When not poring over the pages of Liv Literary Journal or studying biography at the Graduate Center, Sierra Holt spent her weekends editing hour-long recorded interviews. For ten weeks, twice a year, she sat in front of her aged laptop and digitally condensed transcriptions of nonfiction writers discussing their latest book; slashing and dashing mumbles, ums, and technical hiccups while highlighting breakthroughs and moments of joy. Why was she spending her limited free time on even more life-writing content?
Although she loves to read a good nonfiction book, there’s only so much one can learn between those pages. Questions of choosing a subject, crafting a book proposal, or even getting the words down on the page are not answered when reading a biography or memoir. So to fix this learning gap, she joined forces with another Liv team member Jenny Skoog to create the Ink Slingers podcast. Together, they crafted a platform focused on life writing and the people who do it.
Unlike the digital origins of Liv, Ink Slingers began in person at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Sitting past the front desk security, up two flights of stairs, and deep in the school’s library was a small podcast booth that housed much of the show’s first season. Host Jenny Skoog and the episode’s guest would cram inside the warm, darkened space for one hour with microphones sitting near their faces. Although it seems like less-than-ideal conditions for a writer to spill all, it created a cozy environment that complimented Jenny’s inviting demeanor and insightful questions.
As the pandemic hit in the middle of the podcast’s first season, the Ink Slingers team retreated back to their respective homes. They traded that charming booth full of high-end technology for an improvised studio split between a closet in Harlem and a room in an apartment in Queens. Despite this location hiccup, the dual-tech setup successfully served as the permanent workplace for the podcast’s future episodes. Within a year, Ink Slingers persevered and captured the voices of nonfiction’s most well-known voices. They learned about writing habits, research trips, and even self-care routines of writing greats like Brenda Wineapple and Stacy Schiff, and upcoming literary stars Jenn Shapland, E.J. Koh, and Melissa Febos.
But as with many stories, every narrative must have an end. After four seasons, Jenny and Sierra have concluded Ink Slingers to take all they’ve learned and channel it into their own respective projects. For those wanting to learn more about the nonfiction writing process or just to hear an interview with a great memoirist or biographer, click here to listen to past Ink Slingers episodes.