This week Write On! speaks to US-based podcasters Don Scoby and Tom Trimbath, hosts of ‘Writing On Whidbey Island’.
During the summer of 2019, Tom Trimbath and Don Scoby – both residents of Whidbey Island and published authors – devised and launched the podcast ‘Writing On Whidbey Island’.
WO: How would you describe your ‘Writing On Whidbey Island’ podcast to someone new to it?
DS: ‘Writing On Whidbey Island’ is a podcast focused on authors and the literary industry as it relates to Whidbey Island. Usually, Tom and I host a guest on our show to talk about what they do in the world of books. We’ve had authors of non-fiction, life inspiration and poetry so far to name a few. We’ve also had a librarian and a couple of bookstore owners. If they’re a part of the writing world and they’re on Whidbey Island, then they’re ripe for our show. While Tom and I research our guests and their work prior to coming on the show, and this may result in some topics or questions we might bring up to discuss, ‘WOWI’ is not a hard Q&A show – our preference is to have an extemporaneous conversation between authors, or whoever our guest may be. Sometimes Tom and I pick a topic and cover it as ‘just us’. We’ve had some great guests and have enjoyed what’s developed. We count ourselves fortunate that, so far, it’s worked and we’ve received feedback from our listeners to say how much they enjoy the different format and content, so we’re going to keep producing our ‘Writing On Whidbey Island’ recording sessions and publishing podcasts.
TT: The podcast is about anything to do with ‘Writing On Whidbey Island’. The ‘who’ is easy: the rest of the writing community of Whidbey Island, a group that includes hundreds of writers, editors, producers, publishers, librarians, and bookstore owners. The ‘how’ is keeping it simple. Thanks to Don’s equipment and skills, we record from a variety of locations up and down the island, including the background ambience (i.e. seagulls and F-18s). Each episode focuses on one writer or aspect of writing – don’t be surprised if the creative process leads somewhere else! The first two episodes are the two of us, so you know who’s doing the talking. ‘Why’ is easy: we like the community and the island and think it deserves yet another avenue and venue for advancing the conversation. ‘Where’ is wherever we can; for example, sitting on the low-tide rocky beach of Penn Cove and Coupeville.
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest episode?
DS: Our latest session was with another guest we could have easily spoken to all day, despite our aim to limit our shows to 40-50 minutes. We held an online meeting with our mutual friend and library manager, Vicky Welfare. Our original intent was to discuss Vicky’s personal writing – stories from the music scene and of meeting rock stars during a few earlier decades – she’s considered turning these into books. Both Tom and I were fascinated by her idea, considering we have also co-presented how-to-self-publish workshops, and we avidly encouraged her to publish. Then, in the free-flowing style of ‘WOWI’ we shifted to talking about what’s going on in the Sno-Isle Library System; how the organisation is continuing to serve its users during the Coronavirus closures. Hers was an invaluable behind-the-scenes insight to this ever-shifting landscape. We even found out the library has developed services that didn’t exist before and they hope to continue offering these once things have returned to ‘normal’.
WO: What inspired you to set up ‘Writing On Whidbey Island’?
DS: The idea of launching ‘WOWI’ built over time and snuck up on us. I think the seed for the idea really began when Tom and I discussed becoming audiobook narrators. We’ve both been encouraged to break into the industry, and from my other life as a professional musician and self-produced recording artist, I already had the needed recording gear. Later, we discussed the fact there are numerous authors, writing groups, editors, and everyone else involved in the literature/publishing industry on Whidbey Island. This turned into ideas of trying to bring these authors and industry people together better; first socially and then for greater endeavours related to our craft. After Tom told me about a number of the authors he knows, along with the books they’ve written, we hatched the idea of interviewing these people in our community and utilising a podcast as a vehicle for connecting people. We do it for fun and for free and so far it’s been exactly that!
TT: What inspired us was much of the above, but also some talks, classes and presentations we’ve conducted about modern self-publishing, print-on-demand and ebooks.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘A Kaleidoscope Of Colours’. The idea is that life at the moment is like looking through a kaleidoscope; ever-changing, ever-swirling patterns we must interpret and adapt to. Can you tell us a bit about how you’ve been adapting to the shifting landscape of this fairly challenging present?
DS: Coronavirus has had a wide-reaching impact; everyone knows this. For creatives, this can either be a hindrance or an opportunity. In many cases, this has been a boon – people have had the time to focus on their book projects – and the prediction is that the market is going to see an unusually high number of new titles during the fourth quarter of 2020. Tom and I have discussed this among ourselves on ‘WOWI’ and with our guests. When we founded the show, we met in person; now with ‘social distancing’ we’ve been holding our recording sessions through online meetings. While this has been a bit quirky, we’ve worked out the bugs and, overall, this has produced some of our favourite episodes. You either see obstacles or opportunities, chaos or challenges to overcome. The ‘WOWI’ show must go on and we’ve found that our guests have continued to be creative, despite any obstacles.
