Island Signs

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 “Island Signs”

About “Island Signs”

I swear to you, I found this story on Wikipedia. I was originally considering doing another story about Martha’s Vineyard. But as soon as I learned there was a sign language that was unique to the island—a language used by both deaf and hearing islanders—I was obsessed. It was a story I wanted to share with everyone.

It became clear pretty quickly, however, that there were two hurdles I had to overcome. One) it’s a radio story about sign language, and two) the last person who knew Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language died three years ago. But I was too captivated by the story to give up.

So I found some interesting academics to talk, and I started getting tape. I also got some archival tapes of people demonstrating signs from one of the researchers. I had a wealth of good trivia, but I had a lot of trouble framing the story. At first it felt like an interesting radio lecture. There was no sense of movement or place. Then my class suggested that I get a tour of the island and visit places where people signed in the past. And everything came together. It gave the story a local feel. It helped the history come to life.

I guess the lesson I learned is not to give up on a great story because it seems challenging. Some ideas won’t work out, but if you really want to tell a story, persistence can pay off.

Dylan’s Sonic ID

Listen to “Dylan’s Sonic ID”

Look out your window. I did, and there was a woman dancing. I got a great sonic from her, only to realize I hadn’t been recording. Luckily, she was kind enough to let me record her again.

Listen to More Pieces from this Story Workshop Class

Dylan Peers McCoy

Dylan Peers McCoy

Dylan has been a radio junkie since grade school. She grew up in suburban Boston, where the public radio is excellent. She is passionate about reporting on the human side of economic and public policy stories. And she is always eager to talk about urban planning. You can listen to more of Dylan's work on PRX.

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