Kate Simpson: One More Page is a kids' book podcast, launching in February 2018. We aim to be something that adults and kids can enjoy listening to together: perhaps the parents listening with the kids' on the drive to soccer, or teachers listening in a classroom. We'll be talking about all things kids' books from picture books through to middle grade, but only venturing into the lower end of YA - stuff that is suitable for middle grade readers as well. We'll be reviewing books as well as interviewing authors, illustrators, publishers and all sorts of people involved in the world of kids' books. We also have a kid-centric section where kids will often be on the show, reviewing books or talking about favourite characters - stuff like that.
As for me, I'm a children's author myself, with my first picture books coming out in 2018 and 2019 with EK Books and Allen and Unwin respectively. I'm also a mad kids' book fanatic. My co-hosts Liz and Nat are also writers and book lovers, as well as avid podcast listeners, so we're kind of combining all the things we love.
GR: How did you guys meet and decide to do the podcast?
KS: We met a couple of years ago at the NSW Writers' Centre where we're part of a critique group for picture book writers.
The podcast idea came about when I was listening to a Joanna Penn audiobook in the car. Joanna Penn is a successful indie published author who writes fiction and books on writing. In this audiobook she was talking about what a great experience doing her podcast had been, how many amazing people she'd had the opportunity to meet, and the doors it had opened, and I was feeling a bit jealous. I was thinking I would love to do something like what she'd done, but being a newbie author, I didn't feel that I had the authority to be talking to people about writing. Then suddenly it occurred to me that my podcast didn't have to be about writing - it could be about reading. I did plenty of that! I was so excited by the idea that as soon as I got home I dashed to the computer to email Nat and Liz. I felt a bit foolish to ask them, I didn't know if it would be their thing, but I really wanted to have a co-host. Much to my delight, they both wrote back within about half an hour saying they'd love to be a part of it all!
GR: And the rest is history! When did you send that email?
KS: I just checked (thankfully I never clean out my inbox). It was the 15th of August this year.
GR: So you guys have dedicated just over 6 months to planning and preparing for this, presumably including finding some of your guests. How much work has it been? (sorry for the "how long is a piece of string" question!)
KS: Lots! I have a full time job and two kids and this has been taking up pretty much all of my free time lately. My writing and most other things are really on the back burner. But we're hoping that as we get everything set up and are into more of a rhythm, the amount of time and effort will reduce.
Thankfully my co-host Nat has awesome audio editing skills so I leave all the tech stuff to her, but between thinking up ideas, reviewing books, lining up interviews and interviewing people, it's been really full on. Not to mention getting out there on social media trying to spread the word.
GR: A full time job and two kids wouldn't leave a lot of room for free time in the first place! Did Nat already know about audio/tech stuff before this, or did she pick it up naturally?
KS: Fortunately Nat is a sound editor in her day job. I'm not sure what we'd do without her to be honest.
(PS sound editor might not actually be the real name of her job, but you get the idea).
GR: Did that help you out with equipment too? Have you had to invest much money into the venture?
KS: Money-wise it hasn't been too much of a commitment. For the most part we bought the equipment, but there wasn't much. Just some fairly inexpensive microphones and our computers so far. We have costs for the podcast hosting and the hosting for our website, we've paid for our domain name and also the licence for our theme music. That's about it. A friend of Nat's, Marianne Khoo, did the amazing art for us for free just because she's wonderful. And the rest has just been hard work.
GR: And plenty of it, no doubt ;-) How many podcasts have you done so far?
KS: We've recorded the first two episodes and we hope to have at least four episodes ready before we launch in February. It will just take the pressure off a bit, as we're planning to bring out a new episode every fortnight.
GR: So you already had the tech support, helpful people like artists, and the experience of knowing and loving books - what are some of the new skills you've had to learn along the way?
KS: There was a fair bit to learn around podcasting itself, as even though Nat had experience recording and editing, it wasn't in the context of a podcast. So we needed to find out how a podcast is hosted and chose a host, and also learn about how to get our podcast into the world, like into the iTunes store and other podcasting apps. We also needed to figure out how best to record the interviews, which were being done remotely. So there was still a bit of techy stuff that we didn't know about. Luckily, with the internet, all that information is readily available.
Sorry, I mean the Apple Podcast app, not iTunes (see, I still don't have it all figured out).
GR: Will you focus exclusively on the Australian industry, or will you talk about international releases too?
