In Conversation With… Emma Ronan of The Slumbering Slothcast

Founder of The Slumbering Slothcast and co-founder of Publishing Hopefuls, Devon-based Emma Ronan was busy long before finishing university. She has been a guest at SYP South West’s Conference, recorded live at the Penzance Literary Festival and been a guest at Literacy Live in association with Bookollective. Being so busy, The Hysteria Collective is thrilled she could squeeze in a quick (Zoom) chat with us!

Recently graduated from her English and Publishing degree at the University of Plymouth, Ronan and her partner, Dael Munn-Tyrrell, started The Slumbering Slothcast just over a year ago. At the time she was looking for work experience opportunities that wouldn’t require forking out the extortionate train fare to travel from her Devon home into London.

“Even if you’ve got a friend in London, crashing on their floor makes it all a bit more difficult. So, I thought, why don’t I create my own project?”

And, just like that, The Slumbering Slothcast was born! A weekly podcast in which Ronan chats to professionals across a variety of creative industries, deciphering the day-to-day of a range of professions for an audience of largely entry-level creative-career-hopefuls like herself who want to learn more about the industries they might be joining.

I tried doing a blog but it wasn’t really for me. Chatting to people was my strongpoint. I’ve worked in customer service so I’m very talkative and people probably get annoyed with me at times.” (Laughs)

Ronan seems to have found a gap in the market. She tells me that, while the publishing world is saturated with book blogs, podcasts – particularly aimed at young graduates – are few and far between. Luckily, with her partner being a journalism graduate, they had all the kit and it started with a simple tweet to so-called ‘Publishing Twitter’ asking if anyone would be interested in being interviewed. Ronan remembers how…

“…my Twitter went overboard overnight! I woke up with loads of messages and emails, and that’s pretty much how it got started. Now, we are a creative careers podcast that speaks to people from lots of different parts of the [publishing] industry – and also in marketing, in film, just a load of really fascinating and great people!”

She tells us how the resources for graduates pursuing creative careers have blossomed over the last couple years.

“Of course, you have the main accounts that people go to – like @thatpubblogger and @pubinterns – and they’ve got a massive following. They’re great sources of knowledge. Since lockdown started, there have been an overwhelming amount of new resources that have come out of the woodwork. It almost seems like [lockdown] has opened a door for more people to say ‘well actually, I can make this myself’! Things like The Publishing Profile, The Publishing Post. You’ve also got loads of online conferences.”

Emma excitedly discusses with me how these resources, which ordinarily tend to be London-based and centred around a few big cities, have become more accessible since lockdown.

“If there’s one positive spin in these weird times, it’s that as long as you’ve got a good Wi-Fi connection, you can find these resources and attend SYP online events. You can pretty much do anything nowadays!”

While, for many of us, remote working or working from home has been a recent learning curve, for Devon-based Ronan interviewing people from all over the UK, she recounts how funny it is that The Slumbering Slothcast did this without thinking.

“We were doing it before it was cool,” Ronan laughs, “Nothing’s really changed for us. It’s just easier because now everyone’s got those [remote-working] resources too. Whereas people used to say, ‘oh I don’t use Skype’, now everyone is, and Zoom. It just makes [the industry] more accessible!”

Ronan remembers how much the podcast developed organically.

“We had the contacts ready through the publishing community on Twitter, and it went from there. We started with a publishing focus but we’ve expanded. We didn’t want to box ourselves in too much.”

She tells me some of the highs she’s had since starting this journey.

“Working with Bookollective to do Literacy Live [is definitely one]. Going to Portsmouth and meeting the authors was a great opportunity. Working with Penzance Literary Festival. I got to go to the Quercus event last year as well in London. That was really fun!”

But she’s glad to have her partner on board to manage the more technical side.

“The tech can sometimes go a bit all over the place. My internet cut off the other day out of the blue – it never normally does it – but seven minutes in[to an interview], it just decided to cut out. So those things do still happen. Technology’s not perfect.”

But, overall, she tells us, the experience has definitely been positive.

“[The lows] are never something that isn’t doable. Definitely more highs. And sometimes you’re like, “Oh I don’t want to do it this week.” As with anything when you’re doing something that you love, you’re going to get times where you go, “I just want to take a week off,” but you have to keep consistency!”

After a very diplomatic “I love all my guests”, Ronan tells me she has two favourite guests on the podcast, who have stood out to her. The first being Ana Sampson McLaughlin, Deputy Publicity Director at Quercus Books, and editor of a variety of poetry anthologies including She is Fierce: Brave, Bold and Beautiful Poems by Women (2018).

