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My Two Minutes on Radio: Writing for Sound
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There’s nothing like reading on radio to make you focus on how your writing sounds. I spent some time at the KQED studios Tuesday afternoon, recording an essay for the San Francisco Bay Area NPR affiliate’s “Perspectives” series, and two minutes yesterday morning listening to “Morning Edition” to hear the result. It’s funny, the things that look good in print but work less well in sound. We changed a reference to Retin-A in the piece, for example, to Botox, because Howard, a very nice guy in a Grandpa sweatshirt who was recording me, pointed out that although Retin-A might be as clear on the page as it is on your face, it sounds like something that out to be eaten from a fancy plate in a French restaurant, with wine to enhance. That got me thinking about how much of the writing we consume comes at us from some direction other than the written page. But radio is the most sound-centric, because you get no visual whatsoever to go with the writing. No shape of the letters. No contrast of print against page. Just whatever it is you are saying, exactly the way you are saying it. It was a reminder to me to read my work aloud when I’m polishing it, because the result is always better prose, even when it’s meant only to be seen on the page.

The essay, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Barbie,” can be heard on KQED again tomorrow morning at 8:37. Or you can hear it online at can hear it online at KQED Perspectives. - Meg