Enfield Arts Q and A

Hi, everybody and welcome to the Enfield Arts 2019 question and answer session. I’m Amanda McColgan. I’m the creator of Enfield arts and the writer behind Dart, Take the Mass Pike and New Winslow, the three shows that Enfield Arts currently has in production. I mentioned before that this was going to be on video as well as podcast and transcript format. Video’s not happening, unfortunatel., I gave it a shot. I even put on makeup for it, and I just could not get the audio to work.

So yeah, I’m sorry about that.

But this will be going into both the Take the Mass Pike and the Dart feeds. So enjoy! 

So I have a handful of questions here that were submitted, and I’ve got them a little bit jumbled. So I’m not quite sure who was who but I especially want to thank Andie, Mary and Brandy for the questions that they sent in.

A lot of really thoughtful questions that definitely, definitely got me thinking.

Okay, so to start, the first question is, what are your pre and post writing rituals?

To be honest, I don’t really have a lot of ritual rituals like so before I start writing, I generally get like a drink a cup of tea, water – I was sick as a dog all through November, so Lemsip – and then usually I light a candle just because I, I like the smell like, sort of, yeah, that’s probably the closest to ritual that I have. I light a candle, I get a drink. And then I start working. After writing, I don’t really have any particular ritual because I tend to just have to jump into whatever I’m doing next that day. But while I’m writing, I do tend to use the Pomodoro Technique, if you want it to count that as a ritual. For anyone who doesn’t know, Pomodoro is a study technique where basically you do, I want to say, 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off, and then you just keep doing that. I generally I tend to do 20-25 minutes for the sessions. Yes, that’s probably the closest thing that I have to a ritual is the Pomodoro. 

Okay, so next question. Along the same lines, what kind of music do you listen to while working? Generally I listened to a lot of like those lo-fi hip hop compilations that are specific -oh, Jesus, I just totally hit the mic with my pen. Yeah, so I generally listened to a lot of low – low fi hip hop compilations on YouTube. And then a lot of times it depends on the project, I might get kind of caught on some music and listen to it pretty regularly. Most recently, while I was writing new Winslow, season two, it was Frank Turner. A lot of Frank Turner.

(Laugh)

My Spotify end of the year can certainly show that

Okay, so next question.

Unknown Speaker  2:58  

What got you started in podcasting? Were there certain podcasts that influenced you to start? Um, so it was a little bit of a process little kind of step by step by step.

So I used to listen to podcasts, I worked at a retirement home outside of Boston, and I did a lot of, I’d do like long shifts, just washing dishes. And that’s when I discovered Welcome to Night Vale. So I would, you know, have them on my crappy, you know, 2013 my first smartphone ever speakers. And I have them going just while I was just washing dishes and washing dishes and drying dishes and so on. And then, for a while, I wasn’t really listening. 

And then when I got pregnant, back in 2015, I had wicked morning sickness that just lasted all day. And I couldn’t read for whatever reason, reading triggered my morning sickness so badly. So I will listen podcasts and there was one in particular that I used to just turn on and just fall into my bed at the end of work. 

Unfortunately, the company that makes the podcast turned out to be kind of sleazy. So I’d rather not give them any, you know, promos on here. But it was, I was like, I was working in libraries. It was a book podcast. If you’re familiar with book podcasts, you might be able to figure out quickly which one that was. But yes, I kept listening to that and kind of whatever that company was putting out. 

And then, you know, My son was born I ended up leaving because you know, libraries aren’t exactly a high paid position and childcare was just way too expensive. So I became a stay at home mom with a baby and I listened to even more podcast just because I was desperate for some adult voices. 

As for fiction, I never really listened to fiction podcasts. And then in 2017, my dad died. And it was at the end of, you know, a long illness and then after that, I had, you know, I had my one-year-old, and we would just go for these long drives. He’d be asleep in the backseat, I would just drive. And I could not – I couldn’t have silence, basically.

And it was at that point in my life that I actually stumbled – I don’t even remember how I think maybe on Twitter? But I stumbled across Greater Boston and The Black Tapes. And so I just be on these long drives through just backwoods Massachusetts and I’d have Geater Boston going.

I’d be, you know, late at night driving home from my mother’s house, I would have Black Tapes going while I was driving through the woods because you know, I always make good decisions. 

And that just really led me into fiction podcasting. Just from there I just found more and more shows I was listening to more and more. Still doing those long drives. I was working. Suddenly I started working at Starbucks. I was working early, early mornings. And so from there, it was kinda like, I miss writing fiction. I could do this. And so that’s what kind of got me going again. 

So and the nice thing to not only were the creators especially, you know, Greater Boston and then I found Ghosts in the Burbs, and just, you know, again, absolutely fell in love with it.

