In 2017, Cheryl E. Ball and Drew M. Loewe released their edited collection Bad Ideas About Writing, making it available free online under a Creative Commons license. It's a massive collection filled with short, digestible, jargon-free chapters on most issues that matter to writing scholars, especially the issues your uncle at Thanksgiving is likely to have wrong opinions on. Between July 2020 and May 2022, I recorded an audio version of the book and released it as a multi-episode podcast, all 63 chapters, hosted at Spotify and available on any podcast app (Stedman, 2020–2022).

After nearly two years of releasing episodes, I closed the door on the project by recording a final reflective episode, where I spoke off-the-cuff about various aspects of the podcast: why I started it, how Creative Commons licenses support this kind of work, what specific choices I made while recording and editing, and some big-picture dreaming about how scholarly texts could be made accessible through audio in the future.

This webtext presents that final episode here, with an audio file below to stream or download that's identical to the one in the podcast feed. There's also a transcript that's been enhanced with various new footnotes; click them to see pop-up notes that share links, clarifications, and everything else I wish I had said while recording.

But before we get to the episode, I'll share in this written introduction some brief thoughts on the experience of reading others' words and transcribing audio.

A Note on Embodiment

I feel an odd sense of discomfort publishing this webtext and talking about what I did to create the podcast. One of Kairos's reviewers of this webtext, Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq, noted my tendency to "undersell" this piece's importance in its (originally much shorter) written introduction, and I've been thinking about that a lot; she's right, and I'm trying to figure out why. Maybe my hesitancy comes from childhood, being raised not to grab attention for myself. There's also some imposter syndrome going on, too; podcasters often speak alongside professional audio producers, who know a lot more than I do and spend more money on their setups. Or maybe it's from a recognition of my positionality, an acknowledgement that as a white man with every kind of societal privilege imaginable, I don't need to spend more time talking about myself. I mean, one recent study (Rao, 2022) found that 69% of podcast creators identify as men; we could stand to shut up more often.

But I think my discomfort especially comes from the disjuncture between this webtext and the nature of the Bad Ideas About Writing podcast, where I spent two years primarily recording the words of others. I acted as an amplifier, a transmediator, an embodiment, but the authors of those chapters are the ones with the insight, expertise, and carefully crafted language. It feels funny to suddenly be the one talking here, even though in a way I've been the one talking all along.

I bring this up not (quite) to theorize about this oddly complex positionality, not (quite) to apologize for it, but simply to draw attention to it. Reading and recording the work of others aloud is delightfully multivocal, more like acting than any other scholarly activity I know of, an art I've grown to love enacting even when I don't fully understand it. By reading others' words, I've been collaborating with people I've never met, sharing and delivering their words in new rhetorical contexts. Their words eventually become something of my own without losing anything of their original meanings, an equation that shouldn't add up but does.

Consider, for one, what it's like to voice the words of people with identities and experiences other than your own. That is, I'm sure I read chapters by men, women, and people across the gender identity spectrum; I read chapters by Black and Latinx folks, people of Asian and Indigenous American heritage, and more. And when they used the first person in their written chapters, I used the first person right along with them, out loud, sharing their stories. When Patricia Roberts-Miller told a vignette about a faculty meeting, it was "I" who told the story, somehow seemingly about "myself"; I was Tyler Branson telling a story about my dentist, Ronald Clark Brooks talking about the public writing program I launched, Hannah J. Rule avoiding eye contact at parties when the topic of grammar comes up. But wait, I wrote that last sentence in the past tense, yet there's an eternal present at work here too, since recorded audio files can be replayed forever. I was those authors, but I am them, too. I'm Muriel Harris, and in my Bad Ideas chapter I mention that I'm married to a physicist; I'm Cydney Alexis, and a man once awkwardly asked if he could read a poem to me over breakfast at a hostel; I'm Crystal Sands, and I felt uncomfortable at my first rubric-assessment training; I'm Phill Michael Alexander, starting my Bad Ideas chapter by telling you that I'm mixed-blood Cherokee. You could edit audio of my voice telling all of those stories, in the first person, just from this podcast alone. Sure, each episode gives credit to the authors of those chapters—I'm not saying that this podcast was an act of radical, irresponsible appropriation or anything—yet with some clever rewinding and fast-forwarding, it could easily sound like it's me alone claiming them for myself. Hi, authors! I'm you!

Another complexity of audible embodiment: the enthusiasm I voiced for each topic, each sentence, regardless of my own opinions. That is, there were places in the book's written text, as in any book, that struck me as confusing, illogical, or misguided—yet I read them anyway, with as much earnestness as I could muster, wanting to honor the view of the original speakers. This strikes me as rather unlike the traditional approach to scholarship, where others' ideas can be skimmed, quoted out of context, and rebutted without ever needing to get too deep into the viewpoint of the other side. When recording a podcast like this, there's no space to refute ideas that seem in any way incomplete; I'm too busy reading, recording, editing, and posting content spoken from the point of view of those original authors. It leads me to sit patiently with my disagreements, letting them steep inside my mind and body before I do anything to or with them, if anything. This Rogerian breathing in of disparate scholarly positions fits with one of Cheryl and Drew's purposes for the collection as described in their introduction: how the book happily embraces "productive overlaps and disagreements," how the collection works "without forcing a weak consensus or flattening out the individuality of the chapters" (Ball & Lowe, 2017, p. 3). And as I've allowed those "productive overlaps" to emerge, unreconciled, from my own mouth, I've found that this multivocality suits my preferred, nonagonistic approach to research in general. Like Christine Mason Sutherland (2002), who found that her interest in archival recovery work aligned with her feminist approach to historiography—"for I do not enjoy taking the adversarial stance typical of so much secondary research," she wrote (p. 111)—I've found my interest in using audio to showcase the work of others clicks satisfyingly into place with my own, nonadversarial scholarly style.

Ultimately, I hope this webtext as a whole leads to productive conversations about multivocality and the affective elements of asynchronous collaboration, especially when that multivocality is literally voiced, not as a metaphor, following the lead of artist–creators like Trisha Nicole Campbell (2018) and Erin Anderson (2014). Beyond that more theoretical goal, I also hope my work suggests to other amateur podcasters some practical ways to improve their craft, whether in or out of academia; my webtext could be seen as "an annotated skill share," as Itchuaqiyaq's review called it. A look behind the curtain. An investigation of the processes behind one podcast's production, inspiring others to adapt them for themselves. And with that focus on sharing and building up others, I feel my hesitancy to talk about my own work fade away.

