Happy Birthday to Let’s Get Busy!

h1 November 27th, 2014 by jules

This morning at 7-Imp, I’m doing something a little bit different. Matthew Winner, who founded and runs the Let’s Get Busy podcast, is celebrating his 100th episode. He’s been visiting a few blogs to talk about his work, and today he has a cup of cyber-coffee with me to answer some questions about the wonderful resource that his podcast has become.

Matthew is an elementary school librarian and also runs a blog called The Busy Librarian. Today we’re going to focus, though, on his informative podcast. (Lucky me, I even got to visit in August.) Those of you who read my May interview this year with author-illustrator Dan Santat may remember this moment:

I’ve recently become addicted to Matthew Winner’s Let’s Get Busy podcast, where he interviews authors and illustrators in children’s publishing. Everyone should check that podcast out. … I think in about a year, when everyone catches on, it will be one of the most important media sites in the children’s publishing field.

So, here’s Matthew. I thank him for visiting today and congratulate him on 100 episodes!

Jules: What have been some of your LGB highlights and greatest joys this year?

Matthew (pictured right): Seymour Simon told me he feels like a father figure to me and that he’s proud of me. Brian Won called me “The Ira Glass of Kidlit, only cooler.” A bunch of #KidLitArt pals invited me into their weekly Mario Kart 8 online tournaments. I’d say it’s been a pretty spectacular year for me.

I feel like I could tell you something special about every single interview I’ve shared on the podcast thus far, but maybe the best way I can sum it up is to say that each interview brings with it something new. And there’s always at least one special moment in each of the conversations that makes a memory with me and that I end up sharing with others. I’ll give you an example: I recently interviewed Scott Campell (Episode 98) on his new picture book, Hug Machine. After a moment of gushing over his heartwarming story about a kid who is a champion for (and of) hugging, I told Scott that there was such a powerful sense of truth in his book’s text, and I asked if he himself was a hug machine. Shortly after I received my first and only virtual hug. It’s a moment that makes me smile so much and still it brings me back to his book. Near the end of the story there’s this great spread where the boy, in essence, gives the reader a hug. And on that page, in no uncertain way, Scott is hugging every single one of his readers. It’s awesome. And it’s a moment of the podcast that I know I’ll remember for a very long time.

Jules: Did talking to any of the many illustrators and author-illustrators you interviewed this year change your view of picture books in any remarkable ways?

Matthew: The work of authors and illustrators varies so much from person to person. We all know that. And yet I do find myself intrigued in hearing artists describe their process and how it’s changed over time. Lauren Castillo (Episode 100) published two books this year as an author-illustrator and both show such master of craft in the way she balances well-tempered words with these beautiful watercolors. I’m talking, of course, about The Troublemaker and Nana in the City. Her process includes writing a much more text-heavy manuscript, then editing it down as she creates dummies and considers her illustrations. It’s as if she’s split herself in two to work out the perfect balance of text and art. That just kind of blows my mind.

I had a similar experience when I spoke with Nathan Hale (Episode 61), known most notably for his Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales graphic novel series. Nathan writes a full manuscript for every graphic novel before ever drawing a single sketch for the work. I mean, that’s amazing! He’s creating hundreds of drawings for his story with limited text, being that he tells much of his story through the art. And yet all of that is playing around up in his head and is captured, to oversimply his process, in what comes down to stage directions and art notes. Had you asked me prior to starting Let’s Get Busy about the way in which graphic novelists work, I never in a million years would have guessed that so many begin with a manuscript.

Then there’s the way that Dan Santat (Episode 41) envisioned our imaginary friends as extensions of ourselves, taking various forms that mirror our own interests. I mean, REALLY! Would you have guessed that Beekle resembles a blank sheet of paper onto which brilliant ideas can be captured?

Or that Bob Shea (Episode 23) designs each of his characters from a basic jellybean shape so that his readers can recreate his characters more easily?! My students and I spent an entire week drawing characters out of jellybean shapes when I learned that. First we started with Bob’s characters, and then we created ones of our own!

Or that Raina Telgemeier (Episode 39) tries to build a hook into the last panel of each of her pages in order to get the reader to turn the page and stay engaged in the story? No wonder none of us can put her books down!

Or that Chris Haughton has actually moved from creating his illustrations using a digital collage technique to working with cut and torn paper to create actual collage art for his newest picture book, Shh! We Have a Plan!

If anything, I would say that hosting Let’s Get Busy has made me an even bigger fan of picture books. I marvel at the process and the technique that goes into creating these works of art, and I think about how very lucky I am to get to peek into these artists studios and learn more about the inspiration and journey that brought them to the finished product.

