Publishing, performing, becoming a producer, and adapting stories for different formats
Jude Brewer is an American author, producer, and podcast host. Jude's writing has appeared in both the US and the UK through various lit journals, anthologies, and short films. He is the host and creator of Storybound, a podcast produced by Lit Hub Radio and The Podglomerate, a joint venture inspired from Jude’s original literary "radio theatre" podcast Storytellers Telling Stories. In this episode we talk about building a career as a writer, traditional vs. self publishing, his struggle to keep a regular job, Portland’s literary scene, and why Adapting his stories for different mediums has helped his career take off.
Transcript and show notes can be found here
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Jude Brewer 0:00
I know what my vision is I know what I bring to a project. That was something I didn't know when I was a kid. Now I know what I bring, I can essentially call on other people say, Well, this person is really good at this. This person's really good at this. I don't want to be an expert at everything.
Jay Clouse 0:14
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.
Jay Clouse 0:40
Hello, my friend and welcome to another episode of Creative Elements. I want to start today's episode with a quick announcement that I'm really excited to share with you. The last three months have been absolutely incredible. The show has gotten more love than I could have ever hoped for. And for that, I thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you to so many of you who have reached out on Twitter and on Instagram. And thank you to everyone who has rated and reviewed the show on Apple podcasts. We blasted through a 100 ratings just last week. And they are all five stars. It's incredible. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And as the show has grown, a lot of you have asked if there's going to be some sort of listener community. And so today I'm excited to share with you that we have created a new private Facebook group for listeners of this show. You can find the link in the show notes in my twitter or instagram bios, or by searching Creative Elements listeners on Facebook. I'm really excited about it. My girlfriend Mallory is helping me to moderate it. It's brand new, so bear with us, but go ahead and join us and help get the party started. Every week I'll share a little behind the scenes from the show, and we can talk about the episodes. Okay, speaking of episodes, let's get on to today's episode. I've spoken with quite a few writers on this show already. From Seth Godin to James Clear, Ash Ambirge, just to name a few. But the writers I've had on the show have been non fiction writers. And for the most part they were writing online long before they're working to publish a book. Now, I'll be honest with you, writing and podcasting aren't the most lucrative gigs right out of the gate. I can promise you that. And I haven't personally met many people making a living as a writer of fiction, but today I'm talking with one of them. Today I'm speaking with Jude Brewer, an author, screenwriter, producer and fellow podcaster. Lately, Jude has built a name for himself in podcasting with his popular show Storybound. The show has been covered in the New York Times and on the AV Club, which makes me very, very jealous. But before Storybound, Jude was making a name for himself as an award winning author of fiction in short stories. Here's an excerpt of Jude reading a story called "I Dreamt."
Jude Brewer 2:54
I dreamt last night I worked for the state. My job title was voice creator. The building I worked in was tall and gray resembling a castle or prison. Upon entrance, I would show my ID badge and a hole would open up in the cement floor for me to fall into. This hole would take me to where I was meant to work, I suppose, but my ID was faulty or contains some error, so the guard asked me to step aside while he inspected it. Meanwhile, other people entered, and the floor would open up beneath them, but the hole that appeared below to orange, and when they fell, I heard them screaming. The guard eventually said to me, You had a name change. He handed me back my badge. He said, I've made the correction on our system and you're free to go. He pushed some button or flip the switch, which opened the floor a couple steps beside me. The hole was not blowing orange. It wasn't glowing at all. It was black. No sounds down there. No cold air escaping or rush of warmth, just a colorless void. Its depth was seemingly infinite.
Jay Clouse 4:02
In this episode Jude and I talk about building a career as a writer, traditional publishing versus self publishing his struggle to keep with a regular job. Portland's literary scene, and while adapting his stories for different mediums has helped his career take off. This episode is a lot of fun. And if you stick around towards the end, you'll even get to hear some really great excerpts from Jude's recent projects. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or on Instagram @JayClouse, or remember, you can now join the party on our Facebook group. Just search Creative Elements listeners on Facebook. All right, now, let's jump in and talk with Jude.
Jude Brewer 4:40
I mean, I didn't know what a writer looked like. You know, my experience with writing was the books I was reading all the time as a kid just escaped me to my imagination, stayed on my grandparents house just had my head in the book all the time. I'm I loved, I loved imagining, and I love disappearing into these worlds. And so I knew when I was about 12, 13 that I wanted to be a writer. I didn't know what that looked like,
Jay Clouse 5:10
When you're getting started, were you tending towards fiction as opposed to nonfiction?
