like to encourage writers to take that NaNoWriMo momentum and run with it. Or, if you didn’t participate, to dig in during this busy month and find a way to develop new writing habits so that, when the new year kicks off with all its resolutions and goals, you’ll be well on your way to making them a reality. So look out for the official challenge post on Monday.

But now for the links. A little late, but hopefully no less enjoyable for it. Wishing you a lovely rest of the weekend. Happy writing!

Make It Now: The Rise of the Present Tense in Fiction – Interesting look at this growing trend.

Want to Be an Artist? First Go a Little Nuts – Korean novelist Young-ha Kim on letting creativity stem from play.

Podcast: Master Class with Winnie Holzman – A chat between screenwriters Winnie Holzman (MY SO-CALLED LIFE) and Jason Katims (ROSWELL, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS).

Ever Wonder Why Americans of the 1930s and 40s Spoke with an Accent? – An intriguing peek at what is sometimes thought of as movie-speak.

Neil Gaiman on Storytelling in the Age of the Internet and Other Oddities – Gaiman talks about how storytelling has changed as a result of social media and other modern conveniences.

12 Authors You’ll Love No Matter Your Favorite Genre – Great list.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Published in a Literary Magazine – A look inside the process, plus tips on navigating the system.

25 Outstanding Podcasts for Readers – Great places to hear about new books, new authors, and other reader-ish pleasures.

Friday Links: From First Drafts to Engaging with Readers


These days Friday feels like just one more herald of the coming of year’s end. Work weeks are busy and weekends are filled with attempts to catch up not just with additional work but with every single thing I intend to accomplish before 2016 rolls around. Anyone else feeling that same sense of speeding up to fit everything in before the holidays hit?

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, this weekend marks the one-week point. Don’t think about being ahead or behind, just get those words down. Write, write, write, and the editing and polishing will come later. Remember that everyone’s first draft is pretty crappy, no matter whether you’re writing to a deadline or just working your way through the story at a leisurely pace. First drafts are just a jumping-off point.

Whether or not you’re swamped with NaNo and a long to-do list, I hope you’ll take a few moments to check out some of this week’s links. They range from entertaining to practical, and there should be something to appeal to everyone. Enjoy, and happy writing!

21 Invaluable Writing Tips from Renowned British Writers – Some excellent advice here.

Scrivener for NaNoWriMo – Some great tips on using the writing program to organize and work through your NaNo novel.

Scrivener NaNoWriMo Offers – Discounts on the writing software in honor of NaNoWriMo; either 20% off now, or 50% later if you complete NaNo.

My 2.5 Star Trip to Amazon’s Bizarre New Bookstore – Amazon opened their first brick-and-mortar shop this week in Seattle. One visitor’s thoughts.

Want a Jane Austen Quote Delivered to You Everyday? – A new app for Jane Austen fans.

The Book Seer – A fun new online tool that recommends books based on the last one you read (and presumably liked).

Walter Dean Myers, Writing White, and Affirmation – One writer learns to put herself into her work.

What Do Writers Owe Readers? – A thoughtful look at the reader/writer dynamic, and the level of expectation that sometimes seems to come from having read an author’s work.