Five Tips for Creating (and maintaining) a Podcast

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I was relatively late to embrace podcasts. I didn’t really get into the medium until listening to Serial back in 2014, but since then I’ve fallen pretty in love with the form. From other true crime podcasts (Criminal; Sword and Scales) to historical (You Must Remember ThisWhat You Missed in History Class) to the fantastic (Lore; Welcome to Nightvale) to fun, pop culture ones (Nerdist; How Did This Get Made), I fell so hard I ended up creating my own with Aimee Lindorff, Lady Parts, about women in front of and behind the camera in sci fi and fantasy film.

It’s been a terrific process and a lot of fun to work with, but I can’t help but wish I’d been a bit better prepared when I’d started out. After all, it can be a pretty difficult process to navigate. Now that I’m pretty familiar with the process of it, I thought I’d compile a few of the things that I’d learned, and the things I wish I’d known back when I started.

Know your genre. 
I’m generally of the opinion that you shouldn’t be starting to tell a story in any medium or genre you’re not familiar with. Research, and active participation in a form, is the best education you can get, and also really helps in terms of understanding what you want your podcast to look like, from format to length to regularity. Training a critical ear to podcasts is going to be what helps  you make your own the best.

Plan, plan and plan again.
And sure, planning helps too. When Aimee and I first started, our plan was relatively loose, which was great for starting out! But not great for maintenance, longevity or audience building. With Season 2, we set up a strict episode schedule with a strong scheduling gant so that we knew what we were talking about and how we were talking about it well in advance. It means that recording sessions are efficient and that we’re able to maintain the plan that we set out to make which has been essential in building both our profile and audience.

Invest in good tech.
When Aimee and I first started Lady Parts, we were borrowing a microphone which, look. Wasn’t great. Before we began Season 2, I did a ton of research into mics and ended up getting a Blue Yeti USB Microphone, which I’ve been really, really happy with. It’s really good quality and records dual audio well and easily. Of course, the Blue Yeti might not be the best for you. My point is that you need to have a look and work out which equipment is going to suit your purposes and make your recording processes effective, simple and convenient.

Research hosting servers.
It’ll surprise no one that iTunes is the most popular channel for podcasts, but, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t host anything.  You’ll need to upload your podcast to an individual hosting server and then set up an RSS feed which channels your podcast through to iTunes, Pocketcast and other podcast listening apps. For LadyParts, we use Soundcloud, but there are a lot of other options out there which are worth investigating. Again, check stuff out, and work out what’s best for you.

Have fun.
Sure, it’s cliche as hell, but you can’t podcast just because you think it’s something on-trend. You’ve got to enjoy doing it, otherwise your audience will hear it, you’re never going to maintain it and, ultimately, you’ll waste your time. It might just mean that the subject isn’t right or maybe podcasting, simply, isn’t for you. So enjoy it!

Friday Finds

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She could take a stupid problem (men’s concerns about women’s skirts), frame it in the stupidest way possible (“Are Girls’ Knees Immoral?”), and spin gold, beginning by pointing out how odd it is that people can be scandalized by women’s knees on the street but not much more flesh on a beach, and then concluding, “It is always the half-hidden, half-exposed things which cause catastrophe. In long skirts, a girl’s knees are not dangerous. Entirely without skirts they are equally as unimportant and as easily taken for granted. But with half a skirt—half-hidden and half-revealed—they are dynamite. And this applies not only to skirts but to every situation and truth and activity in human life. It is always uncertainty which does by far the greatest damage.”

This article by Andrew Heisel about the life of America’s first female columnist, Velva Darling, is a totally fascinating read and a snapshot of women’s changing roles in  the 1920s Jazz Age. You can read it here.

These writing tips from Rebecca Solnit are great / the Man Booker shortlist has been announced / this article about the death of certain languages is fascinating / this new true crime podcast, In the Dark, is excellent / And some weekend reading for you – 19 Wikipedia pages that’ll send you into a week long reading hole.

Oscars Year 20

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Somehow in the three years since starting this project, I’ve watched twenty years worth of Oscars contenders. It’s been such a fascinating process, and one that’s really opened my eyes to the influences and innovations of cinema, and the journey it’s made since the first Academy Award was handed out in 1929.

