Kids Book Club Podcast Is Washington Journalist's Latest Venture

Kitty Felde has taken her broadcast skills to the podcast. The freelance radio reporter — whose voice was known to both Southern California and national audiences as a public radio and television storyteller for decades — is moving into a new phase of her career that includes elements of the past. On July 1, she launched a bi-weekly podcast called the Book Club for Kids. Every other week, the 20-minute segment will include a book-centered discussion with fifth- to ninth-grade students and a celebrity reading. The maiden podcast featured students from D.C.’s Jefferson Academy, who were discussing " Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The celebrity reader was none other than Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. “She’s the political celebrity for Washington, D.C.,” Felde said, adding that Norton was one of the most engaging readers she’s worked with. “She got into it. She laughed with the writing.” Felde even said Norton had a great voice for radio. The idea for the book club wasn’t new. Felde created one on her show “Talk of the City” on Southern California Public Radio, but she abandoned it when she moved to D.C. in 2009, saying her workload and schedule became too “crazy.” “It had to go,” Felde said. But when she learned in January that her station was closing its D.C. bureau, the book club idea came calling. She knew it could be recreated as a podcast. “I love doing the reporting, I love doing the talk show, but there's something about sitting down and talking to kids,” Felde said, recalling that as a kid she knew, “if only an adult would treat me like a grownup, I would tell them anything. ... They tell you amazing things.” Felde didn’t come from a journalism background. She didn’t go to journalism school. She’s an actress and playwright by trade — two things she’s still pursuing. She came to radio inadvertently by applying to be a sportscaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Inspired by a sportscasting class she took while studying theater at the University of California, Irvine, she had planned to do the play-by-play at minor league games and then work her way up. (Of course, Vin Scully may have stood in her way a bit.) She didn't end up heading to the diamond, which she joked was fortunate because her depth perception issues make a fly ball and home run look identical. Nevertheless, the experience gave her the idea she could work in journalism. Keeping one foot in journalism, Felde has been freelancing for public radio in Northern California, having recently covered the State of the Union, a few Supreme Court arguments, and will likely cover Pope Francis’ U.S. visit and the canonization of Junipero Serra, who founded most of California’s missions. Felde has found a few acting gigs. She’ll be playing a “hip” nun at a performance in the upcoming Capital Fringe festival. She’s completing a script that she’s been working on for 10 years about the L.A. riots. And she’s writing a kids book adapted from a play. Partially inspired by Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., Felde tells the tale of the 10-year-old daughter of a Latino congressman from Los Angeles who solves the mystery of the demon cat. Throughout the book the heroine makes observations on the quirks of Congress, drawn from Felde’s experience observing a wide range of things such as Capitol ghosts, congressional dogs and the intricacies of the legislative process. Felde’s work has been sprinkled throughout public radio, appearing in programs such as "This American Life"; "Marketplace"; "Which Way, LA"; and "Talk of the City." Felde has written several books, produced dozens of plays, and even wrote an episode of "What's Happening Now." Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. And she even once appeared on Larry King's show with Roll Call’s resident thespian and Senate whiz, Niels Lesniewski. But as Scully once said, "Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, not illumination." So it's what Felde is doing now that counts. See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.