12 Episodes In: What I’ve Learned About Creating a Podcast (So Far)

8 Dec

podcast desktop

When I was in Perth earlier this year, my friend Connie took me to Fremantle Markets, where I stumbled upon a stall of adorable illustrations called Little Sketchy. One of the drawings I bought is her character Mr. Hammy trying to grow a sweet potato, and it’s captioned, “hard work + persistence = Big Potato.”

I look at this drawing everyday for motivation as I continue working my way up the mountain called “Successful Podcast.” Alison and I are 12 episodes into the adventure we call “Olympic Fever“, and while it’s a complete blast of a project to work on, it’s a lot of work to build something from nothing.

We pride ourselves on creating good content that we’re releasing every week, but then we have to market the hell of out of it (with no budget). On top of that, we need to work on multiple episodes at once–booking guests, conducting interviews, cataloging and editing tape, putting stories together….it can be a little daunting sometimes, and I see why people throw in the towel after posting just a few episodes, if it’s something they’re doing on the side.

I thought I’d take a little time to talk about what we’ve been able to accomplish in the four or so months we’ve been working on this project, not only as a motivational tool for us–it’s always good to take a look back at what you’ve achieved–but perhaps also as help for anyone who’s thinking about doing a podcast of their own. So here’s a short list of smart things we’ve done.

  1. Take a class – One of the best things I’ve done is take a self-study class from MediaBistro (which sadly isn’t on their current lineup of classes). It gave me the background I needed to understand equipment, hosting, good artwork and marketing. The pace was good, and the info was exactly what I needed to get going quickly.
  2. Come up with a good format – As we were talking about how to do the show, Alison suggested we do more packaged stories, rather than just “yuk yukking” it, so we have an A story, chat/trivia time, and a B story/news wrap-up. To be honest, it’s a lot more work than just chit-chatting — we have to write scripts, conduct interviews, drop in audio clips, sometimes throw music underneath — and potentially takes a ton of time (don’t ask how long I stayed up to put together our A story for our pinhead episode, but I love the final product). In the end, it’s a good format for us. We keep the show a little more focused, and it’s nice to have the experience of putting together an audio story, which gives me cred if I want to pitch to another show.
  3. Take advantage of opportunities – Not long after we started taping, we were able to go to Olympin’s pin collector conference, which also led to USA Bobsled and Skeleton saying yes to setting up interviews with some great athletes, which led to Team USA letting us into a media event where we got to do a bunch more athlete interviews that (a) were great people to talk to (we’re looking forward to some upcoming shows), and (b) got us quality guests without a ton of legwork on our part. Our show would definitely not be as interesting if we didn’t get to talk to athletes and fans, and the kindness of a few people saying yes has really helped define expectations for what we produce.
  4. Get it done every week – I’m honestly proud of the fact that we’ve managed to post an episode every week for the last 12 weeks. A lot of weeks have been “just get it done” for me, so maybe the audio quality isn’t as great, or the episode is longer than ideal, but we’ve gotten it posted. And when we’ve needed a vacation, we’ve managed to tape additional episodes to give us a much-needed break.
  5. Have patience – I’ll be honest — it’s really hard to get listeners (where are you, potential fans?!), and it can be frustrating to look at our download statistics. We’re marketing as well as we can, but let’s face it — we can’t do all of the things all the time. We have other jobs and families and activities, so while we post on social media where we can and look for other ways to market ourselves, we try to keep it in stride with how it shakes out in the results. And we know that if we had better results, we could start commanding some advertising to pay for a project that can be pretty darned expensive. Downloads aren’t everything though — we’re also incrementally building our skills, getting better gear, building out a good calendar and creating an interesting tape library. Every week we have a great conversation and learn new things about a topic we love. It’s pretty sweet to be able to say that about a project, and ultimately, that’s the best kind of motivation to keep going.

Got a comment, question or similar experience/inspiration? I’d love to hear from you!

They Only Come Out at Night

10 Nov

Sleep sock collection. Storing place: bed

It’s November, which means it’s starting to get colder here in Boston, and when you live in an old house, it means that at night it gets really cold. This is why I have an extensive sleep sock collection.