Jude Brewer 5:15
Well, when I, when I started, it was all fiction, I'd say anything I write has always had an element of my actual life in it. And I don't know about other writers. But for me, I think that's just inescapable. Because otherwise, I'm not tied to it. But it's also a way that I can kind of hide and I started out writing these fictional stories to kind of get through some real emotionally turbulent times when I was a teenager. And it actually started out when I looked at this in retrospect, that I think it was a way for me to communicate with my mother at the time, because there's just my mother and I growing up, and I would write a full story, and then I would give it to her, and I would sit there she was center chair, and she'd read it and then we get to have long conversations about it. So it really became my way of communicating my feelings to other people. But covertly, I wasn't having to actually, you know, explain my feelings, they could experience some characters. I started writing my first stories on my grandparents typewriter. And by the time I was 15, I finished a full book. And I was talking to my I mean, I wasn't really paying attention any of my classes, but my teacher of the time, she was really smart. And she was keyed into the fact that okay, this kid's writing a book, so and he doesn't really want to do schoolwork. So she asked us, let me work on that. And so I had a couple very integral people in my life couple teachers who were, you know, very supportive of me in that regard. So by the time I got into college, I had been sort of in this practice of writing a full scale book. I don't think any of them were very good. I got my first publishing contract when I was like, 19. And then I ended up canceling it because I was like, the world should never ever see this book. At the publisher at the time also, they were just saying a bunch of authors and I was learning a lot about predatory publishers at the time.
Jay Clouse 7:03
I'm surprised to hear that as a teenager at 19, you got your first publishing deal. You want to know what the publishing world was about, or how to go about trying to find a publishing deal. Seems like it'd be difficult to conceptualize in your teens if you didn't have somebody kind of guiding you down that path. So what did that look like for you? How did you enter the publishing world early? And what did you think that path would be like?
Jude Brewer 7:27
Actually, the first book that I ever bought on publishing, which I To this day, I would recommend to anybody was publishing for dummies, or how to publish your book for dummies or something like that. I can't remember the author's name, but I had it on my shelf for years. I think I gave it to a friend because they were very curious with a publisher more than nothing about I said, read this because it breaks it down in the best way possible. And I think it's still applicable today, even though that was written in the early 2000s. Or kind of kind of late 90s, early 2000s. And I got I got it. I think it was around 2002 And it talked actually all about predatory publishers. It talked about vanity publishing, it talked about kind of what to expect how to write a query letter to agents even broke it down and was like, is your book even ready? Like, do you even have a good enough idea to totally sustained through a novel? So it had me already thinking of my stories in ways that I hadn't before. And that was really good for me as a kid, because I was just discovery stage all the time. Like, I mean, I could see a book, but then I was like, Okay, well, if it's my own book, I'm gonna take somebody through this, what does it actually look like? It's always just this totally open ended project. So that was the first book that I had read. And it really prepared me for some of the, I mean, when I say predatory publishers, it prepared me for that first contract, where I realized, okay, if this was a, if this was a good situation, they would be treating me this way. They would be treating me differently. And that book showed me like how you could be treated as an author like well, I'm not being treated like that. Maybe I should just let it go.
Jay Clouse 9:02
Can you break that down a little bit more?
Jude Brewer 9:04
Yeah. So it was a publisher that at the time was this was when publishing was really changing a lot. So I got into this industry when snail mail was kind of going out the door, and everyone was going more email based. And so I was still sending off manuscripts in snail mail around that time. And others were still trying to adapt to just getting full on emails. This publisher was doing all email. And they were signing off, I found out as they were saying, authors like left and right, and basically just queuing up these books, but they only had maybe a couple editors and editors were going at such a insanely slow pace, and I didn't really understand the pacing. But when it took two years to get through two chapters of my book, I realized that they must not care about this project that much. It wasn't on their high priority list and within two years, I mean, I had gone from working in high school like the cannery over the summer. Doing retail at Sears and Best Buy to selling knives or the summer to going through college, like within two years, and I was working at Blockbuster. And like I just was like, I want to write other things. Like by the time I even looked at that, those chapters in that book, I was like, I don't even connect with the story anymore.
Jay Clouse 10:19
What's the model of a publisher that's trying to move that quickly and just sign authors left and right what's their incentive for going about it that way?
