What if I started a podcast?

I do a lot of writing in my work life (emails, course announcements, more emails, course revisions, more emails) and my regular human being life (planner, Bible study notes, text messages, social media posts, and the occasional non-work email). When I am writing, I constantly, reflexively revise, which both slows down the process and makes it more mentally taxing than it would be if I could manage to do the kind of one-shot, pristinely untouched writing that proponents of “silencing your inner editor” seem to be envisioning. I enjoy writing, I think writing is important, and I will never stop writing. But I’ve noticed lately that writing can burn me out in a way that talking usually doesn’t (the exception is teaching in front of a classroom, which, though I love it, can be draining for me).

So lately, I’ve been finding ways to substitute talking for writing–sending a Marco Polo to a friend when a text would be too long and complicated, video-recording grading feedback for online students so they can hear and see me and know that I’m not mad at them, etc. This has got me wondering what it would be like if I started a podcast.

So I’m thinking about it. I have a topic (it would be essentially the same as that of this blog, maybe a little wider-ranging) and a name (keeping it secret to increase the hype–actually, the truth is that I’m not sure if I like it yet) and am working on a logo. Beyond that, I got nothin’, except a mug I prematurely bought that says, “Proud to be a one-woman show,” with a little microphone on it. (I figure it can apply in a broad, metaphorical sense even if I don’t start the podcast.)

I should make clear that the podcast would not replace this blog. I’ve maintained this blog for 10 years as of this past December (most of those years it was called Penelope Clearwater), and I see no reason to fold it now. I would probably alternate blog posts and podcast episodes, or do what the influencers do and create coordinating sets of posts and episodes (and Instagram stories–I need to learn how to make those).

I’d like to ask for your help. Would you answer the few questions below to help me figure out how a podcast could best serve you, my readers? (And if the answer is by not existing, that’s okay!) I appreciate your help. You can also feel free to make non-anonymous suggestions in the comments down below.

Becky and Patrick, our Hufflepuff correspondants

When I first pitched the idea of a Hufflepuff leadership blog to you, I mentioned that I would sometimes refer to two characters I had created: Becky Weasley, a Hufflepuff alum, and her nephew Patrick Weasley, a seventh-year student and Hufflepuff prefect. I haven’t ended up using this device much, but I have given these characters a great deal of thought, so today I’m going to tell you more about them. I would love your feedback about these characters and whether you think they would be useful and likable guides on your leadership journey.

Rebecca, or Becky, Weasley was Rebecca Durbyfield before she married Charlie. (“Rebecca Durbyfield” is sort of a pun on my own name: Rebecca is my middle name, and Durbyfield is the last name of Tess in Thomas Hardy’s novel.) She has one American parent and lived in the United States until she was old enough to go to Hogwarts, where she had always dreamed of attending. On her American side, she is the granddaughter of Queenie and Jacob from Fantastic Beasts, and the fact that her grandfather was a very famous baker gives her a lot of cred with her mother-in-law, Molly Weasley. At Hogwarts, Becky was in Hufflepuff but was best friends with Penelope Clearwater; they were part of a glorified study group called the Tri-House Transfiguration League that also included people you may have heard of such as Cedric Diggory, Oliver Wood (before he got kicked out of the club because he focused too much on Quidditch–not Becky’s idea), and Percy Weasley, another good friend of Becky’s. Becky always had a crush on Percy’s older brother Bill; she barely thought of the sporty second brother Charlie until years later when she met him at a wedding, realized he was a really great guy, and eventually married him. Now Charlie is the Hogwarts gamekeeper and Care of Magical Creatures professor, and Becky teaches Muggle Studies, which she knows a lot about from her grandpa Jacob. The Professor Weasleys’ cottage is a welcoming place for students who want to get away from the noise and drama of the castle and have a nice homecooked meal.

One such student is their nephew, Patrick, who is the only child of Percy and Penelope. (Of COURSE they ended up together, though I also have a whole story about their ugly seventh-year breakup and post-Hogwarts estrangement.) Patrick was a shy child who was overwhelmed by all his cousins and confused by his parents, who tried very hard to be good parents but couldn’t help being a little overbearing. When he got sorted into Hufflepuff, everyone was surprised (since he was the first Weasley in that house) but agreed it was for the best, since Percy and Penelope would never have stopped arguing if he’d been sorted into either Gryffindor or Ravenclaw. His own experiences during his first few years at school with homesickness and bullying made him want to help younger students, and his academic achievements helped him become confident, so he was happy to take on the role of prefect in his fifth year. Today, he is one of the most popular prefects in recent Hogwarts history, due no doubt to his empathetic approach. One tradition that Patrick and his prefectural partners have initiated is the weekly “Hufflepuff History” discussions, in which students learn about notable people from their house and begin to see themselves as part of this legacy. (Patrick’s Aunt Becky has helped to lead some of these discussions.) Patrick also likes to cook and is particularly good at making piecrusts, but his career goal is to work in the education department of the Ministry of Magic, with the platform of making school a safer and friendlier place for students.

world’s quickest interview, with Penelope Clearwater

Anonymous Interviewer: So, Penelope, are you ever going to post on your blog again?

Penelope Clearwater: Yes.

AI: Ok, good.  Like, when you watch another good movie, or…?

PC: When I finish my dissertation.

AI: Oh!  And how much of that do you still need to write?

