2019 is Happening

We’ve hit the halfway point on 2019, and it certainly is… a year. A year is happening, there’s no denying it.

Jokes aside, my personal life has actually been going pretty well. A month ago I was able to go full-time freelance, so now 100% of my income is coming from podcasting. Almost 0% of it is from my personal projects, but baby steps. Now when people ask me what I do I say “I’m a freelance podcast producer” and then they assume I’m unemployed, so life is great.

In the first half of 2019, I also ran my first 5K, got my first tattoo, and produced my first narrative podcast. I’ve visited old friends, made new ones, read 14 books, and explored lots of Chicago. Over the past few months I’ve developed a journal tracking system that has helped me lead a healthier life and make my goals a reality, which is a big part of why I’ve been doing so well. And since it’s July, it’s the perfect time to check in on how I’ve been doing at the goals I set for myself for 2019.

  1. Complete production on Setting the Stage: Done! I am so proud of this podcast and I’m honored that I got to tell this story.

  2. Produce [redacted]: So close! This is my next flagship podcast and I am incredibly excited for it to be arriving in your ears soon.

  3. Complete season 3 of Corner of the Sky: Done! Just last week I finished season 3, and now I’m taking a little break before diving into prep for season 4.

  4. Get 50 rejections: This has been a beneficial framework for me, and it’s led to me putting myself out there much more than I otherwise would. So far I’ve racked up 22 rejections (as well as some exciting acceptances), so I’m on track here.

  5. Widen my personal and professional audio circles: This is where I start to fall down a little bit. Granted, this is a difficult goal to quantify, but I haven’t done a lot in pursuit of this. But I am going to be at the Relay FM 5th Anniversary Live Show, so come to that and talk to me about podcasts!

  6. Finance like an adult: It feels like there are never ending steps ahead, but I’ve made huge strides since the beginning of 2019. I even have a business bank account, am I a real adult yet?

  7. Hold a consistent work schedule: While the “consistent” part of still falters from time to time, I have found a good framework that works for me and that I hit most days. Having an office space to work out has significantly helped me in this regard. I’m near-entirely useless at working from home at this point.

  8. Write something every week: The fact that I set journaling as counting towards this goal saved me here. I have been writing a blog post about once a month and published a few episodes of Recently Read, but writing hasn’t exactly been my focus. And that’s okay! The whole point of this year was that I was supposed to be focusing on podcasts. But if I count journaling, I’ve been absolutely smashing this, as I now consistently journal at least three times a week.

  9. Travel somewhere every month: I’ve hit this goal every month so far. Seattle in January, St. Louis and Memphis in February, Orlando in March, Boston in April, Holland (Michigan) in May, and the Indiana Dunes National Park in June. And now a huge trip for July, but I’ll come back to that in a moment.

  10. Read 25 books: As I mentioned before, I’ve read 14 so far, so I daresay I’m killing it.

I’m moving into the second half of 2019 with the future on my mind. I’m planning on moving to my own apartment in September. As I work towards having (renting) my own apartment, I’ve got my mind on building a sustainable home and life. As our country continues falling apart, I’ve got my mind on where I can put my time and energy towards building something better for all of us.

But first, I have the chance to go on vacation with my family, a little break from real life (and from the United States) that I’m extremely grateful for. In two weeks I’ll be back to a whirlwind freelance schedule, apartment hunting, and trying to square coming into adulthood with being part of a tattered society.

Cheerful stuff! What’s on your mind for the second half on 2019?

Six and Context Collapse

Six, the smash West End hit currently in its North American premiere in Chicago, is not your average musical. Yes, it’s all pop music, but that’s not even what I’m talking about—it’s 2019, we’re pretty used to the idea of contemporary music styles in theater. However, the format of Six is highly unusual, even for modern musicals.

Mean Girls has contemporary music but it’s still a traditional musical in that plot happens, the characters sing what’s going on, and then the story continues through time. As with almost every show in Broadway, the music is non-diegetic, meaning that the characters don’t know they’re singing and don’t acknowledge the music as happening in their world.

In Six, the plot has already happened. The conceit of the show is that the six wives of Henry XIII (as ghosts? Zombies? Vampires?) have returned for a live concert tour and one song at a time share their stories with the audience. You learn things about each character as the show goes on, but it’s less of a musical and more of a storytime YouTube video with extremely high production value. As such, the characters are fully aware that they’re singing, and in the canon of the show all of these songs are pre-written to be performed for you tonight.

The thing about Six that really gives people pause is that the soundtrack has only nine songs, with a total runtime of only 90 minutes. I recently had a conversation with a friend who asked me what I thought about the show, say that he heard it was a “Hamilton copycat” and expressing his surprise at how short it was.

Now I, having seen the show and done a minimal amount of research into the history behind its development, rushed to defend it. Truthfully I think the Hamilton comparisons are definitely overstating it—it’s another show with contemporary music about historical events, but the similarities for the most part stop there (although I did say that one song in particular had “big Eliza Hamilton energy”). More pressing, however, was my need to tell him that this was developed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and so wasn’t written to be a traditional stage musical. That’s why it’s short and weird and different! If you understand the context you’ll understand the show and won’t judge it unfairly.

