The game show style podcast by two Sheffield writers is designed to shed some light on the writing process
Stephen Mellor, 54, of Crosspool and Letty Butler, 38, who lives in Sheffield city center, started writing a focused podcast game show Prompety Prompt after working at an art company.
Realizing that the author’s importance was often overlooked, the couple wanted to create something to support and encourage aspiring writers while having fun themselves too.
Your podcast consists of two halves, the first section containing a discussion with two guest authors about their lives and works. The game show element is introduced in the second half, as the guests receive a brief invitation and have to write short fictions against the clock.
Stephen said, “We’ll let the people behind the curtain to see the magic happen. We give scene prompts to the writers and they write up to 200 words about a week before the show.
“Then we have two invisible prompts, you have three minutes to write something and then read it out loud. You have one minute for the last request. “
By their very nature, these prompts cause each author to arrive at completely different results, showing how their styles and thought processes differ. In one episode, the writers have to use the words canary, laptop and blanket, which leads Stephen to justify what was written by saying, “I just liked the sound of Kill the Canary.”
Stephen got into writing later than Letty. He used to run his own company, but when his partner suddenly died of cancer, he wondered what he wanted to do.
He added, “I packed everything and wanted to write. The first stuff I wrote was absolutely horrible, but as I wrote I kept getting better. It helped me when it comes to self-confidence and having to do my own work. I had imposter syndrome at one show because of the caliber of the guests we had – but it makes you feel like you can actually do it.
“People are scared when they come in and kite up when they come out, it’s so fun. The feedback we received was excellent – we had people laughing, crying and cheering. “
Describing her style as surreal dark comedy, Letty is an actress by profession and got into writing by working on theater scripts and later as a show for a double act of comedy, half of which she was for Edinburgh Fringe.
She said, “When you pick up a pen, you are a writer, you don’t need awards or accolades. The podcast showed me that you don’t need a lot of time to write. Everyone has five minutes a day. If you ran a timed prompt for five minutes every day, you would get a pretty decent amount of material after a month.
“When you give the same request to many writers, I am still amazed at how different the answers are. It shows that only you can write the story that you write. We wanted to find a space for both emerging and established writers, so we have both in these episodes. We want to build this writing community and get people to write wherever they are. “
There are currently three episodes of Prompety Prompt out and eight more have been recorded, but much more is in the works. Stephen and Letty are partnering with Off The Shelf to host a live audience podcast and will also produce an episode based on the audience’s attempts.
The two are already planning the second series with guests, including flash fiction writer KM Elkes and novelist Julianne Pachico.
If the presenters could wave a magic wand and have a literary legend on their podcast, Stephen said he would love an hour with Shakespeare because he is very interested in writing plays.
Choosing a living writer, which would surely help move the conversation forward, Letty said that Bernardine Evaristo would be her dream guest. She said: “She writes very experimentally and has had a great success with her latest book (Girl, Woman, Other). I think she would be really open to the process, I love her work and it would be great to see what she wrote. “