TRAVERSE CITY — Shelley Watkins grew up reading and discussing a wide range of topics at her family’s cottage on Lake Leelanau.
“We called it backtalk because we’d sit in the back and talk about absolutely everything,” said Shelley, describing the cottage north of Leland, a gathering place for extended family of all generations.
Now she and her daughters, Jen Watkins of Santa Fe, N.M., and Cait Watkins of Chicago, are using their conversational arts to attract listeners to their weekly podcast, the Whole Shebang. The free show is available on iTunes and their website, wholeshebang.com.
The approximately 30-minute podcasts are designed to be both entertaining and thought-provoking, said Shelley, 57, a freelance editor from Leland. Topics — three per show — range from Hannibal Lecter, panhandling and competitive laughter to minimum wage, recent scientific discoveries and Easter.
“We’re generalists, which makes it harder to find an audience. It really is three women discussing everything: science, politics, education,” she said. “It’s kind of what’s moving us at any particular time.”
The women take turns hosting the podcasts selecting the wildly diverse topics each Sunday.
“Usually I try and choose topics that will be a little controversial, that, if they saw in the heading of the podcast topics, people would think, ‘Hmm, I wonder what they’ll say,’” said Jen, 30, a software developer. “Then there are two topics that are more fun or more easily discussed without a lot of prior preparation.”
Each show wraps up with an “enrichment or engagement” segment in which all three share something from the week that either pleases or peeves them, like “Jen is enriched by the IRS commissioner’s talk about the future of taxes” or “Cait is enraged by housemate’s unattended buzzing alarm clock.”
“Cait is very cranky and some of the funniest material is when she’s cranky,” Jen said.