BOOK REVIEW: The Power of Podcasting by Siobhan McHugh

The Power of Podcasting: Telling stories through soundThe Power of Podcasting: Telling stories through sound by Siobhan McHugh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This book is in part a how-to guide, and in part a history of podcasting’s rise, though a history that tries to look from within rather than from a distance as much as possible. The two major thrusts of the book are story and sound. Of the many varieties of podcasts that exist today, the focus of this book is on ones that are story-centric, be they non-fiction or fiction. [Of course, there’s an argument that all podcasts should employ story to some degree, even if they aren’t of a format that facilitates an overarching story.] McHugh, herself, uses stories and what I’d call meta-stories (i.e. the stories of how various podcast-delivered stories got told) extensively throughout the book.

With respect to sound, there’s a lot of background sound and music that makes the difference between a professional sounding podcast and one that’s not. This is a particularly difficult subject to grasp because – while one often experiences background sound and music drawing one deeper into the story (or – perhaps more accurately – one feels its absence as a vague sense of detachment,) one tends not to be aware of this background audio on a conscious level. Therefore, discussions that point out the thinking about background audio choices can be profoundly eye-opening for a neophyte, such as myself.

When I say that the book has a podcasting how-to aspect, I should emphasize it doesn’t get into the technical aspects (i.e. what kind of mic to buy and how to use it,) but rather it discusses such topics as scripting, interviewing, editing / reorganizing for effect, and starting out. The book also has chapters at the end about increasing diversity in what has been an extremely Caucasian-centric industry as well as offering insight into potential future directions of audio storytelling. Throughout. there are short interviews with individuals with expertise in the industry, and there’s an extensive appendix, listing podcasts and podcasting resources.

If you’re interested in starting a podcast or learning more about podcasting, I’d highly recommend this book.


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In the Temple [Free Verse]

i enter an empty temple. 

it’s not silent.

footfalls resonate
&
floorboards creak.

but flickering flames
&
sleepy-eyed Buddhas
are quiet enough

in an hour,
the monks will filter in
with great punctuality:
monks, young and old.
(i would say, “and ages in-between,”
but they all seem young or old.)

there will be chanting,
and the din of finger cymbals
and deep-toned drums.

and i will leave
for the solace
of the world
outside the temple.