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Hello, fellow podcast lovers!

Last week, I got dogpiled by white supremacists on Twitter for daring to ask white people to donate to the Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund.

In stark contrast to the me of years past, I asked my partner to go on a blocking marathon for me and I ran block chain before furiously posting that people should go donate to their local protestor bail fund. It's Taurus season, what can I say.

Social media is a dangerous place, especially for people of marginalized identities. I hope that you are out there setting boundaries for yourself so you can take care of yourself, and also your audience because that can work both ways. Remember that you can block who you want; it's your space, not theirs.

And so say I to the 13000 accounts I had to block last week.

This week, you're reading an interview with Caroline Mincks, the creator of Seen and Not Heard and accessibility consultant. Seen and Not Heard was a new and noteworthy podcast over at the New York Times, and one of the Best Podcasts of 2020 at Bello Collective.
a dartboard with a single dart in the bullseye. The shadow of the dart is at a perfect angle within a white traingle.

You are a deaf creator and consultant in the audio space, and Seen and Not Heard was one of your first big forays into the fiction space. What was the impetus behind this deaf story in particular?

I’ve been trying to tell this story since I was 19 in some form or fashion, because it was my way of processing what I was going through losing my own hearing and all the different emotions that surrounded that. I've reached a point in my life where I'm at the acceptance part of the grief of losing something like that. It just felt like the right moment and the right medium. I was extremely new, so I wasn't sure if it was the right moment professionally. But I was like, “Alright, we're just gonna kick myself out of the nest and see if I fly.”

I was defining success, and I still am, by whether it was received in a way that opened the door for conversations that needed to happen about disability and inclusion and accessibility. For me, it could create more space for D/deaf and hard of hearing creators who maybe want to be part of podcasting but aren't sure how, or also for people who are not D/deaf or hard of hearing to see that you actually can hire us. We really can do this! And we're out here.

People don't think about D/deaf and Hard of Hearing audiences. They associate deafness with a concept of a total lack of hearing, and nothing else. You either can't hear anything at all, or you can hear fine. What do you want people in the industry to understand about D/deaf audiences?

First of all, that they're there. I think people just assume, “Oh, it's an audio medium. So it's not going to be of any interest to deaf people.” Which just isn't the case. You know, that's like saying, “well, they can't see. So there's no way they're ever going to, you know, turn the TV on.” Are you kidding me?

I do think the first thing people need to know is that there is a spectrum [for deafness] like there is for every other thing on planet Earth. It’s important to consider that fact, and to take us into consideration before you start your project. I've had people approach me wanting to know how to be accessible for D/deaf people. Build it into your budget, build it into your schedule. Consider all of those factors before you even start, because the last thing you want to do is have to scramble to make transcripts or to suddenly realize that the transcripts you have are not the right kind, not in the right format, not communicating the right information. Cassie Joseph has a guide for transcripts because we don't really have an industry standard.

When I’m consulting for transcripts, I'm not necessarily looking for every single show to have the same kind of transcript. I'm looking for consistency within their format, and descriptions. Like, what does the music sound like? Okay, you told me there's music, can I have a hint? Is it a piano? Is it a guitar? Is it rock music? Is it classical? Give me something.

And I think that one thing that frustrates me as far as accessibility goes is how often things are behind a paywall or not linked in show notes. Save us the work, and don't make us pay to be disabled.

When you were producing Seen and Not Heard, what was one struggle or roadblock that you encountered that has stuck in your mind as important even if it didn’t seem to be at first?

I kept dwelling on: am I doing this as responsibly as I possibly can, even as someone who's in this community with my experiences? Am I being as responsible as I possibly can while still being realistic? Because that’s the tricky thing: I was not telling a story that was about the idealized, necessarily best practices, because that's just not reality. Even in the deaf community, we don't always do things perfectly. For instance, in the first prologue, and in a couple of other episodes, there are times when they're communicating using what's called simultaneous communication, which is signing and speaking at the same time. Culturally, kind of a no-no. Generally, you would either sign or speak, you're not going to do both at the same time, but in reality, it happens all the time. People do it all the time. And the character of the ASL teacher is what's known as a CODA, Child of Deaf Adults. He’s not deaf himself, but grew up very much immersed in Deaf culture. And that’s not necessarily ideal, but it's really common.

The further we got into creating the show, the more I was like, “Oh, boy, I hope this is not going to encourage bad behaviors and incorrect practices.” Instead, we'll open the door to talk about what is best. And thankfully, so far, that has been the case. I have not had anyone yell at me yet.

