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Podcast spotlight: Coffee Pod|cast

Coffee Pod|cast was established this year by Australian indie press Spineless Wonders, which publishes quality short stories, microliterature and novellas in print, digital and audio. The ethos of Spineless Wonders informs the podcast as well: they describe their boundaries as ‘fluid’, stretching ‘from realist to experimental by way of prose poems and dramatic monologues’. Produced and co-hosted by Ali Morris and Emma Walsh, each podcast episode involves an actor performing a work of microlit, followed by a bookish chat over a cup of coffee. ‘Since Emma and I are both working full time, finding time to read gets harder,’ says Morris. ‘But microfiction can be read (or listened to) in those little gaps in the day—like when you’re having your morning coffee.’ Both Morris and Walsh spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘podcast spotlight’ series.

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

In each episode, we select a very short Australian story, recorded by an actor, then discuss it with them over their morning coffee.

What makes your podcast unique? 

Ali Morris: We wanted to have a literary podcast that was more informal, more like the conversations you have with friends about a great book. And microfiction works really well with podcasts since everyone can experience the story at the same time—it almost recreates the experience of a book club. Since Emma and I are both working full time, finding time to read gets harder, but microfiction can be read (or listened to) in those little gaps in the day—like when you are having your morning coffee.

Emma Walsh: There are many incredible podcasts out there that discuss literature, stories, writing. I feel Coffee Pod|cast has carved out its own place by bringing microlit into the mix—it’s a genre I’m excited to bring to more and more people. And, like the stories it discusses, the episodes are short. It’s approachable.

I just read a disturbing article about how we should be using our commute time for useful tasks like paying bills and reading emails, otherwise it’s just ‘dead time’. That article frightened me. Your commute, waiting in line for a coffee; these are all opportunities to revel in our creativity, our imaginations. It’s a pleasure we don’t experience much anymore—the pleasure of having a story read to you, of having your imagination indulged. Coffee Pod|cast can bring that burst of storytelling into your day.

When and how did you get started in podcasting? 

EW: Like all great ideas, Coffee Pod|cast was born over drinks. Bronwyn Mehan from Spineless Wonders (where I had interned during my Masters of Publishing) approached Ali and me with ciders, a pair of headphones, and some Little Fictions recordings, and asked if we’d chat about them for a podcast.

Ali and I have been talking about stories over coffee since we caught the early train to English class at high school, then later at uni where we inhaled espressos and stories for five years, then in our pyjamas on Sunday mornings as housemates. So, all that’s really changed is there is a microphone in the room. And perhaps less swearing and reliance on gesticulation.

What kind of listeners does your podcast reach? 

AM: We released our first couple of episodes in April 2018, so it is early days. Our initial audience will be our friends and people already following Spineless Wonders—writers and readers interested in the short form. Hopefully, we will attract anyone with a little time on their hands and a craving for a good story and lively chat.

What have been your most memorable episodes? 

EW: It would have to be a tie between ‘Tooth’ by Jon Steiner and ‘Well, Then’ by Susan McCreery. The ‘Tooth’ episode was when I really felt the podcast had come together, and Ali and I started to feel more comfortable debating each other (on record at least). Ali and I started disagreeing about the impact of the story: I was quite affected, relating to the protagonist’s violent and inevitable path back to this toxic home, but Ali was laughing! Embracing the absurdity of it. That interplay of different perspectives really sparked with ‘Tooth’.

‘Well, Then’ by Susan McCreery is simply a delight. It shows the comic adventure you can go on in microlit, how reading it can be like taking a detour to a playground for a quick trip down the slippery dip, then carrying on with your day. Ali and I went on a huge rambling conversation about Jane Austen, Darcy, the inadequacy of the ending in the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice (which the story takes as its starting point), and the joys of microlit—and it opened up the podcast to not just being about Serious Literary Criticism but simply about being fun.

AM: I like all the Jon Steiner ones—I can definitely admit I have found a new favourite author from making this podcast!

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

EW: I have three podcasts that I will spend my data on without hesitation if I haven’t downloaded episodes: The Guilty Feminist, a brilliant comedy podcast about being a feminist in the 21st century; My Favorite Murder, a podcast that’s about 80% hilarious tangents and 20% true crime tales; and Sleep With Me, the podcast that cured my insomnia. I’ve recently started to get into Lore, a podcast that shares scary stories from the darker side of history.

AM: I have a few favourites. The top three would be My Favourite Murder, The Dollop and the Australian one, Dragon Friends.

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

At present, Coffee Pod|cast is produced using grant money provided to Spineless Wonders by the Australia Council. Actors and authors whose work is included in the podcast have been remunerated through the support of Spineless Wonders’ live show, Little Fictions, with the support of the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund and the City of Sydney Matching Grants program. Our aim is to seek further grants and sponsorship.

What plans do you have for your podcast going forward? 

At the end of each episode, we pose a question arising from our discussion of the story and we encourage listeners to leave their responses via social media. Down the track, we plan to gather suggestions about the podcast from this forum. Apart from that, we’ll just keep drinking coffee and chatting about microlit.

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Category: Features