Monday 22 January 2018

My Top 6 Podcasts for Us Writery Types, by Dan Metcalf

Continuing my array of listicles for this blog, I thought I’d dip into the world of podcasts. I’m a podcast addict. I love nothing more than to pop in a pair of earbuds and listen to the vast range of talk-radio style downloads available to the public for free. Free. D’you hear that? Free.

For those unfamiliar with the medium, a podcast is essentially a radio show that had been put onto the internet as a file which you listen to on your computer/phone either by streaming (when you’re on-line) or downloading (for when you’re off-line). That’s it. The BBC website has hundreds of their radio shows which you can download for free, including dramas, new music, news, debate, science and loads more. It’s worth a look if you are new to podcasts and want to find shows in your interest area.

Pleasingly, many series have been going for sometime so have a large back catalogue available to listen to straight away. I have recently been binging on some series and it’s a great way to learn about new subjects, especially as you can be a passive participant in the conversation and listen while you walk, exercise, cook or paint the kitchen.

I listen to a wide variety of podcast on tons of different subjects. I like to fill my ears with distractions aplenty which may inspire my life or writing, so I listen to drama (Tracks), technology (DigitalHuman), science (Infinite Monkey Cage) and Comedy (Beef and DairyPodcast) among others. For this post however I’d thought I’d keep my recommendations to those shows of interest to writers and readers. In no particular order, here goes nothin’:

1. Guardian Children’s Books Podcast is produced by the bestselling left wing newspaper of the same name and features talks and interviews with such luminaries as Jacqueline Wilson, Jeff Kinney, Eoin Colfer and Judith Kerr. There are around 80 episodes available at the time of writing and updates are sporadic (presumably due to the lack of coverage of children’s book in newspapers – that’s a subject for another day)

2. Jedlie’s Reading with Your Kids: One of the few children’s literature podcasts out there, this updates a LOT, with an enthusiastic host in the shape of magician Jedlie. It’s also open to requests for interviews, so if you have a book to plug, get over to the site and put in a request. And oooh look: Here's an episode with me on it! LINK!

3. One for the illustrators among you, Make It Then Tell Everybody is a series of podcast interviews on comics and drawing. The host is Dan Berry ( a comic artist and lecturer at Glydwr Univeristy. In each podcast, lasting roughly 30-40 minutes, he chats easily with his subjects about their background and their work, focussing in detail on their working methods. For artists, it's a great chance to hear the nitty gritty of working in the comics and illustration trade, and Berry has also talked to some writers, providing listeners with interviews that go into a level of detail that you rarely hear. His podcast with comics and screenwriter Tony Lee is one of the best I've ever heard, and is pleasingly frank about the industry.

Running through the interviews is the mantra which is reflected in the title of the website. The practical nature of the conversations can be inspiring, leaving the listener with a desire to go and create, even if, like me, you can barely draw a straight line.

Berry has a great presenting voice (almost soporific in its effect – one tweeter suggested he should do hypnosis CDs), and an easy, jokey manner with his interviewees. The quality of the audio is also astounding, better than some BBC productions, which adds an air of slickness to the operation. is a great find, and I recommend downloading a few podcasts straight away (did I mention it's all free?) and contributing to Dan's 'donate' fund, even if you don't think that comics are your 'thing'. Truly inspiring stuff.

4. If you’re interested in screenwriting: Created and hosted by Ben Blacker, a TV writer of shows such as Supernatural and Supaninjas, the Nerdist Writers Panel Podcast takes writers of TV, film, comics and books (but mostly TV) and grills them under a high heat until well and truly cooked. The panels have writers from hit TV shows such as Buffy, New Girl, Dollhouse, M*A*S*H, Bones, Lost, CSI, Friends, Sesame Street and many, many more. It's well worth listening to the entire run of 120-odd podcasts (at time of writing), even if you've never heard of the writers or the TV shows they've worked for. The stories of being inside the industry and pitching shows are fascinating and often hilarious.

Describing itself as a talk about the craft and business of writing, the show delves deep into the technical aspects of writing in the US. Know what 'breaking a story' is? Or 'A' story and 'B' story? Listen and you'll find out. I've learned so much about the modern TV industry just from tuning in every week and letting the masters of their craft chat into my earholes (more maybe than I did in university? Shh, don't tell the lecturers...).

Personal favourites are the Sesame Street Writers, anything with Jane Espensen, and the highly inspiring talk from the creators of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, on the complexities of Transmedia storytelling. Go on, jump in, get wet. (if you like this, also check out the UK Scriptwriters Podcast)

5. Spektrmodule by Warren Ellis is a collection of music, haunting sounds and ambient tunes. Ellis himself is the writer of legendary comics such as Transmetropolitan, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Trees, RED, and now the Netflix series Castlevania. I have found the podcast to be perfect writing music: dark and eerie, with few lyrics to distract you from your work. It also makes great reading music.

6. The Creative Penn is a series which has been going for some 300+ episodes under the amiable hand of Joanna Penn, who writes thrillers under the pen name JF Penn. She is an indie author and an authority on the indie publishing movement. While most of the content focuses on publishing adult books yourself, anyone interested in writing can take away some nuggets of gold on marketing, creating and producing your own fiction. If you like this, then also seek out the Self Publishing Formula with Mark Dawson, and the Bestseller Experiment.

7. A new one to me, but packed with great info for writers The Folklore Podcast is a deep dive into folklore and fairytales with experts and academtics. Hosted by Mark Norman, this is a fine example of the podcasts put out there for free by enthusiasts. I highly recommend the one on Hansel & Gretel - I'll never read the story at bedtime to my son in the same way again...

I've given up trying to limit myself to a top 5 so you'll have to make do with seven. More recommendations as I find them.

As always, tell me about any I’ve missed in the comments on on Twitter @metcalfwriter.
Dan Metcalf is a writer for children. Find out more about him and his books at


Rowena House said...

Thanks for this list. I often wonder if I should listen & watch more, rather than just read blogs, but always worried about the time suck, since you can't skim through podcasts or YouTube to judge if it's worthwhile. Having somewhere recommended to start very useful indeed.

Dan Metcalf said...

I also listen on 1.5x speed and can get up to 2x sometimes! Speeds things up a bit!