The Sheer Power of Story

June 29, 2016 will mark a new milestone for Girl Friday with the launch of an edgy new podcast, From the Margins. Though I’d love to take the credit, the actual podcast was the brainchild (and then love child) of Girl Friday production editor Devon Fredericksen, who, along with help from the team, interviewed dozens of writers and agents and publishers and editors. She researched long-lost histories and respun them into modern whodunit gold. She took the spirit of Girl Friday—irreverent, lusty, nerdy—and distilled it into sound. Listening to each episode as it was produced, I was challenged, entertained, amused, and provoked. I want all of you to hear what I have heard—and to be moved. More than anything, the podcast episodes, whether on sex or gender or the nature of truth, reinforce for me the sheer power of story, which, after all, is the reason we got into this business in the first place.

The fact that Devon does not work in marketing should tell you something about the essence of this podcast—and something about Girl Friday. The fact that GFP put out a podcast before we put out a book, well, that’s interesting to me. But then again, perhaps that’s exactly as it should be.

When Ingrid and I started Girl Friday ten years ago now, the publishing world was already in flux. Yes, 2006 was a year in which Time magazine was heralding innovative “new” print-on-demand platforms like Blurb with descriptions like this: “Soon those old-fogy relatives of yours who still don’t have Internet access (or even a computer) will be able to experience the brilliance of your blog without compromising their Luddite principals.” It was a time when Bloomberg reported start-up small presses forging their own destinies as what was old became new again (like Biblical hipster beards). Self-publishing was gaining traction, Amazon had already disrupted the distribution model, and Twitter had just been hatched.

And now it’s 2016. By many counts, Twitter will decide our next president. Amazon is both distributor and publisher. Those Luddites who didn’t have a computer? They’ve all got Instagram accounts on their smartphones. The Big Six are now the Big Five, crowdsourcing is used to fund books, and an author’s “platform” matters just as much as their content. And Girl Friday is different too—bigger, smarter, younger. And those kids have crazy awesome ideas (and share a lot of animal memes).

Two factors have allowed Girl Friday to grow and flourish, beginning in a time of uncertainty for publishing, through the Great Recession; the birth of the Kindle, Snapchat, and YouTube cats; the merger of Penguin Random House; and more. The first is that GFP has never been afraid of change. We don’t wave white flags in the face of progress; we wave red ones. Because holding tightly to the past won’t save books, but looking creatively to the future just might. And then there is that overriding love of narrative. Not because it’s trendy, not because it’s the new marketing buzzword, but because the real answer to life, the universe and everything isn’t 42, it’s story.

As you listen to each episode of From the Margins, I think you’ll discover that creative pulse and the genuine passion for story that has gotten us to this place. I can’t wait to see what 2026 will bring.