That’s when I realized what the inherent conflict of Six is: context collapse. Context collapse is a term in the social sciences referring to when something intended to reach a limited audience ends up reaching far beyond it, removed from its original context and placed into infinite variations of contexts for each person who experiences it. Context collapse is not the absence of context. The very issue is that everything you experience has context, but the context you bring to a piece of media may be far outside the intended audience.

In the case of Six, the context is an understanding of what most musicals are like. They have plot that progresses more or less linearly, the music is mostly non-diegetic, and (on the Broadway level) they’re almost all more than two hours long. There are exceptions to all these rules, but one show violating all of them puts it in a strange spot as it traverses from an experimental festival to mainstream theater audiences.

Its next production will be staged at the American Repertory Theater, which will presumably develop the show further and attempt to transfer it to Broadway. The ART has mounted many recent Broadway productions, including Waitress and the upcoming Jagged Little Pill, and its work with Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 proves that they’re not afraid to bring unconventional stagings to the Great White Way. Will the ART lengthen the show and add more songs? Expand the onstage plot rather than keeping the conceit that everything was prepared ahead of time? I think that it will need to at least be longer in order to make it to Broadway.

None of this is to say that Six is bad. On the contrary, I loved it. The music is incredibly fun, and all six queens I saw absolutely sung their faces off. The plot is a little shallow and I hope it’ll be developed further, but the dialogue is so witty that it makes up for it. I certainly can’t get any of the songs out of my head.

I simply think that as it stands now, Six will be judged harshly because audiences will expect one thing (a full stage musical) and get another (a pop concert with dialogue). I’m not sure if the answer is to change how Six is perceived, or to change what it is. Whatever happens, I’ll be very interested to see how the story unfolds.

P.S. The most popular song from the Six London recording is Anne Boleyn’s song. Catherine of Aragon must be fuming in her grave.

2019 Tony Nominations

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This is how I started my morning on Tuesday: sitting on the couch sipping a mug of tea and refreshing the live Tony nomination updates. I sent this text about thirty seconds after Joe Iconis was nominated for Best Score, because my friend Roberto and I have had a joint Be More Chill obsession for nearly a full year now. In fact, we recorded a podcast about it…

Yikes. I usually love being right but not this time. I’ll dive more into the distress of Be More Chill’s snubs (featuring more texts with Roberto—you know, once he gets out of his final), but let’s cover some more cheerful topics first. As you may expect, I will be talking exclusively about the musicals, not plays.

Hadestown

This is the year of Hadestown. This adaptation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth snagged 14 nominations, close to the all-time record of 16 (a coup that has only been achieved by Hamilton, due to almost every major cast member getting nominated). Only two other shows (Producers and Billy Elliot) have gotten 15 nominations, so the incredibly impressive 14 puts Hadestown in elite company. They were nominated in every single category except for Lead Actor. All I can say to that is… sorry, Reeve Carney. But a huge congratulations to what is by all accounts a phenomenal and creative show. I can’t wait to scream with joy at my TV when the extraordinary people who worked on Hadestown win their deserved Tonys.

Interestingly, Hadestown is also a show that received a fervent fan base from an early cast recording—this one a live concert of the Off-Broadway workshop in 2017. If you don’t know why I said “also” in that sentence, we will get to Be More Chill LATER.

Originality

The “Best (new) Musical” category is always interesting because the only qualification is that it has not been staged on Broadway before. Adapted from a book, a movie, a tv show? Still counts. Transfer from London? Still counts. Jukebox musical with no new music? Still counts. That leads to some hilarious “Best Musical” nominations, like last year when all four nominations were adapted from existing movies or television shows. But musicals are such a singular medium that adapting a movie into a musical, or writing an original script to fit existing music, can be incredibly creative and original in itself. Therefore, the ranking no one asked for: Quinn Rose’s Scale of Musical Theater Originality, Featuring Every Show That Qualified For The “Best Musical” Category This Year. (star indicates that they were nominated)

1: Purely Original

The plot and music of this musical did not exist in any previous form.

*The Prom

Gettin’ the Band Back Together

2. Original Adaptation

This category is for shows that are adapted from existing material, but that material had little to no box office push. It’s not a popular Disney movie, it’s something very few people know OR it’s material that’s so old it doesn’t have mainstream pop culture draw.

Be More Chill

*Hadestown

*Tootsie (this could certainly be put in category 3 as well, but I put it here for now because I didn’t know Tootsie before the musical—I think its mainstream appeal faded years ago)

3. Mainstream Adaptations

Adaptations of popular pieces of pop culture, the title on the marquee will ring a bell with the general public.

Pretty Woman

King Kong

*Beetlejuice

4. Jukebox Musicals

This is not to say that all jukebox musicals are the same level of original, because some certainly have much more work put into creative plots and reimagined arrangements, but that analysis is so individual that I just need one category for all.

