Content should be your number one priority. Audiences may forgive unstable Wifi or an inexpensive microphone, but the content must be engaging and appealing to an audience. I’d like to think that a great podcast engages your audience on multiple levels through a combination of humour and deep, vulnerable discussions. A good podcast should inspire you to take action may it be reading or discussing a book, having a conversation about the issues an author explores or sharing your vulnerable self with others.
Prior to creating content, you need to have some idea of who might listen to your podcast. Audiences may vary and they may be transient, but it’s good to have a vague idea of who might be tuning in.
For the Words and Nerds Podcast, I envisioned that listeners may be a combination of the following:
· Book lovers
· Writers and aspiring writers
· Librarians or teachers (perhaps students if they’re studying a particular book)
· People who work in the book or publishing industry
With that in mind, I thought about how our conversations might appeal to both a writer and reader. As a reader (and long-time English teacher and Head Teacher), I always approach the book featured on the podcast in an analytical way, but I’ve also attempted to balance this by tapping into the book’s beating heart. For me, the emotional impact of a piece of art is what makes me adore it, re-read it and why it resonates with me (have you heard me talk about The Picture of Dorian Gray?) I’m really interested in the way a piece of art impacts the reader in all our messy human beingness.
The conversation also delves into the writing process, which includes how the authors we love and admire get the words on the page. What does the writing process look like for them, what are the challenges, the joys? What does the first draft look like? How do you overcome self-doubt and what have they learnt about the craft? How can writers and aspiring writers tap into these conversations to hone their own writing styles? This is how the Feedback Sessions emerged. Author Ben Hobson was on Twitter updating his word count and we started chatting about how interesting and useful it would be for other writers to read the first, second and third draft of a piece of work. We’ve been fortunate enough to have spoken to a number of authors about their drafts, including Mark Smith, Michael Pryor and Maya Linnell.
If you’ve listened to the podcast, you know the final question is always ‘Why do you write?’ and with repeat guests coming onto the podcast, I’ve had to alter the question to ‘Why do you keep writing?’ Author Will Kostakis who has taken over the podcast a number of times, has started asking ‘What does an INSERT AUTHOR book look like?’ An interesting question and one that assumes that every writer leaves a piece of themselves inside every book they write.
Values and Beliefs
It was important to me from the beginning to convey a set of specific values and beliefs throughout the conversations, which can be a challenge when you are relying on guests to provide much of the content. However, most of the guests who have featured on the podcast are likeminded as they are passionate about literature, care about the world, understand the importance of inclusivity and believe, as I do, that books really can change the world.
At the very core of the podcast, it’s important to me that the conversations on the podcast are inclusive, empathetic, socially responsible and optimistic about the world we live in. There are enough messages in the world that suck the joy from our lives, and I didn’t want to contribute or become a part of that narrative. In saying that, I love it when guests have differing opinions because it allows us to learn, but differing opinions doesn’t mean being disrespectful to our each other or our audiences. I constantly reflect on the conversations we have on the podcast, and constantly strive to be better than I was the day before.
Having hosted hundreds of episodes, it’s important to stay inspired. People often wonder how the podcast can sustain so many episodes, but the truth is, the conversations on the podcast nourish me in ways that I could never have imagined. Besides literature being incredibly important to the conversations, I had to reflect on what was important to me and how that was conveyed to others.
Conversation and connection are extremely important. At the heart of all the interactions I’ve had on the podcast I’ve discovered that we are all flawed, messy, frightened, vulnerable human beings. Elliot Perlman said it best when he admitted that ‘we are all afraid.’ Afraid of saying the wrong thing, being a disappointment, not achieving our goals, not being loved and not being enough. Connecting as human beings, through our vulnerabilities has become the very core of what these conversations are about.
Being vulnerable in a public forum is a recent discovery for me. I thought that in order to be a strong woman, I had to be tough, infallible, unbreakable and I had to avoid crying at any cost and never show any weaknesses at all. A sad way to have spent my twenties. In truth, I’ve discovered how freeing it is to be vulnerable and how I think it provides you with the tools to become a better human being.
I never intended to share much of myself at all. My vision was to focus on the guest and the work and to remain in the shadows. However, soon after I released the first episodes, listeners asked ‘so who are you?’ It was an interesting question, and I shouldn’t have been surprised because if people are going to spend their precious time (one of the things we can never get back!) listening to you discuss books and the world, they have a right to know something about you! This question allowed me to become part of a wonderful book community who are the most generous people in the world.
I’m not actually sure how it happened, but I started sharing my experiences of anxiety. 2019 was a particularly difficult year for me, struck down with a mystery illness, where I was misdiagnosed with a serious condition (that thankfully I didn’t have). However, what felt like a million specialist appointments, MRIs, heart monitors and medication, my anxiety spiralled out of control to the point of being unable to leave the house. This lasted much of 2019, until I finally found the right specialist (a neurotologist) who correctly diagnosed me with vestibular migraine (an absolutely debilitating thorn in my side, but nothing like the initial diagnosis). During this time, I would drag myself out of bed, record a podcast, because it was one of the very few shining lights I had at the time, and would begin discussing the debilitating anxiety I was experiencing, and it turns out that many people had similar stories. It was a relief to know I wasn’t alone. Vulnerability. I highly recommend it.