The 20th Academy Awards was held in 1948, only three years after the end of World War II, and the effect of that was still so totally felt in the films nominated. The domination of bright eyed musicals and guns-blazing Westerns had taken a backseat to a swell of noirs featuring svelte seductresses with recently claimed independence and hollow-eyed veterans lost in stories of society and crime. It makes for a pretty phenomenal exercise in how widely the War affected both artists and audiences, and shows that the types of stories they were drawn to in the aftermath of loss were not stories of hope and fun, but stories that reflected that loss and emotional distance.

It wasn’t just noirs that were nominated though. Joyous Christmas films like It Happened One Night and Miracle on 34th Street were sweeping up, as were small, sweet, romantic films (often with heavy Christian undertones) like The Bishop’s Wife, The Egg and I and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. The only clear genre on the decline was musicals, which made only a few appearances in this year’s Oscar nominations in the buoyant college romance, Good News (which was clearly a heavy influence on Grease from styling to pacing), and Road to Rio, which was another Bing Crosby vehicle.

Genre aside, the 20th Academy Awards had a few interesting things happening generally too, the biggest being James Baskett’s winning a controversial special award for his portrayal of Uncle Remus in Disney’s Song of the South, making him the first African American man to win an Oscar. The controversy stemmed from the fact that the film was considered (and still is, because y.i.k.e.s) racist, and Baskett’s character was considered to be a ‘happy slave’.

It was also the first year that an award was given for Best Foreign Language Film, something that would go to the wonderful Italian film, Shoeshine. The award was an honorary one and not a competitive one, and would be until the 29th Academy Awards in 1957.

Five Films to Watch

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Of my two favourite films from this year’s Academy Award nominees, Possessed is probably the most predictable. It ticks a lot of my boxes, namely it’s a sultry noir with a complex, unreliable and morally dubious heroine (played by the effervescent Joan Crawford), and utilises exquisite cinematography and music to create a real creeping tension. It’s pretty magical.

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Body and Soul is probably a less expected one for me to love. It’s a boxing film, which is a subgenre of cinema that can frustrate me, but Body and Soul manages to not only capture the beauty of boxing and the form – namely that it can be a way of transcending class in ways little else is – and tell a beautiful love story between a boxer and a painter, but it also explores the nature of intimacy, expectation, fame, loneliness and family in ways that are more or less perfect.

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Films about nuns have popped up in Oscar noms time and time again. From The Song of Bernadette to The Sound of Music to Doubt, they are about as likely to worm their way into awards as films about World War II and lifelong battles with illness. Black Narcissus is an interesting film though, and one that deserves more nominations than it actually received. The story of a group of nuns struggling with duty, loneliness and identity during a mission in an isolated community in the Himalayas might sound a little preachy and dull, but it’s actually a profoundly affecting film.

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Ride the Pink Horse has some of the cleverest use of visual language that I’ve seen in a long time, and that’s really saying something given the high calibre (and, look, low calibre too) of films I’ve seen. This is a total B-film, and a strikingly well-made film noir, and it might not be for everyone, but the story of three men’s power play in a remote Mexican border town while a teenage girl sees the future is pretty damn compelling.

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There were so many great noir films nominated this year, that it was tempting to put Boomerang (a great crime story about a war veteran framed for the murder of a priest), A Double Life (where an actor goes so method that he murders his mistress), or Crossfire (where an anti-semitic war veteran murders a Jewish man in post-war America), but there’s been enough doom and gloom in these recs, so I figured I’d suggest something a little lighter.

On paper, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer shouldn’t work at all. The story of a billionaire playboy who finds himself in court and falling in love with his female judge while her highschool-aged sister falls for him is a screwball comedy of the oddest order, but man, this film works. A lot of that is dependent on the utter delightfulness of the screenplay and the charming performances by Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple. It’s just fun, and shows that romantic comedies can be more than just filler, paint-by-number films and be something pretty darn special. Plus the recurring fantasy Temple’s character has of Cary Grant as her knight in shining armor is, believe it or not, a joke that doesn’t get old.

For previous years, check out the Oscars Project tag.

Magical Places

One of the projects I don’t talk a whole lot about on this blog is a children’s graphic novel that I’ve been working on for quite a while. I love comics generally (in case you couldn’t tell), and have a particular love for stand alone stories that seek to explore complex themes with younger characters and readers. Stories like This One Summer, Anya’s Ghost,  and I Kill Giants. It all extends out of themes I’m generally interested in – particularly stories that use magic and imagination to dive into trauma.

