Emerging Form is a new podcast hosted by science writer Christie Aschwanden and poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Each podcast is about 30 minutes and include topics such as emotionally difficult topics, collaboration, and creative habits with a variety of guests, such as Thea Deley, Luis Lopez, and Andrea Jones. The last eleven episodes of the podcast are available to listen to online and via Apple podcasts; and include tons of tips and inspiration for how to jump start your creative process. I’ve found them well-produced, easy to listen to, inspiring, and entertaining. You can also sign up for their free newsletter or subscribe for bonus episodes.
I wanted to know more about what inspired this podcast and how it began, so I asked Wahtola Trommer some questions to find out. See my interview with her and a links to the podcast below.
HOPKINSON: Tell me a little bit about the Emerging Form podcast.
WAHTOLA TROMMER: How do we start a creative project? How do we finish? How and when do we ask for help? When should we give up? Should we care about awards? How is play related to creative process? These are some of the questions that we explore at Emerging Form, a podcast on creative process. The hosts are science writer Christie Aschwanden and me, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. We don’t always agree, but we have fun exploring the joys, agonies and black holes faced by writers (and creatives in general) and talking them over, seeing what we can learn from each other—and other creatives, too.
Episodes run about 30 minutes. We begin with a brief update on our creative lives, then jump into a discussion of the episode’s main theme—such as saying no, existential despair, collaboration, writing on difficult subjects—and then we wrap up with a game of “Two Questions,” in which we invite a guest weigh in on our theme. Guests have included writers, artists, actors, photographers, circus performers, winemakers—anyone working in a creative field. Our first season guests included acclaimed memoirist Pam Houston, and circus performer Andrea Jones-Rooy. Upcoming guests include bestselling memoirist Claire Dederer and “anti-guru” Sarah Knight, author of the F*ck No Guides,
Our first season has nine episodes plus a bonus episode and our second season launched January 30, 2020. New episodes come out every other week on Thursdays. New this season are bonus episodes for paid subscribers that come out on the Thursdays in between. These bonuses contain extended interviews with our guests. Paid subscribers also receive other content in our newsletters—poetry, book recommendations, and more. This podcast has been a labor of love, and introducing a way for our devoted listeners to make a contribution will allow us to make it sustainable so we can put out new episodes all year long.
HOPKINSON: How/why was the podcast originally started?
WAHTOLA TROMMER: The podcast came out of play. And desperation.
Christie was struggling to finish the first draft of her book, Good to Go, and I pretended I was an angel muse on her shoulder, whispering positive things in her ear—you can do this! Keep trying! This is going so well! And then I would switch to her other shoulder and whisper in her ear as a devil muse—you’ll never finish this book. You can’t do this. Who are you to think you have something worth saying? (Her book went on to make the NY Times bestseller list.)
We laughed so much about that night in my kitchen, and knew that other people struggled with many of the same issues that we do, so we thought it would be fun to share our conversations with other creative people. Perhaps they might help someone else? Of course, we’ve been having these conversations for over a decade, usually late at night, drinking wine in different kitchens together. And Christie, being a techie and hip gal, knew that podcasting would be a great way for us to share and open up the conversation. I had never even listened to a podcast before we launched our first one. Now, I’m hooked!
The title, Emerging Form, is an homage to one of Colorado’s most important poetry influences. Once upon a time, there was a group of poets who would gather for wild slumber parties in Fruita. One of them, a cantankerous genius named Jack Mueller, would use a black Sharpie to write witticisms on blank 3×5 cards. One night, he wrote OBEY THE POEM’S EMERGING FORM! He then proceeded to shout the epigram for the rest of the night, permanently tattooing the phrase in my brain. The wisdom of Jack’s instruction struck Christie, too, and it became a part of a long-lasting conversation about emerging form—not just in poetry, but in wine, in art, in cooking, in sports training and even in friendship. Obey the emerging form has become our mantra.
