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Deesha Philyaw Joins Ursa as Co-Founder, Announces ‘Reckon True Stories’ Podcast with Kiese Laymon

Kiese Laymon and Deesha Philyaw

Hi friends, 

Mark here — Dawnie, Deesha, and I have a lot of exciting Ursa news to share with you today, but first, a quick personal story: 

Longreads (my previous company before Ursa), recently celebrated its 15th birthday. I wrote about that moment, and it gave me a chance to pause and look back. It reminded me — just as Ursa has reminded me over these past two years — that anything we create is nothing without community. 

Community is even more critical today, in a world where algorithms have taken over social media, and where traditional gatekeeping remains so deeply entrenched in the publishing and podcasting industries. 

But we knew we wanted to make something different with Ursa. 

As Deesha says in an upcoming podcast: 

‘Why do something on somebody else’s terms?’

We started Ursa because we didn’t want to wait for industry gatekeepers to give us permission to make shows and celebrate the voices that we wanted to hear in this world. We are an independent podcasting company, and your support has been vital to helping us keep going (and keep growing). Thank you for being a part of it with us. 

We have new shows coming this summer and fall (see below!), and we’re continuing to spotlight great writers on our Instagram and TikTok feeds, so be sure to follow us there too. And now let’s get on to the news… 

Announcing Deesha Philyaw As Co-Founder of Ursa Story Company

When Dawnie and I first started Ursa, we knew who our dream partner would be, and it was Deesha Philyaw. First, we felt lucky to have her as an advisor and Editor at Large, and then as co-host of Ursa Short Fiction. And now, she’s co-founder. We are beyond thrilled. 

In addition to being a brilliant writer, she inspires us every day with how she lifts up others in the literary community — and we just love working with her, learning from her, dreaming with her. 

Coming in July: Reckon True Stories with Deesha Philyaw and Kiese Laymon

As revealed today in Kirkus, our next podcast will be a new show hosted by Deesha and bestselling author / MacArthur Fellow Kiese Laymon (!).

Reckon True Stories will launch in July and is being produced in partnership with Reckon, an award-winning national newsroom dedicated to sharing stories from marginalized, underestimated and undervalued communities.

It will focus on nonfiction essays and journalism, with guests including Roxane Gay, Samantha Irby, and Alexander Chee, among others. Subscribe to our newsletter to get notified when it’s live:

Instagram Readings: Aishah Simone Smith, Vida James, Venita Blackburn, and more  

In between podcast seasons, we are also busy featuring conversations and readings from some of our favorite writers on Ursa’s Instagram and TikTok feeds. Be sure to follow us there to see the latest. Our latest reading is from Aishah Simone Smith, who wrote an essay on mental illness for Roxane Gay’s newsletter The Audacity

Thanks for reading, listening, and watching — and we’ll see you soon. 

-Deesha, Dawnie, and Mark

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