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Today is Monday, April 17. There are 24 days until my next Disney cruise. (If you want me to send you a postcard while I’m gone, fill out this form.) In case this email is too long, listening to this audio pop-up book was the most fun I’ve had listening to a podcast in awhile, I took tons of notes listening to this, once you know this you can’t unknow it.
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👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Aleeza Kazmi and Fonzo Lacayo
How are you different and how are you the same? What do you both bring to the table?
Aleeza: Fonzo and I are both young adults born and raised in New York with complex cultural upbringings that have shaped our perspectives. But other than that we are quite different, and that is what I love about co-hosting Grown with him. Our unique perspectives complement each other and make our dynamic on Grown really special. Fonzo challenges me to think in new ways about myself, art, and my relationship with the world around me. I think we bring out the best in each other and that makes for really compelling, thought-provoking episodes.
At the end of the day, I think what we both bring to the table is a deep appreciation for the power of storytelling. We both believe that everyone has a story worth telling, and we feel incredibly lucky to be able to share those stories with our listeners on Grown.
What do listeners not know about what it takes to be a Moth storyteller?
Aleeza: People who listen to Grown or The Moth often say that they could never tell a story but what they don’t know is that they 100% can! It may seem intimidating but anybody can be a Moth storyteller as long as they are on theme, on time, and telling a true story from their own life. There is no magic formula or secret to storytelling. What makes Moth stories so great are the people who tell them, all that it takes is a bit of trust in yourself.
What is a tip you could give for someone trying to tell a captivating story to a live audience?
Aleeza: Imagine that you're reliving the experience as if it happened just yesterday, and try to tap into the feelings and emotions you had at the time. When you're fully present in your story, you'll be able to recall all the small details and nuances that make it so compelling. Plus, being vulnerable and sharing your personal experiences will help you connect with your audience on a deeper level. By tapping into that version of yourself and channeling that energy into your storytelling, you'll be able to convey the authenticity and emotion that make for a truly captivating story.
Fonzo: My biggest tip would be to not underestimate your own experiences, even the small ones. I find that since we experience life through one lens, we tend to overlook memories and situations we deem as uneventful, but were perhaps pivotal moments. It’s easier to credit the big moments in our lives as turning points, but sometimes the small seemingly monotonous moments are just as important.
Do you get nervous on stage?
Aleeza: Thankfully I don’t get stage fright anymore. As a Moth storyteller over the years, I have told stories on stages in front of hundreds of people and after the first couple of times I stopped getting nervous as soon as I stepped on the stage. I realized that the audience is on my side, excited to hear whatever story I am about to tell, so I am overwhelmed with a sense of community and belonging rather than nerves when I share my stories. But maybe ask me again when the audience number is in the thousands...
Fonzo: Yes! I get nervous even when I'm at the register ordering the same coffee for the thousandth time, so being on stage in front of people is always a little intimidating. I think stage fright is normal, but since I’ve been around The Moth team for so long, I feel more at home and at peace being on stage. I also always try to remember those moments when I’m in the crowd watching a storyteller and how engaged and warm I feel as they tell their story. I try to imagine our audience and listeners feeling the same.
How would you describe yourself now to eight-year-old you?
Fonzo: You’re a lot taller than you expected to be, I know that’s something that you cared a lot about. You ended up getting locs and they’re down to your back believe it or not - no more bad haircuts. I finally feel as though I’ve grown into myself and become more confident. I ended up moving to Brooklyn and have met so many amazing people along the way. And believe it or not, you don’t play any of the sports you thought you’d play forever.
What are you learning about people in this age group between childhood and adulthood?
Aleeza: That they have so much wisdom to share! I have learned such valuable lessons from the storytellers from the Moth’s education program that we’ve featured on Grown. Whether it's finding unexpected sources of support, taking risks and stepping outside their comfort zones, or simply learning to be kinder to themselves, the young storytellers featured on have taught me so much about resilience and personal growth.
Their stories have also made me reflect on my own journey navigating the transition into adulthood and have given me a greater appreciation for the unique challenges and opportunities that come with this stage of life.
