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Podcast spotlight: Words and Nerds

Launched in 2017, Words and Nerds is a conversational podcast in which the host ‘interviews both established and independent authors about their writing process, and the social and political influences of the work’. It is hosted by Dani Vee, a head teacher of English, podcaster, reader, writer and book enthusiast. Vee single-handedly contacts the agents, publishers and authors, reads the books, writes the questions and edits the episodes. She spoke to Books+Publishing for our ‘podcast spotlight’ series.

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

Words and Nerds is an in-depth discussion with authors across all genres, yet remains relaxed in tone—like a chat with a friend over coffee.

What makes your podcast unique?

The conversational tone of the podcast has been likened to ‘sitting around a lounge room talking about books’. As a result, we often go on interesting tangents where we discuss the personal experiences that have shaped or impacted an author and their work. The podcast has become confessional and helps connect the listeners with the writers.

Also, most authors thank me for asking such in-depth questions about their work. Angela Meyer, author of A Superior Spectre (Peter Bishop), described the questions as ‘intelligent and informed’. I think a deep dive into literature is important—literature is powerful and helps shape and influence the world.

When and how did you get started in podcasting?

A friend, who hosts many podcasts, including ones that discuss shows like The Great British Bake Off and Masterchef, began hosting with me, however his other podcast commitments took over and he has taken a step back. We still find time to chat about podcasting and platforms and how to continually make our podcasts better. After an initial practice run talking about books, I didn’t think our reviews of books were enough for listeners, so I approached my mate, award-winning author and all-round good guy John Larkin, and asked if he’d be our first guest (and guinea pig).

When Jackie French replied and said she would be part of the podcast, it was a game changer and really gave me the confidence to approach other authors. If Jackie French agreed to chat with me, then maybe others would too!

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

The podcast is recorded via Skype, audio only. I purchased Call Recorder and the sound quality is pretty good considering we are never in a studio. I have used other types of recording software but have found Skype to be the best option because everyone knows how to use it.

I use audio only, as the sound and/or wifi isn’t as good if video is recorded. Where possible, I meet with authors, if not for the interview, perhaps at a festival or signing at a later date. I recently met Tim Harris at the State Library of NSW, and went out to dinner with Jack Heath and fellow podcaster James R. I managed to meet with Gabrielle Reid at a library in Belmont, and I’m very keen to participate in a writing workshop with Jackie French at her cottage.

What kind of listeners does your podcast reach?

I think my main audience includes librarians, avid readers, writers and educators. I also think the podcast is interesting for anyone who enjoys a chat about social and political influences. The podcast often focuses on conversations about mental health, the LGBTQI+ community, and the importance of education and equality.

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

Choosing between my favourite podcast episodes is like choosing between my favourite family members—I love them all! However, some episodes stand out to me:

  • Longmire’s Craig Johnson was a big deal; it was actually my mum who contacted him, as she is a huge fan, and surprisingly to me he agreed to be part of the podcast. He is an incredibly intelligent and insightful man.
  • I was most intimidated by Rusty Young; I was a long-time fangirl of his and had read his books in my twenties.
  • I was privileged to speak with Jackie French and Kate Forsyth, two very accomplished and intelligent women. They were very inspiring.
  • I could’ve spoken to Angela Meyer all night; she was so incredibly insightful and intelligent, and I imagine that we could’ve taken our conversation to a whisky bar and chatted about her book until the sun came up!
  • I felt this great human connection with Jack Heath (mainly because of our shared love of Jack Bauer).
  • Michael Pryor was inspiring and such a wonderful conversationalist.
  • Of course, John Larkin.

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

Current statistics show that only a small percentage of people engage with podcasts. I see this as a positive because there is so much room to grow.

Women have been slower to engage but I believe the flexibility of how and when we can listen to podcasts will ensure that more and more women will see the value in listening.

Why do you think people are drawn to this format?

I think the convenience of when and how you can listen to a podcast is advantageous to the busyness of our lives. It’s also a great medium because it can appeal to niche groups of people. I can’t think of anything better than listening to authors chat about their work; the podcast format is entertaining, enlightening and educational.

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

I currently fund the entire podcast myself, which actually doesn’t cost much at all! The greatest cost is my time because I always have my head in a book! I invested in a decent mic (Yeti), which I love. I’ve always seen this project as the greatest hobby a book nerd could have, and the podcast has only been running since October 2017, so my aim is to make it as good as possible before even considering monetising it.

What plans do you have for your podcast going forward?

The authors very high on my wish list are Elliot Perlman, whose writing I absolutely adore, Tim Winton because his prose is beautiful, and Margaret Atwood because she is an incredible woman of ideas. The ultimate interviews would be J K Rowling and Stephen King because of their incredible influence around the globe.

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

I try and listen to similar podcasts as much as possible and I think we all offer something different. I really enjoy Joshua Pomare’s podcast On Writing, and James R, who hosts Conversations with Writers, often interviews similar authors but approaches the texts in very different ways, which I find interesting. Of course, the more well-known bookish podcasts are great too, but I think the smaller indie ones have much to offer.

(Image credit: Podcast host Dani Vee with author Jack Heath.)