Thursday, April 19, 2012
Radio Essays 101
I’m excited because tomorrow I’m going in to WVTF, my local public radio station to record a couple of radio essays. I love the folks there and I love the form of the radio essay—which I’m still learning, but my good friend Janis Jaquith is an expert in. Click on her name to check out her website and delightful book.
As you all know, I made my living as a freelance writer for many years. One of the hurdles that’s hardest for me to get over these days is the fact that everybody wants your writing for free. I take issue with that. Sure there are plenty of decent writers out there that will provide copy for you, but are they professional enough to know the difference between that and which? Or to check out their facts, not just once, but several times with several sources? In any case, that’s probably better left for another post.
For me, there are only a few outlets I say yes to even though there is no pay. One of those places is public radio. Many writers don’t even think about this opportunity. I know I didn’t until I met Janis. Local public radio stations need good copy. If you’re a writer, you can provide it. And I’m here to tell you that you can also record it—even though that seems daunting at first, sitting in front of that microphone. I’ve been doing it a few years and it gets easier every time. The key is to practice a good bit before you go in to record. As Janis says, the vocal chords have muscle memory so it really does help to practice. Also, there is a time limit—mine is three minutes—and you must come in under that limit.
So, check out the guidelines of your local station’s website, or call them up to ask what they need.
Here’s a few more pointers:
1. Remember that you are writing for the ear. So listen to yourself when you practice. If you are tripping up on a word, find another one.
2. Make sure you are pronouncing things correctly. This can be tough when it comes to regional dialects.
3. Take your time when you’re reading. You’re always reading faster than you think. So slow down. If you come in over your time limit, you can edit something out or record again.
So if your asking yourself why to put yourself through all this when what you really want to be doing is writing your stories, the word is publicity. You can’t ask for better free publicity than that little tagline that comes after your essay.
As a freelancer, and now as a novelist, I’ve learned to put my time where it counts. You can’t really measure this in terms of book sales—but it’s one of those things that helps to keep your name out there.
Have you ever been on the radio?