Branching Out can mean all sorts of things for writers. This month Words & Pictures editor Tracy Curran talks to Arden Jones for the second time. Arden writes for children,  recently began a career within the publishing industry and has also launched a podcast called YA Book Jam with two of her writer friends, Jess Bleakley and Shelly Mack. Jess and Shelly are also joining our discussion today.

Hi Arden, Jess and Shelly! The three of you have set up a podcast called YABook Jam. Why did you decide to do this?

ARDEN: In all honestly, YA Book Jam was entirely Jess's brainchild. We're really close friends and, since we all write YA fiction, we often give each other feedback on our work and discuss the books we're currently reading. Then, one day, Jess came up with the brilliant idea of turning our discussions into a podcast. After months of meticulous planning, we finally launched our podcast and started spreading our jam with the world. 

YA Book Jam was launched by Jess, Arden and Shelly - all of whom write YA fiction

How much time does preparing and running a podcast take?

JESS: Preparations start with choosing the books we feature. We take turns each month picking. Even though the choice is ultimately our own, we do discuss the upcoming books with each other just to make sure we don’t choose the same or similar titles. We then each read the book and whoever picked it writes the questions. We get those a couple of days before recording.

The recording process can take anywhere from an hour to three hours depending on how long we talk. Sometimes these stories invoke so many feelings it’s hard to keep to the agreed time and we all get on so well that talking for hours is easy!

The longest part of the process is editing. This can take anywhere from a few hours to two weeks depending on how long we talked, if all the technology behaves, and if any wine was drunk during recording. 


Have you found that YA Book Jam informs your own writing in any way? What are the benefits of running a podcast alongside your writing?

SHELLY: The podcast has been very influential as reading will always inspire ideas, and it’s even better when you get to spend time with your friends talking all things books. It also keeps us on our toes with what’s current and trending in the market and allows us to connect with fantastic authors and publishers. 

Jess, Arden and Shelly take turns to choose a book to discuss, including those in this poster.


What have been the highlights and the challenges of launching YA Book Jam?

JESS: I’ll start with the challenges. This was new to all of us and, with any new venture, there are growing pains. There was a lot of learning on the job with the technical side of things, but my lovely co-hosts were so encouraging. We were friends, critique partners, and each other’s hype girls for years before starting this, which has made it such an enjoyable experience even with the challenges.

As for highlights, other than getting to work with my writing besties, I think we have all been overwhelmed with the response to our podcast. We have listeners in sixteen countries around the world and all the feedback we’ve received has been so positive. We started this not knowing if anyone would want to listen to us talk about books and each milestone feels like a pinch-me moment.


What advice would you have for anyone interested in launching a podcast?

SHELLY: When you decide what the main focus will be, research and do your homework. Podcasting is not for the fainthearted but once you find your rhythm, it gets easier. It also allows you to add a new skill set doing what you love.


What is your ultimate goal in terms of YA Book Jam? Do you have a plan for taking it forward or is it something you decided to do spontaneously?

To take over the world! 😉

ARDEN: It may be a joke, but it’s happening. Every day, more and more people are downloading our podcast, and every time Jess updates us with the numbers, we have a new listener in another country. It’s incredible.

Our plan is simple - to continue doing what we love, which is reading fabulous young adult books and sharing our thoughts with our listeners. It's an incredible feeling when we receive feedback from our listeners and even from the authors of the books we feature.

Our ultimate goal is to create and expand a community of readers who can join us on this journey. It would be amazing if YA Book Jam could become a community where our listeners can make more friends, to find like-minded people and a space to chat about the featured book each month. 

You can follow us on Instagram and X: @ya_bookjam

Thanks so much for your time!


*Header image: in-house collaboration by Ell Rose & Tita Berredo

Other image supplied by Arden Jones


Tracy Curran is the Production Editor for Words & Pictures and enjoys writing picture books, young fiction and lower middle-grade novels. Known as Little Cornish Writer you can find her on InstagramTwitter and Facebook

She also enjoys reviewing children's books on her blog The Breadcrumb Forest.


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
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Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or
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