Character Creation Cast
 is a discussion podcast that examines a new roleplaying game system every month. Hosts Ryan Boelter and Amelia Antrim are joined by guests from the RPG community and industry to learn about a game, create characters, and discuss the process! It's like a relaxed session zero the first three Mondays of every month.

Check out the backlog, and the special Character Evolution Cast: player-centric advice episodes to help everyone tell more fulfilling stories at the table!
If you want to see more reviews, interviews, and other articles from me, you can support me at my Patreon, or at my ko-fi account for a one-time donation! You can also sign-up to talk about advertising in the newsletter.
Patreon Ko-Fi

What's been the most rewarding thing to come out of publishing Seen and Not Heard?

When I have someone say, “Oh my god, now I have something I can show people to say, this is what I'm experiencing.” This has made me cry, every time. My best friend is also deaf. And she texted me, live texting the whole time she was listening. She said, “I'm listening to the first episode. And this restaurant scene has me in tears because this is exactly what it sounds like, if I'm in a busy restaurant, that is my experience.” It’s been really rewarding to have people say, “this is really truly representation for me.” And then I have people who aren't D/deaf but are disabled, and they’ll say, “I’m not deaf, but that darts metaphor is really good.

Just knowing that I helped a little bit to make something like that is hugely rewarding. And it's really overwhelming when people say that I did what I wanted this show to do.

So you’re kind of a podcast hoarder when it comes to creating, which I think we all understand being bitten by the bug, to be sure. But you're very clearly someone who wants a diversity of themes and characters and chances in the industry. So what do you want to see more of in fiction podcasts?

I want to see more slice of life kind of stories, because, like I said earlier with reflecting reality that is not necessarily idealized, it opens the door for discussion on what we experience and what we can do better. And maybe why certain practices are in place and when other ones need to be. Obviously, I want to see more representation of deafness casually. I want to also make stories where it's not necessarily about deafness.

Seen and Not Heard is really about grief and how you deal with trauma, it’s not really about deafness. I just happened to use deafness there because that's my experience. But I do want to have stories that incorporate D/deaf people and not have it be about deafness, like any other kind of inclusion. This character here, they’re deaf, it's part of their story. It's not the only thing we ever know about them, it’s not their entire character arc.

I think a lot of people with only the best intentions will make a character deaf. Cool, what else are you gonna do with them? That's a great first step, but you have to take more steps. That's how you get through the door. You can take one step to open it, but then you have to walk into the room, you know what I mean? Because otherwise, you're just standing there being a weirdo in a doorway. 

What podcasts are you listening to right now that you love, and you want other people to listen to?

I’m obsessed with a microfiction called Dana is Her Name. I love Desperado, which is cheating because I’m on that show, but it’s fantastic. And Temujin! Do yourself a favor. I’ve been doing transcript consultation for them, so that means I've gotten to listen to all the episodes multiple times. It’s so good.

The DePaul School of Design is hosting a talk with game designer and critic Sharang Biswang about gaming, queer community, and sexual liberation.

Elvia Wilk's Toward a Theory of the New Weird is a must-read article about horror, the uncanny, and feminism.

Dan Olson's video about Pink Floyd's The Wall and Nostalgia Critic is an insightful examination of abstract imagery and narrative, and also a well-aimed arrow at the jugular of terrible criticism.

Evo Terra is a must-have on everyone's queue, especially with an episode like Reducing Your Anxiety Around Big Podcasting Changes.

How to design your podcast artwork, with Jared Easley at Podcast Movement.

Echo Salon is an audio drama listening group made up of academics, practitioners, and enthusiasts. Their next season of chats and discussions is about music in audio drama.
  • OBSIDIAN: A fantastic speculative fiction anthology podcast based on Afrofuturism, from creators interested in the intersections between creativity and science, between people and technology.

  • Help Fund a Queer Norse Mythology Audio Drama: Come support the first season of Twilight Over Midgarda modern fantasy audio drama about a group of friends who are recruited by two Norse Gods to stop the apocalypse.

  • Podcast Review Day is a monthly reminder to write reviews AND share them on Twitter. On the 8th of every month, ease your podcast review guilt and help others discover new podcasts.

  • Indrisano Audio, LLC: Get help launching or improving your podcast with our consulting, composition, and editing services! You bring the Drama - we've got the Audio. Learn more at our website.

  • The Resistible Rise of J.R. BrinkleyThe true story of a 1920's con man who made a fortune selling his impotence cure: surgically implanted goat testicles. Also: a radio star and politician. Told with country music.
Strap in, a lot of stuff happened.

Did you come here from a link online, or get sent this by a friend?

If you'd like to ask me questions or comments, you can reply to this newsletter (it goes directly to my email!) or reach out to me on Twitter.

May your podcasts bring you joy,
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