Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister were flattered to be nominated for the fifth annual Philly Geek Awards—an awards ceremony that recognizes the achievements of the local geek community—when they considered what other Philadelphians were doing.
“There was one woman in a different category, where she was building robots to rehabilitate people with spinal cord injuries … and we just have this podcast,” McAllister said.
Ingram and McAllister, both assistant professors of English at Temple, ended up taking home the “Streaming Media Project of the Year” Geek Award for their podcast “Book Fight!”
They received a handcrafted trophy created by NextFab on Aug. 15 at Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences, which hosts the ceremony alongside Geekadelphia, Philadelphia’s premier geek blog.
Before starting “Book Fight!” back in 2012, Ingram searched for an easygoing literature podcast that felt like two people conversing at a bar.
“I had been listening to a lot of podcasts, not really literature-specific ones, and I liked the form,” Ingram said. “I tried to look for some that might be book-related and didn’t love the ones that I had found.”
The podcasts Ingram found were academic and tedious. So he and McAllister, who met while attending grad school in 2004, decided to start their own.
“At first, our idea of success was maybe a few people who are not our friends will listen to the podcast, and once we started to get a few listeners, we kept raising the bar to what we saw success to be like,” McAllister said.
The nomination of their podcast surpassed the expectations of what they thought they could have accomplished in three years.
“I was really surprised and I didn’t even know the awards existed,” Ingram said. “One of my friends on Facebook who runs a bookstore posted something that said ‘Congrats to the Philly Geek Awards nominees including Book Fight!’”
McAllister was also unaware of an award show that honors the community of Philly’s finest geeks. He jokingly recalled asking his wife if they should attend.
“Once we did our research about the awards, we found out that [Philadelphia] Magazine had done a write-up about it and all these amazing projects,” McAllister said. “My wife was really excited because it was an excuse to go to a black-tie thing.”
When it comes to balancing the podcast and their responsibilities at Temple, both professors found a way to manage all their work in an efficient way.
“During breaks we try to get ahead and we can record in advance,” McAllister explained. “We post once a week on Monday mornings. Sometimes I am trying to finish a book before Mike comes up so we can record.”
Since this is their first year teaching at Temple, there’s some stress balancing the podcast’s time commitment with attending conferences and grading papers.
“Every now and then it gets overwhelming,” Ingram said. “With teaching, there are weeks where you cannot believe someone is paying you to do this and then there are days when you have a great amount of student work to read or grade.”
Gail Vivar can be reached at email@example.com.