A Note on the Transcript

As I mentioned above, the podcast episode below was spoken off-the-cuff, informally delivered with a bulleted list of notes in front of me, not a script. This opens the door to a brief conversation here about the nature of transcribing extemporaneously spoken audio, as opposed to every other episode of the podcast, where I carefully read the words as printed and edited the audio to match (unless there was an obvious typo, which I silently corrected in my audio version).

Transcripts are complicated. They're never exact written replicas of sounded audio; instead, they're rhetorically crafted in ways that fit the purpose of transcribers for their audiences. As Dev Bose et al. (2021) wrote about captioning (a process with many overlaps with transcribing), "The caption track is not an objective record or reflection of the soundscape so much as a transformation of it, a new text–a mode for new or different experiences, a retuning of meaning, affect, and time" (Access, Transformed section). This rhetorical crafting of multimodal texts often leads to creative solutions as speakers, transcribers, and captioners try to effectively communicate the fullness of intended meaning, such as Janine Butler's (2022) interpreter suppressing her Southern accent when speaking for Butler in a video's voice-over, and when captioners and transcribers turn to animated text (Zdenek, 2018) or fonts and color (Faris et al., 2020) in an effort to say more than the affordances of words alone allow.

Though the transcript below doesn't make use of colors or unusual layout, it does add visual elements like bolded descriptions of sound, the interactivity of clickable footnotes, and, less visibly, hundreds of small choices about how best to use syntax and punctuation to represent my speech. Those choices were rhetorical, not natural; I decided where sentences began and ended, where I thought I heard an em-dash rather than a semicolon, and where the grammatical rules of White Mainstream English should be followed or broken. But of course, the rhetorical choices go beyond grammar and punctuation; in a deeper sense, I wanted the reader of the transcript to feel like they were listening to the audio, picking up on the same informal, conversational style of the audio itself. I wanted my written, metaphorical "voice" on the page to mirror my audible, recorded "voice" in the podcast, as much as possible. At times, I'm sure I failed; another of my reviewers at Kairos was surprised at the different experience they had when they read first and listened later, finding that I sped up and slowed down out loud more than the transcript had prepared them for. I also chose to add APA citations to the transcript even when they weren't spoken in the transcript, adding another layer of disconnection between the two modalities, but in favor of citational clarity.

If you read and listen at the same time, perhaps the main difference you'll notice is how many of my filler words I removed: You'll read uh, um, kind of, and like less often in the transcript than you'll hear them in the audio. I left them in when they seemed to be especially emphasized in the audio, like when there were longer-than-usual pauses before or after them, or when they helped portray the meaning of the sentence. For example, at one point the transcript reads, "I wrote like a pretty detailed—maybe too detailed—list," which retains a like that helps emphasize my spoken meaning, how I was laughing at my habit of being too detail oriented. In another place, while summarizing the content of an email I wrote, the transcript reads, "Hey! Uh, what do you think about me. . . ." Losing that "uh" would lose some of the uncertainty expressed in my tone of voice there.

Yet in the majority of cases, I think reading those filler words in the transcript would have the opposite effect: They slow readers down, drawing attention to them in ways that doesn't mirror the effect of hearing them in speech, where listeners' brains automatically tune many of them out. (If you've ever transcribed something you spoke without a script, perhaps you too know the feeling of being shocked at how many filler words you spoke, even in recordings you felt really good about.) Too many filler words in writing can make a speaker seem more uncertain and uneducated than they sounded out loud, tying in to culturally learned stereotypes about what kind of certainty and force accompanies the voices of the most powerful and privileged people in society. By selectively deleting a lot of filler words, I'm paradoxically trying to find that middle ground, where readers will imagine my voice with qualities close to those who hear it. Even though I believe my voice strikes most listeners as coming from a white man's body, I'm influenced here by Katherine Kelleher Sohn's (2006) thoughtful methodology of transcribing the voices of the Appalachian women she interviewed for Whistlin' and Crowin' Women of Appalachia: Literacy Practices Since College, where she made choices that helped readers "hear" her research subjects with respect and clarity.

Experiencing This Webtext

Of course, you might not ever choose to read the transcript at all. Just below, you can hit play to stream the audio right now or download it to listen to later. One way of engaging isn't better than any other.

Again, my Kairos reviewers helped me understand those varieties of engagement: The audience can read without listening, listen without reading, read along with the transcript as the audio plays and click the footnotes later, read the footnotes out of context in one big gulp at the end, start and stop a lot, and so forth. Do whatever works for your preference, and your body's needs. I know that (in intriguing ways) the interface of the page to some extent affects what choices you make—for instance, I doubt you'll listen while reading along and also pause regularly to read my footnotes, since the pause button will get further and further away as you scroll down to read. Sorry.

Yet even with all that choice, I do hope you'll think about what kind of content best matches the podcast format in general, and which hybrid formats strike you as better or worse for you (and your own audiences, and your students). Maybe that kind of reflection on multimodal delivery will help lead to more creative uses of scholarly audio in the future.

The pop-up footnotes should be self-explanatory: Click a linked number to open one, X it out when you're done. If you don't close a footnote, it'll be replaced the next time you click another one; your last clicked footnote won't be waiting under the new one.


Thanks to Kairos reviewers Stephanie Kerschbaum, Jack Wolfram, Megan McIntyre, and Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq for helping me understand this piece in new ways. Thanks to Rich Shivener and Michael Faris for tech help (as always). And thanks to for generating awesome random albums to listen to while working on it (and to Steven Hopkins for telling me about it).

The Final Reflective Episode

Download the audio (MP3, 70.1MB, 30:39)


Warming Up (0:00)

Hey, everyone, it's me, Kyle Stedman, the host of the Bad Ideas About Writing podcast, and I'm here, in this very final episode, to do a little bit of off-the-cuff reflection. Yes, this is actually the first time I've recorded an episode of this podcast without a script in front of me. Now, I do have an outline, but honestly, it's the next-to-last-week of my semester, but I wanted to get this out. I wanted to get it done—and I didn't feel like I had time to write a script, so you're just gonna get a little bit more raw, messy version of me.

