Intro from Jay Allison: Nine students recently completed the Spring 2013 Transom Story Workshop and they uncovered wonderful local stories. Their work is a real lesson not only in storytelling, but also in story finding. We asked each student to pick one of the pieces they produced during their time here, tell you about how they discovered it, and chronicle their challenges in producing it. They also picked one of the “Sonic IDs” they made, which are good ones. Most of this group had never produced before, so prepare to be inspired by what they accomplished.
Before I met the participants in the NRA’s Women on Target class, I talked to a lot of strangers. I met a techie dude that hated fourth grade so much that he ate his math packet in protest. I met a woman who thought her Wampanoag heritage conflicted with her faith. I wish I could say I met a blogging nun, but after several failed attempts at tracking her down, I had to cut my losses. I will forever remember her as the nun that got away.
I’m not sure what got me thinking about guns. Maybe it’s because they are in the news every single day. When I started calling gun clubs and safety instructors, my potential interviewees were skeptical (“So are you pro- or anti-?”). One even had me complete a questionnaire (sample question: “How does the Second Amendment relate to the First Amendment to our Constitution?”) before agreeing to an interview (which never happened because of a scheduling conflict).
It came down to two gun clubs. Both were holding Saturday events. The first was having a clambake where members would be hanging out. The second was holding a special NRA-sponsored gun safety class just for women. The organizer of the class for women was a great talker on the phone. And I recently discovered – while at Transom – that I might be allergic to clams.
I chose the gun class for women.
When I went to the gun range, recorded the gunshots of some first-time shooters (including myself), and talked to women in the class, I knew I had found my radio story. I felt it. I didn’t know what that story was exactly, but I had more questions than answers, and figured that’d be a good place to start.
I kept calling people for follow-up interviews…and leaving messages…and calling again. This was important. Some of my best interviews were ones that happened because I kept calling, and avoided making assumptions about whether or not someone wanted to be interviewed.
During production, when I started to get overwhelmed by all the issues that come up when you talk about guns in this country, I remembered – to paraphrase Chimamanda Adichie – that my story would be just one story, and not the only story. And that was a relief.
Early in the workshop, Mariane McCune suggested that we accept surprise as we interview. So whenever I felt surprised by something my interviewee said, I hit the T mark on my recorder. I found a pattern in what surprised me, and that (along with tons of feedback and support from the whole workshop family) helped me sculpt my story.
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Neena’s Sonic ID
My classmates Ben, Schuyler, and I were walking on Stony Beach when we saw this adorable little kid with a metal detector. Ben immediately turned to me wide-eyed and said, “Sonic!” With a bit more encouragement from Ben and Schuyler, and permission from the boy’s father, I interviewed Aidan Webb.
The entire interview lasted about 10 minutes (including three minutes when I had the recorder on pause by accident and missed capturing Aidan’s first find – a bottle cap).
I think this Sonic worked because Aidan seemed more excited about detecting metal, and less excited about being interviewed. He didn’t put on a show, but instead just let me tag along while he looked for buried treasure.