WOW! Women on Writing’s very own Jodi Webb recently read her essay, “If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?” on public radio. We chatted with her briefly about her experience submitting and recording her piece.
Check out her essay and recording here, then get the inside scoop from Jodi about creating an essay that gets broadcast on the airwaves.
WOW: Jodi, congratulations for having your essay featured on public radio! What inspired you to submit a “This I Believe” essay?
Jodi: I had always been aware of the This I Believe segment because I'm a big fan of Edward R. Murrow. Murrow was the one who first started the program. You can submit essays for consideration online and over the years I've submitted an essay or two. After all, the title says it all "This I Believe". It's a natural writing prompt and brings so many ideas to mind. What do we believe in? I could think of a different answer every day of my life.
But I was always nervous about the recording aspect of This I Believe. So when I heard that they were looking for submissions for a This I Believe book I was very enthusiastic. No recording! So I pulled out all the stops and submitted an essay about my mom and volunteering.
WOW: What was the submission process like, and how long did it take to hear that your essay was accepted?
Jodi: It was one of those "dropping a pebble in a wishing well" submissions. I submitted it and, aside from the automated "We've received your submission" email, nothing--for months! I actually forgot about it when I got an email from John Gregory telling me it had been selected for the book. I was so excited. Of course then more waiting until the book was finally published and ended up in my mailbox. About a year from submission to actual book.
Of course then I learned that they intended to have everyone included in the book record their essays. What?! I was very nervous and actually tried to stall them for a while but John was persistent.
WOW: How did the recording take place? Did you practice your reading of the piece?
Jodi: Normally NPR schedules time for you to visit a local radio station that broadcasts NPR programs and record it in their studio. But the nearest NPR station was an hour from my house. I had to cancel once for snow but finally made it the station in Harrisburg, PA. It was a HUGE building. There was a great guy there named Joe who was my man on the spot. Then I had John from NPR on the phone giving me direction. So I had earphones on, a mike in front of me, Joe sitting across from me working the technical aspects (playing sections back for me, etc.) and both of them talking to me through the earphones in this tiny little room. It was so weird.
First, John asked me all these questions about my writing and my family. I suppose to get me accustomed to the microphone. Then I read the entire thing three times (the first time at super speed!), but I also read just sections and a few sentences what seemed like a million times. They can take a bit from here and a bit from there and splice it all together. Which was a relief because at least I didn't have to read the entire thing perfectly in one shot! John would say things like, "Your tone is rising at the end of this paragraph, so let's try it again without that" or "Could you de-emphasize this word next time?" I kept saying "OK" but inside I was screaming "I do not even know what we're talking about! Tone? De-emphasize? I thought I just had to read it!" I think altogether it took about an hour.
I did practice beforehand (they tell you to practice reading it aloud). And I kept crying...not exactly crying but my eyes would fill with tears and I'd get all choked up. I was horrified! What if I did that during the recording and it was just all me sniffling? So that was another thing to make me crazy! So I started reading it funny...with voices and everything and that seemed to get me over the tears. I did manage not to cry when we came down to the actual recording!
WOW: Thanks for sharing your experience, Jodi! Any advice for someone thinking about submitting an essay to This I Believe, Inc.?
Jodi: I think even if you don't submit to This I Believe you should think about and write an essay that is what you believe. My advice is to listen to some of the other essays. It gives you some perspective about how many different things people believe in and will probably help you find your "belief". We all have beliefs but chances are we've never written them out in essay form. And never say die! Keep submitting, I did and I ended up in their book.
There’s still a few days to sign up for Jodi’s essay writing class!
is a six week course starting on Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
Enrollment is limited to 10 students so reserve your spot now!