Interview with author Shannon A. Thompson about blogging

I interviewed Shannon A. Thompson, an author, poet, and blogger who writes about writing and publishing. She is the author of the YA series The Timely Death Trilogy. She helped me out with a journalism class project, and I thought her answers and advice were so good that I decided to post them here. Enjoy!

1. What prompted you to start blogging? Why blog on that topic? 

I began blogging in 2012 when I decided I wanted to get re-involved with the publishing community. I’d been involved before—back in 2007—but that was a different time. There were no eBooks, for instance. The first thing I noticed was how much bigger (and better) things had become after everyone (writers, cover artists, editors, readers, etc.) found one another, mainly through blogging. So, I started my own blog. Granted, I had no idea what I would blog about. At first, I started blogging about books, music, and movies, but I quickly noticed that my followers responded to my writing tips the most, so I continued to focus on that.

2. What are the goals and intent of the blog? What types of subjects are featured in the blog?

I didn’t necessarily have any goals when it came to blogging. I simply wanted to find my people, and I loved writing anyway, so blogging was a way to combine those two aspects of my life. The topics changed over time, but I mainly focus on what my followers want me to discuss the most.

3. How do you communicate with your followers? What types of responses have followers  given to postings?

I respond to every comment on every article. I often read other blogs, too. Communicating goes both ways; so does blogging. Thankfully, I mainly receive positive responses. I have received a few negative ones in the past, but as long as they are constructive (and not trolling), I don’t mind. We can all debate a topic. But trolls aren’t allowed. I delete anything that doesn’t add to the conversation in a mindful way, because I want my website to be a fun and safe place for readers and writers alike. It creates extra work, but I believe it’s worth it.

4. How do you promote the blog? What works best and worst?

I don’t really promote my blog, to be honest. In fact, I’ve had to slow down over the years. When I first started, I blogged every other day for two years straight. It was a lot of work, and I eventually realized that my time could be better spent elsewhere. Also, followers tend to enjoy less updates than more, so I cut down overtime. I’m currently blogging once a week now, and I love it just as much. In fact, I think it’s more productive with fewer postings. But I share my weekly posts across my author platform, mainly Facebook and Twitter.

5. What new things have you learned about the world and your field of interest because of the blog? What would you do differently if starting a blog today?

As stated above, I’d probably blog less than I originally blogged, because that time can be spent working on your craft. (Then again, maybe that’s why it grew so fast. It’s hard to say.) In my case, once I had an audience, I was able to spend more time writing books by cutting down on blogging. But I will always have a blog. My blog has connected me with some amazing people, and those amazing people changed my life. In fact, my current publisher and I shared a connection through my blog, and I think that helped when we decided to work together. Blogging can open amazing doors. (Even if those doors are invisible and on the Internet.)

6. What suggestions do you have for students and others who want to blog?

Start! The best part of blogging is that it is easy, simple, and free. You don’t have to own a URL or get a custom-made website right up front. Just start, and see where it goes. You’ll find your way.

What’s in a Name?

You may or may not have noticed, but my blog has recently changed names. I’ve actually never liked what it originally was: just my full name, Susannah Ailene Martin. Initially, I named it after myself for marketing purposes. I was creating a brand (or something like that). But then, I read all these wonderful blogs with inventive, funny, or creative name. Then there was mine. Just my name. Yay.

So I changed it. Now it is “Susannah Contra Mundum.” If you haven’t gone to google it yet, that means simply “Susannah Against the World” in Latin. The story of the name actually tracks back to a man from early Christian history named Athanasius*. He was a staunch opponent of a rather nasty, and unfortunately popular, heresy called Arianism, which essentially said that Jesus was just a creation, the best one mind you, but not one with God. When asked why he wouldn’t give in when it seemed like the whole world opposed him, Athanasius famously replied, “Then it is Athanasius against the world.”

I read the story of Athanasius in one of the essays in the giant C.S. Lewis book I finished over the summer, and it struck me: I can relate to him. Maybe I’m wrong, but it certainly feels like the world is against me and anyone who commits to the traditional morals of Christianity. It’s not popular to oppose gay marriage or abortion. Most people will look at you funny these days if you’re almost 20 years old like me and still a virgin. But I want to follow Christ and his teachings. I believe Jesus Christ is my eternal savior, that he bore my sins (along with the rest of the world’s) and died for me. The least I can do is follow the simple commands he left us in the Bible.

It’s never easy going against the world, but I’m willing to do it. And I hope there are a few of you out there who are willing to go along with me. I’ll mess up, sure. But I’m leaving this name on this site as a sort of promise. Feel free to call me out on it if you ever sense me wavering. I’ll count it as a favor.

* Other than the Athanasius connection, I also like the symmetry of giving this blog a similar name to my other one, Me Against the Page, which is my sorely neglected writing blog. It has it’s own What’s in a Name post which you can read.

My Biggest Flaw

Those of you who have been around my blog long enough already know what my biggest flaw is. You know how annoying it is that every once in a while, I’ll do a post every day, and then you won’t see me again for a month. That’s because my biggest vice is my lack of consistency.

