Intro from Jay Allison: This piece comes from the Transom Story Workshop Spring 2014. The students came from all over to spend two months with us on Cape Cod. Rob Rosenthal and Audrey Quinn led the class and were joined by all of us at Transom, plus Robert Krulwich, Nancy Updike, and a lot of other great producers who happened by. Check out their work. If these are beginners, look out.
About “Keep Bowling As Long As You Can”
This is not the piece I expected to make for my second story. After disregarding a first, entirely different, idea I decided to check out the world of bowling. Falmouth has a candlepin bowling alley and a regular bowling alley. I visited both to suss them out. It turned out someone had previously done a piece about people at the regular bowling alley. So candlepin it was.
So I had a setting. But I didn’t have a story. I decided to spend an entire day there, open to close — a day in the life or tick-tock story. And be open to any other narratives that presented themselves. After one extremely long day at the bowling alley, I came back with many hours of tape and worked up a script.
My editors (classmates and instructors) all had the same reaction: Focus on the senior league, the folks who bowl first thing in the morning. In particular focus on one character, Nellie, who had told me this was likely her last season bowling. I set up an interview with Nellie. I made an epic 34-mile bike ride (round-trip) to interview Nellie.
There, she told me that she had gotten a cortisone shot — so it might not be her last season bowling after all. But we kept talking. And at the very end, when I thought we were pretty much done with the interview, she told me about her friend and teammate Barbara. And pulled out Barbara’s letter, written shortly before she died. And read it out loud for me.
I went back to the senior league one more time — and didn’t even realize until late in the writing/revising process that I had Nellie on tape talking about next season.
Enjoying this feature?
Help Transom get new work and voices to public radio by donating now.
Nancy’s Sonic ID
Genevieve Wood was one of the first people I met at the bowling alley. She had a terrific voice and is obviously a great character — but in a very brief way. She was in the first draft of my story, but got cut out when I decided to focus on Nellie. It was a classic case of murdering your darlings — or as Rob puts it, shooting the puppy. I was very happy, in this case, that I could turn this brief bit of tape into a Sonic ID and get Genevieve on the air after all.