New literary podcasts connect Atlanta’s reading, writing community

As creator and host of the weekly podcast “Literary Atlanta,” Alison Law has interviewed many of Atlanta’s best writers. But for her favorite episode to date, she happily shared the driver’s seat with a teenager.

For her Jan. 4 episode, she scheduled Atlanta author Nic Stone. “She has a New York Times bestselling debut YA novel, ‘Dear Martin,’ about an African-American teen attending a prep school who writes letters to Martin Luther King Jr. And I’m a 43 year-old white lady from Tennessee,” Law says.

To enrich the interviewer perspective, Law invited high school senior Austin Miles Anderson to ask the primary questions, which led to a lively, candid discussion about the complexities of race and adolescence in contemporary America. “It was a much richer conversation than if I’d led it,” says Law. “That’s what I like to do as a podcaster, to get the right people together.”

“Literary Atlanta” is one of two podcasts devoted to enhance the city’s lively but sprawling community of writers and readers. “Literary Atlanta” debuted August 3, 2017, and, coincidentally, Matt DeBenedictis and John Carroll launched their podcast, “Lit & Bruised,” on Aug. 12.

The shows reflect slightly different approaches to podcasting as well as the city’s literary scene. “Literary Atlanta” embraces the kind of relaxed but focused, interview-based format that would fit right in on National Public Radio. “Lit & Bruised,” meanwhile, feels looser and less structured: Carroll and DeBenedictis begin with a casual chat, then bring in guests to open up or read their work. “We almost don’t talk about books enough, because we’re so focused on the person,” says Carroll.

Law traces “Literary Atlanta’s” origins back seven years, to when she began working with an author client as a publicist. “I immersed myself in Atlanta’s literary community,” she says. “It’s incredibly rich, not only with New York Times bestselling writers, but every week there’s at least three book events. And Atlanta not only has incredible events but these engaged, avid readers.”

She began “Literary Atlanta” to support the book scene in particular and, occasionally, her clients in particular. “There are very few media outlets in Atlanta that cover books,” she says. “I wanted there to be one for my clients and I wanted to have more outlets for talking about books. I think it can be transformative to see writers talk about books, and I want people to be better patrons of the arts, the literary arts.”

Law’s guest have included Atlanta novelists such as Thomas Mullen, Joshilyn Jackson and Daren Wang, while live episodes recorded at the Wren’s Nest’s “Beyond Books” series have featured authors Jim Auchmutey and Mark Pendergrast;

While “Literary Atlanta” hews closer to famous authors and book festivals, “Lit & Bruised’s” roots lie with storytelling slams and performance series like Write Club, which have more of an underground vibe.

“We record in my living room,” Carroll says. “We recorded some at WonderRoot, but couldn’t have alcohol on hand. Some guests are a little nervous, so we always like to have a little water and alcohol. On reading episodes (with multiple guests) recording can last two and a half hours, so it ends up being a party. Our Halloween episode ended with a Billy Joel singalong.”

Carroll is the author of two books, the founder of Make Blackout Poetry and the co-founder of Transgression, a literary/theater series based on works in the public domain, including an adaptation of “Peter Pan.” DeBenedictis wrote three chapbooks, founded Safety Third Enterprises press and was editor of Deer Bear Wolf Press.

“Both of us have been involved in literary scene,” DeBenedictis says. “We have seen it ebb and flow a lot, with new writers coming in, creating new platforms and live events” and then moving on. “Apart from showing off the community, we want to strengthen it.”

Both “Lit & Bruised” and “Literary Atlanta” provide regular event announcements and calendar listings, on episodes and their respective web sites, to keep the community better-informed. DeBenedictis and Carroll see the podcast as a means to create more continuity in the literary scene, especially so people can connect after reading series or shows end or go on hiatus. “We don’t know everything that’s going on. We’re not together enough,” says DeBenedictis.

But the podcasts give readers and writers the chance to feel more connected, even if they’re stuck in traffic trying to get to an event.

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