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Podcast spotlight: The Morning Bell

Established in 2014, the Morning Bell is a literary podcast recorded live at the Brunswick Street Bookstore every second Wednesday. For each episode, a guest joins host Joel Martin and co-hosts Luke Manly and Ian Laking for an hour-long chat, with the technical side of the podcast handled by Lucas Di Quinzio. Spanning over 60 episodes to date, the podcast has featured interviews with writers such as Katie Found, Else Fitzgerald, Leanne Hall, Laura Elizabeth Woollett and Briohny Doyle. ‘The podcast’s main aim was to [deliver] honest conversations to an audience that was being underrepresented, especially in conversations about craft,’ said Martin, adding that this was one of the reasons for the team to start Speculate, a one-day literary festival in Melbourne for writers of science fiction and fantasy. Martin spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘podcast spotlight’ series.

For new or uninitiated listeners, describe your podcast in under 50 words.

The Morning Bell Podcast is a literary podcast dedicated to exploring all forms of the writing industry. The venue for the podcast is the Brunswick Street Bookstore, where a guest from the writing industry chats with myself (Joel Martin), and my co-hosts Ian Laking and Luke Manly.

What makes your podcast unique?

The podcast was started with the aim of empowering emerging writers by hosting writers who were established alongside those who were emerging, and giving them a platform to discuss topics focused around the industry and the craft of writing.

When and how did you get started in podcasting?

The first episode recorded for the podcast was in October 2014 and by April 2015 the podcast had moved from remote recording to live recording at the Brunswick Street Bookstore in Fitzroy, Melbourne. The face-to-face chats were to allow the guest to feel more at home, and to allow the conversation to proceed more like a normal conversation.

What kind of listeners does your podcast reach?

The Morning Bell’s main audience is from within the writing industry. And it’s not restricted to Australia, as a good proportion of the audience comes from North America.

Also, an opportunity that speaks to the podcast’s reach is the Somerset Celebration of Literature in the Gold Coast: a three-day literary festival for children and adults. Students from over 50 different schools attend each year as part of the audience, and a range of events are programmed, from panel discussions through to writing workshops and literary lunches. It’s a great example of how we engage a different kind of audience, as Ian and I get to speak to students who attend. We’re also able to continue recording the podcast there by interviewing the YA authors who attend the festival. (Last year we interviewed festival coordinator Andrea Lewis.)

What have been your most popular guests or most memorable episodes?

There are a few that come to mind. Episode 28 with Michael Pryor has some very insightful moments in regards to dealing with criticism. Another great moment was the conversation in Episode 38 with Toni Jordan, chatting about iconic characters like Hannibal Lector, Frodo and Thomas Cromwell. Episode 49 with C S Pacat is another that stands out, as the participants chat about dealing with difficult topics in literature.

What recent trends have you noticed in podcasting? (Do you have any predictions for this format in the future?)

Podcasts seemed to come into being perhaps as a response to the more produced work on radio that wasn’t necessarily focusing on niche topics. Podcasts also provide us with the opportunity to produce good-quality work cheaply, at rate that’s more expedient. Some podcasts have now returned to that more produced, radio-like quality but still keeping in line with niche topics. It can only be assumed that this trend may continue, with the tools for high-quality production becoming more readily available. There’s also more accessible distribution options opening up. Distribution may indeed be the new frontier for podcasts. There might be more attractive, and more easily manageable options, than iTunes in the future.

Why do you think people are drawn to this format? 

The passive nature of podcasts make them easy to consume while pursuing other activities. That niche nature previously mentioned has also allowed more diverse topics to be discussed without a desperate need to see how well it rates for a mass-market crowd. It’s also easily available on the internet, which breaks down barriers that have existed in legacy media.

How do you fund your podcast? Do you have plans to explore other funding options?

The podcast is entirely self funded. Depending on the direction the podcast goes in, especially with our new project, Speculatewe would consider alternative funding options.

What plans do you have for your podcast going forward?

The podcast now is very much a supporting medium to Speculate, as in each episode we try to continue the conversations that’ll happen at the festival in a new context.

What other bookish podcasts should we be listening to, Australian or otherwise? 

Pratchat, a podcast about the work of Terry Pratchett hosted by Elizabeth Flux and Ben McKenzie, is a great example of a podcast celebrating and diving deep into the work of a literary icon. They do it with a style and humour that is definitely infectious!

On Writing hosted by Joshua Pomare, is another podcast that hosts great writers, both local and overseas voices. These voices are eclectic but the host weaves it all together. The honesty and candid conversations is something to be celebrated. More please!

The Garret hosted by Nic Brasch and produced by Astrid Edwards, provides industry insights and highlights top writing names all in the comfort of sterling production values. A celebration of talent and tenacity, The Garret provides content perfect for those within the writing industry as well as keeping the content engaging for those outside of it.

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Category: Features