Head Over Heels

The Cher Show

*Ain’t Too Proud

Diversity & Representation

Hadestown is only the second show in Broadway history to have an all-female creative team: Anaïs Mitchell as score and book writer and Rachel Chavkin as director. The first was Waitress in 2016. Chavkin is the only woman nominated for best director of a musical. She was also the only woman who directed a musical on Broadway this year. Mitchell is one of only two women nominated in the writing categories—Dominique Morisseau is also nominated for writing the book for Ain’t Too Proud. Again, they were the only women who wrote book or score for any musicals this year. Morisseau is also the only person of color in any of those categories, and thus the only person nominated.

Diversity on Broadway is fine, y’all. Definitely no issues to examine here.

These numbers are not an anomaly, they are the norm. It somehow feels especially egregious this year because of the number of shows that pull from pretty gross source material and market themselves as “feminist” reimaginings… while having an all-white, all-male creative team. Tootsie and Pretty Woman are the standouts in that particular category, but I don’t recall the King Kong movie being a feminist masterpiece either. I haven’t seen Pretty Woman or King Kong so I can’t comment on their transformations, but I have not heard great things. I did see Tootsie in Chicago, and while it was delightful in many ways, I would not describe it as a feminist achievement.

It’s a shame, because there were some great shows this year for onstage representation. Hadestown and Ain’t Too Proud are obvious entries here, but there’s also shows like Oklahoma! with its reimagined race dynamics—and my eternal love for Ali Stroker, who just became the first wheelchair user to be nominated for a Tony. The Prom is one of the few shows in Broadway history to center a lesbian couple (much of the show is more about the Broadway performers than the couple in question, but I’m going to give it to them). Be More Chill and Head Over Heels have exciting representation in race and gender… and were almost 100% ignored by the Tony nominations. Oops. We’re almost to that conversation, but first:

A Special Note on Jeremy Pope

Jeremy Pope originated two different roles on Broadway this year, a serious accomplishment in itself, and was nominated for both roles—best featured actor in a musical for Ain’t Too Proud and best lead actor in a play for Choir Boy. He’s only the sixth person to be nominated in two performance categories ever, and if all of that wasn’t impressive enough, Choir Boy was his Broadway debut. I’m not saying Pope is going to become a Broadway superstar… actually yes, I am saying that.

Alright, Now We’re Talking About Be More Chill

For those unfamiliar with the show, Be More Chill is unusual because it got to Broadway through a young, online fanbase. After a New Jersey run in 2015, the show died and was never expected to be revived. Then years later, the musical theater teens of the internet found the cast recording and became completely obsessed with it. Their passion for the show drove it to Off-Broadway and then a Broadway premiere in March. It’s a strange science-fiction musical about teenagers, featuring a creative score imbued with electronic music. It received exactly one Tony nomination, best score for Joe Iconis.

Let me start by saying that I personally think the score is best part of Be More Chill, so if there was only nomination for them, I’m glad it was for score. That said, I will go to my grave convinced that George Salazar deserved a Best Featured Actor nomination. He does not have a panic attack in a bathroom eight times a week for this kind of disrespect!

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So if Be More Chill had so much buzz and opened in the spring awards season, why was it so overlooked? There are two options here: one, it didn’t deserve any nominations. Two, the Tony nominating committee is full of old dudes who don’t appreciate art aimed at younger audiences.

I think it’s a mix of both… kind of. I haven’t seen it in person (although I have tickets for July!) so I can’t comment on if it deserved any of the production categories, but I can see how some of the book and acting can be considered awkward and over the top.

Counterpoint: that is, in fact, the point. Be More Chill is an awkward show. It’s over the top. It’s a bit cringey. So are teenagers. It was created for people going through puberty, not people dining at Michelin starred restaurants. There’s a difference between being cringey and out of touch and being cringey because you are completely in touch, and the young people this show is aimed at absolutely love it. They love the music, they love the characters, they love the actors playing those characters, they can quote the show by heart and create music and memes to share their love with others.

I don’t think Be More Chill is “objectively” worse than the shows that were nominated. I think it’s worse at achieving what the Tony nominating committee is looking for. Does that matter? Maybe. Awards can significantly impact the longevity of a show. Maybe not. It already has a strong and dedicated fan base, which hopefully will be enough to propel it to a long Broadway career anyway.

No matter what happens with Be More Chill, no matter what happens to all the nominated shows on June 9, my sincerest congratulations to everyone that was nominated. I’ll leave you with two thoughts: musicals are incredible and I love them so much, and young people are amazing and I believe in them over everything else.

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Narrative Playlists

I don’t know if I’m a hopeless romantic or just a big nerd, but I am very into making mixtape style playlists. Even though they only exist digitally on Spotify, I curate lists of songs intended to tell a narrative when listened to in order, usually inspired by and named after the content of one song in the playlist. Today I’m reviewing the process I use for putting together a playlist and highlighting some of my favorite playlists on my Spotify profile.

