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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and at my amazon author page:
“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.
Listen to songbirds, turkeys, a few cars, and a babbling stream as the background to our interview with Maribeth Crandell, author of Hiking Close to Home, a hiking guide for dozens of trails on Whidbey Island. Our setting was the Outdoor Classroom in the Maxwelton Valley, a facility provided by the Whidbey Watershed Stewards, as well as one of the trails mentioned in her book.
Maribeth’s hiking and writing history includes Flip Flop, her story of traveling the Appalachian Trail. Such epic hikes are engaging, but she also recognized the benefit of hiking closer to home, especially when the mountains are inhospitable. She noticed the simple fact that no one had written a book that covered dozens of trails on Whidbey Island, including the ones that accommodate (or at least attempt to accommodate) wheelchairs and such. Over 120 pages and six months later, she and Jack Hartt completed the book, ordered up a few hundred copies, began the rounds of presentations and signings, and now have to order more books.
As with most authors, she also has a day job, working for Island Transit, a free bus service that deserves a book, too. Rather than separate the hiking and the day job, she’s found ways to incorporate the two, including bus-related hikes, and conducting bus tours to various trails. Her experience is a good one for writers and authors to witness how book projects can be inspired, and can inspire other projects. Just don’t be surprised if we’re distracted by sounds from the woods, or digressions about whales and squirrels. Bring your binoculars – to the hikes, not the podcast.
Ament, like in Dam(n) It. Allan Ament (attorney, writer, and person instrumental in the official – though no longer existing – writers association and language arts institute) was kind enough to spend some time talking about writing his book, Learning to Float – Memoir of a Caregiver-Husband. Another key talent, a sense of humor.
As Allan mentions, life is a writing prompt. Even if you don’t intend to write a book, life can put a person through an experience that others ask to hear or read. His story is based on caring for his wife, Deloris Ament, who is also a writer and editor with her own book, Iridescent Light – The Emergence of Northwest Art. Caregiver is a job frequently engaged by necessity as much as choice, which is where Allan found himself. Requests from friends about medical progress turned into an email list, which turned into a blog, which turned into a book. The path to publication does not always follow a plan.
He gives credit to the various writing groups on the island (a place that is “amazingly supportive of creativity.”), and notes their differences in style; the role of the various types of editors, something he’s familiar with because Deloris is one of the best; and how attempts at perfection can intrude on creativity. As he advised one of his perfectionist students, “Get a life.” Considering the topic of his book, and the life he’s led, that’s far more pragmatic than academic.
Say hello to Susan Jensen, author of three books (Cold Snap, Island Solstice, My Dad Smells Funny), artist, AirBnB Superhost, and the star of the viral #DankSusan meme. We met in her home, the site of her AirBnB studio apartment (The Oar House, and yes, she knows what that can sound like because she has a sense of humor.)
Hear about her debates with editors and agents about issue books, including a quick vocabulary expanding opportunity with the phrase “roman à clef.” Her experiences with writers groups becomes a quick survey of which ones work and which ones don’t work, at least for her. To join, or not to join – the choice is always personal. Especially for the topics her books cover, it’s important to find writers who can critique with compassion.
With decades of experience marketing the works of others, and a teacher’s perspective for developing talent, she provides insight and support to writers – and also self-critiques her marketing. Whether about writing or not, she’s engaging in a broad range of conversations. Now, about those pet portraits…