Archive | challenges RSS feed for this section

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!

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.

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

Does the Week End?

1 Sep

It’s a three-day weekend here in the US, which for me begs the question, does the week ever really end?

Yes, I love my job–I’m extremely lucky to be able to do something I love and make a living doing so. However, the work-at-home aspect and the fact that I am my own business means that the pressure to work is always there.

Work late? Wait, it’s past six? I’m in a groove though! I’ll just keep rolling! Two hours later, and then I’m looking at a late dinner, late bedtime, and what, I meant to exercise too?

Work on the weekends? Well, I see my desk….don’t mind if I do!

Snow day? What’s a snow day? My office is right here!

Plus, there’s always something to be done–if I’m not writing, then I’m supposed to pitch articles or invoice or file or do promotion or work on a side project or…..the list goes on to infinity.

Lately though, I’ve been trying to bring some sanity and structure to my schedule. If I shut down the computer after work in order to do some errands, it doesn’t come back on that evening. I try to have at least one weekend day where I’m not mostly in front of my laptop (because I am still working on a stack of books). And with a holiday this Monday? Maybe I’ll just go crazy and not even go near my desk at all!

I’m not holding my breath on that though–I’ve got a pretty sweet side project I’d like to tackle.

Excuse Me, It’s Baking Time

11 Aug

Apple & Oat Muffins

In the US, we get new seasons of “The Great British Bake Off” a long time after they air in Britain, which means a couple things:

  1. I spend weeks ignoring the “GBBO Bakers: Where are they now?” articles my British friend Angcha sends me because she’s already seen them.
  2. I have bursts of binge baking, which during summer is not the best idea.

The binge baking is good for my friends though–a few years ago for Christmas, I started giving friends empty mason jars. The deal is that I fill them with a recipe I’ve been wanting to try. They eat it and give it back. I refill them throughout the year–usually this is randomly, and sometimes I go for months without doing anything, but then Bake Off is on, and out come the baking tins and GBBO-related cookbooks. It’s a decent system though–the jar method of sharing certainly makes it easier on my waistline, and it’s fun to share the bakes.

Over the last few weeks I’ve made my first tart, done my first blind-bake of a pastry crust and made English muffins. Last night I did my first hot water crust and put together my first meat pie (we’ll find out tonight if it’s any good). Today I’m attempting meringue for the first time as well.

Some friends have asked if I’d ever want to be on a Bake-Off show, but honestly, I’d be petrified. I’ve been a “tried and true recipe” kind of baker. When I make cookies, it’s pretty much just chocolate chip. For bread, I stick to pretzel. For cake, I use the Boy’s vegan chocolate cake recipe, which is plenty tasty and gets around a lot of allergies. It’s not that I don’t mind trying new things–I ventured out into whoopie pies, for instance, but even then, I haven’t ventured into the pages of the whoopie pie cookbook I got as a gift. Yet.

While it’s easier to stay with the tried and true, sometimes they become tired and true (which, incidentally, is how I typed it at first). Sure, I know how to do them well, but it really is exciting to attempt a new recipe–which, even if it fails, is fun because then the challenge is figuring out where it went wrong and correcting those mistakes.

So, maybe I would do Bake-Off someday, given the chance. Just not today–I have a lot more to learn before I’d consider myself an all-around Star Baker. And that starts right now with Italian meringue.

What’s Your Four?

7 Jul

Summer Reading 2017 - Bring me all of the books!

Have you seen that LitHub story about the book hoarders that’s been floating around the web? Both the Boy and I read it, which got us wondering how many books we actually own. I mean, we have a lot of books, but we also live in a smallish apartment, so there’s not a ton of space to really, you know, have a library.

And then we did a little bit of counting and a lot of estimating….and figured that we have probably close to 1,000 books.

Wow.

Considering that we have a problem with tsundoku, I’m feeling compelled to make a dent in reading what’s on the shelves. Luckily, it’s summer reading time in this part of the world, and I thought that this year, I’d take part in a little summer reading effort Massachusetts is promoting called Read Four.

Read Four is really targeted toward children and teens to keep them reading during the summer so they don’t fall behind when school starts up again; however, I will take their proclamation, “The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners is challenging all [my emphasis] residents of Massachusetts to read four books this summer,” to heart, so I plan to read as much as I can this summer to stoke my creativity and feel less guilty whenever I look at the bookshelves in my home.

The stack above is what I’m hoping to finish in good time, and it includes the books I started reading at the beginning of summer. I’m actually on my fourth book now: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I read a book by her sister Nicola earlier this year, but I picked up this book last Christmas during the annual family day-after-Christmas trip to Barnes & Noble. I’m hoping it’s equally as fun and escapist as my first three reads have been: the Sophie Kinsella, Rollergirl and Desperate in Dubai. All three have been breezy and entertaining–the last one particularly was fun for the cultural insight into Dubai, which made me want to go back even more (and also because I spent a fair amount of time looking up the Arabic phrases sprinkled throughout).

So those are my four–or nine, as the case might be. What are your four?

