Serendipity at Work: An Interview with Drew Miller

Every year, for the past several circles around the sun, the community known as The Rabbit Room has convened in a rich and elaborate gathering known as Hutchmoot. This past Hutchmoot, I was excited to sit down for a few minutes to talk shop with Drew Miller, editor of the Rabbit Room blog and member of the delightful folk chamber group known as The Orchardist.

ADAM: How long have you been editing The Rabbit Room?

DREW: Let’s see, I think it’s been—well, I’ll think of it in terms of Hutchmoots. Last Hutchmoot was my first, and I think I had just started that summer, in July. At that point, I was only doing two posts a week, just to help Pete [Peterson]. As far as managing the blog myself, it’s been since the beginning of this year.

ADAM: Where did you and Pete come across each other?

DREW: A lot of similar circles overlapping. The church that Kelsey and I go to, I think, is where it all comes together. So, Hutchmoot used to be at Church of the Redeemer [in Nashville], and our church is actually a plant of Church of the Redeemer called St. Mary of Bethany Parish. Andrew Peterson and his immediate family started going to St. Mary’s as well, so they’ve been there all the time that we’ve been there. So we got to know them.

And I think it started when the Orchardist had just finished our record, and I was like, “Can you listen to this? Can this maybe be on The Rabbit Room?” And I was just elated that they were into it, and that started my relationship with [Andrew’s brother] Pete.

ADAM: Did you feel a kind of leadership role before you went into editing? And I say that because there is a sort of leadership that goes along with editing. Did you feel that beforehand, or did that just come along with jumping into editing The Rabbit Room?

DREW: I think it was more of an intimidation thing. I thought, “Whoa, I am managing this.” This is a blog that I’ve read and respected and loved for years. So, now I’m corresponding with all these writers who are used to talking to Pete, and shouldering a little more of that burden. I think the leadership aspect of it has been more a humbling—I’m just going to approach it feeling honored that I can do this.

ADAM: How does shepherding look for you in that regard?

DREW: Logistically, it’s just making sure there’s enough content on the blog, and there’s not much shepherding to speak of. But then sometimes, it’ll be really fun to work with a writer if they have a piece that is great, but that doesn’t quite fit with art, story, or community. I think the biggest instance of shepherding would be with guest submissions, actually. And that’s been something we’ve been able to accommodate more. Since I’m just doing the blog, instead of everything else Pete manages, I have time to look over every guest submission we receive. And getting to correspond with them is really fun.

ADAM: That feels like it mirrors your role in The Orchardist, as far as generating and overseeing content. How do those two look side by side?

DREW: I think the common thread I love about both of those things—and now, most recently with the podcast, and with some of the stuff I do at church. There’s this common thread of just discerning how different pieces of writing, or songs, or whatever they may be, reinforce each other and are in dialogue with each other in a way that forms a cohesive experience. So, whether it’s the liturgy of a church service or the track listing of an album, or the specific posts that go up in the same week, all of those things engage a similar part of my heart.

Because, for me, thinking about what is going to be impactful to readers and listeners, I have to be a listener, or a reader. I have to submit myself to be moved or changed by what I’m reading and listening to. So the only way to really infer how effective things are going to be—I have to give up a measure of control. And so that, that’s really fun. And I’m sure you understand too, thinking about The Broken Seasons and about how all the songs go together—

ADAM: Oh, it has to be a coherent whole—

DREW: Yeah! You’ve probably thought about it a million times, on a walk, or doing dishes. Like, if that track goes into this one, then this theme will follow through—that kind of engagement.

ADAM: There’s this idea of narrative structure emerging. You do have to pay attention, but narrative structure does seem to emerge of its own. You don’t really have to force it all the time; things do tend to follow that cycle or that pathway. In what ways, then, do you feel like you’re responsible for guiding that narrative structure, and in what ways do you feel like it’s being revealed to you?

DREW: The most exciting moments are when it’s being revealed to you. That’s what makes you want to keep doing whatever you’re doing—when the pattern emerges, seemingly of its own accord, and you’re the lucky person who gets to witness it. There’s an element of abundance and scarcity going on too, because there are weeks that are dry, where I don’t have a ton of content. Then there are weeks when there’s so much—some of my favorite moments are waking up on a Monday morning, checking my email, and seeing all these people who were serendipitously writing something for the blog and just happened to email me on the same day. And I read through them and think, “These are in dialogue with each other. How did they—?”

ADAM: It’s like those instances of disparate people, in different places, inventing essentially the same thing at the same time without being in contact with one another. It’s like it almost had to happen.

DREW: Some of the most seminal inventions have happened that way. And also, Elizabeth Gilbert—do you know her?

ADAM: Is that—is she the Eat, Pray, Love author?

DREW: Yes, yes. And I forget the new book of hers, but it’s about creativity. And one thing she talks about is how, if one person won’t take the idea that has dawned on them and make it into something, it’ll find someone else. And there are really weird, sort of ghost stories of that happening. Gilbert actually experienced that with Anne Lamott, I think. Like, the two of them—

ADAM: Of course, them. Of course—

DREW: Right! So, several years prior she had this idea for a novel that was very specific. For whatever reason, she just aborted it. She couldn’t really write it. Then she met up with Anne Lamott, and they talked about it, but she didn’t tell her the specifics of the story. And then, years later, Anne Lamott wrote this book that was essentially the same plot. And the same names of some characters—really creepy stuff.

Drew’s work can be found on the Rabbit Room, as you may have guessed, and excellent music from The Orchardist is available in the Rabbit Room Store.

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