Our friend Kate LaRue created Emerging Form’s playful logo, which represents not only our podcast’s initials (EF) but also a certain creature, struggling to emerge from a tangle of ideas. We talk about why we chose our logo animal in our first episode. Kyra Kopestonsky created and performed our music. (She really knows how to put music to work.)
We’ve really upped our game in season two by hiring a professional editor. However we are still recording in our closets . . .
HOPKINSON: Who are your target listeners?
WAHTOLA TROMMER: Emerging Form is for anyone who is engaged in, or wants to be engaged in a creative process. Writers, of course, but we have found the themes are common to all creatives—how do I know if it’s any good? Should I quit my day job? Is talent necessary? Are there creative habits that would help me?
We’re also open to new themes for future episodes that other creatives want to discuss!
HOPKINSON: What do you hope people will gain from listening?
WAHTOLA TROMMER: More than anything, we hope people will feel inspired in their own projects, will use the podcast to push themselves creatively in new ways, to add their voices to the big creative conversation happening all around the world.
And another thing: the podcast is a great way for people who are creating in solitary conditions to know that they aren’t in this endeavor alone. Many of us spend hours every day in quiet rooms, “picking away at my own liver,” as poet A.R. Ammons would say. And dang, it’s nice to have a community. It feels good to hear how other people are meeting rejection, how they’re balancing their creative life with family, work, play. It’s helpful to hear how others are wrestling with the same questions and meeting.
HOPKINSON: Which episode was the most challenging so far?
WAHTOLA TROMMER: Play! Isn’t that funny? I would think it would have been the easiest, but it was the most contentious between us. Then again, maybe that isn’t so surprising. Christie is so practical, and I’m more, um, woo woo. We really went around about this one! Oh yeah, and the talent episode was tough, too . . . again because we really didn’t agree about how much talent plays a role in things (still don’t agree). But as a result, these are two of my favorite episodes. Just like a good poem, a good podcast thrives on tension.
HOPKINSON: As a poet, how does the podcast inform your own writing process?
WAHTOLA TROMMER: Well, in a very specific way, I have written several poems that respond to things that Christie and I have discussed . . . for instance, when we were preparing for our podcast in season two on difficult topics, and I said I would write about anything, even a spatula, instead of writing about a painful thing I was trying not to face, Christie said something like, “You can’t write a poem about a spatula.” So of course, I did.
But in a more abstract way, there is a level of professionalism and accountability in the podcast that seems to be carrying through the rest of my life right now. Since we began the podcast, I’ve left my day job and now I’m working only as a writer, teacher and writing coach. A big step!
And of course we are most likely to teach the things we most need to practice ourselves—so all our advice about how to keep your butt in the chair and just write, yeah. I am needing to take it all to heart!
HOPKINSON: Anything else you’d like my readers to know?
WAHTOLA TROMMER: There are so many great resources for writers! Obviously, your blog is one of them . . . I am in awe of all the work you do, Trish, and how generously you share your information. That’s what we’re trying to do, too—be a free resource for people who are sharing their creative voices with the world. Everyone’s voice matters. It’s not easy to do the work. And we’re here to help.
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poetry has appeared in O Magazine, TEDx, in back alleys, on A Prairie Home Companion and on river rocks around town. Her poems have been described as “a deep oasis for all who seek to experience the sacred in every moment.” Her most recent collection, Naked for Tea, was a finalist for the Able Muse Poetry Prize. Other recent books include Even Now, The Miracle Already Happening and The Less I Hold. She’s included in the acclaimed anthology, Poetry of Presence and leads mindfulness poetry discussion groups. She served as San Miguel County’s first poet laureate and was appointed Western Slope Poet Laureate (2015-2017). Since 2006, she’s written a poem a day. Favorite themes in her poems include parenting, gardening, the natural world, love, thriving/failure and daily life. She’s performed and taught poetry for Think 360, Craig Hospital, Ah Haa School for the Arts, Weehawken Arts, Camp Coca Cola, meditation retreats (with Susie Harrington), 12-step recovery programs, hospice, Deepak Chopra, and many other organizations. She earned her MA in English Language & Linguistics at UW-Madison. Favorite one-word mantra: Adjust.