Advice for Others | Women of Fiction Podcasting #4
Wednesday 8 March is International Women’s Day.
To celebrate, we’ve enlisted the help of Lauren Shippen, creator of The Bright Sessions – one of the best fiction podcasts on the planet right now!
Lauren has organised a roundtable conversation with fellow audio dramatists from The Elysium Project, The Blood Crow Stories, The Alexandria Archives, Lesser Gods, Radiation World, Jim Robbie & The Wanderers, The Bridge, The Penumbra Podcast, and Deck the Halls (with Matrimony!).
In Part 4, the final chapter of this series, Lauren asks the panel:
What advice do you have for other female creators/writers?
I think the hard truth is that, as a female creator, it’s currently an occupational hazard that you’ll face challenges that male creators never will. (Even more so if you are a Woman of Colour or LGBTQ+.)
There are always assumptions about what kind of person we are and what our content is or ought to be. I've really found that people you surround yourself with are your greatest line of defence. You want your closest supporters to be the people who will challenge and support your writing and creativity, not your identity.
It's also so important to network with other female creators, too. They are the ones who will keep you sane in those moments when you need to talk through whatever you're up against.
Optimistically though, I do feel like we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think the growing sense of solidarity we're seeing more and more of is a major reason that's happening at all.
Ellie Collins, Writer / Director / Voice of Darla and Saoirse, The Blood Crow Stories
Be vigilant. A lot of people just don't pay much attention to us, initially, or try to box us into a type, or other such nonsense. But ﬁnd your place, claim it for yourself, and make it known.
Be vigilant in who you are and what you wish to present, and people will take notice.
Nicole Jorge, Writer / Creator / Voice of Morning Wood, The Alexandria Archives
Oh man, I'm terrible at trying to sound inspirational! Seriously though, it means so much just seeing the content coming from other women.
Find a thing that you love doing and do it, whether it's for fun or proﬁt – don't sell yourself short!
I wanted to write this show in the ﬁrst place because, although I enjoyed a lot of the female protagonists I was seeing and reading about, I wanted to write a character who wasn't a hero. Because, let's face it, most of us aren't.
Most of us are still trying to ﬁnd the balance between what we want and what others want, what we deserve and what we covet. Most of us make selﬁsh mistakes or act arrogantly, and we disappoint the people who love us. It would be great to be Katniss Everdeen but, for many people, being good is a choice.
I wanted to write a character who needed to learn that and then decide if that was a choice she even wanted to make. Don't ever feel satisﬁed just because we're starting to see more complex female characters in media.
The podcast has also allowed me to dive into the heads of women who even I would have typecast as 'mean girls' or 'goodie two shoes'.
I've really enjoyed getting to explore the perspectives of different women as a writer, and this is the time to do it. All our voices, all of our perspectives matter. That's why my big advice would be to write the story you want to hear.
Don't waste time searching for a certain author's voice when you could ﬁll that void yourself. Don't underestimate how much people want to hear you.
Hari Rai Khalsa, Writer, Radiation World, & Sahib Simran Khalsa, Sound Wizard, Radiation World
- Make a thing.*
- Have fun.
- Develop an intricate organisational system.
- Flail around.
- Have more fun.
*the way you want to make it
I love talking to people; I constantly need to talk to people. Reach out to me and other people who are creating, and talk to us. We're busy, but we're friendly.
I would not have learned so much without the wonderful community of podcasters out there – even creators who aren't female or feminine identifying. The support from these awesome people keeps me going.
And just make things. Make bad things, make good things, make things you think only you'd want to listen to.
There is merit in everything, and even someone who starts off without knowing what they're doing will eventually get to a comfortable place. And don't doubt. Even if you think you're the only one who'll want to listen to it, people will listen and people will love it.
The people who don't; don't bend to them or allow them to change your work to suit them. There will always be people who will support your work, and it's them you should look to.
That being said, don't be afraid to listen and learn, and to change in ways that you want to, even if it wasn't the original goal. Art is learning and teaching about ourselves and the world around us.
