Are You Listening?

Howdy gang! Trust you've all survived the life sledgehammer we call Monday? I'm still counting toes, but I think I made it through mostly intact. 

I'm smiling at the title of this post, because it was my long-dead deaf grandmother's catchphrase. She lost her hearing early in life, and I never knew her any other way. So I was an unusually patient kid when it came to people explaining things. 

Why? Because a conversation with grandma would take twice as long as any normal conversation. I'd often have to write things down (learned a lot about reading and writing in that way) for her to understand what I was trying to say. Or I'd have to find what I was talking about to show her. As I got older, I learned to speak slowly so she could read my lips, which she was aces at. 

As for the catchphrase, you'd be surprised at how adept we are at making conversation without actually looking at who we're talking and listening to. The reason is simple: We can hear. 

It's why telephones work. We can say, 'mmm hmmm' and 'uh huh' and 'sure' and the person on the other end of the conversation knows we're listening.

Granny didn't have that luxury. So if she were telling you something important, she'd often qualify it with, "Are ye listening?" That was your cue to turnaround and give her your face-front full attention. 

I'm a pretty good listener. I owe part of that to my counseling background, but I owe a lot to granny too. I learned good listening skills long before I knew what they were: Eye contact. Use lots of non-verbal affirmations (nod, more pronounced facial expressions, etc.). Frequently check for understanding, and so on.

But enough of the memory lane. Let's play a game! 

Here's how it works: I'm going to ask you a question. Then, because I'm a lonely writer who doesn't ask questions to people who can actually hear and talk to him, I'm going to answer for you as well.

Wait, that doesn't sound like a fun game? (Asks the bossy five year old me.) Well we're going to play it anyway! (Says the bossy five year old me.) Here goes:

Me Question: Do you listen to podcasts?

You Answer: I should.

Wasn't that fantastic fun? I won by the way...

I know, you're busy. You've got 8 kids, 14 dogs, a lion cub, a flooding basement, 6 jobs, a 9th child you call your spouse and dinner won't fix itself. Who has the time to listen to podcasts, especially when it cuts into your LMFAO time? (You know you sing along when it comes on the radio. It's OK, this is a judgment free zone when it comes to music ... well, except for the Bieber.) 

That's exactly why you need to listen to podcasts. You can put them on in the background while cleaning, driving and cooking. The best part is there are some truly awesome writing related ones out there. And unlike reading a book on craft, you can listen to them while you're pulling your child out of the trash compactor. 

As I mentioned, there are lots of them out there, and they cover every imaginable writing subject. Some focus on genre, some talk about the industry, some give tips on publishing independently, some talk marketing and some are craft related.

Most are run by authors, but there are plenty done by editors and other book people. The two I'm going to pass on to you are some of the best I've found. They're short and exceedingly useful to your writing endeavors. 

The first is the Writing Excuses podcast. It's run by four authors whose backgrounds range from science fiction and fantasy to young adult horror. Each episode is (to quote their tagline), "15 minutes long, because you're in a hurry, we're not that smart." They cram a ton of useful information into each cast, have lots of great guests and cover everything from plotting to movie formulas. THEIR WEBSITE.  

The second is the Grammar Girl podcast. This is seriously like listening to a style guide, and a must for those who struggle with the finer details of writing and language (read - me). Even if you don't struggle, there's still plenty to learn. Grammar Girl covers things like how/when to use a dash, colon or comma and if using sentence fragments is an OK tactic in fiction. The best part is that she rarely strays over six or seven minutes for each topic--her tagline is, "Quick and Dirty Tips"--and you'll know tons more by the end. HER WEBSITE. 


There are lots of ways to listen to podcasts. If you own a smart phone, there are numerous apps you can download that will manage your podcasts, allow you to add new ones, etc. If you're an iTune user, just go to the iTunes store and click on the "Podcasts" drop down list. You can search by whatever subject, download and listen. I think most if not all of them are free. 

You can also go to the specific website. If you click the links above, each podcast episode has a link to listen right there on the page.

I'm going to do a followup post this week with a couple of tips for listening via your iTunes, iPhone, etc.

Do you listen to any writing related podcasts?



  1. No but I guess I should! The lion cub will just have to wait for his meal.
    My grandmother was hard of hearing and we had to talk to her the same way - slowly, loudly, and facing her.

