The Cape Cod Rabies Task Force

photo of raccoon in a cage
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I found an idea for my second story soon after arriving on Cape Cod. I started reporting and interviewing, but after gathering approximately four hours of tape, I realized there was no story. The thought of having to go back for more filled me with dread. Not because it was hard, not because it was more work, but because it was boring. I was bored. And I couldn’t imagine making a 7-minute story about it that wasn’t boring.

But we were due to have dinner and class with Nancy Updike, where we would pitch our second story ideas and get her feedback. I tried to ignore the voice in my head that said, You can’t pitch this idea to Nancy Freaking Updike! I did, though. I tried to inject my voice with lots of enthusiasm to fool her — and me — into thinking that this story would work. It’s too late to find another, I thought. Make it work.

Well, as Nancy started giving me feedback, my ears were still ringing with a word we had been discussing all day: ambition. She was giving me ideas to make the story more ambitious, and they were not clicking deep down in my soul. Then I came back to my original idea and asked how to incorporate it with what she was suggesting, and she said, “Well, that’s not so interesting to me. But what is interesting is this other thing.”

When I left class I felt like throwing up. I had wasted my one shot to make an ambitious, fulfilling story at Transom. And I had bored Nancy Updike. I started freaking out, and Rob very kindly assured me that there were plenty of stories to be found, so why didn’t I do some more research and call him in the morning?

I spent hours on the Internet that night, following every trail as far as it would go. No luck. I cried myself to sleep, feeling very, very sorry for myself. In the morning, I showered, dressed, and grabbed a table at Coffee O around 9. I kept researching, and after three hours, found myself on the Facebook page for the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force, not quite sure how I got there.

I called Rob. “Three words,” I said. “Rabies. Task. Force.”

“Okaaaaaay,” he said. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t as excited as I was about this. “And what is it these ladies do?”

“Not ladies!” I said. “RABIES!” I noticed a few heads turn.

“Oh!” Rob said. “Rabies! Yeah! Hell yeah!”

And from that point on, I was obsessed with the story. I drove hours for 20-minute interviews. I read everything I could about rabies. I researched literature and folklore and songs about rabies. In short, I was in love.

I know that not every story will spark that same passion in me. But I wish I had listened to myself and cut my losses with the original story idea a lot sooner. If I’m bored reporting it, my audience (including Nancy Updike) is going to be even more bored listening to it.

Maybe stories are like relationships. You go along with one because it’s what you have, and it’s fine, and it’s better than being without one. But one day, you wake up, break it off, and find another that is more right and fulfilling and exciting than you could have ever imagined.

Melody’s Sonic ID

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Dan is my friend’s dad. My friend was home in Hatchville for a few days while I was at Transom, so I went to hang out with her. Their house is brimming with stories — and so was her dad. Fortunately, I had taken along my equipment just in case. Dan started telling me about the lighthouse, and I made him stop until I could get the recorder on. He was a great sport!

Listen to more pieces from this Story Workshop class here.

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