There are so many things I want to do, but hesitate to begin because I will be required to be consistent about something. Personally, I would like to blog every day. I’m sure there are those of you who remember my ill-fated attempt to do NaBloPoMo, so you know how that turned out. It’s not even lack of ideas that stops me from blogging a lot. Lord knows my brain wouldn’t keep me up until three in the morning if that were the case. I just… get distracted and forget about it. Honestly, how I have over 400 followers on this blog I have no idea.

I would also like to keep up with my literary magazine, Estuary. But I’ve been neglecting that for far too long. I’m not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to give myself a weekly schedule on that thing. That worked for about a week and a half. At this point, I think it would be better to shut it down than to keep it open, but not deliver on the promise of getting back to people.

I want to finish working on the novel projects I’m doing. I want to finish the three books that I’m in the middle of. I need to finish rewriting the first one, so I can get the dang thing published already. Writer’s block is something of an excuse for the first few, but I can’t even use that for the rewrite, because it’s not a matter of coming up with the story from scratch; I just have to write it better (which, now that I think about it, is just as nerve-wracking). In the same vein, I know that if I want to be a successful author, I’m going to need to use my author page on Facebook more often, or my fans (when I have them) will forget me. Right now, Facebook is screaming at me that I haven’t used that page in 6 days.

I would like to use the excuse “I don’t have time,” but as most people who use that excuse frequently know (at least on the inside), that it’s a lie. I do have time, but I fill it with other things. I read, I binge-watch my favorite shows, I write other stuff.

I think my main problem is that I’m too easily distracted. I’m easily entertained, which is why I can just stare at the ceiling for hours while thinking through a new idea. But I’m also easily bored. Or rather, I get bored fast. I find the idea of sitting anywhere doing the same thing for days or weeks on end is horrifying. It’s part of the reason that I like writing and coming up with stories so much. Although the physical action of me curled up on the couch with my laptop is essentially the same, it’s never the same place in my own mind.

Now it’s all well and good to realize the problem, but what am I supposed to do with the knowledge. Honestly, I have no flipping idea. It feels like I have a diagnosis, but no cure. It’s simple enough to say “Well, you just have to apply yourself more,” but if it was that easy, I wouldn’t be in this situation. And applying myself more won’t fix the boredom issue. Even college, which I greatly enjoy, gets boring after a while of doing the same thing every day.

I feel like I need more motivation than I currently have. The only thing I’ve noticed that’s helped (at least so far) is putting what I’m doing out there for the world to see. It’s the reason I’ve kept working on the story I’ve been writing the last few weeks, and it’s also the reason I keep coming back to this blog. But I don’t want to do that with everything I work on, because then it would feel like I’m doing it at the point of spear. And that will suck the fun right out of it, I’m sure.

Is this what adulthood is like? If so, I think I want a refund.

Apologies

Clearly, I sort of bombed the whole “post everyday” thing in November. I made it less than two weeks. Sorry…

But, I had a good reason. That reason is the reason that everyone who’s ever been in school can understand: finals. I got lost in the business of studying for my finals, which actually weren’t spectacularly difficult in retrospect (probably because I studied so much). In fact, I can really only think of one final that was in any way challenging. The last final I had was a two hour, two essay test for my honors Western Civilization. I’m sure you can imagine the hand cramps. But I made all A’s!

I tell you this to try to come up with a good excuse for messing up NaBloPoMo. And it’s a pretty good excuse, if I do say so myself. However, I’ve been on break since December 10th, so there’s no good reason for me to have been neglecting my blog since then. But I’m going to try to give you one anyway.

You know that awkward moment when you’ve failed at something and you feel so guilty about failing that you don’t want to go back and try to keep doing it. Yeah, that’s kind of how I’ve been feeling. I, like most people, don’t like admitting that I’ve failed at something, even if it’s just a stupid blog writing thing that I imposed on myself.

So, I’ve been avoiding you. Sorry?

In any case, I can’t keep avoiding my readers forever, especially when I keep getting notifications that people are still reading my posts even when I’m not posting anything new. Seriously though, you guys are awesome.

In other news, Happy New Year! My New Year’s Resolution is obviously to not neglect my blog as much.

Wish me luck!

How to Be a Good Blog Reader

I’m doing things a bit differently today. I figured my other blog shouldn’t languish while this one enjoys the fruits of NaBloPoMo. Me Against the Page is my writing blog. I haven’t had much of a chance to update it recently, so I thought it deserved a few new words on the page. I hope you all like it.

Me Against the Page

I’ve been reading and writing blogs for a while now. When I first started out, I looked up advice on how to be a good blogger. And I found some. Actually, I found a lot of advice, most of it contradicting the advice of the last guy. Some people said to make your posts short, some said long. Some bloggers said to avoid controversy, some said to embrace it. However, I don’t want to write yet another one of those posts. I don’t think myself qualified to talk on such a subject, and quite honestly, I don’t want to add to the already confusing mass of blog writing posts that already exists in cyberspace.

I want to do things a little differently. In that spirit, here is my advice on how to be a good blog reader.

1. Read the Posts

This may seem obvious to some of you, but…

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