A Day At Herring River

Intro from Jay Allison: Nine students recently completed the Spring 2013 Transom Story Workshop and they uncovered wonderful local stories. Their work is a real lesson not only in storytelling, but also in story finding. We asked each student to pick one of the pieces they produced during their time here, tell you about how they discovered it, and chronicle their challenges in producing it. They also picked one of the “Sonic IDs” they made, which are good ones. Most of this group had never produced before, so prepare to be inspired by what they accomplished.

Listen to “A Day At Herring River”

About “A Day At Herring River”

I heard about this group of people who go and count river herring. About six to nine people come out every day and conduct 10-minute counts. This sounded delightful and strange to me. So… I went and sat in a clearing one day and waited for them to show up for the count, which they did, and count we did, and 11 hours later, we left.

It excited me to do a piece like this. It didn’t involve a huge amount of preparation; it was just about me moving towards something that I found intangible and intriguing. I had no idea what the story would be when I showed up (nor much of a clue about river herring) but soon enough a story presented itself. It was an exciting storytelling mode to be in, to just head out in to the world with the microphone pointing forward to see what I could find. As I learned time and time again on the transom course, people can be so generous when it comes to sharing their world on tape.

I initially saw this as being a non-narrated piece. It seemed like an obvious choice! But my initial attempts didn’t move the story along well enough and although the tape sounded nice, it didn’t feel interesting or understandable. Eventually, my classmates convinced me to enter my own piece and I think this made the story much better (thanks guys). If I’m honest, it was hard not to see this as a failure at first, but I honestly don’t feel that way now. You really can’t see it that way if it’s the difference between good radio and bad radio.

In my attempts to make it non-narrated I at least learnt a fair amount about what you need: A compelling talker, someone to say things you would have said in the narration. I thought I had all these things in Jeff the Herring Warden, but as I learnt you also need to do tons of preparation yourself (especially as a rookie producer) to make sure you ask all the questions you need, get good tape for all the key narration and be honest when someone hasn’t explained something clearly enough. I found I didn’t have enough of this kind of tape to make it happen this time. I’ll keep trying though!

Ben’s Sonic ID

Listen to “Ben’s Sonic ID”

I was driving down route 6A in Brewster and I was attracted by a sign for a chocolatier so I stopped off. My aim was to go in to a situation unprepared and following my nose towards a story. Chef Paul was extremely generous with his time and talked about his family, his shop and how he ended up on the Cape. The interview really came alive though when I asked him to describe some of the chocolates in the shop. That’s how I got the sonic. It seems that you can often get some great tape when you ask someone to describe something to you that the audience can’t see.

Listen to More Pieces from this Story Workshop Class

Ben Harden

Ben Harden

Ben is an oceanographer working at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod. He specializes in Arctic oceans and extreme winds around Greenland. He's also an independent radio producer and videographer - making videos on research expeditions for the past three years. He is particularly interested in science stories that intersect with history and culture.

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