Jude Brewer 10:27
I think that they were just trying to get themselves started really fast. I you know, there's there's a couple of ways you could do this. If you're going to start you know, your own small press, you could pick just a few very quality writers, you know, you could pick four hell, you could pick two and say we're only going to publish two books a year, but you make them count. You know, you you spend X number of months going through the developmental stage and going through several rounds of edits. And then you know, you lay out your months of marketing and and you get that down you have your two books a year. Otherwise you have this publisher that and others I think who either we're going to have a lot not as long of a lifespan. And they're just going to say, hey, let's just like sign them as quickly as we can and just get them out because they're more concerned with we got to get books sold, we got to and they were actually going more towards e publishing at the time anyway, because he published he was getting huge Kindle was just like, launched around that era. And so they were thinking we need to have as many books available for people to buy. And I mean, I think long term that just I mean, it showed with them, it didn't work. They're not they're not around anymore, because they were treating books as though they were like just popcorn people just eat and get through.
Jay Clouse 11:39
Yeah, or even maybe just like lottery tickets. You know, they're trying to build this portfolio of like, well, if we publish 30 things, maybe one of them will hit.
Jude Brewer 11:36
That's exactly and I was thinking Oh, if I'm if my writing is gonna be treated like a lottery ticket, it's like I'm out because that's not why I got into it.
Jay Clouse 11:55
Let's double click on this while we're talking about it and I'd love to hear your input as far as If I am an author, and I'm thinking about being published, when does going through a publisher make sense versus self publishing?
Jude Brewer 12:09
Well, I still very much believe in the traditional format. I don't discount self publishing at all. I mean, I think it was any weird of the Martian. I mean, he that was self published, there are a number of success stories where writers have self published, they've gotten a following. They've done really well. And then it publishes, hey, I want to pick this up, and I want to print it myself. So you have that kind of success story. In others, they're just really happy with just self publishing and not having not having a middleman but also some of those stories. You also hear that they did have a friend and marketing and they had a friend somewhere that helps lift them up and make those sales possible. So it's actually rare that I believe and maybe I'm wrong about this, but it's I think it seems to be rare, rare than we think that someone just comes up out of nowhere. And and they're purely self published, and they have no team around them at whatsoever. And that's the same thing with musicians. It's the same thing with anything. In an independent format, as far as artists go, I believe strongly in a process where you are not surrounded by yes people, like actually being surrounded by people who can look at your work critically. And not that they're just saying, This is bad, this is bad, this is bad, but also reinforcing what's good about what you're doing. I thrive off of that. And in most writers, even before they ever publish their book, or even before they start pitching it, like they'll workshop it with their friends, or they'll have they'll actually have writers groups and they go, alright, we're going to go through all these pages. I know friends who were, you know, paying editors several thousand dollars to go and help them redevelop a book they've already written before they start showing it to agents. So I think if you went through all of those channels, and then you want to self publish still, that's fine. You're going to come out with a really, you'll come out with a good book, but I very much believe in traditional format because for me, I'm always self publishing. Like if I write something, I put it on my shelf. I have so many self published books. I just haven't published them to the world.
Jay Clouse 14:01
When I'm going to pitch to publishers, I'm saying I want to go the traditional route, is it to my benefit to have this final polished product that I work at least with an editor through, or I've heard some people say that you might actually be better off not having anything written at all and selling the publisher on the idea of it and the dream of what it could be.
Jude Brewer 14:20
If you're going to sell people on the idea is something you better be an absolute expert. Like when you have a typically when you're pitching a memoir, memoirs, you'll have like a proposal. And your proposal breaks down what your books about how you're going to write it, example chapters. And then like, Where do you think it falls in line with other books and you have to lay out your expertise. I mean, they generally you know, want to see that you can actually write the book, because they're taking a risk. That's the thing agents and publishers, every time they're taking an agent is like cool, I'll work for you for free for like X number of years. And hopefully it sells and then I'll make some money and publishers are like We'll put all this resources behind and hopefully people take it. I mean, everyone's taking a risk on you. And that was something that I didn't realize when I was younger, I would just like write a draft of a book, I'd be like, it's perfect. I'd send it off. Why don't they want it? Like what's wrong with them? And it was very selfish of me, because these people are taking a risk just opening your email and get because time is precious. And the publishing industry is chaos all the time, because no one knows what to do. Like no one knows necessarily what's good, or what's going to catch on. So there's constant panic. And so to answer your question, I think that it's always beneficial to get your product as polished as possible. And just be patient and wait, like, publishing and writing are very slow art forms. If you're not patient, you're in the wrong art form, just because it could be it could take years it could take decades.
Jay Clouse 15:50
It seems like people probably overestimate the total value and the reality of what an advanced looks like from a publisher to because these are years of work on these things, and you're not going to get an advance to fund your life for multiple years unless you really have either a lot of credibility or an audience already behind you. Does that track with your experience?
