Radio Free Europe: In Which the Good People of the Netherlands Turn My Post Into a Radio Program
Last December on the day after my birthday, I received an email from Netherlands public radio. One of the producers there had come across a post of mine. “I wanted to make contact with you regarding doing an essay for our radio programme,” she wrote. “The idea would be to take your story and turn it into an essay that you would share on our programme. If this sounds interesting to you, please get in touch.” I was pretty sure it was a practical joke. But the request was in fact genuine, and even though I had never heard of her show, The State We’re In, it turns out to be pretty big world-wide. It’s also a really great show; it’s like This American Life except the stories are international. Each week they choose a theme, and bring you a selection of stories on based on that theme, yadda, yadda, yadda. The producer, whose name is Mignon (like the filet!), told me that they would pay to rent my city’s public radio facilities to interview me by phone, as well as have me read my post. Plus, they’d pay me 130 £ an hour for my time. (!)
The original idea was that it would be featured on their Valentine’s Day special. So in early January, Mignon and I talked a few times over the phone and exchanged emails as I was “prepped” for my interview. It was heady stuff, and at first I was delighted. Soon enough, however, she began to bring up changes they wanted me to make in order for it to translate better to a radio audience. If you’ve ever written something and had an editor suggest revisions, you’ll probably understand that my ego and I were less than pleased.
“In this section,” suggested Mignon, “I think you should say, ‘I remember my sister and I listening, our mouths full of the first bite of my mother’s delicious cheesecake.’ Can you say that?”
“But we weren’t eating cheesecake. I don’t even like cheesecake.” I would counter, miffed.
“People love cheesecake, Tod. I think it would really add some punch for you to be eating cheesecake here. Let’s bookmark this and come back to the cheesecake later.”
All of this made me worry about what they were going to do to my story. When the time came to do the recording and interview, however, they basically let me have free reign to say whatever I wanted. And the interview was actually really fun, and the questions unexpected and thought provoking. (Mind you, it is an edited story, so the actual interview isn’t really heard so much as selections of my responses.)
I got an email right before Valentines Day saying they were very sorry, but my story didn’t make the cut; I was told they might decide to use it at a later date. When April Fool’s Day rolled around I got an email saying they were considering using it in an episode that had a “Pranks!” theme; but it was decided once again not to be the perfect fit for the show. I’d like to say I took it all in stride, but the truth of the matter is that I was pretty disappointed each time.
So I was very excited when I got an email this week saying that this week’s show was now in the can and my story would be broadcast. I just finished listening to it, and am as happy as a hog in whatever it is that hogs get happy when they’re in it. And many, many props to Mignon – she knows her craft. The story’s tone and feel are very different from my original short essay, but it totally works in her medium.
You can hear this week’s show here. The whole show is really interesting; my revamped and radioed part starts around the 32 minute mark. And if you want to compare and contrast the written essay to the produced radio segment, the original post is here.
Otherwise, consider this an open thread.