Obviously, this content isn't really from the book, so there's no real reason to listen to this, of course—unless you want to get to know a little bit more about what led to this podcast, about how I actually recorded it—that sort of behind-the-scenes-type documentary stuff. If you're the kind of person who watches the DVD extras [laughter], like I am, maybe this is for you. If not, no big deal, no hard feelings. Hey, it's, like, 8 p.m. on a Tuesday; I'm just talking into a microphone.

How It Started (00:51)

So I want to start by talking about how this podcast started. Honestly, it started because of COVID! I went back and I found a tweet I sent on July 15th, 2020 (Stedman, 2020).1 And it's one of those dialogue tweets, right? So the first dialogue is [spoken in exaggerated "acting" voice]:

ME: I'm swamped! How will I ever get my classes planned before the semester starts??

Right, remember this is July, 2020; we had just had that half-semester of hell, and we were going into our first full semester of hell. And then the tweet continues:

ALSO ME: Maybe I should start a podcast that is literally just me reading @s2ceball & @drewloewe's Bad Ideas about Writing aloud, taking advantage of their CC-BY license....

(You know, CC BY? CC Attribution license? I'll say more about that in a second.) So I randomly tweet this, and Cheryl unhelpfully tweets back, "I am DEFINITELY not talking you out of this!!! DO ITTTT!!!!" Another friend, Kristin Ravel, said, "Okay, honestly I just want to talk you into this 😈," with like that devil-face, smiley emoji thing.

And it got me thinking, "Do I actually really want to do this?" And again, remember that time, if you can, if you want to [laughing], a couple years back, when we were baking a lot of bread, we were inside all the time, so there was that part of my mind that even though I was stressed about work was like, "How can I creatively do something?"

So later that same day I actually sent an email to Cheryl and Drew, with kind of like a, "Is this crazy? Should I do this?" And apparently by then [laughing] I had already made the album art, the podcast art2 —I had already gone into Photoshop and played with that, so I must have been feeling pretty serious about that, even though everything in my email is like [with exaggerated, high-toned uncertainty], "Well I don't know, maybe, I might do this, I might do this." And then by July 18, three days later, I emailed all the authors—I had gotten a list of them from Cheryl—and said, "Hey, I'm still considering this," but I said, "I think I probably am, so send me how to pronounce your name, send me updated bio" ('cause this book was from 2017; at that point it was three years earlier). I offered to let them read if they wanted to, and I also offered to let them back out if they really wanted to. No one did, thankfully; I'm glad we have a complete book here.

Let me say that I'm really glad that I sent that early email. In a lot of ways, that helped me feel a little bit more connected to these authors. In some ways, that's one of the almost unintended side effects: All of a sudden, you know, I've read 63 chapters by, let me see, by 69 different authors.3 So there's a lot of individuals in the field who I've never emailed with before, some of whom I was [laughs] intimidated to email with, right? A lot of names I didn't know that now I . . . not just kind of like "read their work," not just kind of "sent an email," but like, "read their work, emailed them, and kind of embodied them," in a way. And there's something weird and special and interesting about that. So I think for the rest of my life, really, I'll see these names and have a little bit of a ting of, "Ooh! I know something about that person!"

Then, for those who said they were interested in reading,4 I wrote like a pretty detailed—maybe too detailed—list of the picky rules I wanted to ask them to follow. Because what I had done was, by that point recorded one or two kind of test episodes, with some of those questions that honestly I wasn't sure how I was gonna answer them. So, for instance, in this book there's always a Keywords, and there's always a Further Reading; I was like, "Do we say that?" So I decided to just kind of treat this like an audiobook—to say, yeah, if it says "Keywords," say "Keywords." If it says, "Further Reading," let's say "Further Reading." And you know, a few other picky things like that.

And I have to say that that part of my mind that likes organizing, that likes doing things well, that likes being someone who, yeah, just keeps things in order was enjoying that. Again, this was a time of all of our lives where a lot of things felt out of order, and here I was able to put a little bit of order into chaos. It was good for me, personally.

An Aside About Creative Commons (04:33)

Really quick, back to that tweet: You remember I mentioned that I was going to take advantage of the "CC BY," I was going to take advantage of that Creative Commons license. And, honestly, that was really important here, too. That's actually what pushed me over the edge. I don't remember what I was in Bad Ideas About Writing for, but there was some reason I was flipping through it looking for something—of course like everyone else I had read some chapters, I kind of knew it existed, but I hadn't read the whole thing. And I noticed that it was this super-open license.

Way back in the day, I used to have another podcast, and I remember having an episode once where I was thinking about how hard it was sometimes to find music for podcasts and for other audio productions that let me use it the way I wanted to (Stedman, 2014).5 So, for instance, if you have a Creative Commons license you can say what you want to happen with it: You can say, "Well as long as people attribute me, that's fine, they can do whatever they want."6 That's what Bad Ideas About Writing is. But you can also say, "Well, as long as you attribute me and you don't make any money off of it—if it's non-commercial—okay, that's fine." Some other people will say, "Well, you can do whatever you want with it, but you actually can't remix it at all—it has to be non-derivative. You have to release it in the exact same way as it originally was." And in that case, that would be bad for an audiobook; if something had the license Creative Commons ND, non-derivative, then I would have to ask permission or maybe even pay a licensing fee to be able to make a podcast because I'm making something derivative. Same for music: If I find the perfect musical track—I'm like, "Ooh, I want this for my background music on whatever audio project I'm doing!" and it has ND on it, then I can't use it because I'm, by its very nature, deriving something from it. I'm taking a clip of the music and integrating it into my own project, so that would not be allowed—again, without permission, without potentially paying a licensing fee.7 So when I saw this very open Creative Commons license, I was like [in excitedly slow, salivating voice], "Oh, that pushes me over the edge."

Not to get too into this, but I have in the back of my mind wondered [in high-toned questioning voice], "Hey, I wonder if one day—not right now—but I wonder if one day I want to do this again? Are there other books that are written for a scholarly audience but also for a popular audience, without a ton of legalese, without a ton of footnotes, something I could dig into—but it's also open access?" And in my informal, quick skimming of a lot of open access books in our field, I've been surprised at how many use . . . they tag on a whole lot of those extra things as part of the Creative Commons license. Now, I know in a lot of contexts that might not matter; a lot of these people would give me permission if I wanted to; a lot of them might even want to read their own book—we'll talk more about that a little bit later. But it certainly wouldn't be as streamlined and easy as this was.8

How Episodes Get Made (07:12)

Okay, that's enough of the opening stuff. Let me get into a little bit of how this actually happens, how an episode would happen. [laughing] This is going long; I knew it would, but I can't believe this. Geez. I don't know—are you interested in this? Do you record your audio, are you thinking about audio, are you thinking about a podcast, an audiobook, that sort of thing? I'm not an expert, but I've done it a few times as an amateur.9 I could always use more advice, but a few things.

