How To Fail With Elizabeth Day
S11, BONUS EPISODE How to Fail: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

S11, BONUS EPISODE How to Fail: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

July 28, 2021

When I started this podcast, I had a list of dream guests.* At the top was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her third novel, Americanah, is one of my favourite books of all time. I can remember exactly where I was when I read it. I was moved by the power of its epic sweep, the brilliance of its observations and the characters who made your heart break.

But although she's an amazing writer, Chimamanda's cultural reach goes much further than the literary world. Her TED Talks are among the most viewed of all time. Beyoncé sampled her words in Flawless. Anything she writes, whether it be fiction, essays or commentary attracts global attention. 

Her latest book, Notes on Grief, is an essay examining the devastation of her father’s unexpected death in June 2020. In March 2021, there followed a second heartbreak: the death of her mother, on what would have been her father’s 89th birthday.  Chimamanda joins me to talk about those terrible losses, the grief and rage it has left her with and how she is trying to cope. She also talks about being a daughter, motherhood, fertility and her unsuccessful attempts to conceive a second child, her frustration that she can't seem to write more at the speed she would like and...well, Kim Kardashian.

NB: This interview was recorded before Chimamanda's recent blog post on cancel culture which is why we don't talk about it. And a further note: this is an emotional listen that explores the raw depths of grief, so if you're not in that frame of mind, maybe leave it for another day. But if you want to hear someone eloquently explain what grief feels like to go through and what to do with the pain, then this is for you.

Thank you Chimamanda, for your honesty and your power.

*Michelle Obama, Stormzy, Dr Dre and Michael Jordan, since you ask. I've recently added Marcus Rashford to the list.

 

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Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is out now and available to buy here.

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors! You can do that here.

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This episode is sponsored by Sweaty Betty. Use the code HOWTOFAIL at check out to get 20% off. How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you. To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie @chimamanda_adichie

 

 

 

S11, Ep8 How to Fail: Maggie O’Farrell

S11, Ep8 How to Fail: Maggie O’Farrell

July 14, 2021

For our season finale, I bring you the glorious Maggie O'Farrell. She is one of my favourite authors, and her books include the highly acclaimed novels After You'd Gone, The Hand That First Held Mine, Instructions for a Heatwave and the bestselling memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. Her most recent work of fiction, Hamnet, imagined the untold story of Shakespeare’s son who died at the age of 11. It won the 2020 Women’s Prize.

She joins me to talk about resurrecting the untold stories of women, how to be a writer and a parent (Cyril Connolly and his 'pram in the hallway' come in for a bit of a bashing) as well as how she applies concepts of success and failure to her books. She talks about her stammer and her failure to do a PhD and we also discuss how a childhood illness changed her forever, and the various physical repercussions that she still lives with. Plus: why she always finds the back of a tapestry far more interesting than the front...

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Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell is out now. You can buy all her books here.

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors! You can do that here.

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How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you. To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

 

 

 

BONUS EPISODE: HEERRREE’S DOLLY!

BONUS EPISODE: HEERRREE’S DOLLY!

July 11, 2021

SHE'S BAAAAAACK!

To mark the third anniversary of How To Fail, I invite back the one and only Dolly Alderton.

Dolly was one of my first ever guests in the debut season of How To Fail, way back in the mists of time (by which I mean the summer of 2018). Back then, she had just published her memoir Everything I Know About Love a few months earlier. She could have had little idea of the success that was to follow: it became a bestseller, won Autobiography of the Year at the National Book Awards and was selected for Stylist magazine’s best books of the decade by remarkable woman. Dolly is now adapting the book into a BBC drama. Her first novel, Ghosts, was published last year and went straight in at Number 2 in the Sunday Times Bestseller list. It's out in paperback later this month. She was also the co-host of the hugely beloved (and sorely lamented) The High Low podcast.

In public, it might have seemed as though Dolly was cresting the wave of extraordinary success. But it didn't always feel that way for her personally. She joins me to talk about the disconnect between outward success and inward sensitivity; about social media and her strategy for managing it; about love and loss and everything in between; about understanding that she is an extreme person and that's ok; and about her abject failure to bake birthday cakes. Plus she introduces me to the mind-shatteringly great concept of 'creative monogamy'.

Dolly is one of my favourite people. She's kind, generous, compassionate, wise, empathetic and hilarious and her return to How To Fail demonstrates all these qualities in abundance. I'm so touched she chose to come back and speak so honestly about her experiences. And I hope you enjoy this extra-special treat of an episode.

