Blog Break Interview with Sarah Broadley

Welcome to the second of our monthly features about blogging and blog techniques. After talking to the all-knowing Candy Gourlay last month, I wanted to get the perspective of someone who’s at an earlier stage of their writing journey. So I’m delighted to be talking today to Sarah Broadley.

Sarah is a Scottish writer with a passion for picture books, who also dabbles in middle grade, poetry and even the occasional story for adults. She’s been blogging at Great Big Jar for three years, and her posts are regularly featured on the Ten-Minute Blog Break. An active member of SCBWI South East Scotland, Sarah has a passion and enthusiasm for stories that is positively infectious!

Sarah, thanks for joining me on Words & Pictures today.

Thank you very much for asking me, Nick. W&P is such a fantastic go-to destination for all the things that perplex me in the literary world, I am honoured to be involved.

And we're honoured to have you! Could you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a full-time author? From your blog, it seems like you had something of an epiphany a few years back.

I have been writing since I was about 13 years old, my report card would say 'easily distracted, bit of a dreamer, lives in her own wee world etc'. The turning point for me was when we were given The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton to study in English.

I knew what I wanted to be – a writer!

Years later, I ended up following my friends into the financial world and worked 12 hours days for 18 years, I would write in the evenings if my eyes stayed open long enough but it was never enough.

In 2009 I took redundancy with the promise of 'giving it a go' for two years. I now find myself in 2015, still doing just that. I am very lucky to have found SCBWI-BI (I met Christina Banach on Twitter and she told me all about it). I have never been so enthused and energised by like-minded people and I realise that it might take me a while to reach publication, but I will get there. I have an amazingly supportive network in South East Scotland.

Sarah with Christina Banach and Moira Mcpartlin from SCBWI South East Scotland

What made you start a blog in addition to your other writing?

I started my blog because I needed to clear some headspace for my work-in-progress and I found my blog a fantastic resource to have, somewhere to write my thoughts, feelings and whatever nonsense that follows me around all day.

How did you come up with the site name?

The site name 'Great Big Jar' is taken from a saying that my mum used to answer questions when I was young - I am the youngest of five so her time to think of a proper response was limited. For example: “Why are there so many stars in the sky?” and she would reply “Maybe they are a great big jar of sparkles just waiting to get out”. I wanted to keep her voice in my head now that she is no longer here and this is a great way for me to do that.

Do you blog to a regular schedule, or just when the mood takes you?

I blog when the mood takes me. Sometimes it's three times a day and other times it's once a month. It depends how busy I am and if I've completed enough of my WIP for that day. I'm usually inspired after attending writing events and try to make my posts interesting for others who might be in the same boat as me on their literary journey.

Has having a blog helped you with professional networking or getting recognition from the publishing industry?

I have had a few comments over the years from SCBWI members telling me they really enjoy it and thanking me for providing industry related links etc. so that's quite special when that happens. I'm not aware of any publishers/agents looking at it. If they are, I hope I spellchecked beforehand!

Your blog is primarily textual, without much use of images, sounds or video. Is that a conscious creative decision, or more of a practical choice?

I have my very own in-house geek, aka my husband, Neil. He is fantastic and very understanding when it comes to me and the relationship I have with IT jargon and doing 'stuff' on my blog. He sighs a lot too.

Neil is keen for me to include photos on each post as a way of enticing more readers onto the site, but that's not the end goal for me. I will add more photos though as I think it does help to have a more visual aspect to your blog. I like the fact that not all blogs are the same. I think it's good to go with what you feel comfortable with and what works best for you and your work.

You seem to have a healthy community of regular readers who comment on your blog. How do you publicise your blog posts?

I have a few avid followers who always comment which is great, but I don't look for replies every time I post, although it's very nice to think that people are interested in what I have to say.

I usually post my latest entry to Google + and Twitter, and the re-tweets and likes etc. take care of the rest. Thanks to W&P my blog is regularly mentioned on the Ten-Minute Blog Break too so I'm continually surrounded by SCBWI love.

Yes, that Ten-Minute Blog Break is truly a wondrous invention - we should give the writer of that some kind of award (ahem). So, where do you see blogging going over the next five years? Is it a fad or here to stay?

I love my blog but it seems every time a new technological creation is born, I know it won't be long until the 'next new thing' is out there and other systems become obsolete. A blog is a brilliant way of showcasing your unique style in a self-controlled environment, so I hope they are here to stay!

Finally, who are the bloggers that you admire and whose posts you can’t wait to read?

I tend to read more SCBWI members' blogs than any others. It makes more sense for me to do that as you all began life just like me. I want to write and learn and create. What better way to do that than to tap into the musings of those in the know? Here are a few links to blogs which motivate me and inspire me to not give up (couldn't mention everyone, sorry!):
  • Nicola L Robinson - I go here a lot when writing PB's. What's not to love about her dragons?
  • Dave Cousins needs no introduction. A true master in how to blog, you can spend hours on here.
  • Cathy Cassidy – as I'm trying out writing for an older age group, it's always a good idea to see how other authors interact with that particular genre. Cathy is a literary force of nature.

Even now, Sarah, I suspect there are readers adding your blog to their must-have list! Thanks for your time and enthusiasm. The Ten-Minute Blog Break will return next week.


A SCBWI member since 2009, Nick Cross is a children's writer, Undiscovered Voices winner, occasional blogger, ex-zombie and part-time superhero for two hours every Wednesday evening (but only after putting the bins out).

His latest short story Hacking History can be found in issue 8 of Stew Magazine.


  1. Thank you so much for asking me, it was great fun!

  2. Lovely to hear your voice shining through here, Sarah. It's what blogging is so good for. You're an inspiration.

  3. There's something very encouraging about the industrious, creative wheels turning in blogs such as yours, Sarah. Thank you, Nick and Sarah both, for such interesting questions & answers.

  4. I didn't know you were on Google + Sarah, going to find you now! What a lovely quote from your mother. I had wondered if that phrase was something to do with Marmite (I've recently and belatedly realized what an ambrosia Marmite is).


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