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Bookish Writing Prompts and Reading Lists for the Dog-eared Days of Summer

Wed, Jul 29, 2020

Written by: Kelsey Ford

If you’re spending your pandemic summer trying to write a novel or find your next favorite book, the Bookish in the ‘Burgh team is here to help! Below you’ll find some writing insight about crafting authentic characters, featured book recommendations, and a list of resources for future Bookish fun.

Happy reading and writing!


As all of you writers know, even the most exciting and thrilling plot idea means nothing without characters that feel real and make readers want to cheer them on and follow them through an entire story or novel. Some of my favorite advice about character creation comes from the brilliant Dhonielle Clayton, author of many books, including THE BELLES, COO of the amazing nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, co-founder of CAKE Literary, and co-host of the writing podcast Deadline City with Zoraida Córdova.

On Deadline City, Dhonielle talks extensively about the idea that every character has at least one major metaphorical bruise or wound that it is the author’s job to press on throughout the story. This is different from a character’s “fatal flaw”; it’s more like the one life experience or self-doubt or aspect that triggers an emotional or physical reaction from them time and time again.

Can you identify the bruise(s) that your main character has in your story or novel? How does your character react when you press on that bruise?

Another related tip that Dhonielle discusses is understanding that most of us humans have at least three topics that come up for us all the time, no matter what situation we’re in, and that our characters should have these three things circulating around them as well. These could be things like family, religion, body image, identity, hopes and dreams, past trauma, etc. Do you understand your characters well enough to know the three things that are always at the top of their minds? Try digging deeper into the minds of the characters in your stories or novels this summer. The more you understand your characters as the writer, the more authentic they will seem to your readers.


I read about 150-200 books each year, so when we hit the halfway point of the calendar year, I like to take stock and look at the books I’ve read so far to see which ones have really stuck with me as favorites. I’ve outlined some favorites below out of the 115 books I’ve read so far in 2020. What books have been your favorites this year?


by Aiden Thomas Release Date: September 1, 2020

CEMETERY BOYS should 100% be on your pre-order list for this September. I devoured this book in less than 24 hours. It’s an amazing contemporary fantasy book centering around Yadriel, who is determined to prove to his traditional Latinx family that he is a real brujo even though they have problems accepting his gender. I loved the family dynamics, setting, and romance in this book, but I especially loved the magic. Author Aiden Thomas talked about the magic on the Socially Distant Book Fest panel “New Voice in YA Science Fiction & Fantasy” (which the Bookish team highly recommends that you check out), and it resonated with me so much. Aiden shared that the magic in Cemetery Boys knows who you are. It’s not binary. It sees you, the real you, and understands your fullest identity. You will love this book. You can preorder here.

Today Tonight Tomorrow

by Rachel Lynn Solomon Release Date: July 28, 2020

As fans of Bookish know, Rachel was one of the authors at the first Bookish festival in 2019, and the Bookish team LOVES her work. This is Rachel’s first step into YA contemporary romance, and it’s amazing. Academic rivals Rowan and Neil have to team up during a high-stakes scavenger hunt on their last day of senior year, and over the twenty-four hours of the scavenger hunt, their relationship transforms from enemies to friends to maybe something more. While this book is light and swoony, there are also beautiful, raw moments about class, Jewish identity, and fear of the future. I loved this book so much that I’ve already read it twice this year. Purchase here.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

by Jessica Kim Release Date: March 17, 2020

For all of our pre-teen Bookish fans, this is one of my favorite middle-grade novels of the year. Yumi Chung is an aspiring stand-up comedian trying to overcome her #shygirlproblems and gain confidence as a performer. When a case of mistaken identity allows her to participate in a summer comedy camp for kids, hilarious adventurous and monumental personal growth ensues. Purchase here.

This Is My America

by Kim Johnson Release Date: July 28, 2020

Described as Dear Martin meets Just Mercy, this is one of the most impressive debut books I’ve ever read. The story centers around Tracy Beaumont, a seventeen-year-old desperate for legal help for her father, who is an innocent Black man on death row. When Tracy’s older brother is accused of killing a white girl, the Beaumont family faces the backlash of systematic racism that exists in their town’s history, but also in their town’s present. I highly, highly recommend this book. Purchase here.

Verona Comics

by Jennifer Dugan Release Date: April 21, 2020

On the surface, Verona Comics is a funny queer YA rom com that centers around the glorious geekery of the comic industry; however, this book is so much more than that. Exploring mental health and codependency in romantic relationships, the realistic love story between teens Jubilee and Ridley will resonate with so many readers. Purchase here.


As always, there is plenty of other virtual Bookish fun for you to enjoy. Sign up for the monthly Bookish in the ‘Burgh email newsletter for more book recommendations from our Teen Ambassadors, writing prompts, info about virtual bookish events, and more. You can also follow the Bookish in the ‘Burgh Goodreads page for additional book recommendations from the Bookish team.

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