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Meet the Team of Vignettes: Season 3 – Millie Baylis

Vignettes, the EWF podcast, returns shortly for its third season, Spring. From November, we’ll be sharing brand new audio stories from emerging writers across the continent.

With an all new team behind the scenes for Season 3, we wanted to introduce you to the people behind Vignettes for our spring edition! Today, we speak with a face we’re sure you’re familiar with – Millie Baylis!

Hello! Please introduce yourself – who are you, what do you do, what is your involvement with Vignettes?

Hello! I’m Millie, the Program Coordinator here at the Emerging Writers’ Festival. I’m also the producer and the new season 3 host of Vignettes.

How did you develop this season of Vignettes? Were there particular moods / stories / emotions that catapulted you in a certain direction for the Spring edition?

For this season, I wanted to do something a little different and steer towards slightly more tangible themes for the audio stories. I came up with about 15 potential episode themes and shared them with the rest of the EWF team to help choose the final 5, and then it was a process of commissioning writers who were already making interesting work around these subjects or who might be keen to try something new. 

I’m always inspired by reading new work by emerging writers and I wanted to make sure this season reflected what our writing community is most thinking about and wanting to hear more of. So for example, ‘Sovereign Food’ which will be our final episode for this season, was inspired by Lujayn and Jeanine Hourani’s piece in Overland on the politics and solidarity of food. We might see a lot of food writing but perhaps not a lot of food writing from First Nations and Palestinian points of view, so it felt important to help showcase those stories – and Lujayn will be reading a beautiful new piece about fennel for that episode. 

Similarly, there’s a lot of popular writing on motherhood and the body in contemporary literature, and I was interested in finding writers who might take a different approach to these themes than what we might be used to. So this season has a really beautiful story by Tabitha Lean where she remembers calling her daughter from prison, and a really funny story by Mia Nie reflecting on her boxing practice and ideas of successful womanhood as a trans woman (and in it, notably, quotes both Judith Butler and Radiohead in succession).

There’s always a balancing act between wanting to prioritise themes and stories that might feel the most urgent, with those that might be more likely to bring some comfort and joy – not that these things are mutually exclusive or that you can predict what an artist or subject will deliver! Some of the most enjoyable moments working on this podcast have been in the surprises; when an artist takes the brief in a new direction or wants to play with the form in a new way, it’s really exciting. 

How does audio storytelling differ from other forms of storytelling? What makes it special?

There is the obvious convenience and flexibility of being able to listen to an audio story anywhere at any time. I love being able to listen to a good short story while going for a walk through the gardens, or a personal essay while cooking dinner. But also, the nature of audio stories provides a different sort of intimacy. There’s something I find inexplicably moving about hearing the human voice behind a story, and it’s a privilege to hear a writer read their own words. Sometimes these audio stories can feel like being on the phone listening to a good story from a friend… a very talented storyteller friend. 

Can you give us a little tease for the season?

There are all sorts of stories in this Spring season like: a woman views the sunset from a plane window during the pandemic, a poet writes a letter to his Country, a couple gets a puppy, a son watches his father’s salt intake, a new mother keeps a placenta in her freezer and searches for somewhere to bury it. 

Although we commissioned a number of fiction writers, interestingly everyone ended up writing true stories or poems this season. They range from forthright to lyrical; funny to sad. They’re brilliant and prove the breadth of talent of emerging writers working across so-called Australia, and I’m really excited for everyone to get to listen to them. 

What are you listening to right now, podcast or otherwise?

I have approx 400 podcast episodes queued up to listen to at the moment and I really need to sort out a better system. I’m really excited for the new season of Heavyweight – I don’t think there’s been an episode yet that hasn’t squeezed my heart. I’m also always listening to lots of literary podcasts: The Garret, The Writer’s Voice, New Yorker Fiction and The Irish Women’s Podcast.

Music-wise, my high-rotations lately include: Gillian Welch, Lil Nas X, Deafheaven, Turnstile, Muna, Cassandra Jenkins and Alice Skye. And obviously, the emo/pop-punk bangers my brother and I have been blasting in our flat all lockdown. I’m also always listening to the drumming that our downstairs neighbour seems to start up again each time I try to record a voiceover for this podcast. 

What else are you working on at the moment?

At EWF, the team is already underway on plans for the 2022 festival as well as other special projects. On my days off I’m working on some of my own freelance writing and the beginnings of a manuscript, but really I’m mostly just trying to rest, get through this lockdown, going for long walks across the city, reading in the bath, trying to capture the moon on my iPhone, etc. 

Where can we find you online?

Twitter: @milliebaylis Instagram: @milliebaylisx 

The Season 3 Trailer for Vignettes will be released at the end of October, be sure to subscribe to be the first to listen.