From Category: Reference Sites
Novelist and creative writing professor Susan Straight created this book recommendation list at StoryMaps, organized by the location in America that is the novel's setting or cultural milieu. View the map to find a book for a particular place, or browse her essays about the 11 cultural regions into which the Library is sorted. "The idea for this 'library of America' was born in 2016, when the news and the elections told of a country being irrevocably divided by politics, by ideas of red and blue, by arguments over who is American and who is not. For me, those arguments ignored the vast geography of our stories and novels, the ways people search for belonging, leave home or stay, and how every state is really many places. Those arguments also ignored our common dreams, fears, challenges, hopes and everyday experiences, which unite us, regardless of where we live," she says in this May 2023 Los Angeles Times opinion piece about the project.
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Editor of Writer's Digest. In this September 2019 post on their website, he defines 100 common publishing terms such as simultaneous submissions, work for hire, log line, and much more. Useful for understanding contest guidelines and publication contracts.
Artvee offers free, downloadable, high-res images of public domain art from museums around the world. Great for book covers.
The Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature at the University of Florida offers 7,000 children's books to read online or download for free, spanning the 19th century to the 1950s.
BlackFacts is an online portal for Black history and culture, offering a searchable historical database, video profiles of important figures and events, and a current events newsfeed drawn from over 160 news sources in the UK, US, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Bloomsbury's free online guide for unpublished writers gives wise advice: "An enquiry letter should be business-like. Don't grovel ('it would be an honour to be published by so distinguished a firm'), don't make jokes ('my Mum says it's smashing, but maybe you'll think she's prejudiced'), don't be aggressive ('I have chosen you to publish my book, kindly send me your terms by return')." Also free on the site, links to UK and Irish agents, US agents, and a searchable online database of cultural reference books.
Book Traces is a project of the University of Virginia. They scan and digitize interesting margin jottings and other objects left inside old books. As libraries de-accession copies of books that are not rare or widely read, pieces of history are being lost. The curators say, "Thousands of old library books bear fascinating traces of the past. Readers wrote in their books, and left pictures, letters, flowers, locks of hair, and other things between their pages. We need your help identifying them in the stacks of academic libraries. Together we can find out more about what books were and how they were used by their original owners, while also proving the value of maintaining rich print collections in our libraries."
Parents, educators, and teenagers will benefit from the New York Public Library's list of recommended YA books about gender identity, last updated in 2015. These fiction and nonfiction books can help schools create a more welcoming and diverse environment.
Digital marketing blogger Dave Chesson a/k/a the Kindlepreneur shares links to his favorite character name generator websites, as well as advice on picking the right name for your character's age, time period, personality, and book genre.
Comics Experience bills itself as "the world's most effective online comics school". This archive on their site was established by Tim Simmons to give aspiring comics writers a guide to the conventions of the genre. It includes a script template and many examples, including some by notable authors like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Grant Morrison.
A project of Karen Yin, the writer/editor behind the popular "AP vs. Chicago" copyeditors' website, Conscious Style Guide is a simple and accessible community resource for anyone curious or serious about conscious language. In one place, you can access style guides covering terminology for various communities and find links to key articles debating usage. Categories include ability/disability, gender, age, appearance, ethnicity, and more.
The Contemporary Irish Literature Resource Network brings together Irish writers and academics to increase critical study of new Irish literature. Their blog features reviews of notable new books.
A monthly membership fee of $10 buys an e-newsletter subscription and access to the Daily Writing Tips archive with hundreds of articles on grammar, style, word usage, and spelling. Articles are grouped by broad category (e.g. Vocabulary or Business Writing) but not easily searchable by topic.
DeepL Translate is an online translation tool (similar to Google Translate) with both free and paid versions. The advanced option lets you translate MS Word and PowerPoint files without ruining the formatting.
The Digital Transgender Archive is an online compendium of source materials and original documents of transgender history, including oral histories, periodicals, correspondence, and activist pamphlets and posters. Invaluable for researching your historical novel or writing characters outside your personal experience of gender and sexuality.
The Diversity Style Guide is a resource to help journalists and other media professionals cover a complex, multicultural world with accuracy, authority, and sensitivity. This guide, a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University, brings together definitions and information from more than two dozen style guides, journalism organizations, and other resources.
This alphabetized online compendium of nearly 50,000 quotations on 2,500 topics is the work of Dr. Mardy Grothe, author of literary reference books on metaphors, oxymorons, and other rhetorical devices.
Keyword-search through 200 million articles from over 4,000 newspaper titles at Elephind, a free database. Most publications are from the US and Australia, with some from Mexico and Japan.
The Ritman Library in Amsterdam, also known as the Embassy of the Free Mind, is the world's largest library of occult books, with some 25,000 texts on topics such as Hermetics, Rosicrucians, Theosophy, alchemy, mysticism, Gnosis and Western Esotericism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Anthroposophy, Catharism, Freemasonry, Manichaeism, Judaica, the Grail, Esotericism, and comparative religion. They are in the process of digitizing their collection, a free online archive that will eventually make the contents of the library accessible to all. Partially funded by author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), the archive is seeking more sponsors and volunteers to complete the project.
Enigma Public bills itself as the world's broadest collection of public data. Signup is free. Search a wide variety of state, national, and international government data on health, finance, public works, science, population demographics, and more. There are also databases from famous museums, research universities, major corporations and trade associations, and international institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations.
ExpertAccess is a membership group offering discounted rates for freelance writers to purchase access to LexisNexis, a premium subscription database of U.S. case law, statutes, and news articles. Writers also receive training in how to use LexisNexis.
Food Timeline is a free open-access archive and research service about culinary history. It is maintained by Lynne Olver, a reference librarian in New Jersey. Fiction writers can use the site to fact-check historically accurate cuisine for their book's setting and time period. Email questions are typically answered within 24 hours. Read a feature about Food Timeline on the blog of the literary journal Ploughshares.
