Blogging with Steph, Who Is Maybe Genius

In the course of internet wanderings though, I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, my readers, I give you the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.

Today's guest is S.E. Sinkhorn, who writes both speculative and contemporary YA fiction, and was the 2010 runner-up for the Katherine Paterson Prize for YA & Children’s Writing. She loves cyborgs, alternate universes, wily heroines, and cookies.

So you run an excellent blog over at Maybe Genius. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?

Thank you! I started out as your usual writer-who-wanted-to-record-her-journey about two years ago. From my own daily writing musings, it evolved into crafting tips and publishing news, as these things tend to do. About a year ago, I decided to turn my focus over to YA literature, because it’s what I write and what I’m passionate about. I wanted to create a space where “mind meets heart.” I believe young adult literature can be so powerful, so important, and so GOOD. I wanted to stay away from jumping on trends and “cashing in” on the YA craze and focus more on building strong, well-crafted stories.

I know a lot of aspiring writers who are intimidated by the idea of blogging.  They want to, but they are worried it will cut into their (already precious) writing time.  You're a prolific blogger - how do you recommend one be both a successful blogger and writer?

Plan ahead, heh. I keep a long list of possible topics. That way, I always have a subject to turn to when it’s time to write a post. I only blog three days a week. I keep my posts fairly short – I can usually bang out 500-1000 word posts in about an hour. If time’s really tight, I write posts ahead of time (usually on weekends) and schedule them. It’s also 100% okay to give yourself time off. I just took a month-long hiatus so I could finish my current draft. It dips your readership, sure, but your writing comes first. Even more important: only blog if you really enjoy it. If it’s a chore, don’t do it. Write.

It looks like you’re a big reader - do you set aside time for that?

Definitely. I am completely behind the idea that you must read to be a writer. It’s important to me to know what’s currently out there in YA lit, so I make time for it. It’s not all I read, but it makes up the bulk of my reading habit. I’m also constantly in search of the diamonds in the rough, and you can’t find them unless you look.

Do you think blogging is a helpful self-marketing tool?

Tough question. Yes and no, because it depends on how you use it. I blog for writers. Writers will certainly be interested in any book I put out, but they’re not my target audience. I don’t think blogs really work as “marketing” unless you’re targeting the people who will buy your book. I definitely think successful blogs increase sales, but as to how much, I couldn’t say. If I find an agent and sell my current manuscript (*fingers crossed*), I may toy with the idea of creating a second, more targeted blog.

What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?

Oh, tons:

Agent Mary Kole's Blog
Nathan Bransford's Site
Absolute Write
Publisher's Marketplace
Shelf Awareness

On Writing by Stephen King
Writing the Breakout Novel (and workbook) by Donald Maas

How’s that for recommendations? :D

What is your genre, and what led you to it? Does your genre influence the style of your blog?

I write Speculative and Contemporary fiction for young adults, and yes, it absolutely influences the style and content of my blog. It’s the main focus, really :)

Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?

All the usual advice about writing what you love and screw the trends and all that, but also: don’t sacrifice (or straight-up refuse to learn) craft because you think rules are for squares or something. Don’t. It doesn’t matter how amazing or original your idea is if you can’t skillfully transfer it to the page. Yes, successful authors break rules all the time. They also know what they’re doing. Be careful not to confuse “breaking the rules” with “it’s too much work to learn them, so I won’t.”