Not only were these creators, not only did they influence me creatively, the people behind them were also just so supportive. When I put out the first season of Take the Mass Pike back in 2018. I was floored at how, you know, these creators that I had, you know, been listening to just, you know, were so enthusiastic about it.

So yeah,long story short, that’s, that’s what got me into podcasting. And honestly, those are the people that I have to thank for influencing me to start. 

Okay, so I’m just trying to keep track of what I’ve answered so far…

So, another question I got: What other project? (cough) Excuse me, What projects do you work on?

So I have a handful of them I mentioned at the start of the show. And if you’re listening to this, you probably listened to at least one of them. So thank you. For podcasts. I currently have two, I have a micro-fiction series called Dart, which is a kind of paranormal murder mystery drama where honestly, like each episode lasts three to five minutes. And I think you can listen to the whole season one in under half an hour.

But it’s about a woman who works as a delivery driver after a tragedy. And she starts being pulled into these supernatural occurrences around Boston. And I won’t give away any more than that, but that’s my most recent one. I also have Take the Mass Pike which has two seasons out. And the third and final seasons coming out in the summer. And that’s an anthology series. So it’s a handful of short stories. Some are horror, some are offbeat, and some are just kind of weird. But they all take place in Massachusetts, and they’re all scattered throughout the state. So it’s not, you know, just specifically the parts of Massachusetts that you might know.

I started that one in 2018 with a five-part, again micro fiction, series called At Home with Janie along with two other episodes. And then those were all created, those are all written and performed by me. And then season two, I expand and actually had a full cast, which is amazing. So if you haven’t listened to that yet, or if you haven’t listened since season one, give season two a try. It’s a very different style from season one, and I’m very proud of it and my cast, they’re absolutely phenomenal. 

So outside of podcasts, I also write a web series called New Winslow. And it’s basically a little too serialized to be a novel. But you can read it as a novel, but it’s released in twice-weekly installments throughout the season. And it’s about a small town in central Massachusetts, (because, you know, it’s me) where people get stuck. And you never know when it’s going to happen or how it’s going to happen or why it’s going to happen. Just that you might be trying to leave town one day, whether it’s to run away forever, or go get a gallon of milk at the grocery store. And you just get stuck at the timeline. 

And it could last you know, 30 seconds, it could last your whole life. And so that’s the backdrop to just the story of all the, you know, the people of this town. You’ve got people who have lived there their whole lives, never gotten stuck have no interest in leaving. You have people that bolted the second that could. And it’s a lot of very -honestly-  it, it’s paranormal but it’s also a lot of sort of domestic found family. I wouldn’t say coming of age because all these characters are in their 30s. But, you know, there’s elements of that. Little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance, a little bit of, like, there’s some horror. But yeah, so that’s what I’ve got going. That’s kind of probably one of my biggest ones. Season Two is coming out later this month. Very excited for that. Yeah, and obviously, I’ll you know, and I’ll leave links for all of these in the show notes. 

So outside of those technically, as part of Enfield Arts, I also have a romance novella series going called Sage Hideaway. The first book is out. And it’s, you know, a short, or fairly short,  it’s a  novella about a, you know, a woman trying to figure out her life, a guy trying to figure out his life. They stumble across each other. They don’t like each other. Then they’re stuck together and more comes from that. More blossoms. 

But I do. I do love writing romance. So I will definitely be continuing this Sage Hideaway series. It’s  a novella available on Amazon. It’s not released as part of the Enfield Arts, like, Patreon, or my schedule. But it’s along the same lines. Same Massachusetts-centric, character-centric. 

So outside of those, I’m also the co-founder of the Directory of Independent Audio Drama, which is a directory of audio drama that’s continuously updated. I was one of the organizers for Podtales, which was one of the coolest experiences of my life. And I’m currently working on a nonfiction book about history and folklore of the Quabbin valley because again, is me. 

So yep, so that’s my large pile of promotions. That’s all available on Enfield Arts dot com.

Alright, moving forward.

So, next question was, where do you get your inspiration? I do like that one. Honestly, it’s mostly from being just steeped in life in New England, just sort of the weirdness. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s haunted as shit. And that really kind of just…the the people that I know and the places that I go in the area are really like kind of what inspired me to write these stories. I just, I love this area. I love just the…everything from the history to the just, you know, the geology of it, like I like the rocks. Just everything about this area. I’m just so in love with New England and it just seeps into my writing. 

Also, I’m inspired by my deeply creative friends because when you’re surrounded by people who are, you know, it’s putting out this heartbreaking and joyful and beautiful work and then, you know, you have the privilege of just, you know, being friends with these people and just chatting with these people like, you know, anybody else. That’s hugely inspiring for me. So yeah, I’m a short answer to that question. New England and my friends. 

