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Podcast spotlight: Unladylike

Established in 2016, Unladylike is hosted by the Centre for Youth Literature’s Adele Walsh and author Kelly Gardiner. In each episode they talk with women and non-binary people about writing, reading and their process. Gardiner said they saw the programming of a podcast ‘like curating a series of events.’ Both Gardiner and Walsh spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘podcast spotlight’ series.

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

Unladylike is a podcast about women and writing.

What makes your podcast unique?

Our podcast is centred on women who write, and we do this by bringing together a couple of different guests who may or may not have ever met, and focusing on the thinking and issues that sit behind the writing, as much as on craft. We are committed to showcasing diverse writing across form and style, and reflecting knowledge and experience through the discussion of the work. We love all forms of writing, and we present them with equal importance. Our presence as hosts is deliberately light—the focus is always on the writers.

As readers, we’re completely different, which is reflected in our guests and questions, and we always treat writers as readers too.

When and how did you get started in podcasting?

AW: I used to host a podcast back in 2007, but I’ve had many years off as I established myself in Melbourne. Kelly and I used to work together at State Library Victoria and ended up in the same Emerging Writers Festival session on podcasting quite accidentally. We realised that we had similar ideas and decided to pool our talents.

KG: Through our initial planning, research and preparation—which took nearly a year—we learned so much about the technical side of recording and gear and the podcast distribution ecosystem. We’re very much a DIY outfit.

Where and how is your podcast recorded (and how big is your team)?

Kathleen Syme Community Centre studios are typically our studio home but we also record on location where the writers are: on stage at Castlemaine State Festival, behind the scenes at the Book Lovers Convention (US), a South African pub, the bowels of the Aotea Centre in Auckland, and even in a hallway at a children’s literature conference in New Zealand. We’re a tiny but mighty team of two.

What kind of listeners does your podcast reach?

We have a strong Australian and international audience representing a wide array of readerships, from literary fiction to crime to academia. As a feminist podcast, it’s sadly not surprising that our audience is 3:1 female listeners.

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

AW: On swearing (episode five with Patricia Cornelius and Toni Jordan) really made an impact straight out of the gate but f-bomb rich readings do make an impression. On kissing (episode 20) was enormously fun to record with Australian romance writers, Anna Campbell and Kylie Scott. Our most recent episode On world building (episode 24) with Amie Kaufman and C S Pacat has received a great response as we were able to really dig into how they both approach setting in completely different ways. And, of course, the live episode On knowledge at Castlemaine State Festival was a real thrill.

KG: I’ll never forget recording my first episode—On Memory, with Vivian Gornick and Sian Prior. Prior and I had talked about Gornick’s work and her memoir frameworks, and we got to sit and talk with her and listen to that gorgeous New York accent—and decades of wisdom. But they’re all fun and fascinating to record, and listeners’ responses make it all even better.

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

AW: Podcasting has been male dominated for quite some time but it does seem to be diversifying. The biggest shift of the past few years is the increase of celebrity-hosted chat-format podcasts that appear.

KG: Like many listeners, I’m a little over the two (or more) mates sitting around chatting format. Some are brilliant, but many hosts simply don’t realise how hard that is to do effectively. It can often feels aimless or forced. I hope people will explore different formats, and not rely so much of the standard way of doing things. We have so many podcasts to choose from, we’re becoming much more selective, and focused on our niche interests. I think we’ll hear a lot more integration of gorgeous audio craft: effects, music, oral history, live recordings, creative responses in sound.

Why do you think people are drawn to this format?

The appeal of podcasts is that it’s very personalised. You can listen to who you want, when you want, and it’s quite intimate, hearing people whisper in your ear.

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

We fund the podcast ourselves. We have no plans to start advertising but we have flirted with the idea of grant funding. We’re Melbourne-based, so the pool for podcast-related grant funding is quite competitive.

What plans do you have for your podcast going forward?

AW: Keep having great conversations with women who write across all forms. And at some point I would like to convince Kelly to become the guest in an episode. I am not confident.

KG: Dream on, Adele. We will aim to find some funding in future, because we need technical help to get our sound clearer, and to record live more often.

What other bookish podcasts (or podcasts for people who love reading, writing and sharing ideas!) should we be listening to, Australian or otherwise?

AW: I love Smart Podcast, Trashy Books from the US with its focus on romance. I really love Bookish Friends, a Melbourne based podcast run by young adult readers of YA. BookThingo podcast in Sydney covers Australian and international romance strongly. First Draft with Sarah Enni is a great in depth conversation with YA writers about their work. My Dad Wrote a Porno is hilarious, Turbitt and Duck is a great exploration of librarianship, and whilst a pop culture podcast Thirst Aid Kit finishes every episode with some very amusing drabbles.

KG: To be honest, I mostly listen to history podcasts nowadays, although they are also often about new history writing, and radio shows like AWAYE that I tend to follow as podcasts. But among many local podcasts, I do like the ReReaders and am looking forward to the new series The First Time, on launching a debut novel; I really admire Eleanor Wachtel’s interview style (and guests) on the Canadian podcast Writers and Company, We Want the Airwaves (conversations with queer writers and artists of colour), and writers reading other people’s stories to me on the New Yorker Fiction podcast.

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