Sleep socks–and I’m not even sure if that’s the technical name for them; it’s certainly what I call them–are my saving grace during winter. If my feet are cold, I can’t sleep, period. The only thing that keeps ’em warm are sleep socks. I have a few pairs of fuzzy ones, but my favorite are these oversized slipper sock things that cover my feet without getting them sweaty.

And sweaty feet is one of the problems I end up having with sleep socks, so once my feet are warm enough, I tend to kick them off in the middle of the night. They hang out under the sheets at the bottom of the bed until I fish them out to wear again. Or don’t find them, at which point, I pull out another pair. Then I go to wash the sheets and find several sleep socks strewn around the foot of the bed.

Such is life right now. Remembering what the chill feels like and how to bundle up to protect yourself against it. I keep telling myself that even though it feels cold right now, when it’s this same temperature in February, I will be really excited about it.

Meet the…..Uniforms?

3 Nov

Hilary Knight shows off USA Hockey's new uniform.

This week I was back in New York, this time for the podcast (you listen, right?!), where my co-host Alison and I went to Team USA’s 100-days-to PyeongChang kickoff celebration in Times Square. We were promised a “special announcement” during the press conference before the shindig opened, which made us think. On the Today show earlier that day they revealed Team USA’s Closing Ceremony uniforms…..could it be possible that we would get the reveal for the Opening Ceremony uniforms?

Um, no.

We got to see the new hockey uniforms.

I don’t want to say it was a letdown, but you could tell the hockey players were a little self-conscious about modeling the new jerseys and everyone was just pretty OK with all of them, much to the disappointment of the announcer. And I’ll admit, we kind of tuned out.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the work team who put together the jerseys was confused as to why people weren’t super-thrilled. These are the lightest jerseys yet! There’s something really cool about the patch! And many other features! They probably spent months (if not longer) working on them: sourcing, testing, overseeing manufacturing, etc. They had to have logged so many hours on this project, so much overtime getting it done by deadline, and we say meh??! Really?!?

Really.

I get it — this weekend my Facebook and Insta feeds are going to be chock full of WFTDA Championships-related posts. For the first time in seven years, I’m not there. Derby’s consumed a good chunk of my life–and I know the fun that I’m missing but I’m sure the general public doesn’t care. They’re probably surprised that roller derby is back–you know, they used to watch it on TV in the 1970s. Who knew it was back–and has been for over a decade?

Same goes with this podcast I’m now doing. We’re putting a lot of hours into it, and if you don’t like the Olympics or you don’t like (or know) what podcasts are, well, who cares. You just keep pouring your heart into it, Jill. Somebody will care. Maybe someday.

And that’s frustrating–but such is life. Not everything is noticed, and not everything’s a hit. But if you like your output, that should really be the basis of whether or not you’re satisfied with it. Sure, the recognition is nice, and of course you want your project to be a success, but it can’t be everything.

It’d be nice if I could end on that preachy little note, but I can’t. It’s easy to say, but hard to actually acknowledge and be OK with. The human side of me certainly doesn’t to hear it today, and I’m guessing that there many, many of you who also feel that way.

So here’s to hoping that our project, hobbies, and successes make us happy enough–and if you need some recognition, hit me up. I’d love to see more good creative work and hear about some awesome successes in whatever you do.

Postcard from New York City

27 Oct

Look up! It's the World Trade Center!

The Boy and I were in New York a few weeks ago for a long weekend. We had a lovely time–saw some lectures, ate some great food, stumbled onto a Korean parade….but there was one thing I noticed: People walk more slowly.

I first spent considerable time in New York in 2003, and even though I lived in Chicago, where people can move pretty fast, New York took that to another level. I had to step up my game, so to speak, just to get down the sidewalk without getting bounced around like I was in a pinball machine.

This year, even though I live in a suburb, I was the one trying to juke around other walkers in order to get where I was going in a reasonable amount of time. These people weren’t all tourists either–there were definitely a lot of native New Yorkers in the bunch.