Jude Brewer 16:13
Yeah, hugely for sure. I would say the books that I was pitching when I was in college, because I had written two books in particular that I was writing during that time. One was more sci-fi ish. And then one was just like a kind of a small town that I every once in a while still return to a short stories. It's basically this little Fantasy Life that I that I made up in my head that I loved. And she's like, Oh, I'm gonna ask some questions about that. Yeah, it's like 40, 40 characters that I still just like I love so much. And I will turn to you in different ways. But I basically realized that when I was pitching those books in college, that the thing that was constantly coming back to me was we liked your writing. We think this interesting story. We don't know how to sell it. Like I heard that so many times. And it got to the point to be very frustrating where I started actually having a little bit of a crisis, every time I would start a new book, I'd start thinking, can I sell it? Is any good can can somebody sell this? And that was a big fear of mine, because I think I was writing in the small niches and I still kind of am like, I still want to write something that's very narrow, and for a very specific audience, and it doesn't mean that I in fact, I enjoy things of so many flavors. I mean, it's actually really rare that I even read or consume, the kind of stuff that I like to make. We make them we make a narrative podcast. I don't actually listen to that many narrative podcasts. I listen to a lot of interviews and comedy podcasts. But as far as having an audience Yeah, I mean, this. It's really important, especially as an author, so I find ways to perform it live. I find ways to act it out. I mean, I'm constantly finding ways to adapt, essentially.
Jay Clouse 17:58
Talk to me about this fantasy world that you've built these 40 characters that you keep returning to, where did that come from?
Jude Brewer 18:05
I have no idea where that came from. When I was in when I was in high school. I, I had for some reason dreamt up this little family, this father named Abraham and he had his three daughters, Magdalene, Mars and Danielle, and then he has a son, Jeremiah, and his wife passed away, and he is trying to raise these children. And every time I finish a story, like I get like a new tattoo for it somewhere for myself, and I have I have this tree on my shoulder and the tree is from this book, because what I wanted was Abraham was basically going through this severe depression at the time, he missed his wife and have been four years and he hadn't moved through it. And so there was a tree in their backyard that he just wasn't tending to and it was rotting and He knew he had to cut it down. But he kept putting it off and putting it off. And towards the end of the story, there's a storm that happens every year they've been talking about this year is going to be a bad one, the tree actually knocks down and falls through their house and lands in his son's room, his son ends up in the hospital. And so for me, that story was a lot of these, these subtle messages that are coming out to you throughout your daily life that you aren't even aware of. You just kind of keep moving and you're ignoring what is right there in front of you. Like the the the problem to solve. And I think that was me just sort of unconsciously, just knowing that for myself, that's still something I'm learning on a daily basis. So for me, this town like that started with that family, but I kept returning to this town every time and all these characters have come into play. And I would throw new events that would happen like at one point there was a school shooting that happened in the town and I'm not wanting to town to deal with that. Now. There's a creepy coach at a high school. I wanted people to deal with that. I, it was for me, this town was a place where I could solve, not that I could solve problems, but I could watch these other people solve problems, but very realistically and maybe even fail at them. And that was a very fun dynamic for me to play out. And so I'm, I still toy with them all the time.
Jay Clouse 20:17
I love that because it's this continued investment into this world that you've created, you know, your every time you go back, you add a little bit of depth to at least the environment, if not individual characters, which I think has to be really, really fulfilling.
Jay Clouse 20:31
When we come back, Jude talks about his first published book in the beginning of his writing career taking off right after this. Welcome back to Creative Elements. Up to this point in the interview, we've talked a lot about Jude's career and experience as an author, but that didn't come easily or quickly. And while he was working to earn a living as a writer, he was also working a job. Well, actually a lot of jobs.
Jude Brewer 21:01
I did a tally of this awhile back and I've worked 20 jobs in my life. And well I would basically work a job, you know, for several months and I would get really good at it. I would either have like top sales numbers or something like that and, and I and that's fine. I those are. I don't think those are like me like tight amigo. I'm really good at this job. In fact, I failed at the fundamental part of every one of those jobs. And that was just the day in and day out committing to it and sticking to it, I would get bored really quickly. It's why I barely got through college because I was constantly writing or wanting to do all these things. Like I already know what I wanna do with my life. So I kept just floating from job to job. It wasn't until I took a road trip down to Arizona, when I got into college, and I went and met my dad. I hadn't seen him since I was about seven. And he was homeless at the time. And I ended up writing a whole book about that. And that was like the first book that I got published. And you know, everything kind of took off. From there, I met the whole writing community in Portland it was all of a sudden meeting writers in person and being able to contextualize that because I didn't really know what a writer was, I just knew this was the thing that I liked to do. I don't necessarily even really think of myself. As a writer, I just think of myself as someone who loves to escape all the time. And that, well, as an adult, I'm actually trying to escape less I'm actually enjoying more collaborative work. So it's, that's been a really interesting evolution. I think in the last 10 years. I'm definitely not how I started in this thing. I'm more sociable, I'm not as like by myself and isolated wanting to write all the time.