One, I always record at home—or I should say I almost always record at home, and that's because at home I've got, I'm actually in my walk-in closet right now. It's actually a room in my house that we turned into a walk-in closet—so it's carpeted, it's got a whole lot of clothes hanging, it's soft, so it's the least echoey room in my house. [in slower, serious voice] Y'all, I have tried to find that room on my campus, and I cannot find it. My office has an itty-bitty little closet where I keep my graduation robes, you know? And I was like, "Ooh, I'll get in there and get all ensconced, and it'll be all nice. . . ." But I have this super-loud fan in my office that does not turn off, and I couldn't find a way around it. There was one time where I took a cheap mic into the quietest classroom in my building, recorded it thinking it would be fine, and honestly, it did not sound that good—sorry, person whose that was; I hope you didn't listen to it and notice how bad it sounded. Another time I got a second Blue Yeti mic—that's what I usually use at home—and I got a second one for the office, and I was like, "Oh, that'll sound better." And I literally sat in another quietest classroom in my building I could find, with a coat over my head, hoping to make a little bit of like a cheap, instant, free little sound booth, and it also did not work well.10

It's interesting how much infrastructure affects the quality of this sort of thing. My campus is really small—we used to have a sound booth, we used to have a radio station, and it was there when I got there 10 years ago, so I emailed around, trying to figure out if it was still there. It's not! The athletics department [laughs] took it over, and transformed it into something else. . . . Maybe it was Campus Safety.11 Someone took it over. I could go to the library, but you know, as far as I could tell just from walking around, it sounded like there were a lot of fans, and there weren't a lot of places where it was expected and okay for me to [with voice demonstrating enthusiastic talking] talk enthusiastically like I like to in here. So in other words, occasionally I had slots of time where I could record at work, and I just couldn't find a way to make it work. So I always did it at home, in the evening, on the weekend, sometimes laying down a couple raw episodes at once so that through the week when I found time I could do a little bit of editing. But I wonder how that affects the ability of these kind of things to get done, at least in a way that sounds somewhat good, right? [laughs] Doesn't just sound like someone just talking right into the built-in mic on their laptop in a noisy office. I don't have a perfect solution, but it was definitely on my mind a lot.

And then what I would do was I would open up one Google Doc that has my basic script. I kind of changed the intro about halfway through 'cause I realized I didn't really like it any more.12 And you know, if you've heard the show, you've heard that I say basically the same thing every time in the intro and the conclusion but with sometimes little changes; mostly those are just made up on the spot. I would also always check my spreadsheet of every author, which had . . . I was really, really careful that any time anyone sent me an updated bio or an updated pronunciation or any notes about their piece, I would write it in there. So I'd always of course check the spreadsheet: "What do I know about this author? What should I keep in mind?"

I also had a column in that spreadsheet of hard words that I need to look up. 13 There were quite a few names—not just of the authors, but names that got cited and mentioned that I was like [in serious tone], "I had better say this correctly." Sometimes I found myself cold-emailing people or cold-Twitter-messaging people and sneaking into their DMs and being like [in exaggerated "smarmy salesman" voice], "Hey! I saw you got cited in this piece; hey, kinda cool, right? Hey, by the way, is this how you say your name?"14 And if you've never asked people how to say their names in writing before, maybe you have not quite thought about how tricky that is, you know? How do you emphasize the stressed syllable?15 I would do that with all caps, but then other people wouldn't, so I'd have to write back and say, "Is it this? Is it this? Is it this?"—sometimes not even being sure if I got it right. At least one author I had a phone call with; multiple authors sent me brief recordings of themselves saying their voice, which was always—sorry, saying their names, which was always excellent and very worthwhile to me. I spent a lot of time on YouTube, just looking up, "How does . . . can I find this specific person saying their name?" I remember looking and looking and looking for Kara Taczak, for instance, and finally found a conference presentation (CELatElon, 2013) where someone introduced her and said, "Welcome to Kara Taczak!" and I was like, "Yesssss!"16 But if you can't find those, what do you do? Maybe it doesn't matter and you just don't worry about it; I admit that towards the end of this project, I got a little bit more ready to be done&mdsah;I did a little bit more "I'm pretty sure I can do this." At the beginning I did a lot more [with intense, body-builder voice] "I really want to get it right!" you know? "I want this to be an official audiobook."

And then I would just open up the PDF of the chapter; I would read it; and the way I record is I don't start and stop. If I mess up a sentence, I just like pause for a second . . . and then I say it again. And then later on I know I'm going to go back through and re-listen to the whole thing and edit out the problems. If you haven't done audio editing, maybe you have no idea how many edits [laughs] get made, how often I burp or laugh, or my cat walks in or, you know, a car drives by, or I just mangle an awkward sentence!

By the way, it's very noticeable when you're reading sentences that weren't written to be read aloud, how some sentences and honestly some authors are writing a little bit more clearly for the voice. A lot of sentences I would just have to say over and over and over until I could find the rhythm, until I could get it right. That's not to make it sound like this is the hardest thing in the world; it's not that hard, and often I would go quite a few sentences without pausing. And yet—the finished product is not like [laughs] the original product, right?17

I always thought that I would make an outtakes reel, like, you know, get all those times where I was like annoyed at myself or said something funny or something funny got on tape—I never got around to it. Sorry. I also thought that I would video the process sometime, like do a screencast! Showing the whole thing start to finish! 'Cause sometimes with a short chapter I could try to pull the whole thing off in like an hour or just over an hour&mdsah;if it's like a 15-minute final episode, I might be able to read that whole thing in 30 minutes, and that means that editing is just another 30 minutes, and then another 10 minutes to get it online, right? So I was like, "Ooh! I'll do that sometime!" Well my computer was crashing, I was having some memory card issues, bleah bleah bleah, didn't happen. Sorry.

