Story Workshop Fall 2011: Pieces

Intro from Jay Allison: For seven weeks, students from all over the US (plus Canada and Australia) came to Woods Hole to immerse themselves in radio. They were led by Rob Rosenthal, with help from all of us at Transom, WCAI, and visiting friends—Ira Glass, John Barth, Kelly McEvers, and many others. They were beginners when they arrived, some with no experience at all, but they all left with completed radio pieces good enough for broadcast on our station and nationally. They lived and ate together. They worked on their stories until dawn. They actually looked different when they left, filled with new energy. They were a wonderful, coherent, lively group of people and we loved having them here on Cape Cod. Audiences are already benefitting from the stories they told. Take a look and listen. The students and Rob are around to answer any questions you may have.

Rob Rosenthal

Rob in marsh photo
Rob Rosenthal

I’ve been teaching radio production and storytelling for many, many years. Despite that, I am never, ever bored – ever — because each student’s story presents something new for me to grapple with and learn from…

Read more.

TSW: Class of Fall 2011

“The Tail of a Stone Carver’s Dream” by Lori Ann Brass

Lori Ann Brass photo
Lori Ann Brass

I feel fortunate…to be telling stories, this time, as an independent radio producer.

Read more and listen.

“Big Collage” by Erin Cisewski

Erin Cisewski photo
Erin Cisewski

I learned that despite my preparedness, the magic of a story comes from the surprises.

Read more and listen.

“Trust and Translation” by Will Coley

Will Coley photo
Will Coley

At the end of the day, the project really taught me a lot about boiling down complex issues to comprehensible stories.

Read more and listen.

“The Mark of a Blacksmith” by JP Davidson

JP Davidson photo
JP Davidson

I really struggled to find a story for my first piece. Nobody was getting back to me, my ideas seemed dull, and the clock was ticking.

Read more and listen.

“Leaving” by Whitney Jones

Whitney Jones photo
Whitney Jones

When I arrived in Woods Hole I had no intention of doing a story about myself.

Read more and listen.

“Bucky’s Dome” by Katie Klocksin

Katie Klocksin photo
Katie Klocksin

Ultimately, I realized tangents caused narrative whiplash…. You can’t cover 4,000 topics in a ten minute story. It’s too confusing, and the goal is clarity.

Read more and listen.

“A Dancing Life” by Mary Helen Miller

Mary Helen Miller photo
Mary Helen Miller

My biggest technical challenge with the story had to do with music. I gathered most of my tape at dance lessons, so music was usually on in the background.

Read more and listen.

“Veronica’s Backyard” by Joel Supple

Joel Supple photo
Joel Supple

I wasn’t really sure what the story was going to be about, but Veronica was all personality, and a great character.

Read more and listen.

TSW Spring 2011: Instructor’s Notes

by Rob Rosenthal

Rob in marsh photo
Rob Rosenthal

This fall we piloted the Transom Story Workshop – an intensive radio immersion course for beginners. I’ve been teaching radio production and storytelling for many, many years. Despite that, I am never, ever bored – ever — because each student’s story presents something new for me to grapple with and learn from.

For instance, before the Transom Story Workshop no student had ever asked: “The graffiti artist I’m doing a story on doesn’t have a car and only travels only by skate board. Can I drive him so he can show me his work that’s about seven miles away? And, he might bring a can of spray paint along and put something up. That okay?”

Seems obvious now, but in the moment, having never thought about that before, it took a couple of minutes to work through the question with the student. On one hand, yeah, by all means, drive someone so they can show you their work. On the other, he may commit a crime while he’s there. So, actually, no. Don’t do that!

Other learning moments for me during the Workshop related to the use of foreign language translation, recording while trespassing, how to edit someone with vigor when the story they are telling is intensely personal, and so on. More often than not, answering these questions was a group effort – everyone’s teaching, everyone’s learning, including me.

And I was definitely in learning mode with all the stellar guest speakers to the Workshop. NPR reporter, Kelly McEvers talked about reporting from a war zone; Australian public radio talk show host Richard Fidler offered excellent interview tips; Patrice Schneider of the Media Development Loan described his work with community radio in emerging democracies; This American Life’s Ira Glass listened to and critiqued story pitches… I could go on.

In this Transom feature not only will you hear from the students about what they each took away from their experience at the Workshop but you’ll also be able to listen to one of the pieces that they produced during their time in Woods Hole. I hope you glean something from their travails. We’re running the Workshop again in the spring. Please consider joining me to learn – and teach!

*Note: A special shout out to Joni Glazebrook – Transom Story Workshop’s Outreach Ambassador – and Sarah Harris, who was my teaching assistant this fall. Neither of them appear in the feature but the Workshop would not have been possible without them.

About Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal is an independent producer and a teacher. He’s the host for How Sound, PRX’s podcast on radio storytelling. He ran the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies’ radio track for 11 years. And, he is now the lead teacher for the Transom Story Workshop, which launched in the fall of 2011.


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  • Ellen Rocco



    Wonderful work! This is so exciting–all this new talent ready to add something to the public media mix. I think Veronica and I may be sisters separated at birth.

    Thanks to Transom, Jay, the Woods Hole folks, Rob et al for making this opportunity available to these talented people.

    I look forward to hearing more from all of you.

  • Sean



    Looking forward to listening to this!

    I have a question for Mr. Allison.

    I live in Toronto (Canada), and I’m looking for a community of local radio people, to
    do workshops and to share ideas, etc… I see so many great programs south of the border, but I have yet to find local stuff.

    Since you’re so connected I was wondering if you know of any…? Thanks.

  • JP Davidson



    Hi Sean,

    I’m actually trying to start something like that in Toronto –

    I don’t know if it’s exactly what you’re looking for but it would be cool to meet and chat about radio sometime. My email’s on the website if you wanna get in touch.

    As far as existing stuff in town, there’s New Adventures in Sound Art (NAISA), I’ve been meaning to check them out but haven’t yet. They do conferences and workshops.

    Maybe Jay will have other ideas?

  • Sean Rasmussen



    Hi JP. I have signed up to your new group. And, yes, I’d love to grab a coffee
    sometime! I’ll contact you shortly. Thanks.

  • Chris Mottes



    Hi all,
    Congratulations on some great pieces. We here at Hindenburg hope you all enjoyed using our tools and look forward to your feedback for improvements.

    Happy holidays,
    Chris, Preben and Nick

  • Jeff Emtman



    Your piece is absolutely beautiful. The ability that you have for thoughtful and effective storytelling is a true gift.

    Please continue to tell your and others’ stories.


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