Happy first birthday to my little podcast baby!
I couldn’t let the occasion pass without spending a little time reflecting on the roller coaster I’ve experienced since I launched the show. Here are a few of the high points and low points, along with some of the sneakiest surprises that have come my way in my first year as a podcaster.
Launch day! The SSR Podcast launched in June 2018, but I had been planning for it since January. With my busy day job, I knew that I couldn’t afford to start the quality show I was dreaming of if I didn’t allow plenty of planning, so I gave myself plenty of runway, plotting out my podcast to-do list so that I had just a handful of tasks to handle each month. Recordings began in April and I started the painfully slow process of teaching myself to edit audio in May. By June, I felt SO. READY. to get my podcast baby out in the world. Until that point, it felt like people weren’t quite taking my idea seriously, when I knew that I was putting in so much effort to make the final product professional and interesting. When I got those first episodes out and started getting positive feedback (especially from the people who hadn’t been quite sure what to make of the idea before), it was so exciting and wildly satisfying.
Discovering bookstagram. If you’re starting pretty much anything in 2018, you’ve gotta get yourself on social media, right? Right. BUT I had no idea that setting up that @ssrpod Instagram account would earn me admission into one of the coolest book-loving communities that I’ve ever been part of! Initially, I thought that I would simply use the ‘Gram to share about new episode. Instead, using IG for SSR has introduced me to the wonderful world of bookstagram and so many kind, brilliant new friends.
New friends! All of those new friends that I just mentioned? Yeah, they deserve their own line. Even beyond bookstagram, I’ve had the chance to bond with so many of my podcast guests. These individuals are working on fascinating projects and doing important things, and I feel lucky that they took me up on my invitation to reread a book from their childhood so that we could go to know each other.
Irv’s fame. To be clear, I knew as soon as I met Irv that he was destined for greatness. That being said, I launched the podcast (and its accompanying social media) three months before I met my sweet little pup, so his stardom has been a surprise in a larger sense.
My first troll. Ugh. If you follow me on Instagram, you already heard me talk about how hard this was to navigate. I don’t want to get into the details here, because (thankfully!) it’s all over, but to sum it up: someone made a very snap judgement about the show having never listened or engaged with it and went on to attack me and question my intentions on Twitter for over an hour. While I’m always open to debate and constructive criticism about the show (I think some of you know that personally!), I will never understand why social media gives license to some people to blindly tear people down and to try to make others look bad. I’m so grateful that the SSR community is generally so positive, because you all really helped boost me back up! I felt so sick while the trolling was actually happening.
Social media stress. I never thought that I’d be the kind of person who put too much stock in followers, likes, and engagement, but, well, I’ve found myself being that person occasionally this year. I blame it on the fact that I’m so much more invested in the SSR community than I ever imagined I would be! I also can’t help but think it has something to do with the absolutely incredible book-related content that’s coming at us from so many different creators and so many different directions. These creators inspire me and give me a kick in the butt to do more and do better!
Imposter syndrome. Even as SSR has grown and become more successful, it hasn’t been easy for me to “own it.” I really felt this when I went to BookCon earlier this month. In hindsight, I should have been walking up to people and confidently introducing myself as the producer and host of The SSR Podcast. Instead, I was hiding in the back of panels and hoping that someone might recognize my SSR tote bag so we could become pals. I gotta get over that!
Personal lows. Personally, this last year has been the hardest I’ve ever experienced. My dad experienced a sudden heart attack just weeks before the show launched in June. Three months after that — and just after we moved and got a puppy (but you can read more about that here) — my beloved Nana died unexpectedly. I didn’t always know if I was going to be able to continue to produce and release new episodes, but I’m stubborn and like to stick to my commitments! As hard as it was, I managed to keep everything on track in spite of the low points. I think that being responsible for a project that mattered so much to me really motivated me to keep marching!
THE SNEAKY SURPRISES
Apple Podcast reject. Funny story: Apple Podcasts actually rejected SSR when I submitted it to the store for the first time! My amazing friend and graphic designer Sophie Forman had put together several variations of our current thumbnail art, my favorite of which was (and still is) the one that includes the SH*T SHE READ subtitle below the illustration. That’s the one I submitted, never anticipating that it would be a problem thanks to the asterik… not to mention the existence of podcasts with much racier titles! Within a few hours, I had been REJECTED. The email cited new Apple restrictions, and I freaked. out. Thankfully, I was able to resubmit the feed shortly after that and — obviously — it all worked out on the second try, but I had spent so much time getting everything right with my original application and I was worried that it was some sort of ~sign~ that starting the pod was a mistake!
Getting honest. I never imagined that I would feel so comfortable getting honest and vulnerable with my guests on-mic, or that I would become a regular face on Insta stories. I expected to talk almost solely about books, but those conversations have opened up opportunities for me to share stories about my childhood and personal life, which has been a big shock — especially since I rarely felt comfortable being so honest on the blog I used to keep.
Reading overload. Apparently, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that hosting a podcast in which every episode would focus on an entire BOOK would necessitate that I work a lot more reading into my schedule. LOL! It occurred to me just a few days before my first-ever recording that I would need to make time for all that reading. This reality has definitely changed the way I look at my reading life, but I’m learning to find more balance every month.
Getting political. I don’t typically shy away from getting political, but the kinds of issues that we tend to cover on the show have forced me to define my politics and beliefs in ways that I wouldn’t have necessarily expected. It’s been increasingly important to me to be able to fairly and clearly communicate that to my community, both on and off the podcast.
The blog. When I shut down my OG blog in September 2018 (find that whole story here), I never would have guessed that another one would be coming just a few months later. I love SSR that much! Life is surprising that way : )