I blame cell phones. A lot of people were sucked into their phones, trying to read or text or chat or do anything but walk at a reasonable pace. It made walking more than a block in a single stoplight cycle almost impossible.

But then when we did have to stop at a corner, they’d all do that typical New Yorker thing: If you weren’t right at the edge of the curb, they’d cut around you in order to take up that space and get ahead. I had to admire that tactic (and copy it).

Oh, New York, get back on your game–phones are making you lose that bustling vibrancy that makes you feel like such an otherworldly place. Normally, I’d applaud the slowing-down-and-enjoying-life pace, but having your nose stuck in a cell phone isn’t a great way to enjoy life either.

The October Struggle

20 Oct

As I write this, my hands are freezing. During the last couple weeks of every October, I battle with myself to not turn on the heat. Sometimes it’s warmer outside than it is in, which is frustrating.

I’m not sure what my psychological barrier is here–we can afford to heat the house, certainly (partly because, thank goodness, we don’t have fuel oil anymore…if you’d like to hear a rant about that scintillating topic, ping me in the comments), but I think there’s something to wanting to prolong that higher bill as long as we can.

This winter, the Boy will also be at home, as he has a new work-from-home job, so there’s no blocking off a drafty part of the house. After this week, he’s already looking for alternative heating solutions. Because sadly, heat from non-stop baking only travels so far.

Postcard from New York City

13 Oct

MoMath exhibit on Moebius strips.

Have you ever been really disappointed in a museum? Not a, Man, the Louvre is a crowded place at the height of tourism, disappointed, but a, Oh, there’s a museum about X? That might be cool! Let’s go in!…..30 minutes later….Well, that was a waste of $20.

The Boy and I felt that way after a quick visit to the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City. Taking a cue from the Modern Museum of Art, it’s nicknamed itself MoMath, and I think our MoMath, MoProblems joke was just about the best thing we got out of the place.

We went because we happened to be walking by and thought that a museum about math had a lot of potential to be cool–and the Boy likes math. We had an hour to kill–why not?

When we walked in, we found out that it was just two small floors, which turned out to fit in nicely with the specs of my ideal museum (smallish, and just when you’re about to get museum fatigue, you’ve reached the exit/gift store). Every exhibit was interactive, so there were some kids running around playing with everything. That also was cool and gave the place a lot of energy.

The problem came in with the “so what?” factor. We’d go to an exhibit and try to figure out what we needed to do. Turned out you needed to go to a monitor to pull up information about it. I personally don’t do that well with screens in museums — I get bored with them really easily, and while just playing with the exhibit was fun, I got nothing out of them. The worst was when I rode the bike with square wheels and asked the exhibit minder what the point of it was. She said something about the fact that you can use square wheels if you have the right bumped surface, but there was nothing really mathy in her explanation. I definitely know that there’s math involved with that, but it can’t be math magic or the math fairy waving a wand around. What’s the principle? What’s important about it? What else does it apply to? How do I do that math?

OK, maybe that last one is a little too complicated to show in a museum, but still. Giving me different patterned disks and telling me to cover parts of them to get a pattern mesh just shows me that that can be done. There’s math behind that phenomenon too? Really?

The Boy was also pretty disappointed, so I was comforted in the fact that I wasn’t alone. But maybe the museum ultimately really wasn’t for us. Maybe it’s designed for kids to play around, and for their adults to watch and remember to look up the principles later, if they want to know more about the math involved. Or maybe it’s just really hard to communicate math principles while you’re engaging with them.

Sadly, our experience here also made us leery about going to the Museum of Sex, so we skipped it and just hung out instead. Good choice?

 

Make It With Love

6 Oct

This is a cucumber martini I had in Washington, DC, this week. It was delicious — gin, elderflower, cucumber and black pepper. So tasty!

So tasty that the next night, I talked the Boy into taking me for another. Only this time it wasn’t as good — tasted like it had been made at a sports bar or beer-and-shot place (where you shouldn’t order cocktails).

I understood — the place had been busy, the bartender seemed a little harried. But I also then understood how much of a difference it makes to take a few extra seconds and focus on making the drink in front of you — measuring it out right, shaking it just so, straining it, making sure the garnish is on (I’d had to ask for the pepper the second night, which I wasn’t thrilled about–and neither was the bartender, who had to trek around the restaurant to find the pepper grinder).