I hope hearing the young storytellers on Grown encourages our “older” audience to listen to the young people in their lives more clearly, and inspires younger listeners to share their own stories.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
While recovering from a head injury, Ellie Gordon-Moershel was prescribed to watch a movie she loved as physical therapy. She picked Dirty Dancing, started sending her friends short voice notes about it, and realized it’s worthy of a scene-by-scene study. Her podcast Butt Out, Baby! is just that. It launched last August, I got excited, it kind of went away, I forgot about it, but it seems to have popped back up, and I am excited once again. (I really hope Ellie isn’t fucking with my emotions.) This is a podcast for those who love the film but also for people interested in storytelling, film, and craft. Ellie is reading from the screenplay, which gives interesting insight into the story’s original intentions. (Baby is an “endearing unkept puppy.”) And often the things in the screenplay left out of the film are the most revealing. Every episode, she provides a birds eye view, granular recap, and dramatic argument for a tiny baby corner of the movie. She also provides context about the racial and sexual politics happening at the time, taboo feminism, 1950s paternalism, the history of Jim Crow, and more. Ellie has been involved with audio storytelling since 2008 (I found an episode of 99% Invisible that she made.) She breaks the rules with this podcast because she understands them so well. It feels like an audio pop-of book of original music, interviews with her family and friends, and sharp analysis that makes you realize everything about this fun movie was intentional, every moment can be explored. The first real episode zooms in on the car ride to Kellerman's, a somewhat ominous scene (with the movie’s only voice over) that sets us up for the story that’s about to unfold. This is an ode to the film if you want it to be. But it’s also so much more.
✨Read Why you need quizzes in your podcast marketing strategy via Podcast Marketing Magic.
✨ Read Supercharge your podcast marketing with strategic feed swaps via Descript.
✨ Pushkin Industries launched the Best Audio Storytelling Audiobook, an anthology of the best non-fiction audio moments curated by Pushkin. My readers get a 15% discount with the code BASPTN15.
✨Rough Translation’s Gregory Warner has launched a newsletter, Around the World in 85 Days (subscribe here) and is asking you to share your favorite Rough Translation episode and explain why it meant so much to you. Email a note or 3-minute voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org. They might use your words on the show. You can also send one to me, I'll pass it along!
Vanderpump Robs tackles the ever-expanding universe of Vanderpump Rules and unscripted TV with the help of cast members, comics, and reality TV experts. Vanderpump Robs is your new go-to podcast for comedy and reality. If this sounds like your glass of rosé, jump straight to the Patreon to unlock 70+ episodes, get new ad-free bonus content each week, and support a fellow indie creator.
April is Adopt-a-Listener Month
Adopt-a-Listener is a grassroots campaign where podcast lovers help non-listeners turn into listeners. Through resources, collaborations with podcasts, and even an “official” adoption process, we’re providing all the support we can to make this initiative move the needle.
We’re providing you all with a bunch of fun stuff to support Adopt-a-Listener (learn more here) including new blog posts about how (and why) to recommend a podcast to a non-listener and what podcast you should listen to based on your favorite movie. We’re hoping you find someone who says “podcasts aren’t for me” and find them a show they’ll love. (Find one? Fill out this form and we’ll feature you in the newsletter.)
Last week, a few of us spent the day in Washington Square Park talking to everyone (high schoolers, skateboarders, senior citizens, tourists, a dog, a tarantula, and an adorable 8 year old) about their podcast listening habits, learning a ton.
People want shows that make them feel smart, they want to better themselves.
They listen to Joe Rogan, Lex Fridman, and Jordan Peterson.
They listen to things that are not on RSS—YouTube only.
Nobody mentioned Apple Podcasts. They listen on Spotify and YouTube.
They don’t mind banter.
They don’t listen to podcasts, but they have them.
Not all great news, but FASCINATING news. We’re really learning! And giving podcast recommendations throughout.
🎙️Found in the Asian Enough feed from the LA Times: Foretold, a piece that centers around Paulina Stevens, whose fate was sealed at age 17 to leave school, marry young, and become a fortuneteller in her insular Romani American family. This series is about what happens when you leave your community and define a new one on your own. Faith Pinho is overturning tarot card tables to tell Paulina’s story to destigmatize Romani culture. (The show is punched up with personality, there is a moment of perfect comedic timing that shares a cringe-worthy clip of Shakira singing “I’m a gypsy” that unfortunately has been stuck in my head since I heard the episode two days ago. This is also a story about Faith’s evolution of a journalist, taking us from her initial conversations with Paulina in 2019 at a different news outlet and through the journey as she gets closer and closer to the meat of the story. Listen here.