I had to decide pretty early on what I was going to do when people quoted. I decided to not do anything fancy. You could imagine that an audio quote: You could have someone else read it, you could put music underneath it, you could say "quote unquote." And all of those kind of seemed like more trouble; I wanted this to be a simple, easy audiobook version of the book. So I just kinda tried to do it with my voice. Sometimes that was easier, sometimes more successful than other times. A little part of me wonders if that was bordering on the inaccessible—in other words, part of me would say, "Well, you know, they can go to the script—they can go to the actual printed version of the book if they're really curious if that was a quote or not, or where exactly did the quote really end?" But I know that that's not possible for everyone, so . . . I don't know. Maybe another option would have been better.18 If you have better ideas, let me know.

There were three times where I had to put the explicit lyrics tag on the episode—three episodes that say, I think, shit, shitty, or bullshit19 —I guess this one has that now too. And you know, that's built in to podcast systems. I used Anchor, which is owned by Spotify, found it pretty easy; I'll say a little bit more about that in a minute.20

Then, really, after I edited the main narration, it was pretty simple to edit in a little bit of music at the beginning, a little bit at the end, and of course to do just a little bit of EQ. I've been fiddling more and more lately, and I'm continually unhappy with my bass/treble settings; for a while I was using a de-esser, 21 but then I got a new computer and I couldn't use the one I was using before cause it was 64-bit and 32-bit, blah blah blah; I tried multiple compressor plug-ins for Audacity and I played with a lot of different settings there22 —I'm more or less happy but still never 100% happy. I would love—man, if any of you are like, "Oh yeah! I know how to sit down in Audacity and make spoken audio sound really good!" I would love to talk to you. 'Cause I have a lot of ideas and I've read a lot of articles about this, and yet, and yet, [wistfully, slowly spoken] I still feel like I'm always a step away, maybe half a step away, from the excellence that I'm looking for.

Miscellaneous Notes (15:44)

Okay, I know I'm rambling a lot, but I have kind of two more sections in my outline. One, I just have a few miscellaneous notes to think out loud about, and then I want to end with a little bit of a "what's next." Not so much what's next for me, but what's next for audiobooks in rhet/comp.

So in my random miscellaneous section, one thing that I've realized about myself here is that I have this temptation to go big? This started as a "Hey, let's do something simple and really well." That's it: simple and really well—I'm not gonna have merchandise, I'm not gonna have t-shirts, I'm not gonna blah blah blah. And there's always this sense of [in exaggerated "wondering" voice], "Well, what if I like, what if I then interviewed the authors later? What if I like find out people who have used this in their classrooms?" And I'm like, "NO! STOP!" Because I know that the bigger it gets, the more it's gonna be a stress and less of a joy—at least for me. So, yes, it was occasionally stressed, but it was mostly a joy to make this, I think because I held down that impulse in me. I know that impulse is often good—it's what makes me a good scholar and researcher, even a teacher—but it was good to clamp it down.

Second miscellaneous thing is that this show started with ads for quite a while—remember, it was July 2020, so I really wanted to support Black Lives Matter in some way, so I said, "Okay, I'm gonna turn on ads for this podcast and I'm going to use all of that ad revenue for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund." And then I was like, "Oh, I also really want to support Computers and Writing graduate students." So I said, "I'll give the rest to the GRN [Graduate Research Network]." And it started cool. I'd never made or played around with ads in a podcast before, and that was actually part of what this was about: I wanted to see how that works, so I knew how to teach my students about it. And Anchor always says [exaggeratedly excited], "Hey, just make a podcast, and we'll like match you with advertisers!" So at first they just matched me with themselves, you know, so I had an Anchor ad for a while that would pop in at the end of the actual chapter and before the end matter stuff at the end. Worked pretty well: I have a balance of [with "I'm proud of something that isn't actually impressive" voice] $52.48 that this podcast ever made.23 As of today, as of April 26, it's had 14,000 total plays.24 So out of those 14,000 plays, I've got 52 bucks [laughs]. Not a lot. I will split it up exactly as I said, donations to those two places.

But, you know, it didn't take very long, it was just a few weeks in when that Anchor ad expired—in other words, they stopped allowing me to make money off of that. And I kept kind of waiting for them to match me with someone else . . . and they never did. And I even wrote a couple times and said, "Hey, I want to specifically request to be matched with someone." But they didn't. So I haven't looked too much into this; I don't know if that's because I just don't have enough listeners right now. For instance, they estimate that I have an audience of 67 people, and here's what Anchor says: It says, "That's the average number of plays each of your episodes gets within 30 days after publishing. So it's a stand-in for your current audience size." So they're guessing there's about 67 actual people who regularly listen. So maybe that number is too small to actually make this matter, I'm not sure. But then today, actually literally today [laughs], Anchor emailed me and said, "Hey! We want you to record an ad for us again!" I'm like, "Oh, okay."25 So the way that works is, if I have an ad live, that ad will just automatically get plugged into the ad spot on every episode, and if I don't have one live and you download it then, then you'll download it and it just won't have the ad in it. So that's something new to me that I'm interested in; I'm curious about ways that that can be used for good. I'm curious about what are the ways to use it for good that get out of this kind of, you know, somewhat creepy Anchor/Spotify economy, right?26 I haven't looked too much into that at all. Anchor is really easy, and that's really why I went with it.

My third miscellaneous thing is I'm thinking in this project about how interesting and weird and special it is [laughs] that rhet/comp people—or at least me—jump into fields that they don't really have any experience in. Like, I'm not really a voice actor [laughs] or a radio journalist! You know, though even, honestly, I find myself wanting to take lessons, wanting to read for Librivox—you know, the free public domain audiobook site—a little bit more; I've only done that once,27 [in exaggerated, excited, childlike voice] and I want to do it some more! So it's got me thinking about those deeper questions. Is there something scholarly just about the act of performing, about embodying something? I don't, I don't quite think so, but it's got me wondering. Audio production—to what extent is that a scholarly activity? To what extent isn't it?28