This kid’s graphic novel I’ve been working on is about a weird girl, Mochi, who’s family moves from an American city to the Tasmanian wilderness and she finds herself struggling to adjust. It doesn’t help that her sister has just crossed the threshold into adolescence and suddenly seems a thousand miles away from her emotionally. An incident happens which results in Mochi finding herself in the throes of a magical world, trying to retrieve something lost from her with only the assistance of a strange, malicious spirit and her new, young, amputee neighbour.

As a part of the writing process, I’ve been doing a whole lot of research into locations and landscapes that look, well, magical. I’ve put in a few of my favourites below.

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Crystal River tree house. Green Line Architects, Carbondale, CO. Photo by Brent Moss. 

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Lucien Moore House, Detroit, by Whitewall Buick
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Til the End of Days by Javier de la Torre

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Do you have any favourite pictures of magical places? Share with me in the comments!

Awards, Residencies & Novelettes

I haven’t blogged a whole lot over the last couple of weeks. This has been for a whole host of reasons, from preparing to chair panels at Brisbane Writers Festival, to illness, to completing a copywriting job, through to celebrating some pretty damn exciting writing news. Which, hey! Let’s talk about!

For starters, I’ve been shortlisted for The Richell Prize! I wrote about being longlisted here, and my feelings are just as excited and thrilled now as they were then. I’ll be heading to Sydney next week to attend the awards night, which is a ridiculously awesome thing. Wish me luck!

In other exciting news, I also secured a place at Can Serrat Artist House in Barcelona (and some funding!) in 2017 to write about the 66 Australians who travelled to Spain to fight and nurse in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939. I’m a little blown away by this given it’s only my second time applying for an overseas opportunity (the first being Tin House in the US which I did last year), and it’s a project which still feels very newly discovered.

And finally, we’re really gearing up for my novelette, They Built Us Out of Buried Things, to be published in October with Tiny Owl Workshop! It’s a bit of a crazy time across the board, but I’m pretty thrilled for people to be able to read it. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for some updates on it!

Seven (Nine) Sentences, Seven Pages: They Built Us Out of Buried Things

There’s a writing meme travelling around at the moment about posting seven sentences from the seventh page of your WIP, and I figured it was a good opportunity to post a little excerpt from my novelette which is coming out next month!

Also since I am terrible, I’m really posting nine sentences. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And hey! I’d love to read yours too! Leave them in the comments!

Jane sighs, dropping her head forwards and letting the steam from her coffee warm her chin. It’s still too hot to drink, and so she’s left to tap her fingers against the cracked porcelain of the mug while she waits. Distracting, given her fingers are still dyed a violent and slow-fading purple, and the fact of that is enough for Jane to hook her phone between her ear and shoulder and rub at them frantically in an effort to clean them.

“It’s not bad,” Jane agrees. “It’s just not home, and I’m pretty sure at least two of my lecturers hate me, and—”

“And there’s no Bruce,” Lizzie interjects.

A noise somewhere between a scoff and a cry wriggles out of Jane’s throat, and she wishes she were faster at catching it. The sound is enough that a boy with greasy blonde hair and a wispy, pubescent beard at the table next to her turns to look. She paints on a smile and waves her purple-tipped fingers awkwardly, but it does little to curb his odd expression.

“But there’s no Bruce here either,” Lizzie adds, oblivious. “At least there you don’t have the ghost of him hanging around.”

They Built Us Out of Buried Things will be released in October 2016.

Sunday Circle: what I’m writing this week

For background on the Sunday Circle, see this post.

What am I working on this week
I’ve made a lot of progress this week on my sci-fi screenplay and am hoping to get this current draft finished this week so that I can send it off for feedback from a beta reader. Once that’s in the bag, I’m shifting my attention back to the Big Damn Literary Novel. I’m getting closer to finishing this current draft of it, and really need to refocus and get back into it.

What’s inspiring me this week?
I read Warsan Shire’s poetry collection, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth which is such a remarkable work. It explores compelling themes so intimately, from ideas of womanhood, love and motherhood to themes of country, identity. and the refugee experience. It’s heartbreaking and it’s wonderful.

What part of my project an I avoiding?
I’ve been hopelessly avoiding writing new scenes at the moment. I’m not really sure why, as I usually like to do it, but with both my sci-fi screenplay and my BDLN, I currently have gaps that need to be filled and have been shirking them to fiddle around with scenes I’ve already written. So yes. I’m going to try and not do that this week. If anyone has any tips on staying on task with revision (and progressing with re-writing) and not getting distracted with re-revising scenes you’ve already done, I’d love to hear them!

Anyway, what are you working on? Leave your answers in the comments below or link me to your blog!