April 7, 2022 § 10 Comments
By Sarah Boon
A few weeks ago I was sick – not with COVID, but with an illness that left me dizzy and headache-y. Lying down was preferable to sitting up, and I couldn’t read a book or look at a computer screen because it made my eyes hurt.
So I turned to podcasts about writing to entertain me when I wasn’t trying to sleep. And I realized that, during my solo forays into writing during the closed-off time of the pandemic, I’d been missing a writing community.
I listened to Sarah Broom talk about THE YELLOW HOUSE, a home that carried so much of her life but was destroyed after Hurricane Katrina. I listened to Charlotte McConaghey talk about her two books, MIGRATIONS and ONCE THERE WERE WOLVES, and articulate her idea that climate fiction isn’t really a genre but a theme that is worked into books of many genres. I listened to Vivian Gornick, Ferdinand Mount, and Kathryn Harrison discuss memoir, and the fact that memoir writers carefully curate what they do and don’t include in their text. I listened to Ruby McConnell, author of GROUND TRUTH, talk about her writing process. She ruminates on a piece of writing for weeks, then sits down and puts the whole thing on paper fully formed, as though she is a conduit for the words that have been swirling around in her head all that time. I listened to Helen Humphries talk about the structure of her books, that she puts herself in the same situation as her characters to better understand how to write about them. Like the time she went up in a biplane to see what it was like, then recreated the cramped quarters with a chair and various accessories in her writing room. I listened to JB MacKinnon talk about THE DAY THE WORLD STOPPED SHOPPING, and the process he uses to structure his books.
I listened to all of these recordings lying in bed with my eyes closed, and I felt my soul transformed. I had found my tribe, all of these people talking about writing and the writing life. I felt as though I had been immersed in a world that I had been missing for some time.
I used to take writing workshops, way back when I was in graduate school. I particularly remember the Women’s Words writing workshop, a supportive week of creative writing with only women participants. More recently, I’ve attended the Creative Nonfiction Collective Society’s annual meetings occasionally, and felt inspired by that community of writers to work on my own book.
But this was the first time I immersed myself in recording after recording about writing, hours of being with writers and sharing their lives.
Now I’ve recovered and only listen to podcasts when I’m knitting. But I long to go back to those few days when all I did was think about and listen to authors talking about writing. To keep up the momentum, I’ve signed up for a few webinars and online readings that I hope will draw me in as thoroughly as those podcasts did. These podcasts re-energized my writing, giving me courage and support in my quest to test new ideas of how to approach the structure and content of my work-in-progress book, and to try new essay ideas.
What are your favourite writing podcasts? Please share them in the comments.
Sarah Boon, PhD, is a writer based on Vancouver Island, Canada. She has written for The Rumpus, Hippocampus, Catapult, Narratively, and other venues. She is currently at work on a book about her field experiences as a scientist, and how those experiences affected her love of writing.
My podcast “Daring to Tell” features writers reading their true stories of personal daring… It’s half audio book, half conversations about writing and the grappling of telling our truth. There are stories from award-winning memoirists (Phuc Tran reading from Sigh Gone) to unpublished writers reading their manuscripts that publishers haven’t snapped up yet. Dare to LISTEN!
And by the way… this was a great peek into the setting that might lead us to discover something we might not have otherwise. Thanks Sarah for so eloquently describing the occasion for transformation… the joy of discovering the unexpected… best of all when we find some of our people “out there” we might not have known were there!
I’ll have to check out your podcast, Michelle – sounds interesting! And yes this was an opportunity to find my people that I very much appreciated, even though I wasn’t feeling well.
Thanks Sarah, I do hope you like it. I’ll be curious to check out your book! Funny how our “work” can drive us to the passion for writing about it.
Sarah, I’m so sorry you were feeling so poorly, but thanks for sharing the antidote you found during your recovery. I’ll be tuning in to these podcasts. One I’ve listened to for more than a decade is Writers on Writing, hosted by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett and Marrie Stone.
Thanks for the tip, Kim – there are so many good podcasts out there and so little time to listen to them!
What a delightful way to find your tribe again! I miss in-person workshops, too, and have found those on Zoom to be a life saver during CoVid. But I’ll take a day off soon and do what you did. What a pleasure it will be!
Yes Zoom workshops have been great, I’ve enjoyed a few of them. Good idea to take a day off and just binge on podcasts – you’ll definitely enjoy it!
Wonderful description of the transformative power of audio! I love listening to podcasts and I only wish I had a long commute to work (instead of just down to the basement to zoom)! The New York Times Book Review podcast I find mesmerizing whatever the topic or genre of the books. For those who don’t know it, they interview the writers on their topics and their process, and then the hosts always talk about what they are reading, also fascinating.
That sounds like a great podcast – will have to add it to my list. Might have to take a day to binge on podcasts, like Lois above.