And I guess my fourth miscellaneous thing is it's interesting how I'm trying to figure out what I think about collaboration. And I say that because when I had my first podcast, Plugs, Play, Pedagogy, way back in the day, I often kind of lamented that it was just me alone.29 You know, I would listen to some radio show, and they'd like have, like talk about the 15 staff members who helped them on that episode, and I'd be like [annoyed, slow voice], "I've been fighting over this one episode for like a month and a half." Yeah I also wasn't asking anyone for help [laughs], so this is on me! And then, you know, after that—or I guess around then—I started a lot of collaborative work. I've coedited collaboratively; I've cowritten collaboratively30; I've done very little actual scholarly activity by myself. And I always talk big about how awesome that is—I love that collaboration. So part of me is like, would this have been easier or more fun or more satisfying or even better if I was working with someone else? And in some ways, the answer is obviously yes. But on the other hand, like I said at the beginning, in some ways this was for me? This was about me? It was a way to not just sit on the couch and watch another episode of Stranger Things; it was a way to do something fun and easy using a skill set that I like to practice with, that I teach, that I write about—audio editing—and kind of grow in my own way through that. I'm also an introvert, so the idea of 100% just handling it without having to talk to other people is a positive thing too. So I don't know; it's got me thinking more about where do I land on what kind of projects can and should be done alone or together, for others and for me.

Looking to the Future (21:37)

So two final notes. One: If you want, of course, you can always listen to this on the podcast, you can download it there; I do have every file uploaded into a Google Drive folder, so if you or your students or for some context if it's useful to you to avoid the podcast mechanisms, whatever, just let me know. I'm happy to give you that link. I'm not planning to take that down right now or not ever probably, unless I start to run out of space or something.

And, finally, though, I'm also thinking about, like I kind of hinted at earlier, what is the future for this kind of thing? I mean honestly, if there were more open access books published with Creative Commons BY licenses, this would not be hard to do. And I know—"hard," right? I started nearly two years ago [laughing]; I took an entire semester off when I was freaking out about classes—that was fall 2021—so I'm not saying it was easy. And yet it was as easy as podcasts get! Other people are like, "Well, I have a podcast, but Kyle does too!" and I'm like, "Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. I open up a text that someone else has already written and proofread and everything, I read my own script at the beginning and the end, I read their bio, and I like read the chapter. [with slow emphasis] It is not a big deal." I don't even have to make a transcript, because the transcript is already there—it exists, in the book.31 (Of course, for episodes like this, I'll make a transcript. Yes. Cool.)

So part of me wants to go, you know, to the WAC Clearinghouse,32 to ask those authors, to ask those editors [tentatively], "Hey! What do you think about me or someone else reading these books out loud?" Part of me thinks that a lot of these books would work even less well out loud than some of the harder chapters [laughs] in Bad Ideas About Writing; after all, there are not citations in Bad Ideas chapters, right? There aren't any! There are no traditional citations! There's a chapter that mentions authors out loud as part of the body text, and then there's a Further Reading in paragraph form, but whew! How would I handle all that?33 So that would be tricky. The language itself would be tricky, right?34 It's harder to handle big arguments. So I'd have to pick really well. I'd have to figure out what to do with footnotes, things like that—maybe I could go to what Librivox says—I've skimmed some of their discussion board, forums about how different people decide to handle footnotes in things like Marx.35

(By the way, that's my scholarly audiobook fail story. I used to commute for 75 minutes between my home and my PhD program, so I would try to listen to a lot of audiobooks. And once I was supposed to read Marx, and I was like, "Oh! Here's this free public domain version! I'll listen to Marx on the way to school!" Ooh! That did not, that did not go well. I could not, I could not follow it.)

So, then, the next question of course is: What if open access publishers published with audiobooks in mind? Maybe with a plan, maybe even with seeking out people who want to do that sort of thing and building it into the contract, making it something that is not something that someone has to do outside of the license they choose but as a built-in part of it, a built-in part of the contract? Maybe even training, helping the author themselves produce it. Interesting idea, right?

I am happy to say that this book, I believe in some ways inspired Chris Friend, who is doing great work over at Hybrid Teaching: Pedagogy, People, Politics36—you know, reading that book out loud and helping those authors read their work out loud—really cool stuff. We've had some emails and conversations; Chris is a good friend and an awesome audio producer—better than I am, I think, in most ways.37

And I also noticed on Twitter Shane Wood, who hosts the awesome Pedagogue podcast38—of course you know Shane, right?—I've seen him mention a project of his once before. So I actually asked him, I was like, "What are you planning to do?" And he is a hundred steps ahead of my kind of random musings here. Here's what he told me is that [in slightly more formal, "reading a quote" voice] "Rhet/Comp Audio is a forthcoming digital collection curated by Shane Wood. Rhet/Comp Audio will make written texts available through audio and will be a resource for teachers, scholars, and students to listen to authors read their work. The goal of Rhet/Comp Audio is to offer another way to access knowledge." So that is exactly the kind of thing that I want this book to do, so how exciting that sort of thing is continuing to happen and looks like it's starting to move forward in really exciting ways. So keep your eye on Shane and his work and we'll see where that goes pretty soon.

Final Thanks (26:03)

And with that, I guess I'm ready to end! I didn't write out my thanks and acknowledgements, so I'm a little worried I'm gonna mess this up.

But in every episode, I mention Nctrnm,39 the music artist that I used for the theme music—Nctrnm, there's no vowels in it, n-c-t-r-n-m. I found him randomly just by browsing the Free Music Archive, which is one of my favorite sites to find Creative Commons-licensed music. He has some music that is really openly licensed like the song "Parade" that I used;40 he has other songs that he's encouraging you to buy, and to listen to in other ways. Nctrnmn is the stage name of Matthew McGilvery; he's on Twitter @nctrnm. And I just have really appreciated tweeting here and there with him, using his music in future projects, just turning on his Free Music Archive channel or Soundcloud channel, having it in the background as I work. I don't really know him, but you know, in that kind of weird, Kyle way I like to feel like I start to get to know someone when I spend a lot of time with their sounds. s"Parade" was literally the perfect song in so many ways, right? It had that comforting feeling but also the glitchy, something-that's-not-quite-right feeling41 that to me perfectly expresses the idea of Bad Ideas About Writing. So this show would be very different without him.

Obviously, I need to thank Cheryl and Drew. They have been super encouraging all along the way; they've answered all my emails, they have supported me in so many ways and cheered me on. Maybe it's cheesy to talk about The Four Love Languages42 [laughs], but when I read that book, one of the highest ones for me is "words of affirmation." So when I hear Drew and Cheryl cheering me on, telling me how great online and in my emails this project is, that really motivates me a lot. And they've done a lot for me but also, of course, a lot to make this book happen. Cheryl has said casually to me that one of the reasons they chose this Creative Commons license is so that stuff like this would happen. I love that forward-thinking futuristic awesomeness that they both embody. So thanks to Cheryl and Drew.