It’s that kind of deliberation and focus that makes everything better–not just cocktails. A lesson for everything in life, I think, especially when it’s so easy to be harried and fractured with every other part of life these days.

Of course, as I type this, I’m not really even taking this lesson to heart, since I stopped typing to look at an incoming email on my phone. But I can try to improve, to make what I do cucumber-martini-better. Hold me to that, OK?

This is What a Podcast Looks Like

29 Sep

My podcast!

Making a podcast–at least the way we want to do it–is tough. As I mentioned before, my fellow Olympic fan Alison Brown and I have started an Olympics podcast called Olympic Fever, and we’ve finally launched. This week we dropped episode 2 (“Who Wants to Host?”), and while it’s exciting, my head is swimming with everything we need to do for future episodes–and more importantly, everything we need to figure out.

Take recording and editing, for example. I took a low-key online self-study class through MediaBistro to learn about podcasting. Good move on my part–it taught me what tools I’d need to record, edit, mix, host and publish; in short, all of the technical stuff I really had no idea to do. Best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.

That said, once I had the tools in place, I had to learn how to use them. That learning is a little more complicated and who knows when I’ll actually master them.

Still, I’m having a blast, and I’ve learned that I love looking at sound. That’s us in the picture, talking. My track is on top, isolated because I discovered a nasty hum on my end after we finished recording (which I think I’ve figured out how to solve for future episodes, thank goodness). Anytime I’m not talking, I’ve cut my sound down so it’s not audible. But still, you can see on the front and back of my line where the light purple is a bit lighter–that’s the hum.

I’ve learned what laughs look like. I’ve learned what stutters look like and how long pauses are. It’s all so very fascinating to me right now, as is learning the art of where and how to edit. We make mistakes as we tape our story segments, and those need to get chopped out. We (mostly I) get cotton mouth and forget how to use our words.

But, we’ve gotten two episodes done and posted and have had fun doing them. My learning curve is decreasing dramatically, which is nice (episode 1 involved a very long Sunday learning how to split tracks and envelope sounds). Every day we get new ideas and opportunities for pieces that we’ll do on upcoming episodes [SPOILER ALERT: We’re going to Lake Placid this weekend to work on a few pieces], and we’re so excited about what’s in store!

I hope you’ll consider tuning in–and tell a friend and/or review us on iTunes. We’ve also got a Facebook group, if you want to chime in with your own two cents!

The Fine Line

22 Sep
giddy-up!

U.S. President Calvin Coolidge’s exercise horse

This week I have (so far) seen the homes/museums of four U.S. Presidents, four authors and one eccentric art collector. I have learned that the lines between “eccentric” and “crazy” and “collector” and “hoarder” are either “becoming President” or “publishing a bunch of books, at least one of which is a huge success.”

I ponder this idea as I finish eating some leftover mushroom risotto for breakfast because this week I’m storing the delicious restaurant leftovers for three people, two of whom are tourists and don’t wish to eat them (but none of us can let that food stay on our plates). I’m also thinking about where to store the five new books that have entered the house this week. They may be used to finish creating a bedside table for me, as my current next-to-bed pile of books-I’m-definitely-reading-next is getting pretty high.

I hope to publish a book soon. Because I can’t really imagine running for elected office at this point in time.

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My Saturday Plans

15 Sep
Obi Haan Kenobi grout kit

The great Obi Haan Kenobi sent me some gear to prepare for the arrival of Ma Jaracz.

 

(sung to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”)

 

You better not shout

You better clean up

You better scrub grout

And wash all of those cups

Ma Jaracz is coming to town

 

She’ll walk through the house

To tell if it looks nice

Though she can’t really see

She’ll know if there are mice

Ma Jaracz is coming to town

 

She sees the books are dusty

She knows you don’t wash walls

She’ll run her finger over the shelf

And she’ll really be appalled

 

You better not shout

You better clean up

You better scrub grout

And wash all of those cups

Ma Jaracz is coming to town

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