Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio (CBR8 #14)

Last year’s Book Riot Read Harder challenge has been the gift that keeps on giving for me. I’ve cruised through over a dozen audiobooks after having struggled to enjoy them in the past, and I’ve broken past my own weird hang-ups about graphic novels, narratives, and memoirs. It still isn’t a seamless process for me to read these works, which probably affects my rating of them, so do take my three-and-a-half-star rating with a grain of salt. Yesknopemaybe rated this book at five stars and wrote a great review of it for Cannonball Read and was where I discovered the book.

My work is in a creative and educational field. I am tasked with finding ways to creatively present historical information to a variety of audiences in a variety of methodologies. Sometimes I’m giving tours, sometimes I’m leading conversations, sometimes I’m giving hands-on workshops, and sometimes I’m just running herd on campers (creatively! With great care!) which makes a book like Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel something that is incredibly interesting and necessary to me as I continue to expand my repertoire of crafting interesting stories for informal learning.

Subtitled The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio, this work is basically a tutorial for the storytelling process, with radio/audio format specific portions. The chapters cover Ideas, Character and Voice, Story Structure (which is the section that kicked my butt), Sound, and The Edit (which is almost exclusively about the collaborative approach of refining work and something that I cling to as necessary in my work). Abel goes a bit meta on us, particularly in the Epilogue, when she explicitly uses the various things she learned in the writing. It is fantastic.

What was kind of bonus-great for me was who she interviewed in order to make this book happen. Abel spent a couple years interviewing and visiting the people who make 99% Invisible, The Moth, Planet Money, Radio Diaries, RadioLab, Snap Judgement, This American Life, and Transom Story Workshop. I have listened to basically none of these show (I know) and have only really picked up listening to podcasts relatively recently thanks to a friend of mine constantly asking me if I’ve listened to such and such and to Cannonball Read’s own emmalita’s singing the praises of You Must Remember This. I now have even more things to listen to in my limited time!

Back to the matter at hand, if the creative process or how your favorite podcasts and radio shows are made is of any interest at all, give this book a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.


About Katie

Museum educator, caffiene junkie, book lover, student of history, overall goofball.

One thought on “Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio (CBR8 #14)

  1. jcca517 says:

    Thanks for the great review Katie–if you liked the story structure section you’ll definitely want to check out the Out on the Wire podcast, at jessicaabel.com/podcast . I do a ton more with that there.

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