And Now, a (Polished) Pod

I've teamed up with a saxophonist to bring you fresh essays. (It all makes sense if you know the history.)

And Now, a (Polished) Pod

Today, I’m tickled pink to share with you my new podcast, Just Answer the Question, a shiny-bright collaboration with my friend and producer Michael Teager, the man I call “the saxophonist in winter.”

For years, folks have been saying to me, “You should have a podcast!” I guess people listening to me as a guest on other people’s podcasts thought I should try being the interviewer? But I didn’t feel like listening to me more. I listen to me all day long!

While I like a lot of "two heads talking" podcasts, what I wanted to do instead was something that felt a lot more like essay writing – gathering up disparate voices and patching them together very carefully with a little of my own for mortar. Something like the piece I did for Aeon called “Visiting Your Leg.” Or the essay I wrote that was included in Norton’s Best Creative Nonfiction, “Lavish Dwarf Entertainment.” I love doing that kind of work.

A few months into the pandemic, I started making notes for questions I’d like to explore in an audio format. What’s it like to play me in an audiobook? Is it really possible to fall in love with a rat? Should I try to use my second eyeball, as my big brother keeps bugging me to do?

I figured that, to do this kind of podcast, I would need a solid producer. I am not an auditory artist and I knew that good audio would be key. And then I realized I had the perfect friend for this in Mike. I was so delighted when he agreed to give it a try.

Mike and I first got to know each other years ago while working together as City Desk reporters for the newspaper I founded, East Lansing Info (ELi). At the time, he lived just down the block from me. After he moved to upstate New York, we still kept in touch because of our common experiences of subsuming our hard-won careers to raising our sons. (That turned out to be the subject of our third podcast episode, “Can a Father Be a Mother?”)

I knew from our citizen-journalism collaboration that Mike is just as persnickety as I am about producing high quality work that goes beyond the superficial. I also thought the music he makes for his albums would be perfect for what I had in mind – a gentle, think-y podcast that is meant to pull us all away from the class-V-rapids news cycle into a space where we could enjoy examined lives.

So, Mike and I started working in earnest on the pod when I began my sabbatical from ELi in February. We kept on working, doing interviews and piecing, but decided not to release the pod or news of it until we had three really good episodes in the bag and Mike had arranged a whole system for providing our listeners lots of great ways to join us for free.

As we pieced together the first couple of episodes from our primary-source conversations with our intellectual helpers, we realized we’d be leaving a lot of great conversation on the cutting room floor. So, Mike and I decided to create something he coined The Tangent Tier, a $5/month subscription option that lets you also hear all the long-form conversations.

The Tangent Tier paid option also helps me pay my great staff, including Mike, to do all the things I’m doing under the umbrella of Michigoose Productions. They are all awesome people I met through the newspaper work.

I hope you’ll consider giving our creations a listen.  We’ve had such a great time working on this, and I think that comes through in the final product. Let us know what you think!