Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More News from the Salt Institute by Alix Blair, Guest Blogger

Here is Alix's second dispatch from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. (Her first post can be read here).

We talk about finding and directing the EMOTIONAL CENTER of our story, how is it best if-- instead of in one sentence--you should be able to sum up your story in ONE WORD and most often, that is your emotional center and the direction you should craft your story in.

It looks like one of my two stories for Salt's radio program will take place in Lubec, Maine. It is the eastern most area of the United States and a ten-hour roundtrip drive from Portland! Recently driving the 5 hour return, I had the good fortune to hear Soundprint's Treasure Isle story which I fell in love with.

It's funny & shocking how much finding an audio story is like falling in love. You live it so much in your head before the first meeting. You invent conversations and scenes and expectations. You create the imaginary future and its brilliance. You spend hours fretting over the phone, wondering why they don't call you back. Did you say the wrong thing? Did you scare them away? Finally you meet the real thing.You learn it's not at all what you had in mind, you have to let go of certain preconceived ideas for the story. The story is different than you created. You must be open to all the new things that unfold and yet keep a map of the places you believed in--what brought you originally to the story in the first place.

Flowers in my tiny apartment, only a few blocks to walk to Salt.
They are a healthy reminder that there's life outside of hours and hours of transcription!

Here's some of what we're listening to (a mishmash selection of the past several weeks.) We usually start our Tuesday and Friday radio classes with 2-3 listenings and discussion of radio pieces, most often produced by past students. These are some of my favorites.

"No Praise, No Blame, Just So" Jessica Alpert.
Kitchen Sisters Tupperware Party
"Bringing the work into you" Megan Martin.
"Just another fish story" Molly Menschel--this one we listened to as before-Salt "homework." I love this story so much.
"World's Longest Diary" Dave Isay

We're reading Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writer's Guide compiled by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call. I love this book. I LOVE THIS BOOK! It is so helpful, such a diversity of voices talking about documentary work. I am inspired by it. I re-read it all the time, certain passages that give me guidance. This book is wonderful.

Here are two quotes I collected that inspire me in this world of radio documentary work. Not related at all to Salt, but I have the quotes on scraps of paper pasted into my Salt notebook:

"He had the uneasy manner of a man who is not among his own kind, and who has not seen enough of the world to feel that all people are in some sense his own kind." Willa Cather

"Everything is collage, even genetics. There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we cross." Michael Ondaatje.

Alix tries to stay warm in the cold Maine air and blend in with the locals!

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