It's probably appropriate for me too to read the one page of acknowledgments in the book that I never actually got to. On the final page, on 381 [laughs] out of 382, there's a listing of the Digital Publishing Institute Editorial Staff, for Bad Ideas—and Digital Publishing Institute is of course the publisher of the entire book. And it mentions that the Publisher of the Digital Publishing Institute is . . . Cheryl E. Ball, with Associate Editors Matt Jarrett, Kaitlin Licause, and Lydia Welker. And then a bunch of Assistant Editors, and those people are Emma DiPasquale, Demi Fuentes Ramirez, Natalie Homer, Ryan Kalis, Marjorie McAtee, Lauren Milici, Brionna Minney, Heather Myers, Abigail Palbus, Nitya Pandey, Kat Saunders, and Taylor Staffileno. Of course those are names that most of us listening don't know, but they are important, right? They helped make this book happen.

I also in every episode thank all the authors in this awesome collection—one of those phrases that I'm going to say throughout my life and get a little chill, cause I've said it so many times—but you know these authors are a big deal. They are all scholars in their field, they're all experts, and they've all so graciously shared their work in this format. And even allowed me [laughs] to go ahead with this wild project. So I can't, I'm not going to name all 69 of them, but thank you, thank you, thank you.

[voice in this final paragraph gets increasingly slow, sentimental] So I think with that, I'll close it out! Bad Ideas About Writing the podcast is produced and narrated by me. I'm Kyle Stedman, I'm on Twitter @kstedman, and I live in Rockford, Illinois, in a big, over-large historic home built in 1914.43 It has a lot of history here, a lot of things that have happened in these rooms. And now this has happened in a lot of its rooms! Most of these chapters have been recorded here in what actually used to be one of the children's bedrooms, I've discovered. So I don't know if it was Sarah Wilson or her sister Frances Wilson who stayed here, but I know over the years their daughters would stay here too after they grew up, and the grandkids came to visit their grandparents. After the Wilsons left, there were a lot of other families that lived here, a lot of children, a lot of adults, that slept right here, played right here, worked right here. And you know what, now Bad Ideas About Writing is part of that! It's part of that legacy; [especially thoughtful voice] it's part of that kind of memory that floats in the air that you can almost look around and taste, you can almost hear it if you listen really carefully. That's what it's part of, that's what I'm part of, and that's what all of you are part of for listening in and being so great with me.

Thanks for listening.