From abcedarian to zeugma, this is one of the best poetry glossaries we've seen. Hosted by Robert Shubinski, it provides definitions, pronunciation guides, examples and cross-references. Browse through poetry's wide array of techniques, styles and themes. A great place to get ideas.
The Poetry Foundation provides this glossary of poetic terms, with links to examples by outstanding contemporary and classic poets.
Google Lit Trips is a computer-based resource that uses satellite and street view data from Google Maps to visualize the travel routes of characters in hundreds of great books for readers of all ages. Parents and educators can use Google Lit Trips to enliven lessons about geography, history, and foreign cultures.
Have you ever used the word "flaunt" when you meant "flout"? Unsure about the difference between "affect" and "effect"? This cleanly laid out reference site provides an alphabetical list of commonly confused word pairs, with explanations of appropriate usage. Other features include a list of idioms with their meaning and history, and basic rules of grammar and spelling.
Have you had a poem published in an amateur or "vanity" poetry anthology, which you would like to find again? The Library of Congress website gives you tips and links to start tracking down your poem in various reference archives, as well as advice for avoiding contest scams.
Iowa State University maintains this website featuring definitions of over 30 early musical instruments, with illustrations and audio clips. Writers of historical fiction will find this site useful for fact-checking or just creating a mood while they envision their characters' next adventure.
Historica Canada (formerly the Historica Dominion Institute) is a national nonprofit that helps Canadians connect with their country's history, culture, civic institutions, and democratic values. The site includes oral histories, aboriginal arts, lesson plans for educators, and the "Heritage Minutes" series of short documentary videos.
The New York Public Library's website features this growing archive of 17,000+ restaurant menus from the 1850s through today. A good resource for historical fiction writers to discover notable restaurants from their book's era and what the characters might have eaten.
Affect or effect? Riffle or rifle? Even experienced authors are tripped up by common words and phrases that are often mistaken for each other. Kris Spisak's blog highlights hundreds of these and explains their etymology to help you remember proper usage.
On this website, you can catalog your books online and connect to other readers who share your interests.
LibraryThing is a service that allows members to catalog and search the books they own. Members can also participate in discussion forums, such as Name That Book, which helps you remember the title and author of a book you can describe but can't name.
Doug Metzger's ambitious podcast introduces listeners to the foundational works of Anglophone literature, explained in historical context, starting with its roots in Ancient Near East and Greco-Roman texts. The website includes songs, quizzes, and a bookstore. Read an article about the podcast at LitHub.
Literature-Map is a project of Gnod, the Global Network of Discovery. Type in a favorite author's name to generate a cluster of other authors with a similar fan base. The more people like an author and another author, the closer together these two authors will move on the Literature-Map. It's a fun way to find additional books to read in your favorite sub-genre.
Visual history of war, religion, and government. Animated maps show the rise and fall of empires over the centuries.
These lively short videos from dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster discuss the origins of words and resolve common questions of grammar and usage. Is "irregardless" a real word? What is the correct plural of "octopus"? How do you use singular "they" grammatically? Now you will know.
MetPublications, the book and catalog shop of New York's famed Metropolitan Museum of Art, has made over 600 books available to read online or download, with full text and illustrations.
Located in Brooklyn, this research library and private collection surveys the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture. It makes available a collection of books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts relating to medical museums, anatomical art, collectors and collecting, cabinets of curiosity, the history of medicine, death and mortality, memorial practice, art and natural history, arcane media, and more. The accompanying website includes links to other resources on these topics. (Photographs on the site may disturb the squeamish.)
This free online forum for mystery writers includes boards for writing advice, the publishing business (agents, conferences, and trends), and crowdsourced research about how crimes are committed and solved. Wondering about courtroom procedure, legal ethics, or how various weapons and poisons work? Ask the forum.
Narrative Magazine, a well-regarded online journal, offers this free-to-access directory of links to literary conferences, books and articles with advice about writing, and degree programs in writing and publishing.
Not just for September 24 (the official date of this unofficial holiday), the National Punctuation Day site includes useful links to books, articles and websites to improve your grammar and punctuation. Never mix up "you're" and "your" again.
Search nearly 1,000 online reference works at once. Get definitions, translations, rhymes, synonyms, antonyms, encyclopedia articles and more. Fast and practical. A good place to start any research project.
OneLook is a search engine that aggregates word definitions from over 1,000 dictionaries. There is also a reverse dictionary search function, in which you can enter keywords to describe a concept, and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept.
Find out the origins of thousands of English words. Discovering how different words are interconnected can prompt some creative juxtapositions in your writing.
Etymology is the study of word origins and how vocabulary has changed over the centuries. This free reference site gathers data from several accepted etymology guides to create a searchable database. Blog entries on the site cover topics such as the development of modern English spelling, principles of etymology, and how to spot fake word derivations.
Conversion calculators for currency, clothing, cooking, computers, and weights and measures of all kinds. A gigabyte, for example, is 1,024 megabytes. The year MCMLXXXXIX is 1999. And in the kitchen, six drops make a pinch.
Onym's reference site collects resources to help you generate catchy and appropriate names for fictional characters, places, or products. In addition to the usual dictionaries, thesaurus, and baby name lists, Onym includes profession-specific glossaries (e.g. legal, nautical, and mathematical terms), historic slang, world mythology, and random word generators. (However, political sensitivity and avoiding cultural appropriation are up to you.)
Educational media website Open Culture provides this archive of over 500 literary classics available as free e-book downloads for your computer or mobile device. Genres include poetry, literary novels, science fiction, philosophy, and children's stories. There are also links to other free e-book libraries.