1: Personal Inspiration

Like I mentioned, I often start with a particular song, but of course I almost always choose that song because it personally resonates with something I’m thinking about. When I was packing to move, I started listening to “Goodbye” from “Catch Me If You Can” a lot, specifically the version from Aaron Tveit’s live show at 54 Below (I should have put a musical theater warning at the top of this post, but if you know anything about me, are you surprised?). My first step was to pull that song and any songs I already had in my head associated with my hometown and moving.

2: Choosing an Arc

One of my favorite things about playlists is a sense of narrative structure, so I didn’t want to the songs to be a jumble of moving-themed music. Instead I decided that the songs would start with songs about being in a small town and excited to leave, then some bittersweet tunes that tell a more complicated story, and finally resolve with acceptance—the original song, Goodbye.

3: Filling in the Gaps

I had some songs that sprung into mind immediately, largely pulled from musical theater because “wanting to move” is not an uncommon theme. Since this playlist is so short I didn’t have to pull in too much outside of what I already had in mind, but that’s not always true—for other playlists I’ve resorted to googling “best songs about __” to fill in the gaps. I also keep a playlist called “Songs I Could Kinda Be Into” of new songs that I like listening to but haven’t added to a full playlist yet where I can look for potential inspiration.

A really helpful tool for this as well is the Spotify suggested songs that show up underneath a playlist once you’ve added a few. That’s more helpful for lists that focus on a mood, like my “Good As Hell” female empowerment playlist, rather than a more tight narrative playlist like “Goodbye,” but there can be some real gems in there matching theme and tone.

This gets more complicated when you use a lot of songs from musicals, which generally have their own specific narratives attached to them. I have to make a judgment call about what I feel applies and what does. Sure, I’m not moving to Paris, but I do feel the same push-and-pull between dreams and reality that Amelie feels in “Times Are Hard for Dreamers.” Therefore, it goes in. In contrast, I made a playlist called “Bad Ideas” but still didn’t add the song “Bad Idea” from Waitress—while that song slaps, I don’t think that the intense “forbidden romance” aspect of the song resonates with the rest of the vibe of that playlist. I’m also not cheating on my husband with my doctor, but that’s not the true dealbreaker—it’s about if the feeling makes sense, not if the literal plot matches the narrative. There’s room to make it fit.

4: Tightening & Reordering

I listen a playlist all the way through a few times and often will move songs around to strengthen the narrative threads. Often a few more songs will be thrown in at this stage and necessitate extra adjustments to fit them in. While I can always go back and add more songs later, I usually don’t past this point. I like having a set story in place and it’s rare that I find another song later that I feel fits in perfectly.

Everyone should make more narrative playlists. They’re a really fun creative exercise and immensely satisfying to listen to. And to finish this out, here are a few of my favorites:

Goodbye: moving away from a small town

Forget About the Boy: an upbeat breakup playlist from the perspective of a woman getting over a man

Bad Ideas: a relationship that you knew was a bad idea from the beginning

Make Me Feel: good old-fashioned infatuation, from crush to true love

And You Don’t Even Know It: 100% musical theater, 100% motivation

Time Tracking

I don’t know how long they’ve been talking about time tracking on Cortex, but ever since the first time Myke and Grey brought it up I thought “ah yes. That sounds interesting. I should do that.” Rinse and repeat for X months/years until I remembered this idea at a time when I wasn’t walking around and unable to act on errant thoughts.

On January 1, 2019, I finally took the leap and signed up for Toggl. There are a few different time-tracking options out there, but Toggl stood out for one extremely compelling reason: it’s free. There is a premium tier that I would probably benefit from and hope to upgrade to at some point. For now I’m 22 years old and my budget is tight, so free tier it is.

Time tracking intrigued me so much because currently, my time is more or less my own. I have a “real job” but it’s part-time and remote, so I get to organize the hours however I choose. The rest of my work hours are taken by freelance podcasting clients, which of course tends to be scheduled irregularly. I also spend plenty of time working on my own podcasts and other projects.

My triangular work pattern last week

My triangular work pattern last week

I like Toggl because it allows me to be really basic with how I track. I set up the “project” categories with what I broadly work on the most often (one for each of my own podcasts, one broad category for client work, etc.). I try to keep it as simple as possible, usually just labeling the name of the episode I’m working on in the task bar, not the minutiae of stages. I can see how that could also be useful, but I work on so many completely different projects that I don’t want to get bogged down with more and more specific designations. Click play when I start working, click stop when I stop, and adjust the time manually later when I inevitably forget to hit stop and wake up to a 14 hour task that I allegedly was working on in my sleep.

Meta time tracking!

Meta time tracking!

So based on the last ten weeks of time tracking, here are the greatest advantages I’ve come across:

  1. I’m billing more accurately.

    I report my own hours for that “real job” and often bill by the hour for freelance clients. Instead of keeping track by glancing at the clock, I actually have a tool to keep track for me. I genuinely don’t know how I was doing this beforehand—especially since it’s helped me realize I’m doing more work at my jobby job than I was previously reporting!

