How many of us would like to experience our favorite movie or book again for the very first time? That’s exactly what Alyssa Small is doing in the podcast, Wordstruck. Alyssa and her co-host, Clark Hodges, are reading the Harry Potter series together a few chapters at a time. The twist is that Clark has never read the books or seen any of the movies.
Harry Potter introduced a young Alyssa to the world of books, drawing her in so thoroughly she went on to a creative writing degree and a career in journalism. As a professional in the writing world she longed to take a closer look at the quality of writing in Harry Potter and to do it with someone brand new to Hogwarts and the wizarding world.
Cue Clark Hodges. Fellow journalism students, Clark and Alyssa studied and graduated together from the University of Montana, but weren't great at staying in touch after leaving school. As Alyssa started her hunt for a podcast partner, Clark came to mind. The radio emphasis in his journalism degree was an added perk for the techie part of the podcast. It took a bit of convincing, but they launched Wordstruck in March 2016 and are now in book four, just about halfway through the Harry Potter series.
So why not just have a book club? “It's vital to us as humans to have a thing we just have fun making.” Alyssa explained, using Brené Brown’s theory on the importance of creative play, “It’s vital to us as humans to have a thing we just have fun making. It doesn’t have a deadline, isn’t monetized, and isn’t linked to our work.” Despite the periodic frustrations, the podcast is a big part of her creative play outlet.
One of those frustrations is the slow pace of a couple chapters every few weeks. The series is a place of comfort for Alyssa. Familiarity means she can put the book down at any point, knowing exactly what happens next. But Clark suffers when he encounters a cliffhanger ending and has to wait weeks for the resolution. Alyssa is hoping they can turn the tables at some point, giving Clark a chance to put her on the hot seat of uncertainty with a book she’s never read.
As Alyssa takes a harder look at the Harry Potter series, she acknowledges the shine has tarnished slightly. But, “I don’t think it discounts how much I loved it and how ardently I just owned that world as a kid. It’s just finding a new way to love it.” The book is still a roller coaster ride, but “the roller coaster is different now” and it’s affiliated with her journey with Clark. Their interaction is exactly what drew Alyssa to entertainment podcasts. “It's people spending time with people they care about. As a listener, I get to enjoy the two people enjoying each other.” And that’s just fun — for the two co-hosts and their listeners.