Intro from Jay Allison: We have a series here at Transom we call “Short Lists” where you hear a list of things and then find out how they’re connected. Hairpieces, Coyotes, Village Portraits, Grind Core Punk, Personal Tragedy, Songwriting, Fibromyalgia, Singing at Funerals, Roller Derby… okay, that’s a list of the stories produced by the Transom Story Workshop this fall. The students came here from all over the country (and two from Canada this time), somehow discovered these stories hidden away on Cape Cod, and then, using the skills they just learned, turned them into radio. It’s quite a trick—to go from never having done it, to doing it well. I’m amazed every time.
About “Looking For Coyotes”
This story went a lot of different places and I tried a lot of different things before settling on what you find here. At first I wanted to make it non-narrated. It was going to be all about Jim and Rebecca and their love for coyotes. How they both love them, but just in different ways: Jim wants to bring them in close, but Rebecca wants to push them away. It was going to be beautiful, I thought. Maybe even poetic.
But I realized pretty quickly that that wasn’t going to work. Either because I didn’t have the tape or because I wasn’t confident enough in my production chops to make it happen without a guide. So I put myself in there, just a little bit at first, and changed things around. I narrowed my focus a bit, took Rebecca out entirely, and made it a story all about Jim. It was to be an unrequited love story: Jim courting, coyotes disinterested. But I got stuck again. I don’t know why I kept trying to force a love story.
I think the biggest reason that didn’t work was that I never went particularly deep with Jim. I don’t think it had anything to do with the amount of time I did or didn’t spend with him either, because I went to his home five times and probably spent at least 10 hours with him overall. He certainly said a lot of interesting things, but nothing particularly emotional or reflective. I think there are two explanations for that. First, I don’t think Jim really likes to reflect. He’s a super nice and great and passionate guy, but he just wasn’t that interested in being vulnerable for strangers on the radio, despite my best attempts to get him to be. Second, I might be the world’s biggest pushover. I have a really hard time asserting my will and intentions, and I don’t think I was as clear as I could have been with Jim. I wanted to see a coyote, to be sure, but I was way more interested in him — in his desire to see them. So what I should have done, what I wish I had done, was tell him that in the beginning.
It’s a tough thing, though. You want to make sure you’re open-minded enough follow a story in whatever direction it takes you. And to do that without some preconceived idea about what the story even is. But you’ve also got to own your curiosity, and to have the confidence to poke and prod, to steer the conversation, and to make sure you leave with all your questions answered.
We have a question. Is there any good reason not to...
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So the story wasn’t working as I had structured it. Without much reflection from Jim or myself, it didn’t really mean much. But Rob, Audrey, and the rest of the class had the answer. In fact, they’d been saying the same thing for several weeks: insert yourself, they said, make it about you. They told me I was the one who changed in this story and that I could make it mean something — or at least make it more interesting — if I would just put myself in there. And they were right; I think it really helped.
Travis’ Sonic ID
I was sitting outside of a bakery one day, transcribing tape, when I heard this high-pitched SCREEEEEEEEECH through my headphones. That turned out to be the sound of Ryan fishtailing to a stop on his longboard, just like a snowboarder would, but on asphalt. I sometimes wish I lived life more on the edge, but his story reminds me why I don’t.