 

Waiting for the ‘Wear it Out’

26 May

socks.jpeg

There comes a point in time when something that’s potentially embarrassing becomes an exciting challenge, and I’ve hit that point with these socks.

I’ve had these socks for a long time–probably a good 12 to 15 years, although time is relative because there were many years that I avoided wearing them in favor of other socks. They’re pretty thick, so they were too hot in the summer; because they’re anklets, they were often too cold in winter. Now that they’re fairly threadbare on bottom, they’re just about right.

The Boy saw me put them on one day and kindly suggested that I retire them. He’s one to talk, as Old Stripey still takes up space in his closet. Old Stripey is a short-sleeved button-down white dress shirt with bluish and reddish vertical stripes. It’s at least 20 years old, though I think I’m being kind with that number. The Boy doesn’t wear short-sleeved dress shirts–if it’s a short-sleeved button-down, it’s a Hawaiian shirt.

Why is it so beloved that it has a name? Well, we live in New England in an apartment with closets that any HGTV-home-searching couple would reject in an instant, so space is at a premium. We don’t really have the room to house clothes that we don’t really wear.

I was cleaning out one day, and since I’d never seen him wear this shirt, I thought maybe he’d want to donate it.

“Not Old Stripey!”

“What?! This shirt has a name? And you think it still fits?”

Gauntlet thrown, he squeezed into Old Stripey, and by some miracle, no seams ripped or buttons popped off.

“See! It fits! We’re keeping Old Stripey!”

OK, we’re keeping Old Stripey. He’s been hanging out with us ever since. Never worn, but the proof of fit still happens on a regular basis.

Needless to say, based on Old Stripey, I can keep my socks for a while longer. Sure, I don’t really need to keep this particular pair–my sock drawer is full of socks that are in much better condition. Why keep these?

Well, one day I put them on thinking that my heel would poke through immediately, and that didn’t happen. Then I thought for sure the threadbare area would rip in the wash. That didn’t happen either. Now the question is, how strong is this amazing thread?

So far, they’ve lasted the entire winter, with no signs of ripping. I wear them at least once a week–more if I do laundry more often–so they’re getting regular use. Can they go the entire summer? Can they make it to 2018? Looks be damned, that’s a challenge I want to try.

Unless I make a bargain with Old Stripey.

 

 

 

 

Road Tripping: We Did It All Wrong

20 Jan

sob-for-blog

For about five years or so, the Boy and I have pointed the car south to spend Christmas with the family in Florida. Sure, it’s a long trip–two days at least–but we like having access to a car, and it’s fun to experience little bits of the country along the way. Driving south reminds me of how vast and different our country is–how interesting it is–and how those differences weave together to become one.

Over the years, we got pretty good at making this trip, finding great stops that we looked forward to making every drive. This year? Not so much. It’s as if we had never taken the car out of state before. How bad was it? Well, it made me feel like I needed to turn in my frequent traveler card.

It was a learning experience though, and if you’re not experienced with road-tripping, here are some of our biggest blunders. Learn from them so you can have a better time in the car!

  • The night before you leave, don’t go to bed so late that you oversleep the next day and are forced to make a late start.
  • Don’t start late enough to avoid Boston rush hour traffic, and then wonder why you’re in New York/Philadelphia smack dab in the middle of evening rush hour.
  • Know where you’re going to spend the night more than an hour before you decide to stop so that you’re not driving from hotel to hotel looking for a room.
  • If you don’t want to deal with full-service gas stations, don’t calculate your gas tank refill to be smack dab in the middle of New Jersey.
  • Stop at Wawa. Don’t bypass Wawa.
  • Find decent restaurants for meals. We actually did better on Day 2, when we found Molly MacPherson’s in Richmond Hill, GA, and had decent food (including excellent salads) and great service).
  • If you want to stop and see something along the way, figure that out early on in the day, not when you’re driving by and realize it’s closed for the day.
  • Pack good snacks.

We did make our traditional stop at South of the Border, but having spent far too long on the road, we were in and out as fast as possible.

Needless to say, we got to Florida in a less than optimal mood, and that’s not a great way to start holiday vacation. It got better, for sure–because sun and warmth really do make a difference–and we had a really fun trip. However, we also pledged to make sure our drive home was something we actually wanted to remember.

 

2016 Year in Books

6 Jan

Welcome to 2017! After taking a couple weeks off for holidays and travel, I’m ready to get back to it, which means the weekly blogs are back.

For me, 2016 was a weird year all the way around, and my reading list really reflects that this year. In 2015 I really didn’t read very many books (especially for being a writer), so I’d signed up for a Goodreads Reading Challenge, and decided to go light with just 20 books. That goal was more than I’d read in 2015, and what I thought would be a decent stepping stone into making reading books more of a priority. Totally achievable, right? I could really crush that goal and go way over it! Actually, I just barely made it happen, and finished my 20th book on Christmas Eve.

Number of books isn’t the only thing I’ve been tracking for the past few years. After reading some of Ann Morgan’s “A Year of Reading the World” blog, I wanted to expand my horizons a bit and see just where my influences were coming from. Instead of taking on the world, I thought I’d take on the United States and see if I could read authors from every state (tracked by where they’re born)–perhaps not a task I’d accomplish in a year, but eventually would be nice.

