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The Intimacy of the Radio Studio

I was on the radio last night with my student, Valerie Pepe. Her book, “Deformed; My Remarkable Life,” has just been published by our family-owned company—Mediacs.com—so this blog post is by way of celebration and thank you to Bill Russo of City World Radio for inviting us onto his show.

I hadn’t been on the radio since I was interviewed by Leonard Lopate when “Another Day in Paradise” was published. There were four of us in the studio that day: Iain Levine and MacKay Wolff, contributors to the book, yours truly, and Leonard Lopate. Four chairs and microphones in close proximity, headsets on, voices clear, deep concentration as questions are asked and answered. Pauses are not acceptable on the radio, they are called “dead air,” so one must be alert and swing right in. Listening is as important as speaking in a radio studio.

Leonard Lopate is an exceptional person and interviewer; he’s always well prepared. Of course, he has an excellent staff as back-up; he doesn’t work alone. Bill Russo does. He’s retired from the New York City Housing Authority and radio is his avocation, among many other pursuits. His program is scheduled once every-other-week so he has time to read-up on his studio guests and generate an interesting conversation interspersed with music. He relies on the engineer—Jade Zabric—to get the timing right and Aimee Duggar, who sat to his left last night, to provide a light touch.

Russo was impressive. He’d read Valerie’s book and quoted a passage or two, he’d read my resume and was interested in the writing process, how Valerie and I worked together over a period of more than two years, meeting for our discussions at the Hollywood Diner on 16th and Sixth Avenue where Valerie, who is on crutches, found respite as she walked from her downtown office on 9/11 with her co-workers. We joked that the diner should put up a plaque and so should all the other diners where Valerie writes. Because she now writes all the time and everywhere.

I began my connection to radio as an occasional reporter for the BBC in London and then went on to study radio production in grad school. But I’d forgotten how much I love the intimacy of the radio studio. Just the sound of well-chosen words and the resonance of the human voice.

Scroll down to Bill Russo 10/17/2016 to hear the show:


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Long Bus Rides

My husband asked me to read a book he had published for a client. It was a short book but the subject didn’t interest me. No matter. He valued my professional input and I said okay. I cannot say no to my husband, nor should I, not to mention that this was a client’s book. My husband is a screenwriter, among other things, and is getting into producing, as he describes it. Now he was thinking of producing the story he had just published as a movie. But he wanted to know: would this story make a good movie? It’s about a boy who gets lost in the woods, discovers a den of wolves (do they live in dens?) and is led home by a very talkative wolf who has a profound philosophy of life based on Greek mythology.

It wasn’t my cup of tea; I can never get into this kind of fantasy. But my husband can, and our daughter likes it, too, and so do many other people; it’s a viable popular genre.

I tried reading the book in my office, on the kitchen table and in the living room. I never got past page 10 before I needed a cookie, miso soup, some crunchy celery, a handful of walnuts, or a sandwich. Not necessarily in that order.

Then one day, the deadline for my answer looming, I went downtown for a swim, and instead of taking the speedy subway home, I took a bus. I had taken the book with me and I thought, maybe I’ll be able to finish this book on the bus.

Long bus rides, bless them. I remember when I first arrived in London and had some time to get to know the city before my job started. Every day, I hopped on a bus—a different line each time—and took it to the end of the line. London is a vast, complex, wonderful city. That’s how I got to know it. I took small orange WH Smith notebooks with me and jotted down all my thoughts and observations. Everything interested me in this new landscape. And now I was on a New York City bus headed uptown and there was something about it’s lumbering stop-start movement that eased my mind. Also, I was trapped—no kitchen. I got into the book and finished it. Then, I took out my phone and sent my husband an email: I finished the book on a long bus ride home. In answer to your question—would it make a good movie—I’d have to say: I have no idea. I enjoyed the bus ride, though. The gritty urban landscape was the perfect antidote to the den of talkative wolves.  Read More 
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