And I apologize. I keep just whacking that mic.

Okay, so next question. Had you already been working with these worlds before? Or did you develop your ideas specifically for each project? 

Um, I developed for the most part, I developed each world for each project. New Winslow is actually envisioned as an audio drama at first. And then that didn’t work out for various reasons. And I actually ended up liking the serial format, the written serial format better. But the world and the story remains the same. So, like, I created New Winslow to be for the story New Winslow. Same with the individual short stories in Dart and Take the Mass Pike. Really the only exception is there’s one crossover episode in last season of Take the Mass Pike and – sneaky spoilers – there’s going to be another one in season three. So in Take the Mass Pike, if you haven’t listened to it yet but you’ve read New Winslow, there is an episode where someone comes into town five years before the events of the serial and meets Noah.

And if you haven’t read New Winslow, but you’ve listened to Take the Mass Pike, the episode Something Something New Winslow. Anyway, the one where a man, you know gets lost and finds himself in new Winslow and runs across the charming bartender. That charming bartender is Noah who, five years later, is one of the main characters from the serial New Winslow, and is having a much different time of it at that point. But that’s really the only exception. There’s also going to be like I said, there’s going to be one in season three and I don’t rule out the possibility of crossovers and future work. 

If you’re hearing any clattering that was my cat. God, I can’t see him. He’s gonna jump out any second. 

So actually, along the same along the same lines, what other projects do you have planned? I would love to do a full cast serialized audio drama at some point. Most of my absolute favorite audio dramas tend to be longer serialized full cast. I love anthologies, but I am excited to try something more serialized in the audio drama world. I have no…I really have no plans. Actually no solid plans for that yet. It could not tell you what it’s about not even just because of the secrecy just because I don’t know. 

Beyond that I still have a few seasons left for new ones low and dark. So, you know, those are going to be ongoing for a while. I want to write more Sage Hideaway romances. I’d like to write more romances in general. I, like I said earlier, I love the serial format. So I will definitely be writing more web serials in the future. 

Beyond that, who knows? Sky’s the limit, I guess?

Yeah. Let’s see.

(Papers rustling)

Just a few more.

Okay, so here’s a writing one. Somebody asked, What’s your writing process like? 

So even though I tend to have a few projects going at a time, I generally draft them one at a time. So what I’ll do is I’ll, you know, brainstorm by hand I’ll just, you know, go to town on just a page of scribbling all the ideas that I possibly have for that season. Just get that all out of there. And then I’ll outline it either on paper or with note cards. I’ve tried both. I tend to like the note cards better. But it just, I don’t always remember to do them. 

But yeah, so I’ll outline. I’m very, very big on outlining. Beyond that, so I’ll, you know, I’ll draft it. I’ll bang out the draft. I’m a big fan of the like, how did I see it put? This sounds so bad, but I’m a big fan of the piles of garbage technique. And I will link this adorable comic that I found. I, I’ll link you to it in the show notes. 

Basically, the premise of it was that you just write, you just write basically NaNoWriMo style. You just write quantity over quality. And then you go back, and you kind of dig through those piles of garbage that you created. You’re bound to find – how did the comic put it – like you’re bound to find some delicious potato chips was how they put it. No so cute and so charming that is like Yes, yes, that is my approach. So I write quickly I write, you know, I follow the outline but I’m not if something else pops up that might be good for it, I’ll also write that out. It may or may not see the light of day. 

So I draft it. I do multiple rounds of edits, I’ll edit for you know, big things first, like you know, massive gaping plotholes 

(Knocking noise)

– oh for the love of Christ. I’m sorry – 

Yeah, just massive gaping plot holes. Just things that don’t work. I’ll just go basically just smooth it out first and get the general – not even the skeleton more like the muscles on the skeleton formed. And then I’ll do you know another round and fix all that. And then I’ll go through and do smaller like more of a line edit.

So I might do like three or four of these. And then afterwards, if I have the opportunity, I’ll get a beta reader. I’ve had a few people beta read multiple, like a few different projects for me. And it’s awesome. Just the things that when your eyes are tired, and you just been looking at the same pile for months, it’s easy to kind of go in either direction where you’re like, I can’t think of anything else I can do to improve this, for better or for worse. Or be like, this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Why do I possibly think I’m good enough to do this? 

Getting somebody else’s opinion, even if it’s just on like your first chapter? That can just completely get your head back on straight? It’s fantastic. 

Yeah, so that point, I will get a beta reader if I can. Otherwise, I’ll do you know, I’ll step away from it for a little bit and then I’ll do it myself, but ideally got a beta reader. 

