Yesterday was a big day in my universe. Needless to say I was pretty nervous; okay, Mom was nervous. I'm suffering from a cold, and because of the cold, I was moving...very...slowly. Besides, I was doing important things. I was practicing my reading, then watching Natalie Nevins on The Lawrence Welk Show sing "Puff The Magic Dragon" She sings it to a paper maiche dragon! It's incredible! She kept fussing about what I was going to wear, forgetting this was radio. She also was forgetting I'm almost forty years old. But she's allowed sometimes.
But I was also nervous. What if I got lost going there? It was over in the Mission District, an area I don't know well. In fact the last time I was there I got completely lost. I misread the directions I had and ended up wandering around, looking for a place that I just couldn't find. I had to call Huntington for help, it was so embarrassing. What if I started coughing during the reading? I thought about rescheduling, but decided to just go, do the best I could.
I was walking down the hill to BART when I heard my mom calling my name. I thought oh God, what now? I'm sure no one else doing a Perspective doesn't have their mom running after them.
She met me halfway with a five dollar bill. "Just talked to your dad. He said to just take a cab."
I smiled. I knew my parents were worried that I'd get lost too. But they weren't the type to say "Okay, we'll go with her! Yes she might be mortified but hey, at least we know she won't get lost!" I thanked Mom, pocketed the five, then walked to BART.
I caught the train on time and read over my essay one more time. I couldn't believe what I was doing. I was going to KQED to record something! How was this possible?
Well, I submitted it, that was the big thing, but how did I get brave? I don't know. I just did.
What happened was after I wrote my Black Bart essay, I looked at it and thought you know, this might be a good Perspective essay. Every day on KQED, three or four times a day, they broadcast a two minute essay written by a listener. I knew it would work because I wrote about something local, and that it could resonate with many people.
I took another look at it. One of the reasons why I hadn't submitted something to Perspectives is that my essays tend to be, well, a bit long. All of my writing tends to be long. My aunt Chia once said this about me "If Jen was writing The Old Man and the Sea she would have the old guy and the fish. But she would also have the old man's wife, his best friend, his mistress, the wife's best friend, mermaids, mermen..." What can I say? I tend to write a lot, and I tend to have many characters, be it real and fictional, in my stories. But in order to get on the air, I knew I had to be Ruth Ruthless. I had to cut, cut, cut.
I looked at the essay and cut the Marian Keyes and Neil Hope paragraphs. I hated to because I felt like it added dimension, but it wasn't necessary to the issue at hand. I cut everything that wasn't necessary. I spent half a hour cutting, editing. I took a deep breath and sent it to the perspectives editor, then let go as much as possible.
A day later I received an email from a gentleman named Mark, who said it was incredibly strong. Could he do another edit? Yes! Go for it Mark! Edit away, baby! He came back at me at the end of the day, the essay tighter and even better.
The next day I called him and read it aloud, to make sure I didn't sound like Jean Hagen in Singing in the Rain. I didn't, but it was still too long. I did another edit, sent it back to him. He did another edit. This time, it fit. He scheduled a time for me to come to KQED.
I got off Mission fine, then found a reliable set of directions. In fifteen minutes, I was in front of KQED. I looked at it, amazed. I didn't get lost! I was here!
I went in and in minutes, I was in a studio. "Do you listen to Michael Krasny's Forum?" one of the producers asked. "Because this is his chair." I was sitting in Michael Krasny's chair!!! Be still my liberal Northern Californian public radio loving heart! All I needed was groceries from Whole Foods!
Ceil Mueller, another producer came, then we practiced one more time. I put on the headphones, read it over. I had to start over a couple of times, but it went fine. She played around with the recording, then I got to hear myself. I sounded so professional, so NPRish. I filled out some paperwork, then left, feeling like I could fly. When I left the receptionist said "We'll see you again soon."
Across the street was Starbuck's. I got a Earl Grey latte and sat there, stunned. They hadn't given me an air date yet, but I did it. In three months I was about to turn forty, and in the past year I managed to be published several times, had an ebook published, two more in the wings, and I was going to be on KQED. I drank my tea as Otis Redding sang about sitting on the dock of the Bay. Whoever said life began at forty was so right on, they knew what they were talking about. But I also got a jump start at thirty-nine. Which has been such a knock out blessing that I am so grateful for.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries