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?


suz said...

This post is wonderful. I took a radio class for two years in high school and loved it. Since then I have done a couple of radio interviews, but had not considered this aspect of reading essays. I will be checking it out. Thanks for sharing.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I've done occasional interviews, mostly for the Internet, but this sounds like a wonderful opportunity, Mollie--especially since you can deliver exactly the message you want!

Monica Ferris said...

I have done several radio interviews and a couple of cable tv ones, too. I have learned to have a couple of witty things to say already stored up, to keep my answers short, and to be as pleasant as possible to the interviewer.

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

Yes, you can deliver the message you want, Linda. And you can show the audience what a good writer you are so they want to buy your books.
Good idea, Monica, to have so witty thing stored up and ready.
Thanks so much Suz. Drop us a line and let us know how it goes for you.

Janis Jaquith said...

Shameless plug:

Seminar: The Art of the Radio Essay
Instructor: Janis Jaquith
Cost: $55 Members | $60 Non-Members
Saturday, June 23, 2012 | 9:00am-1:00pm

Ever heard those personal commentaries on NPR stations and wonder how it's done? Learn the techniques of this performance art: how to grab the listener by the lapels; how to create a mini-movie in the minds of thousands of listeners; how to NOT sound like you're reading from a script when, of course, you are!

At least three students from last session's class have already had their essays aired on the radio!

Janis Jaquith’s radio commentaries have been broadcast on NPR stations since1997. She has been a sporadic commentator for the PRI radio show "Marketplace," and NPR's "Day to Day." For six years, she was a columnist for The Daily Progress. Her VPA award-winning column now appears inCharlottesville’s newsweekly, The Hook.

Registration info:

Mollie Cox Bryan said...

Janis, I had no idea you were teaching a class. Very cool! Nice to "see" you here!

Betty Hechtman said...

I have been on the radio a few of times talking about my books. I just winged it.

Chrystle Fiedler said...

I was on the radio to promote Death Drops and it was fun. I went with the flow - you'll do great!