July 7, 2015

Podcasts for Writerly Types

Podcasts are one of my favorite ways to feel engaged with the creative community and feel like I’m learning something new. When I can’t sit and pick up a book, I can often turn on a podcast and listen while I fold laundry or clean the kitchen or drive to appointments. They’re free, easy to download, and they make me feel like I’m being more productive than listening to Taylor Swift’s newest album for the billionth time.

I’ve listened to dozens of them over the years. Some are better than others, and of course different people will prefer different personalities and podcast styles, but here are the top five I think every writer should check out:

ONE: Writing Excuses
This one is in its tenth season, so they have podcasting down to an art. Their tagline is “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” I like that it’s short and organized and to the point. I like that it has great authors (like Brandon Sanderson) sharing what they’ve learned. I like that there are different types of writers in the cast, and they often bring on guests. The only drawbacks to this one are their tangents can sometimes get annoying (and a couple of the cast are particularly prone to tangents), and if you’ve listened to it for ten seasons, it can often feel repetitive.

BUT. If you’re a writer who is new to podcasts, this is definitely the place to start. They’ve won dozens of awards, and they really know their stuff.

TWO: First Draft with Sarah Enni
This is one of my favorites. Enni travels around the country on a long road trip, interviewing different authors in their homes or hometown. This one is like being part of an intimate conversation with best friends. You get a great sense of each author’s personality, and I like that Enni focuses on authors that are relevant NOW and understand the current markets and publication processes. The only drawback to this one, in my opinion, is that often they’ll meet at cafes or the author will have dogs or kids yelling in the background. They don’t do high-quality recording sessions, and sometimes it’s super annoying. If I wanted to listen to kids yelling, I’d turn off the podcast and listen to my own. Still, this one is a great source of information for aspiring writers, and I think Enni is a personable, likeable host.

THREE: This one's a tie between Radio West and TED Talks.
These two aren't generally writing specific, but I think they have the most interesting range of topics and ideas. Both do shows on everything from authors to religion to science to current events. TedTalks are particularly popular--they're short, informative, and really interesting. If you haven't ever tried them, these talks from authors would be a great place to start.

As for Radio West, I think the host, Doug Fabrizio, is one of the smartest, most well read, most empathetic and engaging hosts out there. This week alone, I’ve listened to podcasts about Lewis Carol, Climate Change, FBI Terrorist Informants, and the culture and history of rain.

With both podcasts, even topics that I don’t think will interest me often draw me in once they get started, and I’ve incorporated the ideas into more than a few stories. I also like the occasional break from writing specific chatter, and these ones make me feel smart and well rounded.

FOUR: Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips
This is exactly what the title sounds like—quick discussions on grammar. This is perfect for writers because it covers use of grammar, punctuation, and usage that will make all of us better at our craft. The host, Mignon Fogarty, gives a lot of examples and somehow manages to make the discussion of grammar fun and engaging. You’ll like it so much, you’ll forget you’re learning!

FIVE: This Creative Life with Sara Zarr
Similar in format to First Draft, I like the one-on-one style that Sara Zarr uses to interview various authors. I feel like she has a wide range of genres and categories in the authors she interviews, and she is really sharp. If I had to compare the two, First Draft’s Enni has a list of questions that you’ll hear repeated for each author. I like that format, but I also like that this one seems more organic and the conversation takes different twists, depending on the author and the things she/he wants to focus on. It’s a different style, but still intimate, informative, and fun to listen to.


HONORABLE MENTIONS (because who can stick to five?)

The Writing Show
This one might not appeal to everyone. The hosts have very distinctive personalities, and it’s not as uniform as other podcasts. The thing I like about it is that it covers a wide range of topics from genres to screenplay writing to rules of writing. It’s a great podcast that brings on established writers to talk about different aspects of their writing and careers.

I Should be Writing/Ditch Diggers
Mur Lafferty runs both of these podcasts. I Should be Writing is her own reflections on writing life and usually a short interview. It’s very personal and introspective. I don’t love her co-host on Ditch Diggers, but it’s interesting because it’s more business focused where I Should be Writing is about creative processes and self. Both are worth checking out.

This American Life
This should probably be in the top five, but this podcast is great with storytelling, setting different moods, engaging the audience—all tools writers need to use. It can be sad or hilarious, but regardless of the topic, it’s always fun!

The Legendarium
This one is more focused on fantasy, particularly Tolkien and Sanderson, but they’ll deviate to talk about Lovecraft, super heroes, horror, new movies, etc. I like that their focus is usually based on current issues and pop culture. For example, not just The Lord of the Rings, but the role of women in The Lord of the Rings. It’s a fun listen if you’re into fantasy and/or pop culture.

Serial
This is a podcast that focuses on one story for an entire season. If you haven’t listened to the first season, GO NOW! It’s perfect for writers because it has spot-on storytelling. It has perfect structure for writing chapters. It gives you just the information you need, as you need it, shows how to incorporate back-story, and makes you feel like you’ll explode because you have to wait for the next episode. We could all learn a lot about storytelling from the way host Sarah Koenig leads us through the narrative. (I must like Sarahs. There are a lot of them in this post!)

The Author Hangout
A great tool for learning how to market books and use social media as an author.

The History Chicks
Awesome podcast that focuses on women in history. It showcases specific women, random groups of women like the women from Oz or Tudor grandmothers, and is an entertaining way to learn more about history from the perspective of women. Great inspiration for characters!

And that’s my list! Hopefully you’ve found something worth checking out. I know that I have a lot of fun listening to podcasts, and I think I’m more informed and a better writer for taking the time to listen.

What about you? Any writerly podcasts you love that I’ve missed?

Post originally published here.