Jenna Misener is from Toronto and is the co-host of Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, a hilarious podcast where adults read pieces of writing from their childhood or teenage years to a live audience. She will be presenting her podcast live as part of the Hot Docs Podcast Festival running from October 12th to 15th. Get tickets here.
SDTC: What is your all-time favourite thing you wrote as a kid?
JM: I read my own childhood writing at every Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids live event…you’ll have to come to a show to hear it!
What is your favourite story that was read on your podcast?
Toni from Newfoundland got up on our stage and read a diary entry about her first-time smoking cigarettes. The details in it were hyper-regional, but the experience was very much universal. Of course she got caught, was grounded, and swore to never do it again. And then signed off the diary entry with “God bless Green Day and Danny Williams.”
Why do you think this concept of reading things aloud from our childhoods holds such a strong appeal?
These days we share so much of our lives, especially online. And what we post is often a performance. It’s filtered, manicured, coated in a thick veneer. There’s something really authentic about connecting with who you used to be – warts and all – and seeing how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come. I think our audiences enjoy connecting with the stories they hear on our stage because they’re ultimately connecting to who they used to be.
What gave you the idea to start this podcast? Are you surprised at how it’s grown?
It was Christmas 2006, and my boyfriend Dan (now my husband) and I were visiting my parents in Kingsville, Ontario. They asked me to clear out some of the boxes I still had stored in the basement. Going through those boxes, we found my teenaged diary, written in those awkward years when I was just on the edge of puberty. With beers in hand, we spent the better part of the afternoon reading diary entries out loud to one another. Some were funny. Some were bittersweet. It was a glimpse into my past and my former self.
We figured lots of other people probably had their childhood and teenage writing kicking around somewhere – in their parents’ basements, in boxes in the closet, in storage lockers. So Dan asked him mom to send his childhood schoolwork. Then we booked a night upstairs at the Victory Café (RIP) in Toronto, invited some friends, and crossed our fingers. People showed up. We had some drinks. We laughed. And we’ve been doing live shows ever since.
We’re delighted that after all these years people still show up and share glimpses of their former selves on our stage.
In doing this project, what have you learned about people? About yourself?
When you’re growing up it’s easy to feel alone, like you’re a weirdo, that you’re different, that you don’t belong. Part of the appeal of Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids is realizing that we were all weirdos and we’re all a lot more alike than different.