Alex Brown, Writer / Creator / Voice of Etta, The Bridge, & Rebecca Mahoney, Writer / Creator / Mysterious Voice, The Bridge
RM: Do you want to go into podcasting but you're worried that you don't know enough about it? Try it anyway.
Experiment with things you're only 50% sure will work. Introduce yourself to people you admire and listen to their experiences. And, most importantly, ﬁnd fabulous collaborators who take your ideas and make them better.
Without Alex, The Bridge wouldn't have got off the ground – I would have been too afraid to try podcasting, for one. Actually, I think I was nervous until we released our ﬁrst trailer.
(I mean, I'm still nervous. Podcasting is such a do-it-yourself medium, which is occasionally kind of terrifying. But mostly? It's really, really fun.)
AB: I second everything Rebecca said! If you have an idea that might ﬁt, do the thing. If you're worried about it, do it anyway!
Someone out there needs the story you want to tell, so send it out into the world. Get stoked for that moment when someone connects to a character you created, or a place you thought up, or a story arc – the list goes on and on. We all have the ability to be great storytellers. Now, more than ever, we need as many awesome perspectives and cool, innovative stories and characters as you can make!
And, when those moments do come, embrace them and celebrate!
When someone loves something you created, it's basically the coolest feeling ever. It's so cool that I can't ﬁnd the words to describe it. But it'll happen, because you're awesome and so, so worth it.
I think it's very easy to let that impostor syndrome kick in, but you shouldn't let it linger. You deserve a seat at the table, and it's about time you got one. So don't let those fears and insecurities get too comfortable in your seat – get them outta there!
You absolutely belong. So go tell that story!
Write about women. Write about all kinds of women. Write about funny women and humourless women and heroic women and villainous women and sexy women and frumpy women and gay women and non-binary women and women just like you and women you would hate and nice women and mean women and, of course, nasty women.
And that being said, do whatever the heck you want. Work really hard at it all the time and keep getting better at creating whatever it is you create. Then save the world with it.
Paula Deming, producer/voice of Emma on Deck The Halls (with Matrimony!), Co-founder Sassquach Radio
Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. If the person you're reaching out to doesn't know the answer, or can't help you out, they may very well know someone who can.
Also, don't be afraid to 'fake it til you make it' a little bit. While we were making our podcast, I spent a lot of time pretending like I knew what I was doing. It's a balance.
Make content that YOU would enjoy. You'll be more passionate and excited about what you're doing. And even if your audience ends up being very niche and small, they will be excited and passionate. Just like you are.
Just do it. Even if the ﬁrst thing (or couple of things!) you make isn't perfect or even that great. The more you make, the better you are going to be at it. No one is going to make an opportunity for you – we have to make our own opportunities!
If we want to see better female representation in podcasting, we have to do it ourselves. Put yourself out there.
Ashley Quach, Writer / Director / Producer on Deck The Halls (with Matrimony!), Co-founder Sassquach Radio
Advice (for ﬁrst timers)
- My favourite radio comedy writer is John Finnemore. His sitcom Cabin Pressure is a primer in writing punchline delivery for radio that feels visual. Pay attention especially to the way the dialogue orients the listener to the necessary visuals. Finnemore also recently began a programme called Double Acts that is ingenious study in dialogue-only plot development.
- Think of writing for radio as being like writing a comic book. You can’t draw in every detail. Keep the frame tight. Tie action to ﬂuorescent points that are easy to keep track of.
- If your MACRO world is easily recognisable, set somewhere that most people have personal experience with, you can probably skate by without a narrator. If your macro world is unfamiliar or alien, liberate yourself to use one. There are lots of different ways to use narration. Explore your options before setting into a draft. BBC adaptations of classic books use what I consider the most bare bones approach, with narration providing the context that bookends each chapter of action. Fleabag (TV show) uses an unreliable ﬁrst-person narrator to house punchlines and set the pace of the action. Then there’s The Wonder Years. Take your time: have a look around.