  2. I have a better picture of how much I work.

    While I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could be billing for more hours than I was previously counting, I actually work less total than I thought I did. Some of that is because I’m not tracking household tasks and commutes, which stretch out the work day in my own mind. Some of that is just because humans are bad at measuring time. Time tracking has helped me realize that I have more hours in the day to make use of.

  3. I know where those hours can and should go.

    Since I actually know how long tasks take me, I’m better at planning my days. Noticing where I was productive and where tracking dropped off helped me realize that I’m not very productive in the evening, so now I exercise after work instead of before, which increases my overall productive time and helps me get to the gym more consistently. Also, instead of wildly overestimating my ability to get things done, I’m checking off my full to-do list more days than not. I’m actually filling a work day and understanding when is best to be productive, instead of trying to “power through” a task even when I’m uninspired and distracted.

  4. It’s encouraged me to stay on task.

    Some time tracking tools automatically track what you do on your computer, which would certainly be even more accurate than the program I’m using now. However, even though Toggl can’t tell if I’m on Twitter, the timer forces me to actively choose to work or not work. If that timer is running but I’m on Instagram, I know that I’m cheating. It’s a neat psychological tool for holding myself accountable.

Obviously, I’ve had a very positive time tracking experience and I don’t intend to stop now. I highly encourage you to time track as well, especially if you’re a student, freelancer, or someone else with a lot of unstructured work time. You have nothing to lose and better knowledge of yourself to gain!

Podcast Syllabus

You can take the girl out of college, but you can’t take the love of research and a list of learning resources out the girl.

As I’m sure will shock everyone to learn, I love podcasts. I started regularly listening to podcasts nearly five years ago and most of my listening was concentrated on conversational podcasts on a relatively contained corner of the internet. After the past year or two, I’ve been excited about learning more about the podcast ecosystem as a whole. There are tons of people out there who make podcasts professionally and spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the industry. I’ve found a lot of their conversations on Twitter helpful for my professional development—plus, some of contribute to veritable treasure troves of online resources.

With that in mind, here’s a list of just a sample of some of the excellent podcast creators and analysts you can be reading and listening to. The first half of this article is devoted to a rundown of Twitter accounts, and the second half is more in detail of some of the excellent online resources you can be accessing for free to help you. I’ve also compiled all of the relevant accounts in this Twitter list for easy subscription purposes.

Thank you for reading, and happy podcasting!

Creators talking about creating

This first section is dedicated to the creators who are producing some of the best podcasts out there, and are using Twitter to talk about podcasts from a producer’s perspective. Following them all makes me feel like I’m in a room filled with the best and brightest from the industry and I get to soak up their insights from where I’m sitting.

Phoebe Wang

Freelance producer who’s previously worked on The Heart, The Moth, and The Shadows.

Michelle Macklem and Jess Shane

The minds behind Constellations, an experimental audio project with contributions from all over the world.

Keisha TK Dukes

Host of TKinTheAM and producer of Thirst Aid Kit.

Julie Shapiro

Executive producer of Radiotopia.

Jenna Weiss-Berman

Co-founder of Pineapple Media.

Meg Cramer

Producer at WNYC and ProPublica.

Eleanor Kagan

Senior producer at Pineapple Media. Most recently the producer of Julie, the stunning project about Julie Yip-Williams, who documented her own death.

Julia Furlan

Most recently started a rotation at NPR.

Amanda McLoughlin

Creator of Multitude Shows (more on Multitude below) and host of Spirits & Join the Party.

James T. Green

Most recently a producer at Gimlet and creative director at Postloudness. (I don’t know James personally but he’s a friend-of-friends and I have heard his excellent work in many places.)

Leila Day

Producer at Pineapple Media, producer and host of The Scoop.

Analysts and Critics

Some of these people also have podcasts of their own, but to my understanding their podcasting-related conversations on Twitter primarily come from their positions as podcast analysts.

Nick Quah

Creator of Hot Pod, the essential podcast newsletter.

Caroline Crompton

Contributor to Hot Pod.

Elsie Escobar

Pundit who focuses on amplifying underrepresented voices; founder of She Podcasts.

Elena Fernández Collins

Podcast critic at her own website, Bello Collective, and Discover Pods (more information below).

Berry Sykes

Creator of the directory and community #PodsInColor on Twitter and online at podcastsincolor.com

Wil Williams

Podcast critic at her own website, Wil Williams Reviews (more information below) and various other websites.

Ma’ayan Plaut

Her job title is “Content Strategist & Podcast Librarian” at Radiopublic, and I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I know that I want her job.

Podcast Resources

I believe that filling your social media feed with smart people in your industry is an excellent way to level up in that industry, but not as much as going directly to the website and podcasts they’re publishing to help you. The following selections are just a few of the guides and shows that are dedicated to helping you (yes, you) build a better show.

