Tag Archives: WNYC

Moth Radio Hour: Westport-Style

A while ago, Jane Green told a story for the Moth Radio Hour. It was recorded in front of a live audience at New York’s Cooper Union.

Jane Green

Jane Green

In June, the Westporter — and internationally renowned author — told Moth stories again, on stage at an old, lovely theater in Boston. She was  joined by a Jamaican writer, New York City doctor, Puerto Rican actress and Boston fireman.

If you don’t know the Moth Radio Hour, you should. Broadcast on 400 radio stations — including WNYC in New York — it makes “This American Life” sound like amateur hour.

Story tellers have no script, and use no props. They stand in front of a microphone, under a spotlight, facing a room full of strangers.

The Moth Radio Hour is real, true stories, told by real, true people. Some are humorous. Others are heartbreaking. Some are both. All are transfixing and addictive.

moth-radio-hourAlert “06880” reader — and very-interesting-woman-herself — Katherine Bruan is a Moth fanatic. She also loves Jane Green.

So, Katherine thought, why doesn’t Westport — a town filled with talented, charismatic people, many with diverse backgrounds and all of whom have stories — have our own Moth hour?

It could be once or twice a year, Katherine suggested, at the Westport Country Playhouse or library. It would bring the community together. We’d all be entertained, moved and uplifted.

It’s a fantastic idea. And — to Katherine’s, my and probably your surprise — it’s already been done.

Starting last fall, Tom Croarkin organized several similar events at the Unitarian Church in Westport. He calls them “Story Slams,” but they’re really Moth Radio Hours without the radio.

Each participant gets 5 minutes. They can’t use props. And their story must fit a theme.

The Westport Unitarian Church welcomes everyone -- including story-tellers.

The Westport Unitarian Church welcomes everyone — including story-tellers.

The first one — last November — centered around “Lying Through My Teeth.” The second, in February, was about “Lost and Found” (stories were figurative, as well as literal).

May’s theme was “Trouble.” Fifteen folks got up and told woeful tales.

The next Unitarian Church Story Slam is this Friday (September 23, 7 p.m.).The theme is “Vacation.”

There’s a $10 admission fee (it’s a fundraiser for the church). BYOB.

To RSVP (not required) or more information, email tcroarkin1126@att.net.

So start thinking about your vacation stories. I’m sure Jane Green has at least one good one to share!

Hillary Frank’s “Longest, Shortest Time”

Most radio producers don’t get jobs by recording interviews on their parents’ answering machine, then feeding clips into a boombox.

Then again, most radio producers are not vying for Ira Glass’ attention.

But the quirky “This American Life” personality liked what he heard from Hillary Frank. In 2000 he hired her for his Chicago staff.

Hillary Frank

Hillary Frank

It was a great career move. The Westport native — who had left Staples 7 years earlier as a junior, heading straight to Tufts — learned plenty at the popular, offbeat, interview-driven radio show.

She began freelaning for “Studio 360,” “”Marketplace” and “All Things Considered.” She wrote 3 novels.

Then, in 2010, Hillary had a baby. Childbirth and recovery were rough. She’d just moved to New Jersey. She had no other moms to talk to.

“After all those years as a radio producer, I knew I could ask anyone anything by sticking a microphone in their face,” Hillary says.

It worked. Asking questions was cathartic. She felt better — and the women she talked with did too.

Working irregularly (“during naptimes”), she produced 20 shows in 3 years. All were about early parenthood. She called it “The Longest Shortest Time.”

The topics were typical Hillary. “The Emperor’s New Onesie” covered a toddler who refused to wear clothing. After 2 stark naked months, she was diagnosed with a sensory disorder. The girl’s mother told the story in a funny, relatable way.

For a piece on natural childbirth, Hillary revisited her own experience. She interviewed her midwife and others, wondering whether she could have done anything differently. The answer: probably not.

Hillary Frank logo

Hillary’s stories ranged from ridiculous to serious. Topics included miscarriages, the NICU, and a lifelong vegetarian who thought her son’s digestive problem came from her breast milk, and began eating meat.

Hillary started by emailing 300 colleagues and friends. Slowly — through word of mouth, and a shoutout on “This American Life”‘s Facebook page — her audience grew. Strangers submitted their own stories.

Last fall, Hillary realized she needed to start making money from her podcasts. Kickstarter provided donors and sponsors.

Now WNYC has picked up her podcasts. They air it on their website, through their iTunes channel, and via their app. She’s promoted it on the Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate shows too.

Tomorrow (Tuesday, June 17, 3 p.m.) she hosts a Google hangout called “What’s Up With Your Boobs?” (It’s about lactation.)

Hillary Frank podcast

Hillary just completed her 32nd episode. A father is surprised to feel indifferent — at times miserable — after his child is born. His wife, meanwhile, is thrilled.

Hillary approaches the story the same way she does every other one: with a twist. She doesn’t probe the feelings themselves; instead, she examines spousal conflict in parenthood.

“The Longest Shortest Time” is well worth all of yours.