an informal, unofficial blog and podcast about writing and writers on Whidbey Island
Author: Tom Trimbath
real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired
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Where would writers be without their families? Sure, they’re a source of support, but they’re also a source of stories. Cam Castle was born into a wealth of stories, which is one reason he wrote a book about it. “My Mother is Crazier than Your Mother”
Cam’s Mom created a creative childhood environment, not necessarily on purpose. Retelling those tales here would be redundant. Besides, Cam’s better at telling them. He’s a writer of many talents, including writing for the Seattle Times; but as a few fortunate fellow writers know, having him in a writing group makes sure the day won’t be dull. He’s a humorist with the ability to make dull text entertaining. (I know. His reading of some of my personal finance pieces made them funny enough to wake everyone up.)
Cam was also brave enough to be one of our first interviewees, back when we were still learning what this podcast would truly be about, and how we needed to approach it. Just like in the writing groups, his candor was appreciated and constructive. Subsequent interviewees can thank him, even though it may not be apparent how he made their experience much smoother. (That’s also why he pointed out that, while we posted the podcast, we forgot to post the attendant blog post. Oops. Pardon us as we play catch-up.)
At least on Whidbey Island, creative people tend to create more than one way to express themselves and help others. Yet another reason the island’s writing community has multiple layers that support each other. Deb Lund is probably best known for her children’s books, but she’s also taught writing and coached writers, which inspired her card deck designed to inspire them. But, really, it is hard to ignore and easy to remember someone whose books include dinosaurs that “take to the skies, the rails, and the high seas” as well as monsters on machines (wearing hardhats, of course.)
The conversation started with the dinosaurs because, why not. They may be children’s books, which can be much more complicated to write, produce, and publish than conventional novels. With a conventional novel there may be effectively no limit to the word count, except the thickness of the binding. Deb pointed out that children’s book are much more constrained (imagine editing a story of a few thousand words down to a few hundred), and require the writer to relinquish much of the control to the illustrator. Instead of only one graphic which is limited to the cover, every page can be a graphic from edge to edge. A children’s book is more of a duet, but with the two artists working separately much of the time, and yet the two efforts become one creation.
Deb also has teacher cred, a natural background for someone writing children’s books, as well as a natural lead to teaching and coaching writers. Along the way, she created a series of inspirational playing cards to give writers fresh perspectives on their works in progress. They became popular enough that her students encouraged her to create and sell the decks. Welcome to yet another publishing accomplishment that was much more than lots of words on blank pages. Concise messages on colorful cards required multiple art forms, again.
Her accomplishments are impressive, but are better heard about from her. Listen in on the podcast for the stories in her own words, and maybe contact her if you want to benefit from an experienced artist – who also can tell stories about gargantuan dinosailor goofballs.
That’s a nice mix. Authors, librarians, booksellers, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, editing, and rare books. That diversity is one of the reasons the Whidbey Island writing community is broad and deep, able to support the members of the informal, unofficial, highly creative community. Personally, it is nice to see people returning to episode 1, to better understand our intent. And remember, a grade school class got the most traffic by a large margin. Forget the MBA. Maybe tune into 5th graders, instead.
“Life is a wave. Your attitude is your surfboard. Stay stoked & aim for the light!”
Subscribers to drewslist, a much friendlier and more neighborly (and very Whidbey) version of craigslist, can recognize that as the signature at the end of each email from the service that Drew Kampion started years ago. (As Drew put it, “It is like craigslist, but exactly opposite.” paraphrased)
That attitude and philosophy was handy during this wintry recording of the podcast that involved internet glitches and dropped signals. Drew rode those waves with a laugh and a smile. Whew. (And thanks to co-host and audio techie, Don, for stitching it back together.)
For this podcast about writing on Whidbey Island, we talked less about For Sale ads and more about the books he has written, his time as a journalist, the early era of the now-famous Patagonia company, surfing (the subject of much of his work), how he got to Whidbey, and what he did when he got here. Fake spoiler alert: that signature philosophy isn’t theoretical, it’s practical, and has been steering him through an interesting story.
I’ll leave the storytelling to him, but will mention that it is fun to hear about someone who loves something like surfing can take a talent like writing and create a career in a way that wouldn’t make any textbook. Find what you enjoy. Find what you can do well. And if the two can work together, then celebrate that. Listen in for his story of the ride.