KS: We'll have a strong focus on the Australian industry, but we won't necessarily be talking exclusively about Australian books. We really believe in supporting the Australian book industry - there are so many wonderful Australian books and Australian authors out there who depend on a strong market for Australian books for their livelihood and we want to be a part of that. And of course it's easier to connect with local authors and publishers. But if something international comes up that we just can't resist, then we'll mention that too.
KS: I think there's just something important to the cultural fabric of any country in having books that reflect that country's culture and experience. And of course this is where it's important to be looking to diversify Australian books so that all Australians, not just some, can see themselves reflected in the books we produce. Having a strong local book industry also means more book talks at libraries and in book shops, more literary festivals, more writers in schools. You don't get those things if the only books people read are imports.
GR: I agree 100% and that's a great point about author talks and literary festivals - as a former high school teacher, I think it's also a great encouragement to gifted student writers if they can meet and look up to someone local.
How do you choose what books/authors to focus on each fortnight on the podcast?
KS: In terms of the books we review, a lot of it just runs to our own tastes. It's hard to review a book that you're not genuinely excited about. But we do try to make sure there's some variety. We're not going to all review a middle grade fantasy unless that's a theme for our episode. We're also interested in looking a little bit at the fringes, as well as covering the best sellers. We want the stuff that is wonderful, but it doesn't always have to be well known. As an example, I've recently been seeking out Australian graphic novels, to see what's out there in that part of the market that I don't necessarily know about.
In terms of authors, we started with people we knew or had at least met! I was kind of surprised how many people we knew, when we started thinking about it.
Once we started getting in touch with publishers to let them know what we were up to, we were amazed at the positive response. Lots of publishers have offered to put us in touch with some of their best known authors, which is amazing. So, as for the books, we'll be trying to do a mix. And we're not just interviewing authors. We have an illustrator scheduled in February and a publisher at one of the bigger publishing houses scheduled a little later in the year.
My dream is to go to a printer and have them show us through the process of how a book is put together. Unfortunately printers in Australia are a bit of a dying breed.
GR: It sounds like you've had a lot of really cool opportunities coming out of it - I've found it similar doing these interviews, but so many people are so willing to give up their time! It does show that the Australian industry is a supportive bunch. You mentioned that you’re likely to each review different things - does that mean only one of you needs to read the book prior to podcasting? Have the three of you ever strongly disagreed about a book - one of you finding it much better/worse than the others?
KS: Yes, only one of us needs to have read the book, although often more than one of us will have, especially in the case of picture books which are a big love for us all and are so quick to read. We do have quite different taste in books. Nat loves fart jokes and silliness, whereas Liz prefers the emotional stuff and I'm probably somewhere in between. But I can't say we've ever had a strong disagreement.
GR: My six year old would certainly appreciate Nat then. In terms of you personally, have you always had a passion for children’s literature rather than other genres, or is it just where you ended up?
KS: I think we all just love kids' books, and for me certainly it's a life-long love. I think the others would agree. Whether it's the sense of fun and wackiness, or the nostalgia...there's so much in kids' books that’s appealing, and the quality of children's books is fantastic. Even in a picture book, if it's a good one, there's so much that an adult can take from it even though it's probably only about 400 words long. Or 40 words long sometimes. I really love the deadpan humour that's become really popular with the Jon Klassen books. My kids laugh when we read them, but I laugh twice as hard. With middle grade books for me it's the sense of discovery that they often contain - they find out that there's a secret universe inside a tree at their local park or they discover that they can fly, or they're taken on as an apprentice to the most powerful warrior in the kingdom. Obviously adult novels do this too, but I think it comes out even more strongly in a good children's book.
GR: What kinds of things do you like to read when your kids are asleep?
KS: Gosh, a whole world of things! It would probably be easier to list the things I don't enjoy reading. I tend to enjoy the types of books likely to end up on the CBCA shortlist for book of the year - books with plenty of emotional depth. I love magic and fantasy and mysteries. I do also read adult books from time to time. I really enjoy adult crime novels and really engaging adult non-fiction, especially stuff about science or psychology. A lot of my 'reading' actually happens in the car on the way to work. I'm a huge audiobook fan - I think they're totally underrated by many people.
GR: I confess I never really got into audiobooks, although I've just borrowed a couple of classics like Roald Dahl from the library for my kids to listen to on longer car trips. Anyway, thank you so much for chatting with me and I'm sorry I kept you so long! I really appreciate you taking the time
KS: You're welcome. Thanks for thinking of us.
You can follow One More Page on twitter, instagram and Facebook or check out their website at www.onemorepagepodcast.com.