Every writer dreams of having thousands of people read his or work. The very first time I shared something I’d written with that large of an audience, the piece in question was an edited version of a post on the blog that I write about writing (this one!). Talk about meta.
Last month, when I wrote about my heartbreak over the closure of my hometown Denny’s, scene of many teenage hi-jinks (https://lisathomson101.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/an-ode-to-dennys/), I received a lot of feedback from folks who fondly remembered their own youthful hangout spots, whether it was Country Kitchen in rural Iowa or Carmine’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn, New York. It seemed I’d hit a nostalgic nerve.
So I decided to take my story to the radio.
For years, I’ve enjoyed a segment on my local public radio station KQED called Perspectives, a two-minute commentary written and recorded by a Bay Area resident, and covering topics that range from local politics to social commentary. Think This American Life meets open mic night. My piece about Denny’s was: 1) regional, 2) reflective, and 3) touched on the bigger issue of the ever-increasing pressure on kids to compete for college admissions. I figured it was ripe for public radio.
And apparently I was right. I read KQED’s submission requirements, edited my piece for length, and emailed it off. The very next day, I received an enthusiastic response from the segment editor Mark, saying how much he liked my submission and asking to schedule a phone call so that I could read it for time (in radio world, a two-minute segment is two minutes, not two minutes and a few seconds).
Over the phone, Mark couldn’t have been nicer or more complementary. He loved my piece, he said. It was well written and compelling, with varying sentence lengths. In short, perfect for radio.
The following week, I went to KQED to record. There I met Mark, who again told me how much he loved my piece, as well as the online producer and recording engineer, who also complimented me and listed off their own teenage hangout spots. Everyone was so friendly and enthusiastic – even for public radio – I started to wonder if the building had a nitrous leak (happy gas). But then it was time to get down to the business of recording.
I’d practiced reading the piece aloud a dozen times, but something about being in a sound proof recording studio and having a stranger listening carefully to my every syllable made my mouth a little dry. I read it through three times, stopping periodically to sip from my water glass. And less than 15 minutes after I’d entered the studio, we were done.
On my way out, Mark told me he would air my piece in two days. Only two days? I’d barely wrapped my head around the fact that I was going to hear myself on the radio. I made haste to alert my friends, family, and select colleagues.
On the big day, I set my alarm so that I could listen to the 6:05am airing while still in bed. I listened to the 7:35am airing while in my kitchen, making coffee. I felt exhilarated and a little embarrassed. And proud. I didn’t sound half bad. Later that night, I fired up the voice memo app on my iPhone and recorded the final airing at 11:30pm. I wanted a record of this cool, surreal, mouth-drying experience for a long time to come.
My friends and family were of course full of praise, but I was pleasantly surprised to receive compliments from several past and present colleagues who, as it turns out, are also avid KQED listeners. And the word seems to be spreading among my co-workers. Since the airing last week, I’ve had multiple requests for the link to the audio file on KQED’s website, which you can listen to here: http://www.kqed.org/a/perspectives/R201407310735
Who would have thought all of those hours spent at Denny’s would have amounted to anything?
Next stop, This American Life? I’ll keep you posted…