Pluck another apple, Eve, and finish it. Or more appropriately, “Pluck Another Apple, Eve, And Finish It”; or something like that. (What is the right way to capitalize a title?) Maybe we should ask an editor. Actually, we did. Holly Thomas, editor, poet, artist was kind enough to let us interview her. We didn’t ask about this title or her artistry (this is a podcast about writing); but we did ask about life as an editor and her work as a poet. If you haven’t noticed the graphic below in some preview pane, she published a collection of her poems titled, “Pluck Another Apple, Eve, And Finish It“.
Holly’s work is a reminder that while some of us count how many words we write per hour, poets can spend hours per word – and it shows. Easy grace can require effort and introspection. As captured in the book’s description on Amazon, the term “steel lace” comes to mind. (There may also be some poems that touch on nature, emotions, and physics – a wide range that gets tied together.)
Poets have a difficult time paying bills with poems, which is why she is also an editor, earlier with Microsoft and more recently as an editor working with individual authors. Managing the creative spirit internally, in a group, in a corporation, or with fellow creatives is a special talent, possibly a collection of talents as each environment is different. Her insights into how to work with an editor are valuable. Being able to respect another’s creativity while polishing the product is a rare and hopefully appreciated skill.
(Writer’s note: Writing about an editor’s work can make a writer incredibly self-conscious. Oh well, she’s probably edited worse.)
Listen in for a range of perspectives from corporate to consulting to publishing to working on items that are so personal they may never be shared – oh yeah, and laughter. We can all use a good laugh.
I didn’t expect to finish our first year of the Writing on Whidbey Island podcast by being interviewed for another site in the UK. (Tom and Don interviewed by Pen To Print) Evidently, we’re doing something right, or at least notable. The tough challenge was finding a succinct way to summarize what we’ve done so far. Don did a good job of answering that call. I was glad to mostly sit by and watch. One bit of good news, our intent that we described in one of our first posts remains. Check back for a comparison. (WOWI episode 1 – Hello and Welcome!)
“Origin stories are in style, and this first episode recorded Don and I as we talked about who, how, why, where, and what inspired us to begin this series. The who is easy: the rest of the writing community of Whidbey Island,… The how is keeping it simple… Why is easy; we like the community and the island… Where is wherever we can,…“
As with any first drafts, we do things a bit differently now; though many may not notice the changes. The bigger change was the one we’re all experiencing. That “Where is wherever we can…” changed from three people around one microphone in one location, to one computer per person with all the varying background sounds and technical issues that includes. Again, thanks to Don for managing that part.
The podcast is about the writing community on Whidbey Island, which is more than writers and authors. Writers have a support group on the island that includes librarians, teachers, book sellers, book collectors, editors, workshop organizers – some of whom we’ve interviewed. We also hope to include publishers, illustrators, publicists, whoever else is considered to be part of the party.
Even within the bounds of ‘writers and authors’, we’ve listened to people talk about memoir, fantasy, poetry, reference guides, nature – and of course cookbooks and music (Don), and travel, personal finance, and photography (Tom).
And we’ve only just begun. We’ve yet to find a complete count of how many writers on the island have books for sale. One measure is that, as a community, we’ve overwhelmed the local libraries and bookstores. They have a tough time keeping up with what has been produced.
A common comment that arose unprompted has been that almost everyone relies on someone else somewhere along their project’s path. A writer working on their book can also be the editor for someone else’s book. Marketing benefits from shared experiences. Cross-marketing, particularly through social media, amplifies our voices. Inspiration is accelerated.
One story in particular is the reminder that success doesn’t require decades of effort, advanced study, or dozens of drafts. Our most popular podcast so far has been Invisible Pollution, written, illustrated, and compiled by students from John Del Prete’s 4th Grade Class at Crescent Harbor Elementary School. This was a serious production associated with NOAA. Writers are not required to wear grey hair.
The podcast continues. Covid is editing our style, for a while. As we said in this, our anniversary episode, maybe next year we can meet again, first in our original formula of three people in one place, and eventually in more public places, again. Any brewpubs, libraries, wineries, or bookstores interested?
What’s a Dark Angel? Ask Richard. Despite nearly an hour of conversations about what it is like to be a paid writer, a writer paid well enough to pay the bills (hey, it happens!), we forgot to ask about the origin of the name. Richard Pelletier teaches at and helps produce an international series of writing workshops under the name, Dark Angels. He also writes regularly for corporate clients, is an excellent photographer, and is working on a novel. For Richard, writing is major part of his life.