Multitude Shows

Multitude Shows is the gift that keeps on giving. They are a model in the industry for eminently professional, well-produced, dedicated shows. Their hosts think deeply about every aspect of their shows and online presence. You genuinely could learn a lot about podcasting just from watching and learning, but they’ve made it easy for you. Multitude Shows has done the work of writing and compiling generous resources for podcasters to help make their own shows more professional and reach wider audiences.

When I wrote an early draft of this blog a few weeks ago, I referenced Multitude Shows as being “practically a free course.” Apparently Amanda McLaughlin sensed this through the universe and needed to make it true, because she released a free course on SkillShare all about how to market your podcast. I have it bookmarked and I can’t wait to dive in.

Radio Public

In a similar vein to the Multitude Shows resources, Radio Public has produced a series of articles to guide podcasters and help them improve their production value on the show and online. Unlike Multitude Shows, they are attempting to get you to invest in their system and so their materials are tilted towards that vein. However, even if you never use the Radio Public system for one thing, their advice is still useful for any creator.

Wil Williams Reviews

Wil Williams Reviews is a review site written by Wil Williams (who would’ve guessed?) but it is also is full of guides to help you produce and manage your show better. It also provides an extraordinary resource in the “Help Wanted” page. The listed posts are largely casting calls for independent audio dramas, but the page also featured spots for editors, sound engineers, and other positions at shows of varying sizes.

Discover Pods

Discover Pods is essentially an online magazine full of fun top ten lists, podcast spotlights, and review articles. I love those lighter articles, but I’m featuring it particularly for their articles spotlighting equipment, hosting options, and a conveniently sourced page of key podcasting facts.

Bello Collective

Bello Collective is quite similar to Discover Pods (they share multiple contributors), but it’s more slanted towards professionals rather than fans. This means it of course has tons of articles that cover news with a creator-focused angle, as well as—you guessed it—articles giving advice and resources for improving your show. They also have a fortnightly newsletter.

Hot Pod

Hot Pod is a free weekly newsletter with premium bonus newsletters available. It’s the most essential news source in podcasting, and anyone who wants to keep up with the industry needs to be reading Hot Pod every week.

PodCon 2 feed

This feed is locked behind a paywall, but the PodCon 2 panels had a ton of excellent information across a variety of topics. If you have $40 to spare for it, I think it’s worth it for the 30+ hours of content, with more being released every day. Some panels already released include Podcast Turnoffs, Transgender Representation in Audio Drama, and Managing Your Party (collaborative storytelling). The feed also includes all of the live podcasts recorded at PodCon 2.

Third Coast Pocket Conference

Third Coast is an annual audio festival focused on narrative radio and podcasts. The (free!) pocket conference feed has been sharing panels from the 2018 conference over the past few months, and has an impressive back catalogue. Some recent topics include podcasting without a network and designing innovative audio.

The Wolf Den

The Wolf Den has been talking about podcasting since before most of us were even listening to podcasts. For the past few years the show has been hosted by Lex Friedman, who interviews a different person in the industry about their business. Many people on the Twitter list above have been the podcast at one point or another.

ICG Creator Chat

The Internet Creator Guild Creator Chat is strongly tilted towards YouTube creators. In fact, the entire guild is biased towards YouTubers, which is a frustrating fact of its existence. However, considering how similar YouTube and podcasts are in many ways, listening to the monthly industry updates and interviews with creators can still be useful. Also, the occasional interview with podcasters, like a recent episode with Jeffrey Cranor, are excellent.

The previous guide is just a small sample of all of the extraordinary producers, websites, and podcasts that can help you become a better creator. An essential fact about this post is that nearly every single resource I added to this list I learned about from another person or publication on the list. The more interesting people you’re listening to, the better your corner of the internet becomes. Happy podcasting, everyone.

Year of Quality

Last week I posted a Twitter thread about my theme for 2019, inspired by Cortex and their frequent discussion of setting themes rather than resolutions at the beginning of the year. I’m on the record of being very pro-resolutions and yearly resets, in part because my birthday as at the end of the year. It’s a new year in the Gregorian calendar and in my life! My preferred strategy is to decide on a one-word theme and a set of ten goals that relate back to that theme.

In 2017, my focus was on traveling, and I went to eight new countries. In 2018, I wanted to focus on creating new projects, but it instead ended up being a transition year for me. I graduated, moved back home for the summer, and then moved to Chicago. Between school, work, life changes, and unexpected setbacks, there was a lot less creating than I would have preferred.

But as I turn to 2019, I’m setting myself up a lot better for a year of tighter focus and specific projects. I decided the best representation of my goals this year is “Year of Quality.” The quantity of things in my life is going down, but the quality of what remains is (hopefully) going up. The primary example of what I’m leaving behind is my YouTube channel: I will not be making videos in 2019. I made more YouTube videos than ever before in 2018, but ultimately the channel is just a hobby. It doesn’t make any money and it barely reaches an audience, and ultimately is not financially or creatively fulfilling in my life the way that podcasting is. Considering how much time video editing takes in relation to podcast editing, it’s time for me to let the channel go—or at least take a substantial break.