  1. You can read that tweet in context . [return]
  2. Instead of just asking Cheryl and Drew for guidance (why do the easy thing?), I reverse image-searched to find the image they used for the book cover (not noticing it was cited on the copyright page), and I may have even used Identifont to help me replicate the font they used. I clearly was enjoying this more than I let on in my first emails. [return]
  3. About those counts: counting 63 chapters includes Cheryl and Drew's introduction as one of them. Then you've got eight coauthored chapters if you include that introduction, plus two authors who wrote two each (Muriel Harris and Ellen C. Carillo). I think that adds up to 69 (63 + 8 - 2). [return]
  4. Authors read nine chapters out of the 63. The initial email I sent them is available as a PDF. [return]
  5. Aptly titled "Using Creative Commons to Make Stuff". By the way, this was the third episode of that podcast but the first I recorded off the cuff instead of reading a script the entire time—and I still remember how much worse I found its quality to be because of that choice. It's that lingering sense of "This probably isn't going to go well for me" that led me to apologize so much here, at the beginning of this final reflective episode, about not reading from a script. [return]
  6. It's actually really, really easy. Refer to for guidance. [return]
  7. Frustrated at this difficulty in finding music with the perfect license, a few years back I even made a playlist of tracks on Soundcloud licensed with CC BY. I'm glad I did, because a ton of those tracks made their way into the Introduction I cocreated with Courtney S. Danforth for the collection Soundwriting Pedagogies we coedited with Michael J. Faris (Danforth & Stedman, 2018). [return]
  8. I wish I had mentioned here that there can, of course, be really good reasons for holding onto more or all rights reserved. For instance, when Courtney S. Danforth, Michael J. Faris, and I were editing Soundwriting Pedagogies (Danforth et al., 2018), we chose the fairly open CC BY-ND license for most of the book, but Bump Halbritter and Julie Lindquist (2018) chose to retain full copyright over their chapter. They explained that this was an ethical imperative to them, especially since they wanted to give as much protection as possible to the human subject data incorporated in the project. [return]
  9. I've had productive conversations with other scholars of soundwriting about the connotations of calling ourselves "amateurs" or not. Personally, it's a title I own happily—but deep down, I'm sure part of that is because it gives me an excuse to sound less than professional: "Hey, don't look at me, I'm only an amateur!!" #impostersyndrome [return]
  10. I can't decide exactly where this coy refusal to name these less-than-stellar-sounding episodes is coming from. Partly I'm embarrassed that I didn't just go home and rerecord them, but partly I guess I'm hoping someone will email me and say, "It's this one, right?" and I'll say, "NOPE TRY AGAIN." [return]
  11. Yeah, it was our Public Safety department. Sorry, Athletics, for throwing you under the bus. [return]
  12. It wasn't that bad. But I realized after a few weeks that 1) I was calling Bad Ideas About Writing a "textbook," which isn't quite right, and 2) I wasn't really saying anything about the TOPIC of the book in those opening sentences. [return]
  13. I definitely looked up how to pronounce edenic and CERN, along with lots of others. My spreadsheet also has notes I made for myself about how to pronounce quite a few names: Sean Zwagerman is "ZWAG-er-min," rhyming with "wag"; Marc Bousquet uses a French pronunciation, boos-KAY; in an email, Anne Beaufort told me that the T at the end is pronounced. There were lots more. I tried to be careful; I don't want to fall into the fallacy that any name I didn't grow up hearing is "weird" or "hard," so if I was at all unsure, I looked it up or asked around. [return]
  14. Here's an actual quote from a DM I sent to someone I don't know: "Good afternoon! This is a weird question, but are able to confirm exactly how to pronounce your name? I'm recording a podcast/audiobook (called Bad Ideas About Writing), and in an upcoming episode I'll be reading a chapter where an author cited your work. But I'd hate to make a mistake. If you're willing to help, I'd appreciate it; please forgive my rudeness in reaching out!" [return]
  15. Many authors gave me exceptionally clear help, for which I'm grateful, like Michael Theune ("pronounced TOO-nee [as in, I have two knee(s)...]") and Elizabeth Lowry ("The 'LOW' part of my last name LOWRY, rhymes with 'COW'") and many, many others. I also wrote this to Drew early on: "And Drew, your last name is pronounced the same as 'low,' right? No 'low-ee' or anything?" I'm glad I asked; he responded that it is indeed "LOW-eee." And by the way, Drew is one of the few authors in the collection whose name is in Kairos's list of ScholarNames, where you can hear how scholars pronounce their names, often in their own voice; I should have found his pronunciation there without even needing to ask. I forgot about this resource far too often while recording—but honestly, more of our names should be there, too, to make it even more useful. Submit yours, if you haven't yet. [return]
  16. It's 15 seconds into CELatElon's (2013) video. Thanks Liane Robertson, for saving the day by saying her name in that video! Actually, though, I even found myself questioning the video when a second and then a third chapter cited Taczak's work, eventually leading me to email her anyway to be 100% sure I was right to trust the video. She was very nice and confirmed the video was right. [return]
  17. At the risk of hitting this point home too hard, I want to emphasize it again: What you hear is not a first draft, even though it pretends to be. (That goes for the "main episodes" as well as this final episode, which had plenty of cuts and adjustments done to it.) Just as it's important to attend to the many messy drafts preceding just about ANY published work, we should remember that audio production similarly hides process from the audience. [return]
  18. Dev Bose et al. (2021) pointed out this kind of problem when they wrote, "Put simply, scholars who write about sound tend to assume that everyone can hear and speak well (or well enough to participate in the standard podcast assignment)." I haven't always been as good about breaking this assumption in myself as I wish I had. [return]
  19. If you're excited to hear them, they're episodes 4, 19, and 50. [return]
  20. In the time since I recorded this episode, Anchor has fully rebranded as Spotify for Podcasters. The experience is still similar, and it's the same owner, but every time you hear me say "Anchor" here, you should mentally replace it with "Spotify for Podcasters." [return]
  21. This is an effect that reduces very high frequency sounds, like the extra "S" sound that can sometimes haunt your voice recordings to make them sound a little tinny or essy, like tiny, evil snakes hovering over your head. [return]
  22. Compressors are effects that even out spikes in your volume, so you don't sound quieter in one spot and louder in another. But used poorly on vocal audio like this podcast can result in my quietest syllables getting cut off or with noticeable volume jumps between words. I played quite a bit with the settings in Audacity's built-in Compressor effect (read about it at the Audacity manual) as well as external plugins Blockfish and Chris's Dynamic Compressor. [return]
  23. Fourteen months later, I'm up to $109.74. If you're wondering. [return]
  24. Fourteen months later, it's at about 23,500 plays. (Is that good? I have no idea.) There's always a bit of a spike when semesters start and teachers are assigning it, I think. [return]
  25. Shortly after recording this final episode, I did indeed record a new ad for Anchor and set it up to go live, which is why my revenue jumped a bit after I finished the podcast: For a while, no money was coming in, and then there was a new trickle. Eventually, it expired too. And honestly, I'm not 100% sure I understand how ads are placed; I've gone back to re-listen to old episodes expecting the newer ad to be added in, and it wasn't there. Oh well. [return]
  26. This cryptic comment had the then-recent Joe Rogan controversy in mind (refer to Biekert, 2022), but of course there are plenty of reasons to dislike Spotify. [return]
  27. And it was fun, so now I've recorded for seven different Librivox projects, and I plan to do more! You can listen on my author page. [return]
  28. I should admit that this wasn't just a random comment; it was inspired by an ongoing project I've been working on with Ben Lauren, Ames Hawkins, and more about creative–critical scholarship and audio production processes, forthcoming one of these days from Intermezzo/enculturation (Lauren & Stedman, in press). [return]
  29. You can still hear that show in any podcast app or at, but yikes that was a long time ago, so try not to listen too critically, hoo boy. [return]
  30. Courtney S. Danforth and I cowrote a brief chapter in dialogue form about the process of composing collaboratively, because of course we did (Stedman & Danforth, 2019). [return]
  31. As you may have noticed, I failed to transcribe my opening/closing matter for regular episodes. Honestly, this decision came from a place of "Oh, no one wants to see that stuff: It's just the introductory paragraph I say every time, and the silly little tag I add to the end of every chapter where I say something about what was currently going on in Rockford, Illinois, where I live." (The spoken credits were replicated in the show notes, so it's just my casual intro/outro stuff that went untranscribed.) Maybe that was the wrong choice? [return]
  32. I'm naming them specifically only because they're the the biggest archive of CC-licensed books in the field, at least as far as I know. Read them at [return]
  33. I THINK I'd do this: I simply wouldn't read citations out loud, but I'd start each chapter or section by announcing that decision. I think? [return]
  34. I'm tempted to find an example of a hard-to-read-aloud sentence from an open access scholarly book to give you an example of just how complicated this might get, but that would feel like calling out authors for their style or for their appropriate-in-writing use of many citations, which doesn't seem very nice. You go look for yourself, and I bet you'll find something that sounds nigh-well unreadable. [return]
  35. For example, this discussion on "Speaking footnotes." [return]
  36. Available on various podcast apps and also on Spotify for Podcasters. [return]
  37. On a relisten, this sounds like a subtle dig at Chris. Can I revise it here to say, "In ALL ways"? He's really good. [return]
  38. Available on various podcast apps and also at Pedagogue's website. [return]
  39. He's on Soundcloud and at the Free Music Archive. [return]
  40. Listen to "Parade" on Soundcloud. [return]
  41. Even more fun: try listening to it backwards. IT STILL WORKS. (It's playing backwards in the ad I recorded for Anchor.) [return]
  42. Yes, past Kyle rambling without a script, it's definitely cheesy. I can't believe I didn't delete this part. Also, minor correction: The book title is actually The 5 Love Languages (Chapman, 1992/2015). [return]
  43. Surprise/not a surprise: I made a podcast episode about that once, too (Stedman, 2015). [return]