The other wrinkle is that I want to read the books I own. I have a problem with tsundoku, or buying books and not reading them. While I continue to buy books, I’m also working on reading what I own. I don’t have any particular order for reading things (no FIFO or anything like that), but it also means that there’s a constant inner struggle to spend less time buying and more time reading (also less time buying, and more time at the library, but that’s a topic for another day).

Anyway, I did meet my reading goal of 20 books for 2016, so I’m pretty proud of that. I was surprised, however, how much of a slog some of these books were. I had some chick lit and young adult lit that should’ve been a breeze but weren’t. While I have a personal rule that I’m allowed to stop reading after 50 pages or so (there’s not enough time to waste it reading bad books), I think I only used that exception once this year, and that was for Gone Girl. I hated all of its characters and had no interest in reading about what they did, so I put it down. I won’t even keep space in my brain to remember the 50 pages I did read, so I couldn’t tell you much of what it was about.

I didn’t do that for Accidental It Girl, which maybe I should have. This was about a paparazzi (who had shelved a dream of being an art photographer) who accidentally got linked with a big star and became the object of the paparazzi. Turnabout is fair play–though it was also a dull book. The character (whose name I can’t even remember) really had no goal other than to not be photographed all the time, and she didn’t drive the action–most of the action happened to her, making it difficult to root for her. It was also full of a lot of stock characters–the wacky mom who got in the way and didn’t really get her; the helpful roommate; the movie star who was a nice, genuine guy. The only thing that kept me reading was a MacGuffin of a package that the main character’s mom sent that sat in the corner of her bedroom for most of the book, was mentioned all the time, and when finally opened, revealed a reminder that the main character that her true passion was in art photography, and shouldn’t she do that instead of paparazzi-ing?

Needless to say, although I wouldn’t recommend it, it was a good example of what not to do when writing, so at least I got something out of it.

I covered nine states and four non-US countries this year. I seem to really like Ohio (four books) and the UK (five books). Still, I’m making progress on my map coverage–I’m up to 19 states and 10 countries in three years. Not bad. Could be better, but I’m happy enough for the moment.

For the moment, I’ve added just one book to my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge total. Maybe I can do better than that, but my first read of the year, The Games: A Global History of the Olympics is turning out to be a really slow one. A really good and interesting read, but it’s a little slow-going right now. It might be a book I read alongside some others, just to make progress.

Speaking of progress, if you want to follow along, feel free to check out my book reading tracking doc. Suggestions to fill in my missing geography are welcome!

 

Read Friday

25 Nov

This week I finished reading a book, which, in the age of tracking everything, means that I needed to log it in my Goodreads account and see how I was doing on my 2016 Reading Challenge.

Not good.

At the beginning of the year, I was really hopeful about reading more books (especially since I have a tsundoku problem and want to rectify it a bit), so I signed up for Goodreads’ annual reading challenge with the optimistic hope of clearing up the piles a little bit…..though really I should have done some sort of “here’s all the books I didn‘t buy” challenge as well, just to make it seem like I made some sort of actual progress.

Anyway, my Goodreads account had said I’d read 14 of 20 books in my challenge.

Gulp.

Quickly log book.

We’re at 15 now!

Realize that I hadn’t logged a couple of books I’d read this year.

Furiously log them.

Remember why I hadn’t logged them: Mostly embarrassing chick lit books that took weeks to read because they were poorly written (is good learning tool!).

Doesn’t matter! Have to hit goal!

Now I stand at 17 books down, three to read within the next month and change.

That’s three books I’ve challenged myself to read during a very busy month–except that there will probably be a few days at the end of the year where there’s nothing to do but read books, and maybe I will also be smart and pick books that I can’t put down, which technically means getting them done quickly.

I can dream.

Or I can put away the computer and pick up the book I’m currently reading and make some progress that I’ll be proud of at the end of the year.

In related news, I also keep track of my reading in this spreadsheet, as I’m also trying to see how geographically diverse my tastes are. Here I track author by birthplace. I have no real set focus for how I choose what I’ll read next–the goal is mainly to read the books I currently own. If I manage to ever do that, than perhaps I’ll put myself on one of those interesting journeys to read books from authors in every country of the world. For now though, I just like seeing where the authors I read come from and wondering whether and/or how birthplace has an impact on writing.

But Jill, why double up on the tracking?

Honestly, the Goodreads challenge puts a little impetus on reading as a goal. It’s my accountability buddy (and if you think an app as a buddy is a sad thing, the app doesn’t mind waiting for weeks while I read a few pages a night. A real buddy might get tired of tapping their foot and rolling their eyes at me). The spreadsheet is just a nice view of the overall picture of where the challenge has taken me, and I like to see it laid out over the years in nice, neat columns. It seems like real progress over time, no matter what my annual reading challenge goal is.

Speaking of which, that challenge is going to take me back to the couch to have a nice read for a couple of hours.

%d bloggers like this: