Friday, February 18, 2011

The First Pancake

The happiest place on Earth...
Once upon a time, I was an intrepid youngster planning my much-needed return to college after a much-needed year off. I had given three days' notice to my boss, which went over about as well as one might expect. I was scrambling to fill out my course schedule when I thought, hey, once I took a class called Biology and Appreciation of Companion Animals - if that can be a class, I bet there's a class about the new love of my life, RADIO.

Sure enough, there was: Radio and the Art of Sound, Communication Arts 613, also known as MY DESTINY. As if to prove this point, the University of Wisconsin Office of the Registrar had kindly scheduled it during the one open spot in my week. It was basically created with me in mind.

And it was full.

So I played the one card I had resisted playing during the previous years of my undergraduate education: I called my dad, a former Comm Arts grad student at the UW-Madison. He did his thing, which is to say he was charming and well-connected (Dad, if you are reading this, please note that nowhere in that sentence did I define your thing as being "cool" or "hilarious"), and the professor, Michele Hilmes, agreed to let me into a class so far beyond full that I had to sit on the floor on the first day. Sensing I needed more help than she alone could offer, Professor Hilmes told me about the Third Coast Filmless Festival, which was also the release party for our textbook, Reality Radio, which I had read cover-to-cover within a day of its arrival from Amazon. At the end of the festival (also known as 24 hours of straight-up amazing), I hunted down the book's editors, John Biewen and Alexa Dilworth of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. If they were terrified by my fangirl-esque display ("I read! This whole! Book! In a day! And then! I googled! Everyone in it!"), they covered admirably and encouraged me to come visit CDS.

And that's how I came to spend the most magical week of my life in Durham, North Carolina, staying at a halfway house for hipsters, sweating more than I would have though physically possible, and taking classes in audio production. I learned how to turn on my recorder that Monday and had mixed and edited a piece by Saturday. You know that whole thing about how great (radio) journeys begin with a single (radio) step? Totally true. I was so scared to start my first piece that I almost didn't. Which brings us to Important Radio Production Lesson #1:

The difference between a famous radio producer and a really flaky radio fanatic is that a famous radio producer makes radio.

Seriously. Before my first week at CDS, I had a million ideas that I thought would make "great radio pieces." I had implemented exactly zero. During the early part of that week, I had a million ideas about how to make my assignment into THE BEST THING ANYONE AT CDS HAD EVER HEARD. And I totally froze. Luckily for me, instructor Katie Davis witnessed my existential crisis in time to confiscate my 50th first draft of an increasingly preachy script, Shea Shackelford told me "Sometimes, you just have to get started, even if you don't know what it is yet," and John Biewen encouraged us to write our host intros before doing anything else (I still do this - it's a great way to find your focus).
Lauren & Zenobia, approximately 5 minutes after our deadline.

And, thank God, I wasn't alone. My partner, Zenobia Connor, turned out to be my complete and total soul sister. We passed a draft of our host intro back and forth, crossing out words and bickering over prepositions until we erased gigantic holes through the paper. We worked together, ate meals together, typed together, paced together, wrote together, and we created our first piece together. It isn't perfect, but in the spirit of ripping off the band-aid, I'm putting it out there. I figure if I'm going to start at Square One, I might as well start with our Square One, so here it is:

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