🎙️I have been a super fan of The Constant, “the history of getting things wrong,” (trust me, history nerds, this show is for you) and in love with host Mark Chrisler, who is like the most dynamic, energetic history professor you’ve ever had, going deep into topics that probably were missed by your history books. Now I am love with his wife Heather, who took over last week’s episode to give Mark a bit of a spring break. Mark gives her an episode and she dedicates it to Disney World, the things that went wrong there (the deaths) and it ends up being a piece about Disney’s darker side, why utopia is impossible, and how we don’t want perfection, anyway. There is no happiest place in the world, not even in “the happiest place in the world.” And the disasters in Disney World prove to us that’s true. (Although I would have loved for someone not to have been crushed in the original Carousel of Progress.) Listen here.
🎙️I wrote about Normal Gossip last week, and it’s the kind of show I assume doesn’t need press. Isn’t everyone listening to every single episode, already? (Well, if I learned anything from talking to people about podcasts in Washington Square Park last week, they’re not.) But when you write about Disney World, I can’t not talk about it. Note to you podcasters who want to be in Podcast the Newsletter. Kelsey McKinney brought on Blythe Roberson, who has the perfect appreciation level of Disney World and is so aligned with the story I started thinking she might be the one who submitted it. It’s a story about a group text message crisis at the Crystal Palace, complete with a cumbersome person in a Tigger costume, a well-meaning aunt, and a lesbian meet-the-parents scenario that will have you feeling happy this didn’t happen to you. Blythe introduces the concept “gossiping about yourself,” a wonderful term I’m stealing that means telling your own story with a “gossipy” tone, with the honesty and awareness and criticism you’d use to tell the story about someone else. This show is entertaining but also a discourse on communication and storytelling, and every episode is an example of that. Listen here.
🎙️(The Only One in the Room host, author of Stash, and Tink client) Laura Cathcart Robbins was on Last Day for not just an interview but a real, teary, goose-bumpy conversation about Laura’s “year of basing” with Stephanie Wittels Wachs. It felt like they were comfy on a couch in one of their living rooms. Stephanie knows addiction, she lost her brother Harris to it, hence the entire birth of her audio company Lemonada. And this conversation pulls her into it (she cries) and Laura enters in with a force and realness, admitting she’s coming in feeling the weight of having just published her book. It’s that kind of comfort and messiness that Stephanie draws out of people that make these interviews special. I have listened to Laura tell her story countless times on podcasts, and even at a book event (she’s my client!) and this was the episode that was able to surprise me. Stephanie gets us to hurt for little Laura, the kid who learned to hide herself and was perfectly positioned to hide her secrets as an adult, and her stash of pills, from the world. We feel the stress of that and the freedom Laura feels being honest. Because…I wrote this down, one of them said it: Everything is more interesting when you tell the truth. It’s like the saying, write the story you’re afraid to tell. Or something. It’s what Laura did, and now we hear and feel what that’s like from her perspective. Listen here.
🎙️Julia Louis-Dreyfus launched her podcast Wiser Than Me on Lemonada last week, and it’s a great example of the magical touches Lemonada shows have. There are lots of celebrity podcasts but this feels like a show that Julia wanted to make. In episode one, Julia talked to Jane Fonda about taking the last lap of her life and her new found love for female friendships. It felt as close to a heart-felt conversation as I’ve ever heard on a celebrity podcast, with mold-breaking elements. Julia whips out the senior page of her high school yearbook which featured a (semi-pretentious) quote from Jane, and Jane comes back with a quote that would have been much more fitting and sums up the entirety of her interview. T.S. Eliot’s “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” The LA monsoon knocks out Julia’s Wifi for a recording snafu that would have completely frozen a normal production team, but the Lemonada team makes it a moment that snaps us into reality and putting into action what Lemonada is all about: making lemonade out of lemons. The rawness of this episode was balanced with a kind of polish that made it adoring and human. How is Lemonada doing all this amazing stuff. Witchcraft? It must be the amazing team. Whatever. Listen here.
🎙️I hate talking about finance unless it gets weird. Paco de Leon’s Weird Finance is all the interesting stories that happen around finance. I highly recommend this interview with Hannah Rimm, who leads Refinery29’s Money Diaries, the completely addictive column that scrutinizes how people spend their money, cent by cent. What’s even more interesting than hearing about how trust fund kids blow thousands a month on night life and expensive salads and rent is why we love reading these so much. Why we love financial voyeurism. These diarists are putting themselves out there for us to judge them, but what do our comments say about us? Listen here.