TT: Like many others, we’ve gone remote for the podcast. That’s a switch from purposely conducting the interviews in a variety of places with a variety of audio backgrounds.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring podcaster?
DS: First, I’d say: GO FOR IT! I’d also suggest doing some reading in advance of launching. Learn about what makes a good podcast and, by contrast, what makes a poor podcast. In doing this, you’ll give yourself and your show a considerable boost. It will help to ensure the initial establishment and longevity of your show, and your enjoyment in producing and hosting your episodes.
Additionally, I would suggest getting a handle on a few important details upfront as to what will need to happen short- and long-term. Your initial tasks should be to develop a preliminary plan of what your show is going to focus on, figure out the structure of your episodes, and establish what is and isn’t acceptable for your broadcasts, both in content and context. The longer-term matters you will need to address have to do with what you would like to see your show develop into, what will need to happen to get it there, and what to do then. Largely, this has to do with marketing your show, growing your audience-base, and attracting bigger players. Remember that, once you launch your show, it will have its initial bumps and you will need to make some adjustments: the guidelines of your shows and just about anything previously mentioned. While producing/hosting/marketing a podcast is not without work, ultimately it should be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, change it!
TT: Start, even if it isn’t perfect.
WO: Question from Twitter user: @grasshopper2407: How do you balance writing for, interviewing, recording and editing the podcast with your other creative endeavours?
DS: Generally things are pretty chaotic for me, but I’ve learned to live in that dynamic. Personal discipline has to exist in the greater context; however, I do have to be flexible with my day-to-day / week-to-week time. When I have unscheduled time, I figure out ‘the next indicated thing’ – i.e. the most important thing I need to be doing today or even during the next hour. Sometimes, that’s starting laundry and eating lunch, because if I eat lunch now, then I’ll be good for working on my primary Work-In-Progress book project and in a few hours, I’ll have the clean clothes I need in two days to record the next podcast. If the scheduled podcast recording session gets cancelled tomorrow, or the morning-of, then I shift, figure out what to work on, and reschedule … all while wearing clean clothes!
TT: Our podcasts are extemporaneous, which requires less preparation. Editing can only be minimal, which makes them more real, and also means Don can concentrate on work that pays.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future episodes?
DS: In fact, I really can’t! Tom and I are each busy in our personal lives. At present, our aim is to record and publish at least one ‘WOWI’ episode monthly, preferably two. Each of us has a running list of people we’d like to book for interviews along with topics we’d like to address just between ourselves. When we start booking our guest we tend to keep it a bit loose – just checking prospects initially. The person who is available first tends to be the individual we book. As for the other person, usually, they end up being our next guest. This has become both easier, and more difficult, due to the current Coronavirus disruptions.
Early this year, we shifted from meeting in person to meeting online via a video-chat. This is easier, because for most of us it makes less work. You just login with your electronic device and go for it (or, in my case, because I don’t have an adequate internet connection at home, I pack-up my laptop and simplest mobile recording unit, drive to the library parking lot, and record in the cab of my truck). The harder part is dealing with the various adjustments people are still coping with due to the COVID … stuff.
On a personal note, one of the things I enjoy about our show is missing doing these online ‘WOWI’ recording sessions:background sounds, such as recording on a beach, near a stream, close to a turkey farm, in the back room of a café, and in the apartment above a bookshop, with delightfully creaky wooden floors. This has been a subtle third persona within the show. In its place, we have computer fans, digitised and reproduced voices that often sound canned, and signal lags that disrupts the episode’s conversation. This is only temporary, and it is what it is for now, but I do miss the live background sounds and think they are truly better.
TT: Each one is a bit of a surprise to us, too. Our anniversary podcast is coming up this fall. Aside from that, we reach out to writers, editors, publishers, publicists, libraries, booksellers and anyone involved in the writing community on Whidbey Island.
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
DS: The Coffeeosaurus Rex from the Frenchpressic geological period. Because life happens and coffee helps!
TT: Gleep! (A dragon from the Myth Adventure series by Robert Asprin,)
Visit the podcast: writingonwhidbeyisland.com
You can find out more about Don Scoby here: whidbeyislandbaking.com and: bagpiperdon.com or connect with Whidbey Island Baking Company and BagpiperDon on Facebook and Twitter. Make Your Own Darn Good Cookies is available to buy from Amazon
Learn about what makes a good podcast and, by contrast, what makes a poor podcast. In doing this, you’ll give yourself and your show a considerable boost.