Well, would you look at that, I‘ve been making this little podcast for a whole darn year now! That was my main aim when I started: to produce a podcast for a year, and see what happened. I made that my aim because I’d had to leave behind my first podcast at my old job, after only six months of working on it. I was still fizzing with ideas and wanting to learn more about making audio.
I go into more detail about starting Freelance Pod here. I set myself the challenge of making a podcast completely by myself, including the technical side. I also wanted to push the boundaries of my longform interviewing, and play with editing, to get the best narrative line out of my relaxed, often somewhat rambling interviews. I wanted to see what kinds of settings would result in different tones from my interviewees, and where to gently press them to find emotion and passion in their voices, the most compelling part of audio.
This year of making audio has brought me more than I could’ve dreamed of. 38 episodes, three live shows, speaking, writing and teaching gigs. Tonight, I’m off to The Lovie Awards tonight, where I’ve been shortlisted for Best Host in the Podcasts category, alongside Anne McElvoy of The Economist Asks!
I’ve met and spoken to incredible interviewees I might not have contacted otherwise. I’ve become part of a supportive, fun and inclusive podcaster community, which I’d discovered when making my first podcast. However, until making a podcast of my own, I didn’t know if I could become a member of that community without feeling like an imposter. Now, I have.
I’ve really grown to love my theme of how the internet has changed the news and creative jobs, and I’m starting to dig deeper into more emotional subjects. I’ve decided to celebrate the podcast’s first birthday with an exploration of grieving in the digital age, with author Rachel Vorona Cote. You can pre-order Rachel’s first book, Too Much, which is out in February 2020.
I found Rachel through her excellent Longreads piece on the subject, and we just clicked when we spoke, even though it was about the worst moments of our lives. I took away a lot of wisdom from Rachel’s episode, and insight into how the internet can help - and hinder - our deepest emotional processes.
Even though I’ve sat on this audio a little while, when it came to the voiceover, I realised that I’m still not ready to fully explore my own experiences of grief on the podcast.
It’s something that came up this week when I was interviewing Sadia Azmat of BBC Sounds’ No Country For Young Women podcast. She avoids directly speaking about a family issue on the podcast, referring to it obliquely by reminding her co-host and longtime friend Monty Onanuga of when they last spoke about it.
However, in the second part of a live show, Sadia slips in some stand-up where she is very open and outspoken about the issue. When I asked her about it, she said that sometimes it easier to write and deliver a performance about a tough subject; to speak about it in conversation on a podcast is too intimate, too much. You can hear this interview as part of a BBC production I’m working on that’ll be out at the end of the month.
In a similar vein, I use Rachel’s reaction to my story, and her summary of it, to explain why I care about grief - in fact, why I know anything about it. For more background, have a read of these personal essays I’ve written, on the changing shape of grief, and on the things that are left behind.
I’m keen to make more episodes about grief and other emotions that are more visible in an internet age - if you have a story or an idea, let me know.
If it’s a subject close to your heart, I recommend Katie Hawkins-Gaar’s newsletter, My Sweet Dumb Brain. Katie was 32 when her husband Jamie died suddenly, three years ago. She’s been detailing her progress through grief in her newsletters. The latest edition is about how long to hang on to a loved one’s things, and it features a look at my recent Curbed essay.
Part of grieving is feeling isolated, and not knowing if the strangeness of what you feel is normal. The internet can help you find a community like nothing that’s come before; Katie’s newsletter is a good place to start.
I’m currently writing up a running order for Freelance Pod’s third live show of the year, featuring author Gemma Milne. We’ll be talking about how to get your nonfiction book published (Gemma’s book Smoke & Mirrors is out in April 2020, and currently available for pre-order); how to brand yourself online; and how hype in science & tech reporting obscures the truth, and instead gives us weird headlines like ‘Robots are going to steal your jobs!’.
If you like the internet, words and ideas about the future, plus some small helpings of silliness, it’s the evening for you. This Sunday, 17th September, from 6:30pm at the Boulevard Theatre, Soho. The stalls are filling out nicely, and don’t be afraid of sitting close to the stage! It’s a safe space and we won’t be mean to you. The best £12 you’ll spend all weekend, promise :)
Have I been reading, watching, listening to anything? Sure, but in a haze of back-to-back colds and transatlantic flights. It’s been a bit of a blur. I’ll reboot my memory ahead of the next newsletter.
Until then! x