  2. Ok, ok, so I really should. I used to listen to podcasts all the time. Now its mostly my Disney pandora station. But its something I should fix, and you've given some awesome recommendations.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

    1. They really are great, Sarah. You won't be disappointed!

  3. I've listened to a few podcasts, but not a ton. I don't own a smartphone and my computer takes forever to download. So I put on Beiber and rock out.

    Wait... you said you're not a fan of the Beibs? I thought I saw you at his last concert. ;)

    1. Oh, I might've been at the concert. You can't throw tomatoes from home after all. :)

  4. The only podcast that I listen to is "This American Life."

  5. I haven't listened to a podcast before, but I think it is because I'm more of a visual learner than auditory one. Perhaps I should try listening better. :)

  6. Thanks E.J. for asking. Yes, I do listen to those podcasts on occasion and they usually make me feel inadequate while I learn a few things. Learning is always good.

  7. My son listens to tons of them and is always telling me what he learns. And you sound like you were a dear little grandson :)

  8. You know that I smile whenever I see that you have a new post??? <---Truth! LOL.

    I actually do listen to the occasional writing podcast! I enjoy them very much. I'm a pretty hyper-active learner, where I'm always wanting to learn more about the business, how to improve my craft, etc, and podcasts are a great way of doing that. And your grandma seems like such a sweetheart. Fabulous post, as always, EJ! :D

  9. Loved learning about your grandmother, very sweet. I haven't listened to podcasts yet but now I feel like I should start immediately. You've convince me!

  10. Your Granma sounds like my great grandparents. They were both deaf so talking in a car for them was...interesting.

    Anyway, didn't you answer the question way back up there when we played the game? I should be listening to podcasts, and will definitely be checking these ones out. Thanks for the links

  11. Huh? What?
    I don't listen to them do not have time... not even sure what the heck they are, hon. If it requires anything more updated than my slow Internet, I can't do it. I don't have the techno here.

    I don't even do twitter, as it takes up too much time. So, that's why I got a novel done, and two short stories this year. I'm a writer. I write.

    But Your grandma was special, and so are you!

  12. I love good podcasts. thanks for these links.

  13. I've heard of doing this before, and I swear, I totally should--but I haven't! I've visited Grammar Girl's web site plenty of times, and she's awesome. I've even heard that professors are loading podcasts. So cool!

    By the way, LOVED your granny story. Warmed my heart.

  14. I haven't listened to a single podcast. The main reason is that I don't really do much 'live streaming' stuff online, due to a crappy internet connection!

  15. So, how did you know about the lion cub? *shifty eyes* I don't process aurally as well as visually, so I prefer to read than listen. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

  16. I can't help, but think of Frasier Crane saying, "I'm listening." I do actually, but I'm really excited, about the ones you shared! I so need Grammar Girl...she will be my new Super hero, lol.

    I haven't forgot your award! I hope to post it on Friday or Saturday and leave it up till the middle of next week. I have two other posts, then I will answer those questions! Great post and thank you ;D

  17. I love the 'how stuff works' and the 'stuff you missed in history class' podcasts. I will definitely check these out. :0)

  18. Hey, EJ,

    You really do have a D lisciious sense of humor. Thanks for the info on podcasts. I never gave them much thought before, but now I really want to start listening... I will look forward to your next post on the subject.

    I have I everything, and I really need to take more advantage of all the info that can be learned by using them.

  19. I have a sister-in-law who's mostly deaf. I'm used to speaking to her so that we're facing each other, because she has no problem reading lips.

  20. Aloha E.J.,

    Got the heads up about your blog via Michael Di and wanted to say I'm a new follower and thanks for the great tip...

    Normally I listen to Angels Baseball, but podcasts could work on non-playing days :)

  21. I don't listen to podcasts, but I'm definitely going to try the ones you mentioned! They sound great, and I can have them on while I fold laundry :)

  22. I ate up a screenwriting podcast and it was dandy. Now I listen to mostly audio books but I change it up from time to time. I also play TED talks through the iPad when I clean. Never a dull moment.

  23. Wow. I had to go over to your links just to figure out what the heck a podcast was. This is amazing. Thanks.

  24. I've always avoided iTunes just because it's such a user UNfriendly program but now that I can just directly download apps on the iPad, it's helped to make things much easier.
    Thanks for the tips though!


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