Story Workshop Fall 2013: Pieces

Intro from Jay Allison: Twice a year, we post a selection of the pieces from the Transom Story Workshop students. For many of them, 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. For this Transom feature, we present one story from each student along with a Sonic ID for WCAI. They also write about their challenges--"It's bad and missing a character," "Making this story felt like whittling down a giant piece of wood," "The space was big and boomy, with high vaulted ceilings"--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.

Rob Rosenthal, Lead Instructor

photo of Rob Rosenthal
Rob Rosenthal

The bond that emerged between the students as they navigate the eight-week workshop is nothing short of radio love. Listen. You’ll hear it in their stories…

Read more.

TSW: Class of Fall 2013

“In Between” by Vanessa Barchfield

photo of Vanessa Barchfield
Vanessa Barchfield

…what began as a story about this weird and wonderful fair that takes place in Provincetown every October grew into a piece about love and communication and community.

Read more and listen.

“The Beast” by Ethan Chiel

photo of Ethan Chiel
Ethan Chiel

It’s fine to have preconceived ideas about a story. Actually, it’s good to have them. They’ll lead you to important questions and perspectives and all those nice things.But you should be ready to jettison any notion you have about how a story you’re making should be if it’s holding that story back.

Read more and listen.

“Under Water” by Brigitta Greene

photo of Brigitta Greene
Brigitta Greene

I think it can be hard to tell — perhaps especially for a radio newbie — when a piece is done, or when you’ve made what you set out to create. For that reason, it was enormously helpful for me to play this piece for new people at different stages of the editing process.

Read more and listen.

“Escape From Books” by Jenny Gustafsson

photo of Jenny Gustafsson
Jenny Gustafsson

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.

Read more and listen.

“Beetbox Revival” by Jennifer Jerrett

photo of Jennifer Jerrett
Jennifer Jerrett

I made a conscious choice, right then and there, not to ask anyone to change anything. I just rolled with whatever came up. It may not be the most appropriate tactic in every situation, but in this case, I think it worked.

Read more and listen.

“Innocence and Experience” by Eric Jones

photo of Eric Jones
Eric Jones

My story started with a question that’s intrigued me longer than I can remember: How does the work we do change us? In particular, how does work that involves coming face-to-face with difficult realities change people?

Read more and listen.

“Other People’s Stories” by Tobin Low

photo of Tobin Low
Tobin Low

This piece taught me the importance of liking what you’re making. The crucial moment for me was when I recognized what my story wasn’t, and instead started to embrace what it was in my heart of hearts.

Read more and listen.

“Oh Brother” by Annie McEwen

photo of Annie McEwen
Annie McEwen

In class we talked a lot about approaching an interview with a rough outline of how the ideal story could look — what would be the perfect ending, the perfect beginning, where could the story arc take you — that sort of thing. I found with a personal story like this one, making an outline was harder to do.

Read more and listen.

“The Fighter Pilot” by Kathy Tu

photo of Kathy Tu
Kathy Tu

I didn’t initially set out to make a sound rich piece like I did with “The Fighter Pilot.” Actually, it was quite the opposite. I wanted to produce a piece that was deceptively simple: a well-crafted, personal narrative that was quiet by design.

Read more and listen.

TSW Spring 2013: Lead Instructor’s Notes

by Rob Rosenthal

photo of Rob Rosenthal
Rob Rosenthal. Photo by Samantha Broun.

At the end of each workshop, Transom puts on a public event. It’s a listening session and graduation ceremony rolled into one.

The event takes place in the Woods Hole Community Hall. It’s like an old grange hall. The wood floor is well worn. The windows rattle in the wind. Dances, performances and public meetings take place there. And, twice a year, the Transom Story Workshop event packs the house with around a hundred people who sit and listen intently, very intently, to nearly an hour-and-a-half of radio stories.

When it was time for me to offer some words about the class, I talked about the quality of the stories –stellar, as usual — and what it takes to produce such great work.

When I got to the most important component of their success, student collaboration, I stammered and stumbled. I couldn’t find the right word to describe the bond between the students. It was awkward. Over the course of eight weeks, these nine strangers had transformed into a cohesive, production team. Everyone working on his or her own story and on each other’s. And, what developed is… well, at the time, the right word escaped me.

Magic? Nope. Too hackneyed.

Spark? Closer but not quite.

Deep Collaboration? Crikey.

I hoped that someone from the audience would shout out a word. Didn’t happen.

I finally landed on a phrase I often use but it’s too academic — “mutual aid.”

Then, a day later, the right word emerged. It was obvious. It was a word, two words actually, we used again and again in class.

Radio love.

The bond that emerged between the students as they navigated the eight-week workshop is nothing short of radio love. Listen. You’ll hear it in their stories.

About Rob Rosenthal, Lead Instructor

Rob Rosenthal is a radio teacher and producer. He launched and then ran the internationally renowned radio program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies for eleven years. He’s now the lead instructor at the Transom Story Workshop. Rob has also presented and taught at workshops for National Geographic, the National Press Photographers Association, the Third Coast Festival, and colleges and universities.

When he’s not teaching, Rob produces HowSound, a podcast on audio storytelling for PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. For many years, Rob was primarily interested in producing local stories for local audiences; content that connects people to place including Malaga Island: A Story Best Left Untold and the audio tour Deep Woods and River Roads. Rob has produced multi-media pieces on international stories including Justice Denied and Rights Not Rescue.

About Sarah P. Reynolds, Associate Instructor

photo of Sarah P. Reynolds
Sarah P. Reynolds

Sarah P. Reynolds is a radio and multimedia producer. She produces and reports for NPR programs and several local public radio stations around the country. Her award winning investigative and reporting work covers subjects as diverse as the housing crisis, hate crimes and migrant workers, some of which has culminated in projects with national organizations working to change policy. Sarah also teaches radio production and has taught with Radio Rookies at WNYC and with several of the Transom Story Workshops. Find her at and on Twitter @sarahpreynolds.

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