Escape From Books

Intro from Jay Allison: This piece comes from a student in the Transom Story Workshop Fall 2013. For many of the participants, this is the first radio work they’ve ever made, which is not an excuse but a cause for amazement. In their two months in Woods Hole, under the guidance of Rob Rosenthal & Sarah Reynolds and the Transom Team (along with renowned visiting teachers like, this time: Jonathan Harris, Ira Glass, and Andrea Seabrook), they learn the skills of recording, interviewing, structuring, editing, writing, voicing, mixing, etc. etc… while creating work for broadcast. The fun part is not that they just learn the rules, but that they also break them creatively. The harmony in these groups, as they help one another, is inspiring. We asked students to write about their challenges and what they did to surmount or circumvent them. They share their own vulnerability in order to help others, which is part of the wonder of these workshops.

Listen to “Escape From Books”

About “Escape From Books”

I soon realized that, as much as I had tried my best to locate a story that was local in the sense that it actually took place somewhere on Cape Cod, I had found the exact opposite. The piece I did for the Creative Life series featured Elizabeth Bradfield, a poet living in North Truro. On the Cape! But what I wanted her to talk about was a project she had initiated: a virtual press that shares poetry online. Anyone can then download the poems and put them up where they live. The idea, Elizabeth said, is to have poems “escape their books.” And they have, thanks to people who print them and then stick them on walls all over the world.

Yeah. All over the world. That’s where the challenges began (well, they actually began with the very first step in producing this first radio piece ever!). I wanted to get sound that would capture how the poems actually make their way from pages in books out into streets, squares, restrooms and coffee shops (and other, very random, places). But it turned out there was not a single poem put up anywhere on the Cape. They were spread all over the U.S., and in countries all over the world, but not a single one within manageable distance!

So what I did was send out emails to people who are putting up poetry, asking them if they could record themselves while doing it. It was probably my radio-newbie brain that came up with that idea (the immediate reaction of Rob, our teacher, was to ask me — very politely — if I had considered that I would get absolutely unusable tape back from someone randomly recording things with a phone) but I went ahead nonetheless. And, it turns out that was a really good thing! Lori Zimmerman, the person who was sweet enough to help me out, had recorded this great sound of ripping a piece of tape off and sticking it to the wall. Sure, the quality of the recording was not that of a professional recording, but it worked really well and captured the intimacy of the moment.

Learn more about Broadsided Press, where Elizabeth Bradfield shares poetry.

Jenny’s Sonic ID

Listen to “Jenny’s Sonic ID”

This bit of sound is from an interview I did with Vasco Pires, a man from Falmouth who told me stories from his trips to Cape Verde, the country his grandparents once left behind. We were looking at pictures on his computer when suddenly the recording of a man came up. He was looking steadily into the camera, singing with this beautiful voice – and the song was something that he just made up as he went along! I knew immediately when I sat there with Vasco that this was a piece of sound I wanted to do something with. I just loved everything about it: the rhythm, the words, the fact that it was improvised.

Listen to More Pieces from this Story Workshop Class

Jenny Gustafsson

Jenny Gustafsson

Some four years ago, Jenny Gustafsson left her native Sweden for Lebanon and has since called Beirut her home. She writes independently on social and political issues, and is one of the co-founders and editors of Mashallah News, a collaborative platform for new storytelling from the Middle East. You can learn more about Jenny at her website.

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