There are overlaps in his activities. Dark Angels helps writers reveal story concisely and clearly, exceeding the standards of most businesses. Helping a business stand out from “most businesses” is valuable. (Creative Writing for Business) Fortunately, some businesses recognize the reality and hire writers like Richard. It is also why Dark Angels is active and traveling (maybe not as much this year. ) There’s a need and they go meet it, wherever it is. (And somehow those events tend to be in locations like Scotland, London, Spain, Seattle, etc. Hmm. Tempting.)
He’s also working on a novel, something that can be hard to prioritize when doing so much intense writing for others.
Writing can be a career, not just a hobby. It can be an art form. Listen as Richard talks about how he approaches writing, art, business, and a bit of balance.
Say Yay! for our local libraries and the librarians who make them much more than buildings with books. Whidbey Island is fortunate enough to have five branches of the Sno-Isle Library system: Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Freeland, Langley, and Clinton. Some day we may manage to interview someone from each, and we started with Langley Library’s Vicky Welfare.
As most writers know, librarians do more than sort books on shelves. That’s been especially apparent during the current crisis because they’ve managed to keep the system operating. An impressive accomplishment. Their current restrictions have ironically highlighted some of the things they’ve always done that don’t require visiting the buildings, like research. With a bit of creativity and adaptation, they’ve also found ways for people to access books, movies, educational content, and generally helping people however they can. (They’ve even left the wi-fi on, which is how we’ve managed to record and upload some of these podcasts. The right parking space helps. Just remember to turn off your headlights if you’re there for a while – inside joke.)
Vicky shared a bit of her story, including a good idea for a bit of musical history; something for us to look forward to. We also talked about what the library can do for writers before, during, and after the writing of a manuscript, then a book, then a product. Click on the links below. Listen in. And, if you have questions and want answers, ask a librarian; that’s something they excel at.
(By the way, Vicky was kind enough to host one of our, Don and Tom presentations about Modern Self-Publishing. This video gives a glimpse of the presentation space we talk about in the podcast.)
Writers don’t have to have grey hair. Some start young, like John Del Prete’s class that recently published “Invisible Pollution”, a book and presentation about ocean acidification and how it is affecting life in and around the Salish Sea. That’s an impressive start to any writer’s career. This was a significant project, partly funded by NOAA and in partnership with Oak Harbor as well as Port Townsend schools.
Their work was divided among the entire class:, illustrations, writing, and the necessary research to back up their observations about the sources of ocean acidification, the consequences like weakened shells for shellfish and the impacts of the rest of the food chain – a food chain that we are a part of.
It will be interesting watching these students as they progress, seeing what this work inspires in their lives. For now, listen to the podcast to hear six young voices, their teacher and mentor, and of course interruptions by Don and Tom. You might eventually be able to say, “I knew about them back when they were young and just getting started.”
(By the way, keep in mind that these podcasts are live, so don’t be surprised if there’s a factual error or two. Everyone involved is human. Imperfections are part of the reality.)
Do you know Dan Pedersen from his Saturday morning blog, his extensive library of recently written books, or as the guy who goes for walks with Duncan (his dog who is also the cover model for one of the books)? Dan was nice enough to invite us to his house for his interview. Duncan was there, too. You can hear his toenails clicking around the room at the start – before he wondered off to some favorite spot to sleep until we were done.
Dan is the author of several books, and their arc is a study in the progression of a career from professional journalist, to blogger, to writer-for-hire of a non-fiction nature book, to traditional self-publishing in non-fiction, and now to modern self-publishing a somewhat accidental mystery series based on Whidbey Island. His list of productions is enough to cover a table, and represents several perspectives on how, why, and what to write. He also discusses what not to write, which can counter the conventional wisdom of everything being material.
It isn’t always about the money. Blogging is gratifying. Novel writing is fun and an escape. Yet, the mechanics and economics matter there, too, because time is precious and irreplaceable. He describes how he writes, how he advertises, and how he sells – with a bit of a commentary on dealing with publishers, printers, and whatever Amazon has become. Self-publishing provides control, which also requires working every aspect from cover design, page numbering, and how to store a few thousand copies – or paying nothing and only buying what is immediately needed.
Listen in as a gracious man displays a sense of humor as we tried to capture as much of his insights as we could in less than an hour.