How do today's authors come up with their book ideas? How did they become authors to begin with? In 2014, writer Sarah Enni set out to answer these questions and more on her podcast, First Draft. Her weekly show is a deep-dive into storytellers' careers and childhoods, their major influences and their future projects. Now in its fifth year, First Draft has featured more than 170 interviews, including ones with New York Times best-selling writers and winners of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the Caldecott Award and the Michael L. Printz Award. Read on to learn all about First Draft, one of the very best bookish podcasts!
What was the inspiration behind First Draft podcast?
I started First Draft podcast after a book got very close to selling but didn't, and while I was getting divorced. I was looking for some understanding, guidance, and inspiration. I was obsessed with podcasts at the time, particularly long-form interview shows like Fresh Air and WTF with Marc Maron. Most of my friends are authors, and I think they're just as interesting as any comedian, so I started with them!
When you were first getting started, what obstacles did you run into? What's a rookie podcasting mistake you wouldn't make now?
Everything was an obstacle because I had no idea how podcasts worked. A lot of online research helped with that. Rookie mistakes mostly involve sound quality; I used to record in crowded places like bars. But it doesn't matter how great the content is—if people can't hear it clearly, they won't listen. Nor should they have to! Good, clean audio should be the goal for every podcaster.
What equipment do you use for recording and editing? How long does the editing process take?
I started First Draft with a Zoom H2N, my MacBook Air, and Garage Band. Since then I've upgraded everything. My equipment now includes: a Zoom H26, Shure BETA 87A Supercardioid Condenser Microphones, and a producer who edits using Final Cut or Hindenburg. When I was editing the show myself, it took about six hours per episode to cut.
Whether the episode features a debut author or a veteran writer of 10+ books, your interviews are consistently interesting and in-depth. How do you get ready for an interview? What does your preparation process look like?
I take a lot of pride in my preparation for interviews, and would never dream of sitting down with someone without a long list of questions. Whether I've read the guest's book or not (it isn't always possible, unfortunately), I research their work through online reviews and reader feedback. I also research the author through their website and read other interviews they've done. Some of my favorite questions are asking the author to go deeper on some point or idea they've expressed before. I hand-write the questions in my trusty bullet journal and have that in front of me during the interview.
The podcast has generally focused on authors, but you recently announced that you're broadening First Draft's scope to feature all storytellers, including essayists, songwriters and fellow podcasters. What inspired this change in direction and who are some upcoming guests?
I'm broadening the scope of the show as a way to grow and avoid stagnation. I'll always interview writers because I know them best, but I wanted to challenge myself to have similarly nuanced conversations with other artists, too. I can't share upcoming guests right now, but I think the First Draft audience will be really happy, surprised, and excited by many of them.
Which episodes would you recommend to new listeners who would like to get into First Draft? My favorites include your interviews with The Ripped Bodice bookstore owners, YA author Sara Farizan, and the Fug Girls!
I love hearing which episodes most connected with others! Those are some of the greats, for sure, and I'm so happy you enjoyed the outside-the-box interviews like the one with The Ripped Bodice ladies. For anyone new to the podcast, I think the recent Sarah Dessen, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Bea and Leah Koch (The Ripped Bodice) interviews are fun in their own right, and give a wonderful all-around sense of what the show is about.
Your debut novel, Tell Me Everything, comes out on February 26—congratulations! Are you looking forward to being the interviewee instead of the interviewer? Will our local readers be able to see you at any upcoming NYC events?
Thank you so much! I am very much looking forward to talking about Tell Me Everything a lot this spring, and an upcoming episode of First Draft will feature YA author Maurene Goo (I Believe in a Thing Called Love; The Way You Make Me Feel) interviewing me! That was such a fun episode to record and I can't wait to share it. Brooklyn and greater New York readers can find me at the NYC Teen Author Festival in March, and I'll be back to moderate some events at BookCon in June as well.
This is a library blog, so we like to close with a library question. Why do you love the library?
Someone recently told me they love the library because it's one of the few places left in the country where you can exist without the expectation that you must spend money. That remark hit me really hard, and it made me fall in love with libraries all over again. Libraries, and librarians, are professional supporters of the mind, and provide the time, space, resources and sense of safety that are required for us all to explore ourselves and our world. Libraries are as central to the health of our country as democracy itself.