Intro from Jay Allison: Radio students from all over the country, plus Canada and Australia, came to live on Cape Cod for a couple of months to attend the Fall 2012 Transom Story Workshop. Rob Rosenthal and Sarah Reynolds ran the class with dedication, and made sure the students came away with skills enough to craft lovely pieces… which they did. The students found remarkable stories sitting under the noses of us who’ve been living here for decades. Come listen. It’s impressive to hear such work from a group of people just starting out, and it’s encouraging too, because there’s bound to be more of it.
About “The Beat of His Own Drum”
I got a lot of tape for my first story, “The Beat of His Own Drum” that I made for the “Creative Life” series. At that point, the challenge was not to find a good quote, but to cut out everything that wasn’t the story. Or – that wasn’t THIS story.
I interviewed Sam Holmstock, the drum teacher who ran the drum circle, and he had a lot of good nuggets, but when I went to hear the drum circle, I met one of the players, Ryan Fletcher. He was kind of on fire about the drums. He looked intense when he was playing. He didn’t just want to do it. He wanted to breathe it and that came through in his voice, and he was a good talker and a character and so he became the subject of my story.
Once I’d transcribed the tape and managed to pull together a rough structure, every quote seemed important, but “Creative Life” pieces are 4 ½ minutes, so I had to cut a lot. I remembered a joke that John Biewen told at the Third Coast conference. A passerby sees an artist carving a duck out of wood and asks how he does it. He answers that you just cut away everything that doesn’t look like a duck. So, I cut and cut and little by little, I was able to start seeing the duck.
Perhaps the biggest revelation was one editing note from Rob. He suggested I cut my narration on one page that set up the quote that was coming. But, I’d written that to explain the sudden transition to that quote. I made Rob’s cuts and read it out loud. I was shocked.
That moment in the script was suddenly surprising. And it was funny, too. And besides all that, nothing was lost. Not only did I not need to explain everything in between, the listener would understand and enjoy it all the more. Now I love the idea of cutting big chunks of the story. Not the little breaths and pauses that give the speaker character, but the larger pieces, especially of narration, that try so earnestly to “help” the listener, but rather just put the listener to sleep. Like magic, Rob removed some of the trees and what do you know, there was a forest there…or perhaps a duck.
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