In my latest Women in Geek interview, I’m going to be talking to Marissa Reynolds from Hogwart’s Radio, MuggleNet’s Entertainment Harry Potter Podcast. I’ve had the privilege of working with Marissa through the transcription team at Hogwart’s Radio, and I’m thrilled to have her here on the blog! If you haven’t seen my first three Women in Geek interviews with Sarah Rodriguez, Lindsay Cummings, and Christina Janke, you can find them all right here.
What do you do with Hogwart’s Radio, and what does that mean?
I am a host (which means I get to be part of the recorded discussion) and I run the transcribing team. Transcribers type out the shows into a readable format so that people who cannot listen to the show for one reason or the other have the option of reading it. I also do other odds and ends on the website like keep the shows page up to date, run The Chosen One page (our version of Fan of the Month), and help out with whatever else is needed. At one point Terrance (the webmaster) and I basically rebuilt the entire site and my job was uploading all of our content including over 120 episodes and a few transcripts.
Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?
I wish I was getting paid for this!! Only because I truly love working with something Harry Potter and would gladly go it as a career. However, I do not get paid anything except experience and happiness. I actually work at the University of Arkansas as a Teaching Assistant while I am working on my Ph.D. in chemistry.
How did you get started in this?
Social media to the rescue!! Jennifer Porsche is a host on the show and she used to run the transcript team. She tweeted about needing some transcribers for the team. I simply replied to the tweet with an email about wanting to help out. That was in 2011.
What got you interested in this?
I have been a fan of HP since 2000, however it took me a long time to realize there was an entire online fandom to connect with. I didn’t know may people who liked Harry Potter and actually didn’t know much about fandom websites or anything. I honestly didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the computer when I was younger (having dial-up was mostly to blame). When I was in high school (around 2007-2008) is when I really discovered MuggleNet. Shocking, I know. I was very late to the game, but I was there. I began listening to MuggleCast and that eventually led to listening to Hogwarts Radio and now here I am.
Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?
Would you call Evanna Lynch a geek? I love her for sure. She’s so free and open with herself and is so passionate about what she loves. I also look up to people like Melissa Anelli and Kat Miller. They have found a way to make what they love (Harry Potter interestingly enough) into a career. Turning your passion into a career instead of simply being passionate about your career are two different levels of incredible.
What is the best thing about working with Hogwart’s Radio?
The word opportunity sums up all the “best” things about HR. The opportunity to meet all the people I have met, to learn about how to run a website and how social media can be used, and to discuss something I love with others who are as passionate about it as I am. Before, I could count on one hand people who I could truly and deeply discuss HP with. My theories, my questions, my pet peeves. Now I have the forum to discuss these things with people from all over the world, except I actually get to be part of the live discussion.
What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?
The People. I consider the other hosts to be my friends. Of course I talk to them during our recordings, but we have also been known to stay on Skype for a few hours just talking about random things. I talk to some of the other hosts on a daily basis about HP, other fandoms, work, and just life in general. I almost always have a text conversation open with Jeanna or Terrance. I’ve had great talks with Kat, Jennifer, Andy, Kristen, and other hosts though social media platforms and some through texts. And there is also the transcript team. I have met some truly fascinating people from all over the world that I would have never had the pleasure of meeting without the podcast. When I first started as a transcriber I got to be very good friends with four other girls who are literally from completely different places. We have helped each other through some tough times and have also been there for joyous moments in each others lives. We’ve celebrated graduations, birthdays, holidays, and I even got their warm wishes through text message on my wedding day. I would have never met any of these people without Hogwarts Radio and my life would be drastically different.
You are now a full-grown adult working on creating original content within a community based on a series of children’s books. Why? What made Harry Potter have such an impact on you that you’ve continued to be so incredibly active in the fandom?
They stories may be written for children, but the lessons and morals the stories teach are used every day of our entire lives. For me personally, I was the same age as Harry and everyone while I was reading them and seeing the movies. I was the same age as this scarred, messy-haired, bespectacled orphan who was fighting his entire life for the things he believed in. He was passionate about seeing good overcome evil, about making sure the people he loved were happy and safe, about doing the right thing. All this while trying to pass his potions class and win the Quidditch Cup. If Harry can get through school with all the worries and problems he faced, then why can’t I? His story was an inspiration then and still is now.
Another reason I think we all still find things to talk about is because J.K. Rowling is an inspiration herself. She struggled so much in her life before her success and happiness came with Harry. She was passionate about writing and that is obviously evident in her stories. She makes us think deeply about the world around us. She makes us question everything until we find either the answer or another question. We exercise our imaginations and our creativity by analyzing her work. There’s a lot to it, so it will take us years to sift through it all. Our different opinions will keep up going after that. Especially when there is no right answer which is normally the case.
Do you encounter any negativity in your fandom based on your gender?
With this fandom, no I don’t thing so. The Harry Potter fandom is so open and welcoming. They are sort of like the Backstreet Boys. We don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love Harry Potter. Now, from outsiders there is a little discrimination. When people hear that I podcast and work on a website, I get some condescending reactions. However, my gender still isn’t the man focus with loving Harry Potter. The place where I truly encounter sexism is in my job. When I was in college I always got the question (as everyone does) about what my major was. People expected me to say teacher or nurse or English or something along those lines. When they learned that I was a Chemistry major I got one of two general answers: 1) Oh! You must be a genius! (Not true. I just truly enjoy chemistry and I understand it because I am passionate about learning it and I really like math. If you made me be a history major, a political science major, or even a biology major, I wouldn’t have made it.) and 2) Oh! You don’t meet a lot of women in science. (That is ridiculous. Just look here for 10 major scientific achievements by women. People just expect women to gravitate to the more nurturing or house-wife type of career. Not that these aren’t great careers to follow as a woman, man, or monkey for that matter. It just wasn’t for me.)
There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, podcasting, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?
Find your foothold. You don’t have to make it big your first time out like JKR did. Take whatever opportunity you can to get your foot into the door with something you love and keep looking for the next opportunity. HR doesn’t pay me any kind of money, but through it I have made connections I never would have without it. Experience is sometimes just as good (if not better) than a monetary compensation. A lot of life is who you know, not what you know. Try to meet as many people as possible and learn from them. Grow your network of people and your skill set to something you can compete with in the bigger world.
Have you gained friends since working with Hogwart’s Radio, or did you go into this already knowing the individuals you work with?
I knew NO ONE at first. I jumped into this completely blind and just went with it. It’s been 3 years now and I would have to take off my shoes and use my toes to count the number of friends I have gained. I may also need to borrow someone else’s fingers.
What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?
Well first, it might be nice for people to actually know what a podcast is so I could stop explaining it! Haha! But, on a serious note, I wish people knew that I am just a lucky fan. Not quite lucky enough to have met any big name actors yet, but lucky enough to have the connection I do to the biggest Harry Potter fansite in the world. I used to have the misconception that you have to wait to be asked, wait to be noticed, to get involved with something like this. That is completely wrong. You have to ask. You may get a no at first (or maybe even a couple of no’s) but someone somewhere will give you a yes and you have to take it and run. I jumped at an open invitation for the transcriber team. Sometime Terrance would ask us to help with different things on the site. I took every opportunity I could. Eventually I became friends with Terrance. Because of that and because of my loyalty to the site I was there when he needed someone to help rebuild the site. After that I was asked to guest host and then eventually became a regular host. After that I was asking for the new assignments such as the transcript team, access to change things on the site, run The Chosen One. But, it all started with that foothold in the transcript team. Something simple, something humble, got me to where I am now.