Two weeks ago I packed up some cute outfits and took my little show on the road to the Werk It Women’s Podcast Festival, produced by WNYC Studios. I wanted to learn more about how I could take my podcast MILK: Mom’s I’d Like to Know, to another level. I also was excited to fly on an airplane without my kids.
The conference was heaven. It evoked that feeling you get when you know everyone in a room understands you (and your radio nerdness). The feeling that you can be open, listen and learn without interruption and distractions from family and work. The feeling where the world is burning all around you, but you have some hopeful ideas about how you can help said world and are in the right spot to do so.
Every woman I met at Werk It was doing something interesting: for the environment, for people of color, for feminism. I heard from professionals and newbies about the craft of telling stories, and their struggles getting those stories into the world. I heard how Anna Sale built her reporting into a career at WNYC, and then I saw her in the elevator going for a run at 6 am West Coast time because she’s a mom and was awake anyway. I heard from Note to Self’s Manoush Zomorodi and Happier’s Gretchen Rubin, also two big time MILKs with podcast and book platforms, about how to engage audiences creatively. I heard Kara Swisher of Recode Decode and TV Producer Ilene Chaiken in conversation about The L-Word coming back (!), and being a gay executive in TV now and then.
I heard from funny and wise hosts like Lisa Chow, of Start Up, Lauren Ober from The Big Listen, Starlee Kine of The Mystery Show and Esther Perel of Where Should We Begin. I heard an excellent panel called “Don’t Point,” about the line between reporting on and gawking at those who have different experiences.
I met other podcasters like Katie Ward, host and producer of The Enthusiasm Enthusiast, who is smart and wonderful and interviews women about feminism and activism. I listened to creative/business people like Jenna Weiss-Berman, who produces podcasts I love, like Women of The Hour and Finding Richard Simmons, and built an independent podcast production company in Brooklyn. I was mentored privately by Eleanor Kagan of Buzzfeed, and was able to interview Manoush Zomorodi for The MILK Podcast. I watched hilarious actors I admire, like Alia Shawkat, Niecy Nash, Lena Waithe and Jessica Williams, perform flawlessly produced live shows at the beautiful and historic ACE Hotel Theater, that made me laugh out loud in real life.
On the last day of the conference, I sat at an organic place near the hotel where I happily ate all of my meals. I ate an acai bowl (so LA), and thought about how nice it was to have a break from thinking about my kid’s schedule for a few days, or planning what they were eating for lunch. The Harvey Weinstein story was breaking, because of two female NY Times journalists who were steadfast and smart and badass and finally told this story that reporters have been trying to lock for decades. I read the account breathlessly and with disgust, thinking "YES, they got this one!" and of course, felt such terrible pain for the women who were hurt. That was just the beginning of the story, and more was to come, but like other moments since the election last year when a sexual assaulter took the highest office in this country, I felt something stirring. Anger at this toxic, sick person and the evil culture that enabled him and others of his ilk, but also solidarity and pride for the helping to surge the tsunami of women's voices. I felt it in the air all week at the conference as we women shared, plotted and supported, and now, two weeks later, back at my computer writing and editing and planning this week’s MILK interviews, I feel more committed and hopeful that we are talking about things we used to bury. Calling out. Asking questions. Telling stories. People will hear our voices. We will make sure of it.