Author Tara Altebrando recently announced the news of her partnership with Pinna, the world’s only on-demand audio entertainment service created exclusively for kids between the ages of 3 and 12. Tara wrote a series titled “Dream Breachers” in which a middle-schooler realizes the ups and downs of having his dreams actually come true.
Amy Kraft, Director of Content Development & Children’s Programming for Pinna, and writer Tara Altebrando recently discussed the new podcast series via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in writing and/or audio podcasts and how did you break into the industry?
Tara Altebrando (TA): I’m friendly on social media and in real life with an incredible number of authors, and I started to see writers I knew suddenly working in the scripted audio space. I’m a big podcast listener but mostly true crime, so discovering the world of scripted dramas like Lethal Lit and The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel was exciting. I thought, “I want to get in on that!” Writing novels, while wonderful, can be sort of lonely, and the audio space seemed like it might be…fun.
MM: What led to the development of Pinna and how does the platform find its content?
Amy Kraft (AK): Pinna launched in January 2019 as the first and only audio on-demand streaming service delivering podcasts, audiobooks and music in one safe space for kids 3–12. The podcast marketplace for adults was booming and audio overall was seeing a renaissance — in part driven by the rapid growth of podcast popularity and the emergence of technologies enabling voice interaction — smart speakers, smart cars, smart homes, etc. When we looked at the podcast space for kids, no one was producing podcasts at scale for kids and there was no “one stop solution” that brings all audio into a COPPA compliant environment for kids under 13 where kids can discover and listen independently. We believed there was an opportunity to do just that and Pinna was born.
Pinna team members and collaborators are seasoned children’s media producers and creators who really get kids! We carefully develop content to ensure we offer age-appropriate, high-quality, highly entertaining and educational experiences 3–12 year olds will love. And we partner with the best-in-class brands and top creative talent worldwide to deliver innovative audio programming to kids around the globe.
Pinna produces a deep and robust catalog of Pinna Original podcasts, audiobooks and music and searches the world over for the very best audio content for kids across formats and acquires rights to distribute that content on our platform. We are very selective and curatorial ensuring that every audio program on Pinna will engage and delight kids at every age and provide parents with the assurance that their kids will never bump into any content that is inappropriate for their 3–12 year old so they feel good about letting their kids freely discover and choose what they want to listen to in an app made just for them.
MM: How did you find each other and decide to collaborate?
TA: I realized, quite fortuitously, that I knew someone who worked at Pinna. So, I invited her to lunch and asked a whole lot of questions about where they were getting their content and what they were looking for. She encouraged me to pitch and I did and here we are.
AK: Tara’s pitch came in with the logline “When a tween boy discovers that he has the ability to move freely between the world of dreams and reality, he quickly finds himself living a nightmare.” On reading that I got goosebumps that didn’t go away as I continued to read the pitch — it’s like nothing else I’ve read or seen, and I knew we wanted to make this podcast.
MM: Tara, how did you come up with the concept for “Dream Breachers” and what do you most enjoy about the characters and plot?
TA: I started kicking around the idea for Dream Breachers after my daughter, who desperately wanted a dog, came down to breakfast one morning a bunch of years ago and said, “I dreamed I got a dog.” I said something like, “That’s the only way you’re getting one” and she said, “Yeah, I wish I could have woken up with it.” I was like, Hmmmmn. So, the idea of people who can move consciously between their dreams and reality grew from there. I wasn’t sure what shape the story should take (novel? graphic novel?) until I decided it might work well for Pinna. One of the most enjoyable things about hashing out the concept has been the fact that the setting or soundscape is pretty limitless. When you’re writing dreams, you have a lot of freedom.
MM: What other books have you written and how is the podcast format different?
TA: In the middle-grade space I’ve written two novels (The Battle of Darcy Lane and My Life In Dioramas) that are very straight contemporary realistic stories. So, a fantasy like Dream Breachers, which has an enormous amount of world building, is new territory for me. Also, needing to get everything across in dialogue or sound is, of course, a challenge. But I’ve always loved a good challenge. A few years ago, I had an idea for a super creepy YA novel so decided to shift gears in the YA space, too — I was more known for traditional coming-of-age type stories — and write darker while also experimenting with typography and white space. That book, The Leaving, is still my most popular.
MM: How has coping with the pandemic lockdown helped you to tap into your creativity and create fun new content?
TA: My children are full of ideas about stories. Good ones, too. So, one silver lining of the pandemic for me has been that my 9-year-old and I have spent a lot of time just talking about various ideas I have in the works. She very actively helped me outline the entire arc of a second season of Dream Breachers via daily plot meetings. And we’ve started collaborating on a chapter book series based on an idea of hers. In our regular life, we’re so busy that I can’t see how our collaboration ever would have come together.
MM: How do you envision Pinna evolving and what sort of stories and themes might you like to cover in the future?
AK: Pinna is currently being listened to in 139 countries and counting! We see Pinna becoming THE premium, go-to audio on-demand streaming service for kids 3–12 around the world and we see a global audience of kids tuning in to listen to their favorite audio everyday on Pinna.
Over time, we want to ensure our content catalog reflects a global audience of listeners in the stories, songs and podcasts we produce and acquire. We’ll continue to roll out content that we know kids love across hot genres like comedy, mystery, fantasy, adventure and fan-driven non-fiction passion topics and you’ll see Pinna bringing innovative audio formats to our service that haven’t been done before. So, stay tuned…more coming in 2021!
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
AK: Pinna is on a mission to nurture active listening and activate kids’ imaginations! We believe in kids’ right to explore, discover, learn and play on their own terms — in a space created just for them and through our podcasts, songs and shows, we inspire kids to giggle, guess, move, wonder, learn, puzzle and participate. That is our ultimate goal.
Pinna is available in the iOS, Android, and Amazon app stores both domestically and internationally and can also be accessed on the web. For more information visit www.pinna.fm