Trying to replace The Writer's Almanac started just after dawn on Christmas Eve 2017, inside a Kirkland, Wash., Starbucks.
Employees carried themselves with pep and spirit. Customers came and went, grabbed coffees, gave the workers their holiday wishes, and left.
Along the front window of this coffee shop, I sat at a small circular wooden table, typing away on my laptop.
A new project of mine was days away from launching. This project was to be a daily blog highlighting some info about a writer or poet on their birthday. Each blog post would contain a poem.
The project wasn't an original idea. It was a rip-off of The Writer's Almanac.
The Writer's Almanac had been a National Public Radio program with an accompanying blog. Garrison Keillor hosted it and it aired on stations across the U.S.
Each day, Keillor's voice told listeners about so-and-so poet or author. And Keillor read a poem at the end of each episode of The Writer's Almanac.
Minnesota Public Radio distributed the program.
But in November 2017, Minnesota Public Radio ended its contract with Keillor. The Writer's Almanac was no more.
Replacing The Writer's Almanac
The Writer's Almanac was many things to many people.
For some, it was a short break between radio programming on their drive into work. To others, The Almanac was a respite from an otherwise stressful day. And to some, such as myself, it was a source of creative inspiration.
With The Almanac gone, I waited for someone else to pick up where Keillor left off.
First, I thought Keillor himself would start back up. Then I learned there were legal issues that would delay any effort by Keillor to resume The Almanac.
So I expected someone else to give it a shot. I knew many people missed The Writer's Almanac. There was an audience missing its show.
And then one day it occurred to me: Why don't I be the one to try and replace The Writer's Almanac?
Sure, I'm no Garrison Keillor. But I can write well enough. And I know how to run a blog.
How hard could providing a replacement to The Almanac be?
Into the Abyss
On New Year's Day 2018, the first issue of Bidwell Hollow launched. Every day there was a new blog post, just as there had been with The Writer's Almanac.
Soon people who searched for a replacement to The Almanac found Bidwell Hollow. With almost no marketing, people discovered and subscribed to the Bidwell Hollow blog.
And then folks started asking for a Bidwell Hollow podcast. Many people had, after all, listened to, and not read, The Writer's Almanac.
True, I'd never produced a podcast before. I didn't even listen to podcasts. But the challenge intrigued me.
The first episode of the Bidwell Hollow podcast was published on Jan. 16, 2018. For the next four months, I wrote, recorded, edited, and produced a daily blog and podcast.
Delivering a daily blog and podcast while working a full-time job is tough. So, in April, I cut back on Bidwell Hollow's publishing frequency to twice a week.
But then Keillor came back. In May, The Writer's Almanac resumed as a blog. A podcast soon followed.
Bidwell Hollow was no longer replacing The Almanac. It was imitating it.
Cease Copying The Writer's Almanac
Bidwell Hollow's original mission was to fill the void left by The Writer's Almanac. The goal was never to compete with The Almanac.
Some readers and listeners said the world was big enough for two programs like The Almanac. But I didn't want to put effort into something that was a riff off of an existing project.
On June 21, I published a final blog post and podcast episode. Then I disappeared from my listeners and readers.
Some people emailed. Some posted comments on the blog. I ignored them all.
It's not that I didn't care or wasn't touched. It's that I didn't know what to say.
That confusion teamed up with my extreme introversion. The result of which was me leaving Bidwell Hollow's readers and listeners wondering what happened.
I don't regret shutting down the old Bidwell Hollow. But I am sorry for not letting everyone know what was going on.
That's not how you treat people who supported your work. For that, I am sorry.
We don't always get second chances. In this case, I'm hoping that I do. Because Bidwell Hollow isn't finished.
It's a New Day
Throughout the summer, I kept thinking about what to do with Bidwell Hollow.
After all, Bidwell Hollow grew a dedicated following in six months with little promotion. It seemed like a waste to scrap that and start from scratch.
But what could the new Bidwell Hollow be?
That's when I realized that the answer to what Bidwell Hollow could be lay in what it had been.
Each episode of the old Bidwell Hollow was a handful of short bits of info about a poet or writer. What if those bits were grown into full stories? That might be something people will enjoy.
And so the new Bidwell Hollow will tell true, little-known stories about writers and poets.
Audio episodes will publish on the Bidwell Hollow podcast. Written versions of each episode will publish on this blog. Each season contains 15 episodes. Season 1 starts Jan. 19, 2019.
And there's now a Bidwell Hollow newsletter. Here's what you can expect from the newsletter:
A hand-selected poem
Behind-the-scenes looks at Bidwell Hollow
Occasional author and poet interviews
Latest Bidwell Hollow Blog posts
Giveaways to subscribers
Also, this time around, I'm bringing in some help.
Cranking It Up a Notch
The old Bidwell Hollow was a one-person show.
There are two problems with me doing everything as I did with the old Bidwell Hollow. One issue is burnout, and the other is that there are some things I'm just not good at doing.
For example, I'm not a sound engineer. I don't know how to put together audio that sounds good and is entertaining to listeners.
That's why the new Bidwell Hollow has a professional who will give the podcast the best possible sound.
This is, after all, a storytelling program. So let's tell you a story in the best way possible, including using sound effects and more.
There are plans to make Bidwell Hollow even more professional. For example, this program could use a copywriter.
Also, I want to start paying poets for the poems we feature. More to come on that later.
You Are the Difference
You're essential to the success of Bidwell Hollow.
By subscribing to Bidwell Hollow you're helping. But if you enjoy and believe in this program, here are four ways you can support it:
Tell your friends, family, and coworkers about Bidwell Hollow
Buy some Bidwell Hollow merchandise
Mark your calendars for our Season 1 launch on Jan. 19, 2019
You make Bidwell Hollow possible. Your support means the world to me.
Thank you for reading, subscribing to, and sharing Bidwell Hollow.