An Interview with Sarah Rhea Werner

Today we have with us Sarah Rhea Werner, creator of the Girl in Space and Write Now podcasts. Among other things, we discussed how to tackle the challenges of being a writer, the importance of theme music, and the future of Girl in Space.


Hello, Sarah, welcome to the Inn! First of all, how are you and how have you been?

Hi! I’m fantastic, and I’m extremely happy to be here!

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your journey, and how you became Sarah Rhea Werner: podcaster, coach, writer, and editor? What have been some of your favourite moments and memories since becoming a writer?

Oh gosh… not to sound overdramatic, but I think every single thing that has ever happened to me in my life has brought me further along the path to where I am now. Similarly, I’m not sure anyone becomes a writer — you just are one when you start finding joy in writing.

I think many writers would echo me in saying, “I’ve just always been a writer.” Books were a huge deal to me growing up (I had strict parents, no TV, and few friends), and I found a freedom in consuming them that drove me to want to produce them as well.

Some of my favorite writing moments and memories have just come from sitting in a coffee shop and feeling the ideas emerge from my brain to appear on the page. There’s no greater joy than when I realize that my characters or story have taken on a mind of their own and decided to surprise me.

I also felt a huge wave of joy and affirmation when I started getting reviews and feedback for the Write Now podcast and realized I was helping other writers discover and live out their passion.

Quitting my day job to write and podcast full-time was pretty fantastic, too. 🙂

You wear a lot of hats as a writer. Do you approach nonfiction vs fiction differently? Is podcasting more similar or different from traditional writing than you expected?

That’s a great question. I see nonfiction and fiction differently, even though I probably shouldn’t, because writing is writing. But when writing nonfiction, my question is, “Who is this article/piece for and how can I communicate most clearly to them?” With fiction, my question becomes, “What cool stuff can I create on this page?”

Podcasting is both similar and dissimilar to writing for me. Similar in that I’m asking the same questions for fiction and nonfiction, but dissimilar in the creation process. I’ve discovered that it’s actually easier for me to speak into a microphone than write, but with all of the production that comes with creating a podcast (e.g., editing, production, etc.), one’s not necessarily any easier than the other.

What’s it like being a podcasting coach? I see that you just launched an intensive podcasting course called Podcast Now.

I did! The Podcast Now Masterclass focuses on creating a community of students while the one-on-one coaching is more individually focused on solving specific problems. The Masterclass also follows a specific process — the process I used to create, produce, and market two successful podcasts — and comes with homework and a cohort of fellow students so that everyone is learning together. When you graduate, you will have a successful podcast with a success-focused foundation.

I offer the course three times a year — February, June, and October. If you’re interested, please add your name to the waitlist here! 

How did Write Now come about? Unlike many writing podcasts that focus on how to write, your show seems to emphasize how to be a writer. What drove this choice for you?

Funnily, the Write Now podcast actually came out of a failed blog. Back in 2012, I started a now-retired blog called the Outlaw Novelist, where I wanted to inspire people to live out their writing dreams. I’d been working in corporate America for several years and was feeling really jaded about how I had gone to college for creative writing, but there was no room and no demand in the economy for it. So I wanted people to rebel and write creatively despite society, rejection, self-sabotage, the 8-5 workday, and everything else that got in our way.

I say the blog was a failure because it came out during a time when blogging was incredibly saturated, and it was competing with millions of other blogs for people’s attention. I got maybe 2-3 readers for each post that I spent hours creating, and it was just really frustrating.

Back in 2012, not a lot of people were podcasting, and a good friend encouraged me to try out the space since it was relatively empty and (at the time) there weren’t a lot of women doing it. The show ended up finding a steady listener base and continues to do so today.

I decided early on that I wanted the show to be about “how to be a writer” and not necessarily “how to write”. There were already a ton of blogs and podcasts about the technical aspects of how to write — how to develop themes, how to query agents, etc. — and since I wasn’t a published novelist, I didn’t feel qualified to talk about those things. However, I was very experienced in “trying to be a writer” — with topics like “How To Write When You Don’t Feel Like Writing,” “How To Defeat Writer’s Block,” and “Why Is It So Important For Writers To Read?” — and so I decided to talk openly about that. Fortunately, no one else was doing that at the time, and it really helped my show stand out.

It seems like the last few years have experienced a revolution in podcasting, especially in regards to audio dramas. I’ve even heard it described as “the golden age of audio”. What do you think?

Oh, absolutely. I think in a way, our obsession with video led to an obsession with audio. We started paying less attention to the videos we were playing, maybe minimizing them at work and only listening to the audio while we worked, and when audio-first content like podcasts started to re-emerge, we naturally turned to those.

I really hope that we’re in a golden age of audio, but I also hope that we haven’t hit the peak yet. I want podcasting to grow both in terms of available content and eager listeners.

Can you tell us a little about Girl in Space? Are you really as big of a Jurassic Park and coffee lover as your character in the show?

Yeah! Girl In Space is about… a girl in space! X, the main character, has been abandoned on a research station and you’re not sure why she’s there and where the rest of the crew went, and there’s a bright light coming steadily toward her… *enticing jazz hands*

I am a HUGE fan of Jurassic Park, though not perhaps as huge a fan as X. 🙂 I saw the movie at a formative age and really enjoyed the questions it raised about scientific exploration, could vs. should, and how we relate to the environment and to each other as humans. Those questions are all major themes in Girl In Space.

