AWP 2012: NPRU Kidding Me?

Posted on 11 March 2012

Reading on the page and hearing a story read out loud are completely different experiences. This is why I often make plenty of edits before reading out loud, and why it took me so long to choose which story in Living Arrangements to use for readings. (So far I’ve used “To Elizabeth Bishop, with Love.” And yes, I do omit a few lines when I read it out loud.)

The AWP session “NPRU Kidding Me?” discussed this issue in depth. The panel included several radio producers (Sean Cole, Lulu Miller, and Starlee Kine, among others) who discussed what works and what doesn’t when it comes to writing for radio. I have some experience producing podcasts, and I’ve also recently experimented recording some of my fiction/essays, so I was eager to hear what they had to say.

Here are a few highlights from the session:

  • Writing for radio is different from writing for print — it takes a different “mode.” Explore your radio writer mode.
  • Writing for the page is ruled by what Lulu calls “Captain Ambiguity.” For example, strong writing  doesn’t overtly describe emotions — instead, the sequence of events should incite the reader’s emotion. (Insert classic “show, don’t tell” advice here.)
  • Radio writers, however, live in the Land of the Obvious. It takes a lot more to get through to a listening audience; the story can’t be so subtle.
  • While everything must be stated more explicitly for radio, that doesn’t mean dumbing it down.
  • Just because you say something in an obvious way doesn’t mean you can’t say it beautifully.
  • Often, a radio story is told in three acts – and the last act is what the story means. You have to make something of the story and explain why you are telling it.
  • Generally speaking, a radio pitch is often looser and more friendly than a print pitch.
  • Try pitching short essays to local stations/public radio affiliates, universities, Studio360, Unfictional, etc. Check out

Some great tips I hope to take advantage of one day. In the meantime, I’ll be relieved to let someone else take on the challenge of reading my work aloud for Stories on Stage this June.

Photo: cogdogblog

3 responses to AWP 2012: NPRU Kidding Me?

  • “To Elizabeth Bishop, With Love” was fabulous! I hope I get the chance to hear you do a reading… maybe this summer?

  • Sarah W says:

    This is fascinating, Laura.

    I have a summer home in the Land of the Obvious I’ve been trying to offload, but maybe I should hang onto it? :)

  • Catherine says:

    Great tips here. I’ve yet to do my first reading and am terrified already. How to pick a section of a 300pp novel that makes sense? How will I ever get anybody’s attention with my tiny voice. I have a festival in July and I’m already in a nervous lather!

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