“Ana Sampson McLaughlin is an all-round amazing human being. She is so lovely and she really takes the time to talk to you. I first interviewed her on the Literacy Live podcast and then we kept in contact. On Slothcast, we got to do a proper episode, talking more about her career and I got to meet her at the Quercus event last year.”

“And Tanu Shelar is just an amazing person!” Ronan goes on, “She was so much fun to talk to. We talked about coding and skills building and her role was so varied. I’ve never heard of a role like it. It was such an interesting conversation. Sometimes [these interviews] just roll off the tongue.”

On Friday 24th July, Emma Ronan was also a guest speaker at SYP London’s #SYPPubSkills workshop on ‘How to start your own podcast’. We caught up a day or so before the recording and I asked her if she had any nerves being back as a guest for SYP.

“I think because I’ve done so many of these now, I don’t feel nervous. The SYP South West Conference was bigger and more nerve-wrecking than this. I’m more worried that I’m going to waffle and people will get annoyed with me! But I feel good! A lot of the advice I can give is to the best of my knowledge because I’m not a paid or professional podcaster. This is still a side project and something that we’re working on. Eventually, we’d like to be [monetised]. But I hope [my advice] is something that I can share to the best of my ability.”

Ronan is also the co-founder of Facebook Group Publishing Hopefuls along with Christina Storey of The Storey Book Club and The Storey Social. Only established in late May, in less than two months, the Facebook Group has gained over seven-hundred members who regularly discuss industry news, job adverts and whatever is going on in the industry.

“Christina was the brains behind the outfit originally. We were talking about how everyone’s in the same boat [job-hunting]. There’s a big community on Twitter but we wanted to make something specifically for aspiring publishers. Christina messaged me at like ten o’clock at night after she has been at work and she had come up with the idea of a Facebook group. She started creating these logos and we did it in about a day. We set it up by five in the evening and we got over a hundred members within a few hours. We were constantly working trying to get through all these members’ requests.”

Despite the craziness of speed with which Publishing Hopefuls was born, Ronan tells me that it has been a fantastic experience.

“The page is a conversation for entry-level publishing people, a conversation about books, about jobs. It’s a community where we can talk about what interests us in the industry. There’s been some really great projects and collaborations that have come out of it, like Chelsea Graham’s The Publishing Post. Chelsea has gathered a massive team of writers in such a short space of time. We’ve got two moderators – Lily and Hannah – who are brilliant as well. We’re looking for ways in which we can do more but the page has been so good at running itself. Obviously, we have to do the technical side but it really didn’t take long to get people posting content.”

Ronan goes on to tell me how she finds inspiration from people around her and how she’s always felt a bit in the middle between the creative and the academic.

“I think I’ve been that person who’s been a bit of both. I’m not very good at making things and academically, I’m not ‘smart smart’ so I’ve always been that middle bit. I think that’s where the podcast came in. I wanted to do something different with my creativity but I didn’t know what exactly. I think finding that gap in the [market] inspired me.”

She tells me she’s going through a big audiobook stage, her favourite right now being Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, read on Audible by Emma Thompson.

“I love Jane Austen and, when I took a Gothic module back in university, my lecturer Karen was in love with Northanger Abbey and all things Gothic. It’s probably one of my favourite books at the moment but I will get back to reading physical books. I’m going through a bit of a lull at the moment where I’m working. I’m up and about so audio’s my main go-to.”

Going forward, Ronan hopes The Slumbering Slothcast will become monetised so she can fit it around the rest of her life.

“I’d like to settle down in the next couple of years. I’d like it to work well if I chose to have a couple of kids. It’d be good to work from home. You’ve got that balance there and I think podcasts have definitely proven that you can be flexible with your time.”

When I ask her what advice she would give to other graduates looking to get into the creative industries, she tells me “Just got for it!”

“Trial and error is something we’ve all done – like the blog for me. (Laughs) It died very quickly! Try different things. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Do your research. See what is around. Listen to podcasts, read up on everything you can and find an angle in from there. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way of doing it. That’s the great thing about being creative – you can see what works for you!”

You can find The Slumbering Slothcast @SlothCast16 or Emma Ronan @NovelEm16 on Twitter and listen to The Slumbering Slothcast on Spotify, Apple Music and more.

Find Publishing Hopefuls on Facebook.

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