I also wanted to give my main character a simultaneous aura of intelligence and naivete, and I thought, “What would be an awesome and hilarious cultural touchpoint for her to relate to the audience?” A movie about genetic manipulation and ancient creatures with a bit of innocence to it and unexpectedly broad cultural appeal was perfect.

As for coffee… it really IS life, breath, and delicious rainbow alchemy. 🙂

Is there anything you can share about the future direction of Girl in Space? What about any other upcoming projects?

Let’s see… right now, I can confirm that there will be a Season 2 of Girl In Space, but there will ALSO be a couple of adaptations of the story into other media. (Though that’s all I can say right now!)

As for upcoming projects, YES. I have another audio drama scratching at the back of my brain that I plan on writing once I’m done with Season 2 of Girl In Space. More on that soon…

One thing I’ve noticed about Write Now and Girl in Space is that you have an awesome intro “theme song” for each. How important do you feel this is for branding your shows, and what goes into the music behind the scenes?

Thank you! Music is important branding for any show, since it’s one of the few consistent elements from episode to episode, and I really wanted my theme songs to stand out because neither show has ambient or background music. Write Now is just me talking about writing, and Girl In Space only has ambient space sounds and sound effects.

I spent days combing through royalty-free music for each show until I had curated a shortlist of 3-5 songs for each that matched the tone and really evoked the feelings I wanted each show to evoke. It then took me another couple days (and polls with family members and friends) before I selecting the theme for each show. 🙂

One of my favorite things is when someone asks me if they can use my show themes as their ringtone. That just really makes my day because it means they want to take the feeling of the show with them — they want it to carry over into their active lives.

What are you reading or listening to these days? Anything you’d like to recommend?

Right now, I’m reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

Podcast-wise, I’m listening to (and recommend) these fictional audio dramas: Rose Drive, Mabel, The Big Loop, The Magnus Archives, Six Cold Feet, Dreamboy, The Infinite Now, What’s The Frequency, SPINES, Palimpsest, The End of Time & Other Bothers, and Great & Terrible.

And if you’re looking for nonfiction podcasts, I really love Wine & Crime and Is This Adulting?

I’ll admit that I’ve only fallen down the audio drama rabbit hole in the last few months, though I’ve been an avid listener to audiobooks for years. What do you think are the biggest differences between the two mediums?

Currently, the main technical difference between podcasts and audiobooks is delivery — podcasts are syndicated via RSS feed while audio books are available via digital download, CD, cassette tape, etc. Otherwise, both are stories told or information conveyed in audio format.

Some people would argue that audio dramas/fictional podcasts are more “produced”, which means they often have a full cast and sound effects, music, etc., but I’ve heard audio books with a cast, and I’ve heard audio dramas with limited music and a single narrator. If I’m being honest, I would like to get to a place where there ARE no differences between podcasts and audiobooks.

As a reviewer who loves shouting into the void about stories I enjoy, I’m always eager to hear how readers and listeners can make a bigger impact. What do you consider the most effective ways to spread the love about our favorite podcasts?

The best (most effective and easiest) way to spread the podcast love is good old word of mouth! Tell friends who already listen to podcasts about your favorite shows, though don’t overwhelm them. Recommend 2-3 you think they’d like and then wait for them to ask you for more suggestions.

If you have friends who do not currently listen to podcasts, please be a podcast evangelist and encourage them! Again, don’t dump your top 40 shows on them because that will overwhelm them and turn them away. Instead, encourage them to listen to 1-2 podcasts that are relevant to their interests. Make sure you’re setting them up for a positive podcasting experience — and perhaps even listen to a couple of episodes with them to get the ball rolling.

If these friends aren’t incredibly tech savvy, help them find or download a good podcasting app and make sure you teach them how to use it and download shows. A lot of people don’t listen to podcasts because they simply don’t know how to access them.

Thanks for visiting the Inn and chatting with us, Sarah! Anything you’d like to say to our readers to close off?

Thank YOU! I had a great time. I just want to tell your readers that they’re awesome, and if they feel compelled to create something amazing, they should. 🙂


Sarah Rhea Werner

About Sarah Rhea Werner

Sarah Rhea Werner is a professional writer and podcaster who loves to help other creators find confidence and success. She is a contributor to Forbes and creator of the Girl In Space and Write Now podcasts. She currently lives in the Midwest with one husband, two rescue cats, and a ceiling full of spiders. Find Sarah at sarahwerner.com or on Twitter and Instagram at @SarahRheaWerner.

You can support Sarah’s work through Patreon: patreon.com/girlinspace.

For the aspiring creators among you, consider joining the “I Am A Writer” Facebook Group or honing your podcast production skills through Sarah’s comprehensive Podcast Now Masterclass.

 

One comment

  1. “Some of my favorite writing moments and memories have just come from sitting in a coffee shop and feeling the ideas emerge from my brain to appear on the page. There’s no greater joy than when I realize that my characters or story have taken on a mind of their own and decided to surprise me.”

    I love this and have had this joy myself! Thanks for a great interview. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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