Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lessons from SERIAL (& Sarah Koenig)

Mostly Sarah Koenig.

If you've been following my suggestions for podcasts, you've listened to "Serial", created and hosted by Sarah Koenig. She's a journalist with This American Life.

Sarah lives in State College.

Which makes us cool.


She was invited to speak on campus. The auditorium was packed out of its 600 person capacity. 50 people stood in the lobby to hear the audio of the event; ironic, given that she's a radio personality.

Sarah Koenig is definitely a radio journalist. She seemed confident but not exactly comfortable on the stage talking to so many people whose faces she could see. And most of what she wanted to tell us was this: we were just trying to do good journalism.

That's it. Serial wasn't about harnessing a new wave of radio journalism and story telling, jumping on a band wagon, leading a renaissance. It wasn't about creating something new, a clever hybrid of tech and story and news and research. It wasn't trying to be that, though it accidentally became that.

The team was just trying to do what they knew how to do and do it well.

That's it.

The conversation reminded me of that the really great Makers aren't always in dialogues about making things New. They have their heads down and are cranking out material for years. Then, they do the same thing they've been doing, heads down, but the conditions are right. And it takes off. But it isn't about prepping for that or wanting that even. Sarah made it very clear how uncomfortable she's been with the wild success of Serial, even planning on the podcast losing audience when they do a story that isn't crime related. It was all about the journalism for her. Old school, hard nosed, committed journalism.

What do I know how to do? Am I doing it well? 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Podcasts: My New Best Friend

Actually, they've been my new best friend since August 26th, 2014. Yes, I remember the date well well. It was my first drive to Bucknell.

Explanation: I live 1 hr 15 min away from the school I attend. This life choice was based on several important factors but I won't go into that now. The important detail for you to know is that I spend around 4 hours of my week in the car traversing the rural Pennsylvania Route 45 or 192 between my residence and Lewisburg, PA.

All in all, it isn't a bad drive but it gets repetitive:
Barn, buggy, field, repeat.

The radio is repetitive too. A girl can only take so much Bro Country before she wants to punch the singer whining on  about painted on jeans and tan legs. (I haven't shaved my legs since November. I'm winning Winter)

And this is where podcasts come in. Podcasts and that Heavenly Sent National Public Radio.

Thank you, tax payers everywhere.

Now, to be honest, Podcasts and I were friends before. There was nothing I loved better than cooking to This American Life in my little Dobrich kitchen last year. I titled my journal This Bulgarian Life in imitation. It kept me alive during long bus rides. I love narrative storytelling, reaching way back to my childhood of Adventures in Odyssey and Radio Theater's The Chronicles of Narnia. Audio storytelling just might be a favorite genre.

But the commute has confirmed that I am an all out junkie.

Some of my favorites in no particular order:


  • Radio Lab A fun and dynamic run with Curiosity.
  • Start Up One man's awkward and endearing foray into his (remarkably successful) start up.
  • Serial I grew up wanting to be Nancy Drew. This is True Crime + Mystery + Audio Storytelling. All told by a State College native. (Get it, Sarah!)
  • This American Life Classic. As good as it gets.
  • Fresh Air Interviews expertly done with fascinating people.
What else is out there? Let me know!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Making Stuff Happen

One of the activities that gets me most giddy is event planning.

Okay, not exactly.

I don't mean I like planning ornate themed parties or that kind of thing. What I love is the chance to design a new kind of experience, something new in the world.

This winter break, I had the chance to work with two fantastic people in planning a "dance retreat". For some of you out there, the idea of a "retreat" is no new idea. But in the dance world, it doesn't happen. What we're putting together is an April weekend focused on beginner dancers in a style called west coast swing.

It's our stab at creating a dance culture that values what happens between people as much as it values what people achieve technically or competitively.

I couldn't be more excited and proud of what is happening.

When I can be "in" on a change like this, on making something that will matter, I think, "This is it. This is the kind of stuff I want to be doing".

Even if this weekend is not the change that my planning team is looking for, working on it changed the game for all of us. It opened up connections and relationships for our small group and that in itself is meaningful. It also changed how we think of our futures and what kinds of things we want to spend our time making from our careers. Partnerships-- business and dance and friendship--have been born.

So save the date for April 17-19 and join us!

 "Camp Westie" details are coming soon!

Heaven be Praised, just LOOK at that floor!