Jay Clouse 22:42
At this point, how many books or short stories like how do you think about your body of work and how much of this you have published?
Jude Brewer 22:48
My body of work is right now. It's in a bunch of boxes. It's so funny. I actually just went through him recently. I have Yeah, just journals and journals and so many printed out copies of manuscripts, I still keep around. I like flipping through them. I like kind of seeing where I was at a certain time and learning from it. I feel good about my body work, but I also feel like, honestly, it's just really starting, I think for the first time I actually have found my voice that I'm, it's just taken me. Like, I thought when I was younger, I thought, Oh, I like to write. And I have it out down. So I know it. I'm actually I'm really glad that I've had the last, you know, 15 years to essentially develop that voice because I've had several voices on the page and it's for the first time I actually am very confident on what's coming out. So you know, my body of work I yeah, I do actually feel like it's just beginning. And as short stories were something that I didn't really like doing for the longest time. I liked that because I would get really obsessed about one little thing and I wanted to really flesh it out. I love the little longer the larger scale projects. It's the same reason why I think some of those books I've started developing into like screenplays or like TV pilots, that's something that started getting into several years ago, I have a couple friends who work on some shows of mine that I, I just absolutely love. And so I like the idea of basically converting those stories into just because a novel is a very specific experience. So I'm trying to think about what do I want out of that specific isolating experience when you're reading a book versus some of these other stories I'd be interested in. I mean, I want to see actors bring them to life, I want to see them actually come to life on a screen. And I think some of these stories serve themselves better in that format versus by yourself in a room.
Jay Clouse 24:45
I want to get into some of this work you're doing with short films and podcasts here in a second. But before we got on here, we were talking about how you've had to be adaptable in your career. So when it comes to all of this work that you've produced, how have you had to adapt as you were creating this body of work and getting to this point now, where you think you're, you're really just the beginning of what your career will be?
Jude Brewer 25:07
Well, I would say the biggest wake up call for me was when I got involved in the lit scene here in Portland. And that was a really just a total shock to my senses, because I had done theater, right. But I had never read one of my stories on stage. And the first time I ever did that was this dank little bar called the jack London. And every month they do this thing called authors and pubs. And the guy who invited me was this guy who it was he was sitting at this bar, he looks over and he's like, What are you writing in this journal? Because I was just writing something down. I was telling a story. He goes, I do this thing called authors and pubs. And he was probably like, 10 beers, and this guy was, he was so far gone. I don't even know if it was real. And I was just like, sure, like, I had no idea. And I remember the first time I get there, and I remember hearing them, call my name and I look love that feeling I love the feeling of hear my name called up but then all of a sudden might I just my whole chest is on fire. My stomach is all turning, I'm freaked out. Because I hadn't done theater for several years, I had done musicals and I had done Shakespeare done a lot of different things in theater. And but this was so this is begin to read my stuff. And it was actually great because everyone in the audience was kind of hammered and not even I mean, like they're the best crowd. And I got to learn sometimes what I thought were very melodramatic and serious stories. I actually had to learn there was a lot of humor in them when I read the first story of my dad in public, and it was that when he needed to get as medication, and he was going through a really tough time he was addict. He's been addicted to opiates. For the last like, couple decades. He's been struggling with that. And when I read this story, which I thought was a very tragic story, people were laughing at certain parts, and then just really opened my eyes to what I was missing when I was writing down like well, how can I get that laugh across, there's something I'm doing in my delivery, that's working, that doesn't come through when you're reading it by yourself. And so that already started making me think of how to how to adapt a little bit. And I wanted to write stories that could be told in different ways. It can be you can read it by yourself, I can go and perform it. I can, you know, record it for a show. Yeah, I think I just I started learning there was something actually very limiting for me in the way I wanted to tell stories. There's something very liberating about just having my page. And that was, honestly due to my theater background.