- Have friends read the audio script for a clarity check before moving into preproduction. Can they tell what’s going on?
- Simplify when possible.
- When pulling in talent and crew on your ﬁrst production, aim for a 70/30 balance of friends and new talent. More friends than strangers will allow you to feel comfortable and supported, but never let a project go by without allowing yourself to work with some new faces.
- Talk to everyone. Budget to allow yourself to buy coffee/beer/lunch for every experienced potential crew member you come across. Be generous. Be earnest. Follow up.
- Don’t audition with scenes from your actual play. They’ll never sound as good to you in recording as they did in the audition, and you’ll overthink it.
- Audition more actors than you need, because schedules change and availability can evaporate. Record everything. Keep good records. An actor that wasn’t right for this production may be just what you need in the next.
- If renting a recording facility, do not be shy about conﬁrming and reconﬁrming your reservations and schedule.
- Chill the eff out and enjoy rehearsals! It’s the most fun.
- Breakout sessions with small groups are the time to experiment and give your strongest directions. All-cast run-through is the time to sit back and let the actors feed off each other. Give them energy. Give them absolutely dire notes that are necessary for audio clarity, but otherwise get out of their way and let them work.
- Long recording sessions are prone to energy dips. If you must have a long session due to production deadlines or cast schedule, make peace with it and provide lots of snacks.
- Roll tape on the cast gooﬁng around when you can. It’s good for morale in the long trek through post-production.
- Don’t overthink it. Gut instincts. Choose your takes and move forward!
- Colour-code Excel spreadsheets, macro to micro: page number, take number, Foley, dialogue, music. Make a master edit list that every postproduction member can have access to.
- Dialogue lock ﬁrst. Then Foley. Then music (if you have it). Then ﬁnal mix.
- Cell phone Foley is punishing to research.
- Footsteps take twice as long to record as you might think.
- Record your own Foley whenever you can. Library effects rarely ﬁt in with the timing or nuance that you need.
- In your ﬁrst 'ﬁnal cut', put in as little Foley as you can get away with. As you listen, add Foley where you need for atmosphere, or where the action is unclear. Start with the absolute basics, then add.
My ﬁrst piece of advice would be to get involved in the audio drama community as soon as you can.
Reach out to creators you love on social media. Ask them questions, tell them about your project, etc. The audio drama community is really great – unlike in a lot of other entertainment sectors, there isn’t a ton of gatekeeping.
Although I struggled to be taken seriously by journalists and more mainstream artists, the audio drama community made me feel legitimate from the very start. There are amazing allies in the ﬁction podcasting world who want to hear your work and help you promote. Find them and lift each other up.
My second piece of advice is: make the thing you want to make.
As ﬁction podcasting becomes more popular, it will inevitably bring in corporations and larger studios, and all those executive types. And those people can be awesome – if you can make money from your podcast, do it.
Selling out is not always a bad thing. But, if you have someone chirping in your ear and saying that they want your work to be this, that, or the other thing, it might be best to re-evaluate whether you want that person around.
Follow your vision, compromise if you have to (but not on the important things), and don’t let anybody tell you that your idea isn’t marketable.
Even as the world moves forward, most entertainment is still led by straight white men. Some of those guys are great, and some of their stories are great, but theirs are not the only stories worth telling.
Don’t listen to anybody who tells you they are.
Women of Fiction Podcasting
A huge thank you to Lauren and the panel for their excellent insights and advice.
Please check out and subscribe to their shows for more inspiration and great entertainment.
The Bright Sessions, The Elysium Project, The Blood Crow Stories, The Alexandria Archives, Lesser Gods, Radiation World, Jim Robbie & The Wanderers, The Bridge, The Penumbra Podcast, and Deck the Halls (with Matrimony!).
Ready to create your own Fiction Podcast?
If you're looking for more resources to get you started, or to improve your show, have a look at the following resources: