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Listen up

People recording a radio play - black and white photo

Making a story,
The Netherlands Nationaal Archief

So, you’re going to make a podcast.

Great news. At least for me. You see, I’m a podcast addict. I walk. A lot. And everywhere I go I take a little audio show with me. If I’m on the train and there’s no  book to hand, there are a million podcasts awaiting my ears.

My question for you is: How are you going to capture my attention in this great flood of podcasts? Maybe you’ll ask me what I like and want to hear more about. Surely it’s all about what you’ve got to say, not how you say it.

Story before method, right?

Well, no. Not quite.

As any good (or struggling) writer will tell you, getting the story on the page is just part of the job. The rest will see you doing endless hours of editing and redrafting. It’s the same for everyone. Story creation is the hot rush of ideas and making stuff up. No-one makes anything flawless first time around. And we all know it. A poor edit can ruin a great idea.

Why then do so many podcasts consist of unedited talking heads? There are some great podcast topics out there. But they don’t make my adrenaline rush when I see them in my feed. I might still listen, but they are, sadly, filed under ‘quite nice’. Or worse, ’eminently skimmable’.

I organise my podcasts, not by topic, but by when and where I listen to them. One playlist is called ‘pay attention & listen’. It’s usually empty, because as soon as any of these guys land, I’m itching to listen in. I won’t do them the disservice of listening on a crowded street. I’ll find a quiet corner and make sure I don’t miss a single word. They demand it of me. Unedited talking heads do not.

If you want me to listen, give it some care and loving attention. Make it so I can’t not listen. Craft me something wonderful.

So, make it. But make it good. Right now could be the golden age of podcasts and you could be a part of it.

Yes, I love podcasts. Make it so I love yours.

Dear Mister Asimov – a memory

science-fiction magazine coversToday I briefly described myself as a science-fiction fan at heart. Nothing new. Nothing unusual. For some reason, this time as I said it I was suddenly struck by a memory of the moment that I learned of Isaac Asimov‘s death.

Asimov died over twenty years ago. That makes it pre-internet-as-we-know-it, so I can’t be sure of the exact date that I found out. Still, Asimov wasn’t sure of his exact date of birth, which he celebrated on January the 2nd, so I guess that’s okay. If I had read the news online, I know I would have been reading about it on the exact day of his passing. But perhaps it wouldn’t have impacted me in the same way.

I was standing in a specialist science fiction bookshop called Galaxy. It was a little shop, but packed tight with  every type of science fiction a woman could hope for.

I was browsing amongst the A books. I always stopped there first. There was Aldiss, then Anderson, then Asimov. And above Asimov’s set of star-filled words sat a small newspaper clipping. Asimov had died.

I don’t know how long I stood looking at the clipping. At one point, my hand reached out to touch the newspaper, perhaps in hope that it wasn’t real. After a time, I turned to see someone at the counter watching me. I can’t recall her exact words, but I can still see her face.

‘I know,’ she said. ‘It’s just so sad.’

He’d always been there. I’d grown up reading short stories and articles by Asimov. At first, in all the astounding science fiction magazines, then later in books from libraries and bookshops. He had started writing nearly twenty years before I was born. From the Stars, Like Dust to Gold, he just kept coming. Whenever I wanted a bit of pure sci-fi, but with the finest of humanitarian sensibilities, I knew where to look.

A is, was and will always be for Asimov.

Other wonderful authors have since passed from our midst. Harrison and Dickson and Sprague de Camp, White and Norton and Sagan. Stories and authors who delighted and amazed me. None of them, though, felt quite like this.

I wasn’t there, not in this way. I felt like I was with him. Him and his books. His grainy, grey, side-burn-bearing face looking back at mine. I can still see it. I hope to never forget it.

I never got to meet him. I’ve stood in long and winding book-signing queues for other authors and I would have stood an eternity if he had ever come here. But the man who taught me to love the stars didn’t like to fly.  My biggest regret is that I never wrote to him. To say how much he meant to me. He might have heard it all before, but maybe not. And he never heard it from me.

Asimov is gone, but his words will outlive both you and me. And that’s what it’s all about. His unstoppable words.

All the same, you’ll bear with me for a moment as I say this.

This is for you, Mister Asimov. This is my unwritten letter.  With the warmest of affection and the greatest of admiration.

Thank you, dear Asimov. Thank you.

Cracked wide open

greenhouses in a row, black and white photoIn the next couple of weeks we’ll be having an opening night and I’ll be giving an artist’s talk for a group photographic exhibition. As well, I’ll be doing my first live reading of an unpublished short story.

Somehow these creative pursuits have all snuck up on me. Or sneakily come out into the open. It doesn’t seem that long ago that most of this was hidden comfortably inside.

I don’t know when it started, although with words it grew from my love of reading. Photography is from watching and appreciating too. From there the story gets more complicated. When did it all turn outward?

I don’t think I want to overanalyse it, but I do want to take a moment to appreciate it.

Some years ago I was told to take a personality test. Oh, yes. You know the sort of thing I mean. I can hear you groaning.

It tagged me as ‘not the creative type’. Whatever that means. When people wield clipboards at you like this it’s best to laugh and back slowly away.

Next time someone tells you that you’re something you are not, do one of two things. Do you not like what you hear? Make sure you take it as personal insult and allow it to drive you to make it totally untrue. If you like it, roll with it and make it your own.

We all have our natural inclinations, but it doesn’t have to be the whole of us. Dig deep, encourage that sense of wonder and see what happens.

You might be surprised by what you unearth.

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