Jay Clouse 27:37
That's a really great insight because I feel like you can come at that moment and have that reaction and say, oh, there's more here or people are interpreting this differently or people are valuing it differently. Or you can say these people don't get it and almost get defensive and angry that they're not receiving it the way that you want them to receive it. Obviously the former is more productive. And useful, I think, but I think a lot of people would have that second reaction.
Jude Brewer 28:04
I mean, that would take that would mean I've had, I would have had to have a lot more confidence as a young man for that to happen. Like, I just want to put it out there that at a baseline level, I always thought I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I definitely was ready, like always thinking that I just I didn't know anything. And so it didn't serve me all the time. Because I would essentially immediately change if someone didn't like it. And so then I was left with a ship that didn't have a captain, you know, I was left with something they just didn't have a clear direction of where it was headed. Because I was like, Oh, well, this person thinks this and this person thinks that and I wasn't like staying true to like, Alright, well, what is the what is the final product that you want to hear? And I say this all the time if I if there are a couple musicians that I really love, and if they're working on a new song, or someone who hasn't written for something for a while, they've taught me how to project I just asked them like, well when you like close your eyes Like, what's the song that you hear? Like, why don't you just just work toward that? Stop thinking about if it's within those perfect three minutes that a single is or stop, you know, thinking about whether it's exactly 60,000 words for your standards, you know, short novel, like, stop thinking about these boxes or how it's going to be accepted because those things are useful. But I would say that if you are lacking a little bit confidence, they can really sideline you and you get distracted.
Jay Clouse 29:26
After the break, Jude and I talk about his evolution from author to producer, and how he combined his love of writing with podcasting.
Jay Clouse 29:37
Welcome back to Creative Elements in my conversation with Jude Brewer. Jude was just telling us about the impact the Portland lit scene had on his career. And it was through the Portland lit scene that he began to adapt his stories into brand new formats.
Jude Brewer 29:53
Well, so in Portland, I started doing basically readings every month. I would sometimes just write a story like the day before and go by stage. And it was a way to try it out. It was almost like stand up, you know, like, I'm just trying out a set on someone, and then find out what worked and what didn't. And then I go back home and work on a little bit more. And it was 2016. When by I mean, I've gone I've been doing therapy for since I was like 20. And but is around that time that I was having more panic attacks and just real surges of anxiety, and a lot of stuff was coming up that I hadn't really dealt with my whole life. So yeah, in 2016, I quit the job. I was working at the time I was working for I've been working in healthcare at the moment, and I worked at a place called Central City concern. And they were really wonderful. They were really great to me, probably one of the nicest organizations I've ever worked for. I told him I said, I'm having breakdowns in the bathroom. Like every hour, I'm I I just can't get through it and they said, Well, okay, well, you were not going to challenge your unemployment. Anytime you want, you can come back. So I spent six months trying to figure out all right, what am I going to do and I did apply for like other jobs, I tried figuring out kind of what direction I wanted to go. But I also thought wait for six months, I'm basically getting a writer salary. Like I can write and do whatever I want for six months. So I committed myself to this 40 hour week schedule. And I just had in my mind that I was going to record stories that friends of mine that I've met on the road or at different readings, I just I went to their house like a Zoom recorder. And I just recorded them reading different stories. And I said, give me something that's like anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes long. And I started like experimenting with that and putting music and sound effects to them. Because I liked the idea of trying to bring that live experience when you go here and reading but just add a little bit extra something to it. So yeah, I made like 20, 21 episodes and then I came up with a name for it. I called it Storyteller's Telling Stories, and I released it in 2017.
Jude Brewer 32:22
Welcome to the Storyteller's Telling Stories podcast. I'm Jude Brewer. There is a variety of ways you may listen through phone speakers, your car stereo, your earbuds, regardless of the delivery system, we invite you to abandon the outside world and vanish for a short while, wherever you are at the moment does not exist. This week's episode is titled The Beast, Written and Narrated by Kate Ristau.
Kate Ristau 33:02
My son Rowan is five and he's a gentle soul. He loves listening to stories playing the piano and building Lego spaceships. Don't get me wrong though. He's not all kisses and hugs and high fives. He also loves riding his bike and playing bonkey bears. bonkey bears, in case you didn't know, is a game he plays with his dad. Ah, well the big stuffed animal bears and they play the bonking game, which is a variant of wrestling without all the anger and sparkler types. Flunking and pushing are part of the game. But here's the thing. Nobody ever gets hurt. I mean, in fact, the end result of bonky bears is usually a bear body slam followed by a bear snuggle party. It's all very warm and cozy.
Jude Brewer 33:42
It took off at least within our little community here, you know in Portland, and then I ended up doing a second season where I incorporated my musician friends and it was such a bizarre turn of events for me because I was actually doing not as much writing and I was doing a lot of just trying to adapt other people's stories and trying to bring out something unique and all of them.
Jay Clouse 34:05
Storytellers Telling Stories was the beginning of Jude's evolution from author to producer, collaborating with other storytellers and artists to produce these pieces of audio. And it was Season Two of Storytellers Telling Stories that lead Jude towards his new show Storybound. Storybound brings together best selling authors reading their original stories, and pairs it with original music composed specifically for that episode. It's a really unique format. And I'll give you a preview here in a minute.
Jude Brewer 34:35
Storybound came about as again another total surprise it was I started getting more involved in Twitter a couple years ago. I developed some good friendships through there I have some friends who work on Better Call Saul. And it's it's a perfect show. So naturally, I'm actually I like it. I like it more than Breaking Bad. I just think it's...
Jay Clouse 34:58
It's a very different show, but yeah, I'm right there with you. I don't know if I, it's hard for me to even compare the two. But
Jude Brewer 35:03
It's impossible for sure. Yeah, Twitter was a way for me to connect with people in different levels of production, and have some really engaging conversations with them. And that's how I met Jeff. Jeff Umbro of the Podglomerate. And I was halfway through production on Season Two for Storytellers Telling Stories. And I sent him two episodes because I just thought, I actually honestly thought of time he might like it, and then he might just want to share it with a couple people. Because I liked his work. I really liked the other shows. I thought he had a good quality network. And then it just he was like, like, yeah, I really like this. And we should start we should talk more. And it was fascinating because as I was finishing production, season two, we were also developing Storybound and kind of figuring out Well, what do we want this to sound like versus what was storytellers? storytellers was like every episode was a complete experiment and I can't say Storybound is to different from that, but where it is different is that I actually have someone other than myself, which I think again makes it just a better show. With storytellers I did it everything. You know, I had nobody who was like even giving me a moderate amount of feedback except for the writers I would show them episode and they tell me if they like it or not.
Jay Clouse 36:21
We'll talk about Storybound a little bit. When your first episodes was with Mitch Albom. Talk about the process of getting authors on that show and getting a good amount of time from them to read some of their writing.
Jude Brewer 36:35
Yeah, I'm extremely proud of that show. Because my hands are not all over it. It's fun for me because we will have an author like Mitch Albom come on and he records a cert he basically, you know, recorded that story from his own studio and sends it over to us. And he tells me that Oh, he also has some voicemails of his adopt daughter Chika. And he's like, oh, and it can also turn out voicemails, but just like clips of her audio and stuff that you can incorporate. And so for me that episode, the way that one came together was I took the recording and I gave it to this musician and her manager, Maya Win and her manager Heidi and Heidi does a lot of sound for for movies as well. She has a career in film. And so they basically worked on all the music production themselves and then they sent it back to me. And I kind of tweaked a little bit you know, with a score here and there. And then I added in the stuff that Chika.
Mitch Albom 37:41
Why aren't you writing Mr. Mitch? Chika is lying on the carpet in my office. she flips onto her back. She plays with her fingers. She comes here in the early morning when the light is still thin at the window. Sometimes she has a doll or set of magic markers. Other times it's just her. She wears her blue pajamas with the My Little Pony cartoon on the top and pastel stars on the bottoms. In the past, she could love to choose her clothes each morning after brushing her teeth, matching the colors of the socks and the shirts. But she doesn't do that anymore. Chika died last spring. When the trees in our yard were beginning to bud as they are budding now, as it is spring again. her absence left us without breath, or sleep or appetite. And my wife and I stared straight ahead for long stretches until someone spoke to snap us out of it. Then one morning, Chika reappeared. Why aren't you writing? She says again. My arms are crossed. I stare at the empty screen. About what? About me. I will. When? Soon. She makes a grr sound like a cartoon tiger. Don't be mad I say don't be mad Chika. Don't go okay. She taps her little fingers on the desk because if she has to think about it, she can never stays for long. She first appeared eight months after she died. The morning of my father's funeral. I walked outside to look at the sky. And suddenly there she was standing beside me holding the porch railing. I said her name in disbelief, Chika? and she turns so I knew she could hear me. I spoke quickly believing this was a dream and she would vanish in any moment. That was then. Lately when she appears, I'm calling. I say good morning, beautiful girl. And she says Good morning, Mr. Mitch. And she sits on the floor, or in her little chair, which I never removed from my office, you can get used to everything in life, I suppose. Even this.