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Dolly will be turning the tables and interviewing me on 2nd September at London's Barbican to mark the publication of my new novel Magpie. If you're desperate for YET MORE OF US, I can promise an evening full of big emotion and belly-laughs. To book tickets (there's also an option to pre-order Magpie here so you'll be the first to get your hands on a copy) go to https://www.fane.co.uk/magpie 

See you there!

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Ghosts by Dolly Alderton is available to order here

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How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you. To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Dolly Alderton @dollyalderton

 

 

 

S11, Ep7 How to Fail: Martine Wright

S11, Ep7 How to Fail: Martine Wright

July 7, 2021

Martine Wright is a survivor of the 7/7 London terrorist bombings. Sixteen years ago today, she was travelling on a Circle Line tube to Aldgate station on the morning of 7th July 2005, when a suicide bomber sitting three feet away from her set off an explosion that would change her life forever. She lost both of her legs and was in a coma for 10 days after which she underwent a year of intensive rehab and multiple surgeries. Astonishingly, Martine went on to become an international sitting volleyball player and represented the Great Britain’s women’s team at the 2012 Paralympics in London. This is her extraordinary story.

She joins me to talk about resilience, living loss, experiencing an able-bodied world as a disabled woman, fertility, grief and how she believes catastrophic life-changes can have positive outcomes.

Martine is one of the most inspiring, hopeful, strong and brilliant people I've ever had the pleasure of interviewing. You do not want to miss this episode.

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You can read more in Martine's memoir Unbroken 

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors! You can do that here.

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How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you. To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Martine Wright @martine_wright

 

 

S11, Ep6 How to Fail: Paris Lees

S11, Ep6 How to Fail: Paris Lees

June 30, 2021

[TW: sexual abuse]

Today, my guest is the absolute PEACH of a human that is Paris Lees. Paris is an award-winning journalist and a Contributing Editor for British Vogue. She was the first trans woman to present on BBC Radio 1 and Channel 4 and the first to appear on Question Time. Her recently published memoir, What It Feels Like For A Girl, is the uniquely told, semi-fictionalised story of her childhood in Nottinghamshire - which included a spell as a rent boy and an eight-month prison sentence for armed robbery - and the refuge she found in partying, music and, eventually, books.

Paris joins me to talk about everything from dating and failed relationships to missed deadlines and trans rights. Plus we discuss what it feels like to be a highly sensitive person and how this self-perceived 'failure' has actually turned into one of her biggest strengths.

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Buy Paris's memoir, What It Feels Like For A Girl, here

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors! You can do that here.

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How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you. To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Paris Lees @parislees

 

S11, Ep5 How to Fail: Christie Watson

S11, Ep5 How to Fail: Christie Watson

June 23, 2021

Christie Watson is a nurse turned bestselling author who went back to frontline nursing during the Covid-19 pandemic. But if you were to call her a 'hero' she would refuse the label - and during the course of this interview, she tells me why.

Watson left school at 16 and volunteered at a charity before training to become a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital. She spent the next 20 years in hospitals in various disciplines and mainly in paediatric intensive care.

Alongside that, she built up a successful writing career. Her debut, Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, won the Costa First Novel Award and in 2018, she published a memoir - The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story, which has been translated into 23 languages. Her most recent book, The Courage To Care, is just out in paperback. 

She joins me to talk about failures in nursing, motherhood and, in an especially enlightening conversation, she tells me what happened when she thought she was having a breakdown only to be diagnosed as peri-menopausal. Every woman (and man) should listen. [WARNING: contains mention of clambering into fishfinger freezers].

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The Courage To Care is out now and available to buy here.

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors! You can do that here.

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How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you. To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Christie Watson @christiewatsonwriter

 

 

 

S11, Ep4 How to Fail: Guvna B

S11, Ep4 How to Fail: Guvna B

June 16, 2021

My guest today is Guvna B, the MOBO-award winning rapper, author and broadcaster. He grew up on a council estate in East London and went on to study at the University of Hertfordshire before forging a full-time career in music. He's since released 10 albums and a memoir, Unspoken, in which he examines toxic masculinity and male identity.

Guvna B - otherwise known as Isaac Borquaye - joins me to talk about the death of his father, and two of his close friends, and how he had to address his grief in order to carry on living. We discuss the power of vulnerability, fatherhood and finding 'blessings in the struggle'. We talk about faith, identity, race and inter-generational trauma. Plus we discuss failures in exams, driving tests and...erm...mobile phone storage - and why he once blew £4000 on trainers in Westfield.

