Creator Spotlight: Scooter Mann

  • writer, producer, voice actor, host, audio engineer, and showrunner!

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Scooter Mann!


Scooter Mann is a writer, producer, voice actor, host, audio engineer, and showrunner.

Basically, he’s the person in charge of Legendsmith Productions. That’s the company that runs 3 different podcasts (Anansi Storytime – Fairy Tale / Folklore Radio Drama; Legendsmith – Show and Tell for Radio Dramas, plus some one-off stories; Geekcore Radio – Dedicated to introducing people to new weird music) and the Story Forge Network (right now that’s just those 3 podcasts, the plan is to add others they don’t wholly own later)

Scooter, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Easily a phoenix. Such a pretty concept. It would really add something to meeting someone for the first time with a phoenix on your shoulder. Especially if it didn’t burn me alive. That would be an unfortunate end to pet ownership.

I wonder if it’s the beauty, the flash, the power, or the symbol of rebirth that appeals most to you.

What do you create and how did you get started?

I run Geekcore Radio mostly by myself, with some support from our audio engineers. Anansi Storytime and Legendsmith are group projects. In both cases I started off doing most of everything by myself, that being writing, editing, acting, some of the basics of audio engineering (I’ve only recently gotten into learning engineering).

I believe that no matter how big we grow I should be familiar with how to do each piece, if not just so I can know when something is done well or not.

These days, for the two Radio Drama style podcasts, I mostly manage, occasionally write, and do some audio engineering. Sometimes I get roped into directing or voice acting, but not very often.

I feel like the key, when you’re learning something new, is finding someone who knows that thing at a professional level, to at least show you what you’re doing wrong and point you in the right direction. The support of the creative community for Radio Drama / Audio Drama has been fantastic.

I suppose this is when I should let the readers know that I am one of your voices for these projects. Not all the time, but I love being a part and watching it grow and improve. You’ve come a long way and it’s been a great journey to be even the tiniest part of.

What do you like to read?

Lots of sci-fi, fantasy, modern fantasy, philosoph… You know what, I’ll give you some examples, that’s probably easier.

My favorite series currently are: The Dresden Files, The Iron Druid Chronicles, KingKiller Chronicle, and John Dies at the End (sorry, while I liked Harry Potter, not in my top series). Individual Books: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Blink, 4 Hour Work Week, and the Wonderbook (a book on methods of writing sci-fi/fantasy, it’s amazing, I highly recommend).

What a great selection, mostly right up my ally. I should probably finally check out that Wonderbook… you’ve recommended it to me more than once at this point.

Name one commonly accepted piece of audio drama/podcast advice that doesn’t work for you.

Have a regular schedule.

Having to keep a regular release schedule. A lot of people say this very often. I haven’t seen this to be as big of a concern with most of our traffic coming from apps where people subscribe then come back to it when a new episode comes out. With how long it takes to produce a given episode either we’d have 1 to 2-year gaps between seasons, wouldn’t be sleeping or would burn out trying to keep any reasonable release schedule (like one every 2 weeks or 1 a month).

It matters more to me that we produce high-quality material than getting it out there as soon as possible. I hope our fans understand.

With the way Anansi works, being a folklore radio drama, I can definitely see that being a binge-worthy sort of show. I wonder if Geekcore or Legendsmith might work better with a monthly schedule?

Name one commonly accepted piece of podcasting advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Backups!

We have lost lots of older stuff while trying to make space for new stuff. Especially when your project can take several terabytes for a single season.

Make a backup directory somewhere for the things you’ve finished and are done with, in case you ever need to go back to it for whatever reason. Preferably not something in your house where you can lose it, but on the internet or in a safe somewhere.

Oh, and make sure you save and back up things you’re working on often. You never know when a computer could die losing hours upon hours of hard work.

Oh no! That’s super frustrating and definitely a major set-back. I’m sure most writers and digital artists would agree with that advice, too.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

For one, all of our shows can be found at our website, but if you type in their names into a Podcast App they should come up pretty quick there too. I like Overcast and Podcast Addict, but the default apps that come with the iPhone and Android phones work great too! (Plus they’re simpler if that’s your preference).

  1. If you like Fairy Tales and Folklore acted out with SFX and fancy production, you’ll love Anansi Storytime (kids and adults). 
  2. If you want information on other Audio Drama / Radio Dramas out there or want to hear some of our stranger projects not related to Folklore, go check out Legendsmith
  3. If you’re finding you want to hear some music that very different than what you might hear on the radio and pretty weird in general (often somewhat nerdy), check out Geekcore Radio.
  4. I also have a few personal things out there, I’m on Twitter(@scootronic) and have a Facebook Page(@scootermannsweb) where I mostly either talk about projects I’m working on or share weird stuff I’ve found on the internet. We all love weird internet stuff, right?

Dynamic Voice Acting

Whether you’re thinking about a podcast, joining #AuthorTube, or just wanting to wow the audience when you read an excerpt from your own writing aloud to an audience, being a dynamic voice actor has a lot of benefits — for writers and creators of other forms of media.

In the titular panel, August “Gus” Grappin, Starla Huchton, Tee Morris, and Veronica Giguere, with Erin Kazmark moderating, shared tips to help you rock the voice acting world.

How IS Voice Acting Different Than Just Acting?

Of course, voice acting is a form of acting. But, when most people think of “actors”, they think of people on stage, television, or film. Without others to interact with, voice acting is a whole other ballgame.

  1. Without an audience, there is no feedback
    • Those who feed off the audience find this a detriment
    • Those who the audience makes anxious, find themselves better able to relax and get into character
  2. Theater is a team sport, unlike most voice acting
    • In theater, a good actor can bring you up, a bad one can kill the scene
    • In voice acting, you’re typically recording in a room by yourself and you have to trust the others to bring their A-game
  3. It’s hard to match the energy, when you’re not all recording together
  4. For audiobooks – it can be challenging to get feedback or direction from the author.
  5. You have to use a microphone!

4 Tips To Keep The Narrative Itself Dynamic

Characters lend themselves to different voices, based on age, gender, and energy level. Narrators can be trickier. Third person narrators are almost an eye-in-the-sky, while differentiating a first-person narration from the character’s dialogue offers a few challenges.

  1. Find a ‘character’ for the narrator. With good writing, the setting itself is a character and lends itself to a certain tone.
  2. “Make a meal of your words,” says Phil Rossi. Linger on the words, with the exploration of the world coming through with your tone.
  3. Think of the ‘narrator’ as ‘the storyteller’. Not someone reciting the words but someone telling the story to a fascinated audience.
  4. In that vein — try to imagine that you’re talking to an actual person. A friend that you don’t want to bore (or roll their eyes).

7 Ways To Make Characters POP

When you are trying to differentiate in your voice between different characters, it can be easy to fall into cliches — be it a shrill woman, a thick-accented foreigner, or a slow, low male voice. And wild characters can be hard to understand.

Luckily, there are some tricks that can help.

  1. Moving or changing posture between characters.
  2. Giving a character a physical tic — twirling hair, glaring, talking out of the side of their mouth
  3. Being careful not to mumble or speed up during action scenes
  4. Pay attention to your use of breath and pauses. They can be dynamic but, don’t “Shatner” or you’ll “Shat all over your audience.” (thank you, Tee)
  5. Pay attention to the character’s attitude — don’t make the focus of your delivery be on their gender
  6. If your voice is naturally feminine, hardening your delivery, even without lowering your voice can help
  7. As the narrator, hold the tension. Let them relive the experience as you bring the listener along for the ride.
    • I have a horrible habit of rushing jokes because I can’t wait to share the punch line. You don’t want to drag it out, but you want the audience to get there at a natural pace, not rush them, nor drag it out.

Reading aloud, be it for a animated show, podcast, or live audience can be nerve-wracking. But, if you’re dynamic, your audience should enjoy themselves.


Were there any tips you know that the panelists didn’t get a chance to mention? Are there things you enjoy in your audio dramas that you’d love to see more of? Or things you keep seeing that you HATE?
Let me know!

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back again next week with even more panel notes from #Balticon53. Because I’ve got a book of notes here.

How To Be A Good Moderator

Having attended, at this point, easily over a hundred panels in the last 5 years, I definitely have opinions. And there is one role that can make or break a panel.

Whether you’re a writer guest-of-honor on a panel at a convention, or just hosting a dinner party, being a good moderator is highly underrated skill.

My favorite panels are where the big names are friendly and informative, and the smaller names are confident with their answers — without anyone talking over each other.

In the titular panel, Barbara Krasnoff, Grig Larson, DH Aire, Jennifer Povey, and Jazmine Cosplays, moderated by… Um. I think it was Barbara, but really? It was the most polite and self-moderated example of a panel I’ve ever watched.

How To Prepare To Moderate

When you sign up to be a panelist, or you’re asked to be one, pay attention when you get your schedule. If you’ve got that big ‘M’ in parenthesis, you’ve been selected as the panel moderator. Which means, you don’t have to know everything about the topic, you just have to make sure your panelists share everything they know.

  1. Read up on both your topic and your fellow panelists.
  2. Prepare open-ended topical questions
  3. Read the panel description — sometimes it gives you all you need for discussion questions!
  4. If you get fellow panelist emails, reach out and coordinate
    1. Ask them what questions they’d like to be asked
    2. If there are identity sensitive questions, give them a heads up
    3. Pay attention if there are tangents they ask to avoid
  5. Decide if you want to give introductions for the panelists, or make them introduce themselves.

How To Guide The Conversation

There are panels that basically run themselves. The panelists are solid on the topic, friendly and gracious at taking their turns, and make a lot of fascinating points. Other times? The conversation could use some… guidance.

  1. Know who the audience is here to see — if there is a big name, or subject matter expert, you might let them talk a little longer.
  2. Make sure everyone gets a turn. If someone is going on a bit, redirect.
  3. If you think you might have a chatty panelist or two, feel free to inform the panelists of a time limit on answers during the introduction phase.
  4. Ask leading questions
    1. You want to make the panelists look good!
    2. You can use leading questions to get back on topic, after a tangent
      • NOTE! If the audience is looking interested in the tangent, you can let it go a little.
  5. Watch the panelists, if they seem to perk up at something another panelist is saying, take note of that and come back to them, especially if they haven’t been dominating the conversation.
  6. A difference of opinions is more interesting than everyone in agreement — as long as it’s a case of personal preference and not a personal attack.
  7. If the panel conversation seems to run dry, or the topic was too obscure, let the conversation veer. Especially when it’s engaging the audience.
  8. Save 10 minutes at the end for a Question and Answer period. And don’t hesitate to open the floor for questions early if the conversation has ground to a halt.
    1. If the audience is huge, try to leave extra time for the Q&A, and be apologetic if you can’t hit them all.
  9. The last 2 minutes should be for the panelists to give closing thoughts… and do their book/social media plugs.
  10. If you run out of time, you can always offer for people to send their questions to you on social media — assuming the panelists are open to answering more questions.

How To Shut Up Panelists

Some panelists love to hear themselves talk, others talk a lot when nervous, and others are so excited about the topic they’re just overflowing with things to say. But. A panel isn’t a monologue, and sometimes you’ve just got to move the conversation along. Or, a panelist might be working their way toward embarrassing themselves, or getting a little too worked up.

Some things to say to redirect the conversation

  1. “Thank you, SPEAKER. QUIET-PANELIST, what did you think of what SPEAKER just said?”
  2. “Thank you. Let’s give OTHER-PANELIST a chance to answer the question.”
  3. “I’m gonna have to stop you there. Our time is getting short.”
  4. “Now, it’s time to move on to NEXT-PANELIST.”
  5. “That’s a great topic. I’m going to suggest it for a panel next year.”
  6. “Oh hey, I think someone in the audience had a question.”

How To Moderate The Audience

Sometimes, the ones you need to watch out for aren’t even on the panel themselves, (although, some think they should be, and some may have been excellent additions).

  1. Be firm. The rest of the audience is here to see the panelists, not listen to the audience. When you open the floor for questions, be sure to let them know, “Questions only, no statements.”
  2. If they’re rambling, cut in. “Do you have a question in there?”
  3. You can use that, “That’s a great topic for a panel. You should suggest it for next year.”
  4. If there’s not quite a question, and you need to take the floor away from them: “Does anyone want to address that?”
  5. If an audience member crosses a line — either by repeatedly ignoring your requests, or saying something beyond the pale, you can kick them out. “I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave.” And just wait, or ask someone near the door to call for security, if they leave willingly.

What NOT To Do!

Now, the panel didn’t go into this, too much. But, I’ve seen a lot of crazy things in panels. I think we can find the rest of the answers from looking at, let’s call it, the negative space in the tips above.

The top 9 ways to be a horrible moderator

  1. Let it tangent off-topic, with an irritated audience, while there’s plenty of topic left to cover
  2. Don’t let the audience ask questions
  3. Treat the panel as your platform, with the other panelists as supporting characters
  4. Single out one panelist based on their identity, and make them speak for all people of their race/gender/ability/etc
  5. Share any fellow panelist contact info you have, publicly
  6. Let people talk over each other
  7. Tell people their opinions are wrong
  8. Let the audience or panelists bash each other
  9. Spew hateful rhetoric

A good panel is informative, entertaining, and friendly. If you stay in this industry, it’s likely that you’re going to see these people on future panels. If you moderate panels that people enjoy participating in and/or attending, it’s likely they’ll look forward to being on panels with you in the future.

Vlog – Reading Aloud

I like going to panels on ‘reading my own work’, dreaming about the day when I’m asked to give a book reading of my own.

Here are some tips from a workshop I attended at WorldCon75 entitled “Reading Your Own Work.”