And one thing is really important to me is that I try to have all of the writing done before doing any other parts of the production. So this is easier for something like New Winslow, because I’m really it’s more, you know, I have to make graphics for it and you know, get it scheduled on all the platforms that it’s on. But for the most part, I need it to be done by that point. It’s a little bit more tempting with something like Dart or Take the Mass Pike to be like – I did this in season one, and I do not recommend it – write, record release, write, record, release. 

I mean, it works for some people. It absolutely works for some people, but I am not one of those people. So I like to have everything written, and then move on to the production part of it. And then when I’m working on production and release for that project, I will start drafting my next project. And it’s nice because it’s like, everything I’m working on is just a little different enough that by the time one of them is released, I’m enthusiastic to kind of like get into that other style. And then there are points in year where it’s like, it’s time for a break. That’s all. And everybody needs breaks. Breaks are really important. take breaks, hydrate all that good stuff.

So yeah, my writing process is pretty similar throughout. I might alter it as needed but for the most part that’s, that’s what works for me. 

So next up was how do you manage all your projects? I stay as organized as I possibly can. I write everything down. I schedule things way in advance. I recently – what else? Yeah, so I schedule everything in advance. 

I use Airtable a lot now. Back when we were doing Podtales last year, Alexander Danner got us all using Airtable and I absolutely love it. And basically my entire organization process is now either in a notebook or on Airtable. So there’s that. 

I write fast Which I’m lucky to be able to do and it really helps me. And like I said, the piles of trash method works so well. 

And I also, I try not to be a perfectionist, so I need it to be good. I do have like I have high standards for myself. But I need to – and it’s difficult sometimes – but I try to know when to let go. Like, especially with things like New Winslow, where I could go back and edit. Like I could go on to Patreon and add a few like sneaky little edits. I don’t do that with the exception of grammar stuff like if somebody mentions a typo or, you know, because I apparently just hate myself. I put it through Grammarly recently. Hoo boy.

But I try to know when to let go. And that way I don’t find myself obsessing over a project for far too long. I just…I just let it go. And then just move on to the next thing. And again, different mediums help keep things fresh, so I don’t get burned out as quickly because I’ll go from podcasting to write it to prose to, you know, back to podcasting, but a different kind of podcasting. And it just keeps things interesting for me. 

Okay, so for the final question, this one came from Mary, I know. I mentioned something on Twitter recently about working at haunted libraries. And Mary wants answers. 

So, yes, I did, I worked, um, I worked at the Boston Athenaeum before my son was born. And it was the best job I’ve ever had. It was so cool. So this is a private library on Beacon Hill in Boston. And it’s historic, like all of the kind of the big-name Boston authors were members there. And it is haunted as shit. 

So there’s an old story about Nathaniel Hawthorne. You know, he is member there, and he goes in one day and he sees this reverend – I can’t remember the reverend’s name, is going to come to me as soon as I shut off the mic. So he – he sees this Reverend he knows who’s reading the paper. And just sitting in the reading room reading the paper, no big deal. The thing is Hawthorne read that guy’s obituary last night. That Reverend is dead. 

So it happens a couple of times. And Hawthorne doesn’t introduce himself or like ask him Hey, why are you here? Because they were never introduced in life. So he thinks it would be awkward to do it in death.

If that’s not the most Massachusetts thing you’ve ever heard.

But yeah, so it’s just this old buildings full of history and ghosts, the Granary Burying Ground’s out back. I love it. I absolutely love it. It’s such a cool building, such a cool place. If you ever get the opportunity to visit I highly recommend it. 

That’s the big ghost story. But then there’s also you know, supposedly one of the elevators is haunted. It’s terrifying to shut down at night. I, to be honest, I never actually saw ghosts there. But I knew all the stories and you know, you get those weird feelings and creepy old buildings like that. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there was one hanging out locking up with me at night. 

Okay, so that’s all the questions for today. I just want to thank everybody. This has been an incredible year, this was the first year that Enfield Arts was a thing. This was my second year of podcasting. And it was just it was life changing. 

So, thank you so much. Thank you for listening. Thank you for reading. 

If you want to support and feel the arts and what I’m doing here, there’s options in the show notes including, you know, ways that you can support me monetarily you know, Patreon, Ko-fi, or you know, you can buy the books. Or you can do it in a non financial way. Sharing these things makes such a difference, you know, posting online, posting your reactions and recommendations, and it just makes such a big difference that already had 

So yes, so thank you for joining me for the 2019 Q and A. I’m very, very excited to see what 2020 brings.

All right. Thank you. Bye

Transcribed by https://otter.ai