Jude Brewer 40:14
What's fun for me, again, it's just being able to let go of something like get it let go, it comes back, I process it add a little touch. It's it's, it's more collaborative. And that's pretty much every episode is like four story bound, where it's not just my vision, because I'm starting to understand in the last 10 years ago, that you know, I know what my vision is, I know what I bring to a project. That was something I didn't know when I was a kid. Now I know what I bring, I can essentially call on other people say, Well, this person is really good at this. This person is really good at this. I don't want to be an expert in everything. You know, that's why I think I'm slowly moving into sort of a director role eventually for certain projects, because I'm just really good at deferring to people who were better things than I am.
Jay Clouse 40:40
It's important. I mean, it's hard to do everything on your own. I mean, I can agree that my experience with the Podglomerate has been really great. Because while it's easier to schedule things on a show, or I'm the only host, and there's one guest, it certainly is helpful to have an extra set of eyes that has a reason to care about what you're doing, or ears in this in this situation, an extra set of ears to care about what you're doing and give you really critical, constructive feedback to make it better. It's really great. And I'm having a new newfound appreciation of collaboration for the same reasons. If there's a writer or someone who thinks or an aspiring author listening to this, or an aspiring, you know, I want to make a career writing in whatever form that is. What advice would you give them? Or how should they adapt themselves so that they can, as quickly as possible get to a place where they can spend the majority of their time writing and making a living doing it?
Jude Brewer 41:51
Yeah, that's, that's a tough one because I would say obviously, my goals always been to be in a place where I'm exclusively doing these things. But I don't know if that should be the ideal. Meaning like, at the end of the day when things started going well, for me, it was when I sort of just accepted that it might not all go my way. It actually almost never will. I definitely didn't when I was 15 say, I want to have a podcast, that wasn't a thing. I didn't I mean, they actually did exist, but I just, that's not what I wanted. You know, it's no different than when I started out the first page of a book. And I go, I know exactly what the what this book is going to be. And then a month later I go, that is not what it is. And then a year later you go, what the hell that I do. This is not what I set out to do. So like, I think, for me, the best advice that I could give anybody really in any sort of arts discipline would just be to like, it's good to have. It's good to have the things that you want and your vision and your expectations, but you have to be really ready to throw them out the window. And also ask yourself like realistically, like, yeah, you're making this thing that you love. And that's really good. I think you should always be committed to yourself. If you're not having fun doing it, there's really no point because people can tell, people can tell if you're not having fun, they can tell if you're not inspired. They can, like they're gonna, they're gonna feel it, you're just gonna be better off if you're enjoying it. But secondly, it's also good to just know who you're making it for and not worry about if they're a large audience or not, because some of my favorite artists ever, which they reached me. So I mean, I think they became big enough, they reached me, but like, a huge influence for me. I love David Lynch, for instance. And that guy definitely beats to the, you know, he could go on, he's on his own drum, and he would work on projects for just forever, you know, like Eraserhead took them 10 years, you know, and that's still a movie. I like to show people when I want to torture them a little bit. I think like, really the biggest key is patience. Like, don't be like overstressing where you're headed. Don't think about like, Oh, I'm doing this wrong or it's like, you just need to like really stay focused and have like a good routine. Like I lacked routine for so many years growing up, and I definitely like to patients, and I was dealing with anxiety issues. Like, for me, if you're not writing, you're living, and it's important to live, because then when you do sit down to write or create music, or podcasts or, or act, anything you do, you're going to take everything you just did while you were living and you're going to bring that into it. So like it's really important to just live your life and then create and have that have that separation.
Jay Clouse 44:48
I think it was Steve Martin that said everything is material. You know, living is material for whatever you're making.
Jude Brewer 44:54
Exactly. Yeah, hundred percent.
Jay Clouse 45:02
Well, there you have it, it is possible to make a living as a writer of fiction, even if you have to adapt your approach to do so. Just last week, the second season of Storybound premiered in partnership with the Podglomerate. You can find it right here in this very same podcast player if you search for store rebound. And if you enjoyed the excerpt with Mitch Albom, that's season one, Episode One. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. So please jump into our brand new Facebook group. And let me know what you think. You can find it in the show notes or by searching Creative Elements listeners on Facebook. If you want to learn more about Jude you can find him on twitter @JudeBrewery, or online at Judebrewer.com. Thanks to Jude for being on the show. Thank you to Emily Klaus for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Brian Skeel for mixing the show and also creating our music. If you like this episode, you can tweet at me @JayClouse and let me know if you really want to say thank you. As always, please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening, and we'll talk to you next week.