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Podcast spotlight: Bookish Friends

Established in 2016, Bookish Friends is a YA and genre fiction podcast created by Diem Nguyen. Each episode features a mix of conversation, book reviews, and interviews with Australian YA authors. Nguyen sees podcasting as a format where marginalised voices can hold a space of their own: ‘we’ve been locked out of the more official and traditional media spaces, and podcasting is one of the ways that we’re carving out a space for ourselves’. She spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘podcast spotlight’ series.

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

Bookish Friends is a conversational podcast about YA and genre fiction, with episodes ranging from deep dives on particular books, interviews with authors, recaps of literary events, and reading recommendations.

What makes your podcast unique?

It’s a podcast made by young adults who read YA, for other YA lovers. Current bookish podcasts tend to cater for those who read literary fiction, and as a YA and romance reader I wasn’t getting the content I wanted which is why I decided to start podcasting myself.

When and how did you get started in podcasting?

I started Bookish Friends in early 2016, and there were a few moments in my life that lined up during that time which prompted me to start the podcast. I distinctively remember procrastinating from my uni assessments by looking for a YA-focused podcasts online on a muggy Friday afternoon and coming up empty. Earlier that month I had bumped into podcaster Monique Bowley, and had a brief chat to her about podcasts. At the same time, the Centre for Youth Literature’s Inky Awards longlist was being announced. There was a clear gap in the podcasting sphere, and the idea to create my own YA podcast wouldn’t let go. With the energy and enthusiasm only a first year uni student could have, I decided to start podcasting.

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

I am the host, and each episode I bring in a friend to join me. My bookish friends are Jen, Lily, Sarah and Lauren. I am so thankful that they said yes when I slid into their DMs and outlined to them my ridiculously ambitious plans.

We’re all busy uni students who all live in different suburbs so meeting up in real life is difficult to co-ordinate. As such, we usually record in our bedrooms, using our trusty laptops and good ol’ Skype. However, with author interviews I prefer meeting up face to face and do so by hiring the recording studio at Kathleen Syme Community Centre.

A massive shout out to my friend Lauren who creates all the podcast artworks—both times I saw her creations for the first time I had a massive cry. Thanh Trinh does the little musical jingle for the podcast which I appreciate greatly.

What kind of listeners does your podcast reach?

Our listeners are predominantly from Australia and the US so I always get a bit of a kick when I see a download from somewhere like Ukraine!

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

Our most popular guest was the best-selling author Jessica Townsend. I conducted this interview on the phone which made me nervous, but Jessica was so generous with her time and effervescent that I think this translated in audio form and makes it an enjoyable listen.

Our most downloaded episode is the spoiler-filled discussion of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas. The immense fun Jen and I had recording this episode definitely explains the episode’s popularity. Since the Sarah J Maas fandom is strong, I am not surprised that fans, firstly, found the episode and, secondly, related to our giddy and intense fangirling.

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

I don’t want to call diversity a trend, but there are so many voices from marginalised groups that are being heard more and given platforms in the world of podcasts. We’ve been locked out of the more official and traditional media spaces, and podcasting is one of the ways that we’re carving out a space for ourselves. In conversation, people throw around ‘literally everyone has a podcast’ dismissively, but I think that the fact that anyone can create a podcast is amazing.

Why do you think people are drawn to this format?

There are so many great reasons to listen to podcasts! There is something incredibly intimate about listening to podcasts, so much that the hosts start to feel like your friends. Also, because there are so many out there you’re bound to find a niche subject that is just your thing.

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

I fund the podcast myself. I don’t have any plans to monetise it because in some episodes we read out our favourite passages and there are some copyright issues at play. I’ve thought about using Patreon or Ko-Fi to provide some support but haven’t pursued that path yet.

What plans do you have for your podcast going forward?

The only plan is for the podcast to be more of a regular occurrence! My reading taste has changed, I’ve branched out from YA and this will be reflected in the podcast. The Bookish Friends podcast is always a work in progress, constantly being tweaked and changed because it’s my passion project and it has to always be exciting for me. Sometimes I think a live show would be fun but that’s currently not in the pipeline at all.

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

Many thanks to Book Thingo, Unladylike and Readings bookstore and podcast. They’ve all supported me and given me shout-outs in one form or another. I send you good podcasting vibes always. Book Thingo is an Australian podcast that provides excellent romance fiction content. Unladylike has thought-provoking and dynamic conversations from creative women. Readings is my go-to bookstore and their podcast is great listening.

Some other bookish Australian podcasts include Better Words and Tea in the Treetops. Better Words is created by Michelle and Caitlin, and I love their energy and passion. Tea in the Treetops was one of the first book-related podcasts I discovered when I created Bookish Friends, so it will always have special place in my heart.

As a voracious romance reader, I also listen to Smart Podcast, Trashy Books hosted by Sarah Wendell for all my romance news, Whoa!mance for excellent critiques and discussion on romance novels, and Wicked Wallflowers Club for my romance author interviews.

While not explicitly bookish, the news and pop culture podcast The High Low also provides excellent book recommendations for when I’m not in the mood for YA or romance. I love also highly recommend Thirst Aid Kit, hosted by Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins, for all those who have too many fictional and celebrity crushes to count. They are both writers and end each episode with original fanfic that never fails to blow me away.



Category: Features