🎙️The list of notes I made listening to the Digital Future of Grief episode of Hi-Phi Nation is long. (And looking back, nearly impossible to understand. But the message has stuck with me.) Producers Alexandra Leila Salmon and Barry Lam collected research and interviews to cover how some companies are training AI to sound like loved ones who have died. Social animals are wired for love, not loss, they say, so the fact that we’ve lost someone we love is incompatible information for our brains. Now people are swooping in with AI to give people a new way to grieve. Would you use recordings of your mother’s voice to recreate your conversations with her once she’s passed? Would it be comforting or terrifying? And where does consent come into all of this? With new tech comes new questions and problems. And here’s one: what happens when we start to really believe that those we’ve lost are still alive? This was a thorough, thought-provoking, well-produced piece that gave me more goosebumps than any spooky or true-crime story I’ve heard. Digital grief, the digital dead, and cyber zombies, oh my. Listen here.
🎙️”Get appropriately excited” (I’m quoting Helen Zaltzman) because Answer Me This, the long running, award winning podcast that answers your questions with silliness and wit, is back for an episode. Just one. (The show ended two years ago, so perhaps we can hope to get a new one every few years.) Helen and Olly Mann field questions about shopping in the UK, working at the White House, and randomly mention that Rock Badgers are mentioned in the Bible, which sent me down a very deep rabbit hole about these weird creatures that are vulnerable and cute and…god this must mean something, mustn’t it? Why Rock Badgers? What is god trying to tell us? I won’t rest until I know. Listen here.
🎙️On Elaine Appleton Grant’s non-gatekeepy podcast Sound Judgment, Elaine offers episodes packed with in-the-weeds advice and actionable takeaways that cover questions I get asked about in Podcast Therapy all the time. Elaine dishes out advice that people would pay to hear. Next time someone asks me about successfully pitching a narrative story or series to a podcast network or a public radio station, I’m sending them this episode. Elaine talks to Katie Colaneri, head of New Hampshire Public Radio’s audio documentary team, who structured a greenlighting process when she couldn’t find one, and she shares the ins and outs of what it looks like. (Hint: a “holy shit moment.”) These episodes always end in a real-life scenario, and this time Elaine takes us to a one-room New Hampshire school house to tell the story of how a This American Life piece was made. Listen here.
🎙️What struck me in the first episode of Bear Brook (the story of Jason Carroll, who is serving life in prison for killing Sharon Johnson, something he now says he didn’t do, despite the fact that he confessed on tape) was the fact that this was a strange and frustrating case, but also that the show was touching upon storytelling. After hearing the first episode I called it an “exploration into true-crime storytelling, asking us to question what versions of truth we are getting, and how sure we can be of anything we see or hear.” Jason Moon stuck to the theme throughout, and in the final episode, we get a meta-story within, one that loops in Rabia Chaudry. She’s the one who brought her friend Adnan Syed’s story to Serial and is the host of Undisclosed, a show that covered the Jason Carroll case. (Unfairly, if you are to believe what Sharon’s daughter Melanie has to say.) The way this show keeps you on pins and needles on these two separate story lines—the death of Sharon, plus the way the case is currently being reported, gives this show more than just an “oh shit” moment. (If you listened to episode one of Bear Brook, you know the “oh shit” moment I’m talking about.) This is a show that does true crime a little differently. We get to watch as the story unfold in what feels like real-time, but this also is a piece about the responsibility of true-crime podcasters and their hunchy theories, whether or not true-crime podcasts are good for the people at the center of them and when it’s okay for true crime storytellers to say that someone else is guilty. Listen here.
🎙️The War On Cars is often about how cars have changed our cities, our politics, our safety, and our minds. The way we live. They spent a really fun episode talking about how bike culture has seeped into pop culture. Think about it: you see someone riding a bike in a movie or on a TV show, it usually is a signal they’re a loser virgin. They go through example after example of this tiresome trope, pointing out the errors and what Hollywood and society in general wants us to believe about cyclists. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. That’s your warning. Listen here.
🎙️Devin, the superstar behind almost all of Tink’s magic (check out her show The POD-AT-ME Hotline) was on Podcast Bestie to give an uplifting and practical look at creative podcast marketing. You may know that I hired Devin when she randomly tweeted that she “wished someone would hire her to write about podcasts,” I didn’t know her but hired her on the spot and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Devin is someone to watch when it comes to creatively growing a podcast. She understands the industry, what strikes a chord with audiences, and is an audio nut like no other. (Sign up for her newsletter Podstack here.) It’s wise to listen to Devin. It’s wise to listen to Courtney Kocak. Together, they bring a knock-out conversation. If you’re a podcaster, you absolutely cannot miss it. Listen here.
🎙️I love you!