Talking Shop with Sarah Enni of the First Draft Podcast

I’m a big fan of podcasts.

As a writer, my all-time favorite is the author interviews and insider insight of the First Draft with Sarah Enni podcast. It’s full of discussions with your favorite writers, and incredibly helpful and insightful behind-the-scenes info. It’s a must-listen!

Graciously, Sarah agreed to chat with me about how the podcast got started, who some of her favorite guest interviews have been, and a recent read she loved.

Everyone, meet Sarah Enni of the First Draft podcast!

How did the First Draft podcast get started?

First Draft was started in 2014 when a bunch of bad things collided: I was sick of my journalism day job, my book had gone to acquisitions but not sold, and my marriage was falling apart. Yikes. Throughout that hard time, podcasts (especially interview shows like Fresh Air and WTF With Marc Maron) were helping me get through. So when I knew I was going to be moving from Washington, D.C. to Seattle to live with my mom for a while, I decided to make the most of the road trip. I asked every YA author I knew–and many I didn’t–if I could stop by their homes and interview them, then release those conversations as podcast episodes. Luckily, everyone said yes. Two months, 40 interviews, and 6,600 miles later, I rolled into my mom’s house with a new passion for podcasting.

 How did you learn the technical aspects of podcasting?

Google! When I started, it was 2014 and podcasting was really in its infancy. I had some knowledge of recording tape in the field from my journalism experience, and from there I Googled, listened to other podcasts about podcasts, and watched YouTube videos. Then–and most importantly–I learned by doing it. I always say that First Draft has been the way I’ve learned to fail out loud.

 What have been some of your favorite guest interviews?

This is a really hard question, because I’ve genuinely found so much value in every single conversation I’ve had for the show. But a few stood out as the kinds of conversations I’ll carry with me forever, including my conversation with Libba Bray, Jason Reynolds, Courtney Stevens, John Green, Nina LaCour, Mary H. K. Choi, Jon Klassen, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Kate DiCamillo, and Dan Santat… I could go on! And it was a dream to talk to Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, Chani Nicholas, and Tim Baltz.
 -What do you hope listeners gain from listening to the podcast?The inspiration and confidence to pursue their own writing goals and dreams. Empowering, inspiring, and informing writers is the purpose of the show, and of its spin-off series, Track Changes, which takes listeners step-by-step through the traditional publication process.

 What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned while running the podcast? Your biggest accomplishments?

It’s so hard to boil down what I’ve learned into a few lessons. I’ve learned to run a business, to organize my schedule and protect my time, to bring genuine curiosity into my interactions with new people. And that’s on top of the 1,000 practical tips I’ve learned from the incredible authors I’ve interviewed for the show. I consider running this podcast for seven consecutive years—while getting more consistent and organized—to be the biggest professional achievement of my life so far. I’m incredibly proud.

 What are your goals with the First Draft Patreon?

My goal with the Patreon is to provide a writing community for people who respond to the kind of approach I bring to writing with First Draft. I’m so excited that the Discord forum is already so lively, and I’ve loved the monthly video chats where listeners and I share about our projects and hold each other to writing goals. As far as what the Patreons are giving me, it’s a huge amount of financial security that I am incredibly grateful for. Consistent income is what I’ll need to grow the show in the way I imagine. I’m so grateful to my community for their support.

Support the First Draft Patreon here!

 What tips would you give to wannabe podcasters?

Listen to a LOT of podcasts. Know what you want your podcast to be about—super, super specifically. The more niche the better, to be honest. And know your format (one-on-one conversation; chat show; quiz show; whatever). In my opinion, having a solid structure and committing to consistency will get you the best results. Also: investment in good sound quality is really, really huge. No matter how great your content is, people don’t want to listen to tinny, scratchy audio.

 What’s a recent book you’ve read and loved?

Oooh! I recently read Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns and Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain (both non-fiction), which completely rocked my world. I also adored Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray and Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson!

 What are your favorite out-of-office activities?

Over the last few months I’ve taken up wood-working, and I’ve loved building things with my own two hands. I love taking long walks while listening to podcasts or audiobooks, sitting around with friends talking with wine, and taking road trips to places of great natural beauty. I’ll be honest, things in L.A. are still only creeping toward normal, so some things (like taking Improv classes and traveling abroad) are just not on the table right now. Hopefully soon though.

Listen to the First Draft podcast here, (Apple Podcasts and Spotify) and follow Sarah on Twitter and Instagram.

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