Despite all of the above, humour is the greatest antidote to a bad day. Great conversations will have a shape to them whereby you dig deep and find the heart of the book, but you’ll also find something to laugh about. The most interesting conversations ebb and flow, like the rise and fall of a landscape. Each episode is unique, each guest and co-host bring their own stories, experiences and humour.
In 2020, author Trent Dalton was kind enough to celebrate the 200th episode with me. This very challenging year, thanks to COVID-19 was also the year the podcast more than tripled its monthly plays. It was an exciting and humbling moment, but I became a little concerned that the formula might become stale and predictable (not that this is always a bad thing, because when humans are experiencing anxiety we often return to those movies, TV shows, songs and podcasts that made us feel good in the past). However, I thought that I could keep recording the same episodes I always had plus introduce content presented in fresh ways. As a result, the following episodes were born (many of these ideas were discovered through conversations with W&N contributors and were not my ideas alone).
o Usually with Ben Hobson as co-host, we ask authors to share three drafts of their current WIP and discuss the writing process, the feedback they received and how it shaped the final draft.
Summer Series 2021
o A friend of the podcast interviews an author of their choice and discusses how their childhood shaped them as a writer, amongst other things.
o Two podcasts mash together for a great conversation.
o Multiple authors are interviewed in the one episode.
o Friends of the podcast sharing interviewer duties.
o Podcasts become livestreams!
o Friends of the podcast interview authors and become the host of W&N.
o 15-20 minute interviews for shorter commutes.
o New series coming soon where we delve into the publishing industry interviewing agents, publishers, marketing teams, books designers and everyone in between! Coming in April.
Burgers, Beers and Books
o Ben Hobson’s spin off series where he chats to an author of his choice once a month about their favourite book and how it informs their work. Coming 1 April.
I love having a co-host for the right episodes. I started W&N with a co-host. Chris Buchanon, host of the Washing Up Podcast where he and his wife Kristie chat to Bake Off and Masterchef contestants. He gave me the confidence to start the podcast and was my very first co-host. I adore working with someone who has a different way of thinking or is able to add something new to the conversation. In 2020, I asked Adrian Beck and Tim Harris to jump in as co-hosts as we’d had so much fun on W&N first group chat I invited them to co-host. The takeover episodes became an extension of this idea.
Tim Harris co-hosted an episode with Sue Whiting (Episode 166), a group chat with Felice Arena & Jaqueline Harvey (Episode 163) and James Foley (Episode 204)
Jules Faber co-hosted an episode with The Chaser’s Charles Firth (Episode 224)
Nicole Hayes co-hosted an episode with Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (Episode 179)
Sandie Docker co-hosted an episode with Kayte Nunn (Episode 206)
Maya Linnell takes over an episode interviewing Lee Christine (Episode 283)
Cassie Hamer takes over an episode interviewing Vanessa McCausland (Episode 286)
Felice Arena co-hosted an episode with Gus Gordon (Episode 188)
Will Kostakis Takeovers
o Episode 288: Sophie Gonzales
o Episode 270: Jennifer Niven
o Episode 246: Charlie Archbold
o Episode 232: Anna Morgan
o Episode 213: Sam Coley
Adrian Beck has co-hosted a variety of episodes for the podcast and I always appreciate the energy and the original ideas he comes up with to entertain listeners.
o Episode 272: Michael Wagner & Heath McKenzie
o Episode 269: Nathan Luff & Chris Kennet
o Episode 238: AL Tait
o NaNoWriMo series with Tristan Bancks, Julianne Negri and special guests Holden Sheppard, Sarah Bailey & Fleur Ferris (Episodes 212, 214, 218, 222, 223, 226)
o Episode 219: Wai Chim
o Episode 207: Andy Griffiths
o Episode 199: Andrew McDonald & Ben Wood
o Episode 189: Kate & Jol Temple
o Episode 186: Mick Elliott
o Episode 183: Nit Boy
o Episode 180: Gavin Aung Than
o Episode 172: Matt Cosgrove
o Episode 168: Nat Amoore
Some episodes you might enjoy:
Episode 169: Ben Hobson with Dani Vee
Episode 248: Mark Smith with Dani Vee & Ben Hobson
Episode 209: Michael Pryor with Dani Vee & Ben Hobson
Summer Series Takeover
Episode 275: Ben Hobson & Rohan Wilson
Episode 271: Meg Mason & Clare Chambers
Episode 268: Ben Hobson & Kyle Perry
Episode 264: Maya Linnell & Kelli Hawkins
Episode 260: Nat Amoore & Jessica Townsend
Episode 259: Tristan Bancks & Rebecca Toltz
Episode 256: Mick Elliott & Oliver Phommavanh
Episode 253: Sisonke Msimang
Episode 249: RWR McDonald & Dinuka McKenzie
Episode 193: Meg Mason with Dani Vee
Episode 200: Trent Dalton with Dani Vee