Jennifer Hubbard is the author of The Secret Year and the upcoming Try Not to Breathe. I first met Jennifer online as part of the 2009 Debutantes. Later I was lucky to be seated next to her at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival. It is through her blog, though, that I feel I have really gotten to know her as a writer. Like Melissa and Cynthia before her, she responded to my interview questions with the qualities that she brings to her blog: thoughtfulness and honesty.
JH: I started blogging late in 2007. My main reason was that it seemed like fun. On a secondary level, I did think maybe I could network also. But the format really appealed to me: short, essay-like messages that you could post on your own schedule, with or without pictures, videos, links, etc. It’s quite versatile, which is why I think blogs are still around.
MFB: When I read your blog, I know I am going to get something smart, something to which you’ve given a lot of consideration. I know you also have a very lighthearted side. Did you make a conscious decision to have a more thoughtful rather than silly blog?
JH: Well, thank you! The tone of my blog isn’t planned; it’s more of a natural feeling. I definitely do some silly posts from time to time, and I am even sillier on Twitter, but mostly I use my blog as a place to process ideas about writing—ideas that may be helpful to other writers, or interesting to readers.
MFB: You focus primarily on the writing life, both technique and the philosophy and psychology of being a writer. Was this always your intent or did you grow into that focus?
JH: When I started blogging, I did think consciously about what my focus would be. I asked myself: What do I care about enough to write about it on a long-term basis? What has the breadth and depth necessary to sustain a blog? What’s relevant to my online presence as a writer? The answer was: books, reading, and writing itself.
I’ve come to realize that many writers blog about writing. For that reason, if I had another topic that met all my criteria, I might have gone with that instead. But one advantage to blogging about writing is that it isn’t a craft you just learn once and master and that’s it. It can sustain a blog indefinitely. There’s so much to know that I find myself constantly learning new things, relearning and reminding myself of other things, rummaging through the vast writer’s toolbox to find those tools I picked up somewhere and now have occasion to use.
Another joy of having a blog is that when I read a book I love, I now have my own little platform to use to rave about it. And when I decided to raise funds for libraries, I again used my blogging platform.
MFB: Are there ever topics that interest you but you don’t write about on your blog? If so, why?
JH: Absolutely. For example, I’m passionate about politics. But I decided early on that to discuss politics is to invite political debate. Which is a great thing to do, but political issues are so powerful a topic that they tend to take over a blog. There are good political blogs out there; I didn’t want mine to go that direction. I do respect writers who choose to blog about politics, however. I’m not saying writers shouldn’t, only that I thought it wouldn’t work for me.
Other topics off limits: my family, my day job, private details about my publishing contracts. Just common-sense privacy. One reason I mention my cat so much on the blog is that he doesn’t have the same privacy issues as, say, my husband or my parents or my stepchild.
MFB: Do you have any advice for beginning bloggers?
JH: Have fun and do what feels right to you. There is no one right way to do this. If you write about what interests you and interact with other bloggers, your audience will find you.
I also think it’s a good idea to reply to comments—I try to reply to every non-spam comment I get, and I love interacting with my readers. But again, you don’t have to do that. It might be a good idea to post your policy. For example, if you don’t respond to comments but you do read them all, I think people appreciate knowing that.
MFB: Have you learned or been surprised by anything in your blogging?
JH: One thing is that you can never be sure how your posts will be received. You may sweat over a deeply-felt post that you think will rock the blogosphere, and it gets a kind of neutral response. Then you might toss some joke about cabbage soup up on the web one night when you’re too tired to think up anything more clever, and it gets rave comments and links galore.
I just keep putting ideas out there, and let people make of them what they will.
Thank you, Jennifer!