Thank you Isaac, for opening up with such generosity in what turned out to be a deeply inspirational conversation.

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Unspoken by Guvna B is out now and available to buy here.

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors! You can do that here.

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How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you. To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Guvna B @GuvnaB

 

 

 

S11, Ep3 How to Fail: Ed Miliband

S11, Ep3 How to Fail: Ed Miliband

June 9, 2021

I absolutely loved this interview. Whatever your preconceptions about politicians, please set them aside, because you're about to meet Ed Miliband: former leader of the Labour Party, current shadow business secretary, fellow podcaster and author of a new book, Go Big: How To Fix Our World.

Ed joins me to discuss his failure to win the 2015 general election, suffering from anxiety, failing to get the degree he worked so hard for and a failure to keep his late father, the noted Marxist academic Ralph Miliband, alive. We touch on his family history - both his parents escaped Nazi Germany and many of his relatives were killed in the Holocaust - and we consider whether carrying the hopes and dreams of previous generations makes him feel more duty-bound to succeed. Along the way, we discuss therapy, competitive swimming with Alastair Campbell, political optimism, the power of big ideas, bacon sandwiches, Ed-stones, Milibae, sibling rivalry (yes, I do ask him how things are with his brother David), Boris Johnson, fatherhood and why he'll never win an argument with his wife.

Ed, thank you for coming on How To Fail with such a generous spirit and for engaging so brilliantly with the premise. You're a mensch.

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Go Big: How To Fix The World by Ed Miliband is out now and available to order here. You can listen to Reasons To Be Cheerful, his excellent podcast, co-hosted with comedian Geoff Lloyd here.

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors! You can do that here.

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How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you! To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Ed Miliband @ed_miliband

 

 

S11, Ep2 How to Fail: Jessica Ennis-Hill

S11, Ep2 How to Fail: Jessica Ennis-Hill

June 2, 2021

Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is an Olympic heptathlon gold medallist and a three-time world champion. This is a woman who knows what it takes to succeed at the very highest levels, and who has learned to process failure when she doesn't win. I learned so much from her insight. And she's still only 35!

We had a truly fascinating conversation about the psychology of competitiveness, the importance of loyalty and roots, how injury taught her the value of rest and how losing the 2011 World Championship to a woman who later turned out to be a drugs cheat fuelled Ennis-Hill's desire to do better.

We also talk about the specific challenges facing female athletes - from dealing with heavy periods to suppressing menstrual cycles altogether in order to compete - and how the fact that these issues weren't really talked about has now motivated Ennis-Hill to make fitness more accessible to women. Plus she talks about making the difficult decision to return to athletics after the birth of her first child, and why she wishes she'd trusted her own instincts.

Oh, and obviously I ask her about the London 2012 Olympics. Enjoy!

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Ennis-Hill's fitness app for women, Jennis, is available here.

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors. You can do that here.

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How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you! To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Jessica Ennis-Hill @jessicaennishill

 

 

S11, Ep1 How to Fail: Graham Norton

S11, Ep1 How to Fail: Graham Norton

May 26, 2021

What better way to kick off a new season of interviews by interviewing one of the very best interviewers? INTIMIDATED, ME? Pahahahahaha.

We open Season 11 of How To Fail with the peerless, hilarious and warm Graham Norton. Chat show host extraordinaire, bestselling author and beloved radio presenter, he joins me to talk about his failure to become an actor, to crack America and to throw a ball (no, really). We also talk about the art of the interview, his workaholic tendencies and, in an incredibly moving exchange, his near-death experience. Plus: what he learned from being a waiter and what happens when your lifelong dream *doesn't* come true. And I ask him whether he's jealous of James Corden.

We laughed. We welled up. We chatted. What a gent he is. (Graham, that is, not James. I mean, I'm sure James is too, but...you know what I mean...ok I'm going now...byeeee!)

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Graham Norton's latest novel, Home Stretch, is out now in paperback and available to order here.

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My new novel, Magpie, is out on 2nd September. I'd love it if you felt like pre-ordering as it really helps authors. You can do that here.

*

How To Fail With Elizabeth Day is hosted by Elizabeth Day, produced by Naomi Mantin and Chris Sharp. We love hearing from you! To contact us, email howtofailpod@gmail.com

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Social Media:

Elizabeth Day @elizabday

How To Fail @howtofailpod 

Graham Norton @grahnort

 

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