Ally Scale is a podcast enthusiast who produced a series of podcasts for Writers Victoria in 2014. She also collaborated with Writers Bloc and All The Best on the podcast episode Baby Teeth. Ally is a 2015 MWF Development intern.
I love the tactile experience of reading a book. But when it’s peak hour on public transport and I’m packed in sardine-tight, sometimes there just isn’t enough elbowroom to navigate the precarious balance of cradling a novel.
That’s where podcasts come in. They are my knowledgeable commuter companions. My boredom-stemmers. And most importantly, they are a way for me to sneak more stories into my daily life.
Podcasts often tackle the stories left untouched by other mediums, or they slice out a section of a well-known story and hold it up to the light, illuminating its old, yellowing edges.
I often find myself obsessing over podcasts, scrolling through iTunes to check out the latest offerings.
So in order to lure you into the podcast world (if you aren’t already drunk on Serial), I’ve put together some recommendations below, in no particular order:
Invisibilia is about the invisible forces that shape human behaviour. Real personal stories are paired with science to explain behaviours that are so instinctual we don’t even stop to consider them. Cue the episode The Secret History of Thoughts, which takes us on a journey that is both frightening and liberating in equal measure as we are reminded of the erratic nature of thoughts and the rebellious ways they weave through our minds.
Bring a Plate
The banter between Rebecca Shaw and Peter Taggart on Bring a Plate is hilarious. They recently travelled to Melbourne to do a live recording as part of the Emerging Writer’s Festival and true to form their pop culture rants were razor-sharp and laugh-filled. They reviewed Judge Judy’s autobiography and read out some Gilmore Girls inspired poetry. What more could you want out of life?
Reply all produces short, digestible stories about the Internet. Not the gigabyte, megabyte kind, but the human relation-y kind. This podcast is less about technology and more about the way we use it to interact with one another. My favourite episodes are those that take a retroactive look at the Internet’s early days, from interviewing one of the first people to use a webcam to broadcast her life online in Jennicam to the person who invented the pop-up ad in We Know What You Did.
For some homegrown cultural and literary criticism I turn to the Rereaders. It is great to see interesting and diverse local content being reviewed. The Rereaders discuss a range of projects and topics on a fortnightly basis including literary zines, online web series, new social media platforms and gallery exhibitions. They even reviewed one of Melbourne’s cereal cafes, proving there is no limit to what the Rereaders are prepared to analyse. To add a cherry on top, they will also be appearing at MWF15 in The ReReaders: Live at MWF.
The Moth will loosen your emotions, it’s the surest way to laugh or cry on cue. The Moth shares true stories told live on stage without notes. Listen to the moving story from our own Magda Szubanski at MWF in 2013 or The First Elf, an entertaining story about a stylist decorating the White House for Christmas. The Moth is once again coming to MWF to weave stories about the theme of ‘Between Worlds’ in The Moth: True Stories Told Live.
The New Yorker Fiction Podcast
Deborah Treisman, the New Yorker fiction editor asks a different writer each month to select their favourite story from the New Yorker archives to read aloud and discuss. The New Yorker Fiction Podcast talent pool is impressive, from literary greats like Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen, all having published in the magazine. But one of my favourite episodes is when David Sedaris reads ‘Roy Spivey’ by Miranda July. Sedaris’s reading voice suits July’s prose as he quietly draws out the comedic elements while staying true to the story’s emotional arc.
Self-proclaimed ‘storytelling with a beat’ podcast Snap Judgment has the best background soundtrack of any podcast I’ve listened to. Plus, the thematic categories of each episode hook you in, from You Don’t Know Me, stories about critical misunderstandings to The Pact, about making and breaking promises. If you like your stories with an inherent musicality, then you’ll enjoy what Snap Judgment lays out.
The Australian Poetry Podcast
It was a sad day when the Poetica podcast ended but then Robbie Coburn and Nathan Hondros emerged to fill the poetica-shaped hole left in our hearts via the Australian Poetry Podcast. With an exciting line-up of poets from Jill Jones to MTC Cronin there is a lot to gain from listening in. Also, it is a nice treat to hear the poets read out their work at the conclusion of each episode.
TED Radio Hour
TED Talks can be inspiring, but watching them in succession makes me feel like I haven’t done enough in my life! The TED Radio Hour by contrast is less intimidating; they edit a selection of TED talks into smaller morsels and create under an overarching theme for each episode. Framing the story looks at the art of storytelling. It also includes an interview with the novelist Chimamanda Adichie, whose Ted Talk The Danger of a Single Story is compulsory viewing for readers and writers alike.
The good folk of Radio Diaries hand over recording devices to ordinary people so they can document their own personal histories. What results is the uncovering of stories that history has skimmed over, cast aside or largely forgotten.
In the episode Claudette Colvin – A Teenage Rosa Parks the question of why some stories gain traction in the collective public consciousness over others is examined. The episode offers insights into why certain figures are left out of the folds of our history books and others are enshrined in them.
Radio Diaries also regularly produces stories for This American Life, another fantastic podcast that I haven’t profiled here as I feel it gets enough coverage in top 10 lists. But it’s definitely worth a listen too.