PC: In the body proper, about 17 pages.

AI: Cool!  I’ll let you get back to that.

Penelope Clearwater will return in An Epic Celebration.


Another schizophrenic post

Hi, this is Tess. I just want to say, in the interest of full disclosure, that I’ve just been sorted into a house on Pottermore, and the Sorting Hat has placed me in Hufflepuff. Needless to say, I feel a bit conflicted about this decision. I have no problem with Hufflepuff. I like Cedric Diggory. I like Professor Sprout. I like black and yellow (for a variety of reasons). And I don’t believe all the slander about Hufflepuff being a house for duffers. Nevertheless, as you can imagine, the sorting has thrown me into a quandary about a lot of things–major things. Like my Ravenclaw scarf. And my identity.

But I should clarify that while Tess Stockslager may be a Hufflepuff, Penelope Clearwater is still a lifelong Ravenclaw. And therefore, nothing essential will change about this blog. So you can ease your minds about that, dear readers.

Weasleys at work

This is the fifth and final post in our series on lessons for young professionals from recent movies.

Note: This blog is a bit schizophrenic–usually “I” means Tess Stockslager, but sometimes it means Penelope Clearwater, and this post falls into the latter category.

5. “Remember who you are” (Mufasa) and “hold on to what you believe” (Mumford and Sons).

I (Penelope) have often thought that my ex-boyfriend Percy Weasley would have saved himself and his family a lot of hurt if he had frequently repeated to himself the following truths: “I am a Weasley, and I am not a pure-blood supremacist.” To generalize these truths into a universal dictum, no job is more valuable than your family and your principles–even if the job makes you feel really important. Cornelius Fudge (fill in your boss’s name here) may flatter your dignity, but he doesn’t love you. And when your job requires you to help advance policies you know are morally reprehensible, it’s time to quit and go home to the people who do love you. This sounds simple, but it’s so easy to forget.

I’m not talking about physical proximity, by the way. Bill and Charlie Weasley managed to accomplish from Egypt and Romania, respectively, what Percy was unable to do from London–maintain a good relationship with their family. And this is closely related to the fact that their jobs didn’t require them to repudiate their family’s deeply-held beliefs.

And while we’re on the topic of Weasley careers, Fred and George’s joke shop is a good example of competent, customer-driven entrepreneurship. Not all of us will be able to start our own business inventing and selling items we enjoyed playing with as children, but if you have a particular skill and see a particular need in the consumer populace (e.g., “Fred reckons people needs a laugh these days”–Ron), go for it; don’t feel like you need to follow in your older siblings’ footsteps by entering more traditional industries, such as banking, politics, and . . . er, animal behavior.

Well, there you have it, young professionals. This concludes the series, but I (Tess) would love to hear your good and bad examples from movies and books–and even real life–of professionalism, workplace ethics, and other career-related issues.

Penelope Clearwater Revival…

…would be a good name for a Southern-inflected wizard rock band. Feel free to use it if you are thinking of starting one (as I’m sure many of you are).

A Penelope Clearwater Revival is also what this blog needs. I feel like I need a theme, or something give people a reason to actually want to read my blog. I’ll get back to you on that. Maybe more pictures of fairies?

snow, Penelope, Australia

This post has three unrelated topics.

1. It snowed again in Lynchburg.  Apparenly the only time I update my blog is when it snows.  This time, the snow was minimal in volume and low in excitement (it happened overnight, so we didn’t even get to see it arrive, and it didn’t even stick on the roads).  Definitely not picture-worthy.  But worth noting.  This winter, any amount of snow is worth noting.

2. I saw Penelope Clearwater.  Last night as I was watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the first time in a long time, I noticed her (noticed myself?) for the first time ever.  The scene is near the beginning of the movie; you see Nearly Headless Nick swooping into the Great Hall where the students are at breakfast.  Percy and Penelope are walking out of the shot, and you hear Percy say, “Hello, Sir Nicholas,” and Nick says, “Hello, Percy; Hello, Miss Clearwater.”  Because her back is turned, all you can see of Penelope is that she has long, light-colored hair.  I guess it’s not really that exciting.

3. But you know what is exciting?  Next week, my sister and I are going to visit our dad at work–in Melbourne, Australia!  Here are some things we hope to see: Phillip Island, where there are penguins; the oldest zoo in America; the jail where famous outlaw Ned Kelly was hanged.  Updates, with pictures, will follow.

Welcome to Ravenclaw Tower.

I don’t have any pretensions to wit beyond measure.  In fact, I doubt I would be able to answer the logic problem in order to gain access to the real Ravenclaw Tower (although I do take comfort in the thought that if Luna Lovegood can get in, maybe I could too.  And by this I mean no disrespect to Luna.)  But I wanted to give my blog a Ravenclaw name because I hope, humbly, to create a place where thoughtful inquiry and the magic of words can thrive.

Don’t expect a post every day.  Don’t expect brilliance every time.  Do expect book reviews (and movie and music reviews too), brief observations and exclamations, paeans to people I like, product recommendations, and sometimes, posts consisting entirely of quotations from those who approach nearer to immeasurable wit than I do.

And yes, Penelope Clearwater is that Ravenclaw prefect who dated Percy Weasley before he became a total git.  Are you aware how deeply into obscurity a potential blogger has to dig in order to find a quality blog name that someone hasn’t already chosen?