Wait … did I answer your question? I hope I did.

It’s all remarkable to me.

Jules: If the sky were the limit, what’s one thing you wish you could do at your podcast, if anything?

Matthew: I would love for a whole bunch of us kidlit fans and advocates and creators to build a network together of podcasts and YouTube channels and blogs and news outlets. I know that would be a huge undertaking, but I think having one large collective with a single entry site to access all of this truly awesome content would be incredible. I listen to this great podcast called The Nerdist (see my response to the next question for more back story). But The Nerdist has grown over the past several years into a network of podcasts, YouTube shows, articles and more really cool stuff, and the idea grew from connecting fans of the podcast with other content they might enjoy. That’s where I’d love to see Let’s Get Busy connect and grow. I’d love to find a more efficient way of connecting my listening audience with other podcasts and resources they might love and also to get Let’s Get Busy to the ears of people who might not know about it yet.

I love being a part of Nerdy Book Club and all of the amazing connections I’ve made through that awesome collective, but it just wants me to help connect others in this kidlit community even more.

Jules: Can you talk a bit about why you started the podcast?

Matthew: I blame Travis Jonker, author of the 100 Scope Notes blog, for actually getting Let’s Get Busy started.

One of my favorite things about attending library and reading conferences is getting to meet authors and illustrators and cartoonists. But something special happens when you get to hang out with those same people beyond the exhibition halls or artists alleys. Chances are that, if you sit down with anyone you find remotely interesting and have an earnest conversation with them for ten or more minutes, you’ve found yourself. And when you speak with authors and illustrators and cartoonists, the stories you start to hear often inform the stories these creative types create. It’s not always so direct, but it’s always something I find really fascinating.

So when I was telling Travis Jonker this, as we were hanging out with other kidlit pals at a hotel bar in Chicago at a recent ALA conference, I related these conversations to one of my favorite podcasts, The Nerdist, in which the conversations with guests from all over the comedy, music, and movie scenes are informal and are given the time to breathe and get really interesting. Why not create something similar for the kidlit world where we’d get to hear these sincere interviews with authors and illustrators and then get to know and love their work even more so in the process?

Travis said in so many words, “Sounds great! I would listen to that! When are you going to start?”

Those words were the permission I needed to start Let’s Get Busy, a friend’s encouragement and validation of an idea. The rest is sort of history. I started interviewing my friends in the library and publishing worlds. After each interview I would ask my guest to make a recommendation of whom I should talk to next. From there, the connections have grown far and wide but have always maintained a sense of family and closeness. That’s a quality I hope the podcast never loses.

Jules: What’s your favorite thing about podcasting? What drives you to keep doing it?

Matthew: I learn something new with each person that I talk to. And I get to talk to people I never expected this small town school librarian to brush elbows with. And I get to be a fan of my guests’ works without having to filter or hide it. And it’s maybe the most fun thing I’ve ever been involved with. Okay… that’s an awful lot of sentences ending with articles, but it’s all to say that the thing that drives me to keep podcasting is that every conversation is like a gift that I’ve been given that I get to love and cherish and then share with someone new. Each guest, whether it’s someone whose work I know well or if it’s a person who just happens to be best mates with a recent guest, every single guest has been a pure joy to chat with. I’m glad I get to be the guy behind the mic on this one. And I’m grateful for the couple of people who are listening.

Jules: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

Matthew: I’m a super slow reader. That’s probably why I don’t have more middle grade or YA authors on the podcast. It’s so hard for me to read through their books in time for the interview and it makes me feel really, really bad. I’ll talk to anyone and I’m really, really good at starting books. Ha!

Oh! And for a non-booky thing, I’m teaching myself to play banjo. I inherited a banjo from my wife’s grandfather, and I try to play a little bit every day. It’s been almost a year now, and I’m still struggling with my finger-picking, but I figure by the time I have a picture book contract of my own, I maybe—just maybe—will be able to write some sort of awesome song for the book trailer.

* * * * * * *

Photo of Matthew and images from the podcast are used by permission of Matthew Winner.

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2 comments to “Happy Birthday to Let’s Get Busy!”

  1. […] Nov. 27  Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast with Julie […]


  2. OK, you two, this was just fantastic! Is it just me, or does every kidlit passionate get choked up while reading stuff like this. I’m glowing with joy that has to be emanating through my skin 🙂

    I’ve listened to so many podcasts and still have many to catch up on. I will! Thank you for even more heartwarming and interesting info on one of my favorite people.

    Today’s Thanksgiving and this is one of the things I’m grateful for 🙂 Thanks to both of you for something so enjoyable!


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