(Small note: I am still working on editing a short film that I filmed earlier in 2018.)

But YouTube is not the only thing I’m leaving behind! I also left my part-time job at a theater. I’ve luckily gotten to the point where I have enough freelance clients that I do not have to keep this position anymore. Working at the theater was actually pretty fun, but the schedule was starting to restrict my ability to take on more clients and schedule meetings for my other job, which is for a remote company.

Finally, I plan on not dating in 2019. I tend not to talk about my relationships online too much (except when I think it’s funny), but suffice it to say I’m what’s commonly known as a “serial monogamist.” I’m unclear on how that’s happened because I love being alone and am not particularly social, but here we are. I’ve spent much of the last seven years in one relationship or another and I’m ready to take a break.

Those are the reductions, so what’s left? Here are my top ten goals for this year, in very rough order of priority:

  1. Complete production on [redacted], a limited run podcast arriving very soon.

  2. Produce [redacted], an open run podcast arriving… at some point. Feel free to periodically yell at me until this is announced because boy have I had this idea for a long time.

  3. Complete season 3 of Corner of the Sky.

  4. Get 50 rejections: this is a more unusual choice, but something that I’ve seen around Twitter. By setting the goal in terms of rejections, not applications, I feel like I’m both putting myself out there for more opportunities and embracing the inevitable amount of failure that follows.

  5. Widen my personal and professional audio circles: this is vaguer than I prefer goals to be, but it’s something important to me and not easily quantifiable. It could easily be paired with my “50 rejections” goal, but ultimately I just want to be meeting more people in person and online in my field.

  6. Finance like an adult: by the end of this year I want to have a firm emergency fund, start investing, have organized my business and personal expenses, and upgraded my credit cards.

  7. Hold a consistent work schedule: I have been completely useless at this for my entire life, but now that I have almost total control over my schedule I’m working on confining work hours to certain times of the day (what a concept!) as well as incorporating exercise and other habits into a regular schedule.

  8. Write something every week: Ultimately I hope to publish more consistently on this blog and elsewhere, but I’m setting it as a general “write something” rather than “publish something” goal so that it doesn’t take too much away from my podcasting focus. I also will count journaling as fulfilling this goal.

  9. Travel somewhere every month: I’m trying to take advantage of aforementioned control over my time and cheap Midwestern Megabus tickets. I’ve already got a few big trips planned (PodCon this month, Memphis in February) and intend to take a lot of day trips to nearby cities this year.

  10. Read 25 books: In 2018 I set the goal to read 12 books and I read 22, half of which after I moved in September. I hope to carry this momentum and my Chicago Public Library card into 2019.

Those are all my 2019 goals! Of course there’s always more that I want to get done, but I put a lot of thought into what I believe will be the most fulfilling to pursue this year. What are your goals?

Whoa-oh, We're Halfway There

Because I love to increase the cloud of vague anxiety that follows me everywhere, I started following @YearProgress on Twitter. It simply tweets out what percentage of the year has gone by, with a handy illustrative progress bar to hammer the point home. Yesterday, July 2, was officially halfway through 2018. Am I panicking? No! Should I be panicking? Maybe!

Being halfway through the year means I should, in theory, be halfway done my goals for 2018. In (rough) order of priority:

  1. Find a Job

    • I’m WORKING ON IT

  2. Save enough money to move

    • Also working on it, but unlike the opaque and confusing job search process, I confident that I’m on track to earn the amount of money I want to earn by the end of the summer.

  3. Get all A’s

    • I ended up with an A and two A-’s for my last semester of college, and considering what I dealt with during the semester, I’m pretty proud of this.

  4. Launch 2 new podcasts

    • Both are in the works—with one I’m making large strides, with the other I’m making a low simmer.

  5. Make 50 videos

    • After VEDJ, where I made 25 videos in one month, I’m actually AHEAD on this goal. I’m shocked at myeslf.

  6. Make a short film

    • The movie has been written and filmed! All that’s left to do is edit it, which is one of my big goals for July.

  7. Complete “2018” Lynda.com playlist

    • Oh… I haven’t even started this.

  8. Read 12 books

    • I’m right on track for this, and even amped up my reading goal to an ambitious 20 books over the summer. I might not/probably won’t reach the 20, but am completely confident I’ll hit 12.

  9. Practice Duolingo every day

    • I go in fits and starts with this, but it hasn’t clicked as a proper habit yet.

  10. Learn 2 new go-to meals

    • I’ve got two already: enchiladas and veggie stir fry. Considering I haven’t even moved out yet, this feels spectacular.

My goals are going reasonably well, but putting them aside, the first half of 2018 was… not great. A few difficult personal things happened in the first few months of the year that significantly brought me down, so between those and the whirlwind of senior spring I let go of pretty much all of my work after Mixed Feelings was over. Instead I focused on spending a lot of time with friends in my final weeks in school, which was the healing I needed and led to more amazing memories than I can recount here. It was time I truly needed to take, especially leading up to this summer, which is particularly work-focused and largely non-social. I don’t mind this very much, as I am generally a work-focused and non-social person.

