Wednesday, May 16, 2018

7 Questions For: Dream Gardens Podcast Host Jody Lee Mott

Esteemed Reader, you know I love podcasts and audiobooks and I firmly believe that if you're doing dishes or working out or any number of other activities that prevent you from actually sitting down and reading a thing, you can still be taking in useful information to improve you as both a writer and a human being. Dream Gardens is one of my new favorites and I would definitely classify it as "useful." 

I've listened to every episode and I'm a guest this week as Jody and I discuss my favorite middle grade novel, The Witches by Roald Dahl. You can hear the full episode here or below at the bottom of this interview.

Here's an official description of the show: Dream Gardens is a twice monthly audio podcast interview with writers, teachers, librarians, or anyone who share a love of children’s books. In each podcast, I’ll talk to my guests about their favorite children’s book: old favorites and new discoveries; books they shared with students, their own children, or other adults who love to read; stories that have made them laugh, cry, and wonder; words that still speak to them no matter how many times they have read them.

Jody Lee Mott is a former teacher, doting husband and father, intermittently successful cook, would-be writer of and all around geek for great kids’ books. After years of futile resistance, he is engaging at last in the digital world to share his own passion for those stories written specifically for children, but which are really for anyone who still opens the pages of a book with a sense of wonder and joy.

And now Jody Lee Mott faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite children's books?

1. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – Not just my favorite children’s book but one of my favorite books period. Here you have a passive, prickly and self-centered china rabbit who bounces from one group of characters to another, never quite finishing their own stories, and whose big climax has Edward sitting on a shelf, collecting dust and brooding. None of it should work, but of course it all does because Kate diCamillo is just that good. A wonderful and moving book that's really about what it means to be a human being.

2. The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers, Diggers, Wings) by Terry Pratchett – a terrific set of books in their own right, but they were also my introduction to the fictional worlds of Mr. Pratchett, including his Discworld novels. What’s marvelous about them is how even though they are “children’s books,” they are just are smart and hilarious and insightful as any of his adult books. As it should be.

3. D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire – the first book I remember checking out of the library, and I remember it because I checked it out at least a hundred times. The stories and the illustrations fascinated me, and scared me a little too. And though I did have to return it when the due date came around, it was the first book I felt like I owned. A very special feeling I’ve never gotten over.

Question Six: What attracted you to podcasting?

Along with being a podcaster, I am an aspiring children’s book writer, and in the past few years I’d been considering a way to increase my online profile. But it was while listening to various podcasts like Grammar Girl and Brain Burps that the idea first struck me that podcasting might be fun to do, and that I might be good at it.  There was something about the performative aspects of the podcast that appealed to me as well, like the poems I read at the beginning of the podcast and my role as interviewer, while my introverted nature appreciated that I would be heard but not seen (which is why I doubt I will ever add a video component to Dream Gardens).

Question Five: What are you most hoping listeners will take away from the Dream Gardens podcast?

Two things: One, that there is a wide variety of kids’ books out there, past and present, that are worth looking into. Part of the joy of doing this, for me, is not only re-reading old favorites but having the chance to read books I either had meant to read but hadn’t got around to or to read books I might never have heard of otherwise. If nothing else, I hope the podcasts introduce new books to new readers (and any book is new, no matter how old, if it hasn’t been read yet).

And second, that children’s books are works of art worthy of serious discussion as much as any other book.  Yes, their primary audience is children, but that does not mean there is less craft involved, or that they lack depth or complexity. Children’s books, like kids themselves at times, are too often under-estimated.

Question Four: Has hosting a podcast about children's books changed your view of children's books? What have you learned from your experiences thus far?

I’m not sure it changed so much as confirmed my view that the books we read as kids shape us as readers, and sometimes even affect the paths of our careers, making us teachers or librarians or writers or even podcasters.

What I've also learned is that people who are passionate about kids’ books want to share that with others. When I first started out, I wasn’t sure if anyone would agree to do this. I mean, why should they? I was just a guy no one knew who said he had this podcast no one had heard of.  And after a year and a half of doing this, it still surprises me when people say yes, but I am grateful they do.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about hosting the Dream Gardens podcast? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite part of hosting is just listening to what others have to say about their favorite books. I have always felt that my role was secondary to just letting others talk about how a particular book has engaged them. And I think the enthusiasm for that book does come through in that conversation.

My least favorite part is the initial invitations I send out asking people to participate in the podcast. As I’ve mentioned, I’m an introvert, and asking complete strangers to join me in a chat goes against all my normal instincts. It is something I have to fight against every single time I do it, and I still cringe a little when I click send.

Question Two: What advice would you give to anyone looking to start their own podcast or otherwise build an online following for their creative work?

My biggest advice is to do the research before you get started. Listen to other podcasts, both to see what is out there and to get an idea of how to format your own. Then research all the pieces involved in getting started and keeping it going--and there are a lot of pieces. Sure, there are ways to get started quickly, but they usually involve giving up some control of either your podcast or its distribution. If you want to do it right, take the time to do it right. Once I decided I wanted to do a podcast, I took nearly a year of figuring things out and getting the right equipment (tip: a high-quality microphone and headphones are essential) before I posted my first podcast.  As for other online ventures, I think the same advice holds true—do your research first.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Robert Louis Stevenson, because he was such a good writer (I’ve always thought The Master of Ballantrae was pretty much a perfect book), a wide traveler, and an all-around interesting human being, and because I know he would have so many stories to tell I could just sit back and listen and eat my lunch.

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