*Note: this piece contains language that some people may find offensive.
About “Leaving A Mark” by Emily Hsiao
I saw a Craigslist post titled “SWASTIKA TATTOO” and naturally decided to click on it. Someone was trying to get help covering up a small swastika tattoo. The author didn’t provide many details, but mentioned the tattoo was done in younger years. Still curious (and perhaps a little nosy), I called the number listed. Bruce answered. He had gotten the tattoo in the 80s, while he was in prison for some drug-related charges. Long story short, he eventually allowed me to interview him and we agreed to meet up. I interviewed him in his truck.
My original idea was to do a story about Bruce getting his swastika tattoo covered up. I wanted to answer the question: why now? To find out what made him change his mind. But after my interview with him, I realized that including the actual cover-up was no longer necessary. A different story presented itself, and I found myself recalling one of the first things we learned in the workshop: know what you want going into a story, but also be open to having that shift or change.
Once it was time to put the piece together, I knew right off the bat that I couldn’t be the narrator–using acts to summarize what Bruce told me would have done a disservice to the piece. His voice carried the power of his story, and I didn’t want to disturb that. Yet I also knew that I had to include myself, because it became evident during our interview that we had some kind of strange but easy rapport, despite our vastly different backgrounds. That meant I had to leave myself in as the interviewer and make our conversation part of the story. It became a story about Bruce and his life experiences, framed around our brief encounter.
Which brings me to my final thought: I believe I REALLY lucked out in finding Bruce and in getting good tape. Being forced to record the interview in Bruce’s truck (cars are always a last resort for recording interviews) was a blessing in disguise, and I’m so glad I decided to keep the recorder running, even after the interview “ended.” If I hadn’t continued recording and if Bruce hadn’t said the things he said, I wouldn’t have been able to capture the gems that begin and end my piece or structure the story in the way that I did.
About Emily Hsiao
Emily caught the radio bug while hosting a music show on her college station, KUCI. Two quarters of a 2-4 a.m. time slot couldn’t keep her away. She soon realized radio is a perfect medium for the narrative–Emily’s background is in literary journalism–and she shifted her focus to learning audio storytelling. Emily lives in Los Angeles, where she continues to listen to great stories and make things with her hands (editing audio counts as handiwork!).
Emily is a member of AIR.