Massive things happened in my life, and massive things are to come in the next half. Here’s to (what’s left of) 2018.

2018 Theater

The first week of the new year is full of goals, hopes, and eating leftover holiday sweets. Luckily, we have plenty of reading material to accompany those cookies because everyone is busy laying out their plans and schedules for 2018. I’ve been reading through upcoming shows coming to Broadway and beyond this year, and want to share some of the ones I’m most excited about.

I’m starting with the Great White Way, of course, and there are few shows this year that have generated as much buzz as the Frozen musical. This isn’t the first Disney animated feature to be turned into a Broadway musical—Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast spring to mind as immediate (and successful!) examples. Like those productions, the adaptation uses the movie’s soundtrack as a starting point for a full musical, expanding both the music and the plot to fit a longer show. Previews begin on February 22 and Frozen will open in March. Read more here.

When I said no show has as much buzz as Frozen, perhaps I meant besides Mean Girls, the inevitable musical adaptation of the wildly popular 2004 movie of the same name. (Think about Legally Blonde and Bring It On and try to tell me a Mean Girls musical wasn’t inevitable.) Tina Fey, who wrote the original movie (which includes several of the most widely quoted lines of all time), wrote the book; her husband Jeff Richmond composed the score. Lyricist Nell Benjamin, who also worked on Legally Blonde: The Musical (see??), rounds out the writing team. Previews begin on March 12 and opening night is April 8. Read more here.

While I’m primarily a musicals fan, I’ve been more and more interested in straight plays since I started directing. Even if I wasn’t, it would be a crime to leave Angels in America off of this list. This masterpiece first premiered 25 years ago, and now a much-lauded revival is being brought from London to Broadway this spring. The production is led by Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield and directed by Marianne Elliott, the Tony award winning director of War Horse and The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time. Previews begin on February 23 and the limited-run show will play through on June 30. Read more here.

Speaking of groundbreaking gay plays, The Boys in the Band is heading to Broadway (forty years after its unexpected smash Off-Broadway success) for a limited engagement. The all-star cast is composed of Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, and Matt Bomer, all of whom have achieved success on movies or television in addition to their theater performances (with the exception of Bomer, who will be making his Broadway debut). All four have also previously worked with one of the show’s producers, Ryan Murphy, on his TV series. Previews begin on April 30 and the limited-run show will play through August 12. Read more here.

While these Broadway performances captured my attention in part for their well-known subject material and famous cast members, the shows coming up Off-Broadway are interesting for all the ways they color outside the lines. Relevance, a play about feminism, generations, and communication in the world of social media, tells the story of the viral clash between a veteran feminist and an emerging writer and cultural critic. It feels fresh and incredibly, well, relevant—fiery divisions in the feminist movement and the gasoline of social media is a show we’ve seen played out before. Relevance will be Off-Broadway from February 1 to March 11. Read more here.

Meanwhile, in the category of “shows that will definitely make me cry,” Miss You Like Hell is coming to the Public Theater. Written by the Pulitzer Prize winning Quiara Alegría Hudes (beloved to me for writing the book for In The Heights) and singer/songwriter Erin McKeown, the show is the story of a 16-year-old undocumented immigrant and her estranged mother. They come back into each other’s lives and start a road trip that explores the lines between states, countries, and people. Miss You Like Hell will be Off-Broadway from March 20 to May 6. Read more here.

To round out this excellent roster is Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World, directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus. This one-woman play is based on Ensler’s memoir about suffering from a life-threatening illness while working with women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ensler is best known for her monumental hit The Vagina Monologues; In the Body of the World is just the latest installment in her career focusing on women and bodies. Previews begin on January 6 and the show opens on February 6. Read more here.

This is far from Diane Paulus’s only show this season, however; the artistic director of the American Repertory Theater is staying busy. Jagged Little Pill, an original musical directed by Paulus and based on Alanis Morissette’s iconic album, is premiering at the ART in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The show is running from May 5 to June 30. Read more here.

There are countless other theater events going on in New York and Boston and London and Smalltown, Indiana, and so it’s also best to keep updated on the local theater scene, wherever that is for you. It’s also exciting to remember that theater is becoming more accessible every year, from movie musical adaptations like the live action Aladdin or the upcoming roster of live televised musicals. Now will they just show us the recording of Hamilton they made? Please?

I Wanna Get Better

Someone told me recently that I should appreciate my past selves. But I’m different from those people because I’m better than them—I have to be, to keep pushing through this world and surviving challenges that would have destroyed me before. I appreciate what my past selves went through, but they’re also the only people in existence I know I’m better than.

As I move into 2018, I’m thinking about how to be the best version of myself. I’ve got a plan, I’ve got hopes, and I’ve got this playlist. Happy New Year.