‘The JK Rowling of Slow Literature’: Calm appoints world’s first ‘Sleep storyteller-in-residence’
My writing sends you to sleep? I hope so, says Phoebe Smith, the world’s best-selling writer of Sleep Stories.
Phoebe Smith sends millions of people across the world to sleep each month. While she’s been one of Calm’s star writers of Sleep Stories since the early days, we’re now making things official and appointing this super talented Brit as Calm’s (and the world’s) first Sleep Storyteller-in-Residence.
Like other such improbable but real, ultra-modern jobs as Ethical hacker, Cloud architect and Emoji translator, Phoebe’s new role of Sleep Storyteller-in-Residence is a job for our times – and she’s the perfect person to fill it.
We’re also launching a Sleep Story Collection of her soothing audio tales. Phoebe is the first writer to receive a showcase of this kind.
This new collection includes the world’s single most popular Sleep Story – Blue Gold, narrated by Stephen Fry, the acclaimed British actor and writer, and now listened to by some two million people a month.
Sleep Stories – or bedtime stories for grown-ups – are sleep-inducing audio tales that mix soothing words, music and sound-effects to help adult (and some child) listeners wind down and drift off to sleep.
They also amount by now to a new literary genre. You’ve heard of Slow Food and Slow Literature. Well, Sleep Stories are Slow Literature – half literature, half sleep aid and the world’s fastest-growing new literary form.
If so, then Phoebe Smith is the JK Rowling of Slow Literature.
Calm now offers users a choice of over 120 Sleep Stories, which this month will have been listened to a total of some 100 million times since their launch two years ago.
If you tell Phoebe Smith that her writing sends you to sleep, she replies, “I hope so. That’s the point.”
You’re more likely to disappoint her by saying that you enjoyed the end of her story, since few people get that far. “People say to me, I really enjoy the stories but I never get to the end.”
Sleep Stories require a completely different kind of writing to any writing Phoebe’s ever done. “With most kinds of writing I’m trying to build the tension – but here I’m doing the opposite. Anything exciting needs to go right at the start and then it’s all about winding people down, while also encouraging their imagination to play.”
“When I say that I write Sleep Stories, people are fascinated”, says Smith. “They say, ‘What does that mean? Do you tell stories in your sleep?’
“I answer that I write bedtime stories but for grownups. We all loved bedtime stories when we were kids – and so why did we give them up? Why should we?”
While many of Calm’s most popular Sleep Stories are fiction or fairy tales, with names like A Magical Winter Night, The Seventeenth Princess and The Lost Grimm Fairy-Tale (generated by AI), Phoebe’s speciality is non-fiction and specifically travel stories about the extraordinary places she’s been.
As well as being the world’s first official Sleep Storyteller-in-Residence, Smith is also both a distinguished travel writer of many praised books and the world’s leading (only?) “extreme sleep adventurer”.
In the latter capacity, she sleeps wild in such improbable locations tree-trunks, mountain-tops and once inside a glacier. She’s even written a book on the subject – ‘Extreme Sleeps: Adventures of a Wild Camper’.
Phoebe has now written 15 Sleep Stories for Calm. Her new role includes writing a new one by her each month.
After writing so many stories narrated for Calm by others, Phoebe is now receiving a further honour by making her debut as a Sleep Story narrator. She does so by reading her own latest Sleep Story, which describes her experience of sleeping wild in Morocco’s Hidden Forest.