An Unlikely Place for a Punk

Intro from Jay Allison: We have a series here at Transom we call “Short Lists” where you hear a list of things and then find out how they’re connected. Hairpieces, Coyotes, Village Portraits, Grind Core Punk, Personal Tragedy, Songwriting, Fibromyalgia, Singing at Funerals, Roller Derby… okay, that’s a list of the stories produced by the Transom Story Workshop this fall. The students came here from all over the country (and two from Canada this time), somehow discovered these stories hidden away on Cape Cod, and then, using the skills they just learned, turned them into radio. It’s quite a trick—to go from never having done it, to doing it well. I’m amazed every time.

Listen to “An Unlikely Place For A Punk”

About “An Unlikely Place for a Punk”

For some reason, the most difficult thing about making this piece was getting to the point. There were all these great facts that I knew were the most interesting aspects of the story, but I was diluting them by writing my script like a paper instead of like radio. In a short piece like this, each sentence has to either move the story forward or impart some vital information. A listening attention span is different from a reading attention span, and script writing has to reflect that. Listening ears were not going to wait around while I bogged down this story with information that isn’t useful.

For a long time, I wasn’t actually sure what the point of my story was. So the first draft of this piece was mostly information that wasn’t useful. It didn’t reflect why I think Paul and his label are interesting. I was trying to explain the history of straightedge culture, and I was going on about what grindcore was, and it was not interesting. I had to figure out what in heavens name I was trying to say, and then just say it. I didn’t want to beat listeners over the head with it, but I also wanted to be clear. And I didn’t want to say anything that an actuality could say better. It’s a precarious balance. Less is more, most of the time.

The funny thing is, they tell you all these things right off the hop, but it wasn’t until I was actually working on the piece and trying to do these things that I realized how hard it is. My advice is to trust the reasons why you think your subject matters, and make your piece about that. You know why it’s interesting, so try and articulate that without getting caught up in too many details. People will get it, even without all those words.

Mary’s Sonic ID

Listen to “Mary’s Sonic ID”

I was driving back from an interview when I passed by this old barn in Brewster that sold jam and antiques, so I decided to stop in. Carol Quinn was sitting behind the counter knitting a children’s sweater. I told her that I knit too, and she immediately starting telling me about this great trick she had for putting buttons on. I recorded her telling me about it, and then she told me I should go visit her husband down at the Chatham harbour. If I left right then, she said, I would be there just in time to watch the seals as they followed the boats coming in to the harbour, which I did.

Listen to more pieces from this Story Workshop class.

Mary Decker

Mary Decker

Mary Decker is from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She studied textiles in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and will probably spend the rest of her life deciding which coast to call home. Mary gravitates to strange and wonderful places, and she hopes this tendency will lead to a bright future in radio. You can find more of Mary's work at PRX.

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