Veronica’s Backyard


Imagine this:  You’ve met a total character. She’s kind of eccentric. She has forty-one animals in her backyard and it’s not a farm. And, just about every time she talks, she says something amazing. In radio parlance, she ‘spits tape.’

But, there’s no story. You pull out all the stops trying cull out a story by interviewing and spending time with the woman and her animals. Nothing works. All you’re left with is a bunch of great tape and no clear way to organize it — no story.

What do you do?

In short, that’s what happened to producer Joel Supple. This fall, Joel attended the Transom Story Workshop to learn the craft of radio storytelling. While she was there….. I guess I should probably say “here” not “there” since I taught the workshop….. so….. While she was here, Joel stumbled upon Veronica Worthington and her menagerie in West Dennis on Cape Cod. Joel spent a few hours with Veronica and collected a ton of great tape but….. no story.

On this HowSound we feature to Joel’s piece — her first ever  — and I talk about solving the conundrum: How do you produce a story when there is no story?

Happy Listening,


PS – is running another workshop in April and May of 2012.


4 comments to Veronica’s Backyard

  • mark

    I liked this a lot! thanks again

  • Adi Narayan

    Hey Rob
    Its really nice to hear this podcast and pick up juicy nuggets along the way for improving one’s craft. Wanted to request a topic for a future show. One of the hardest things that I find doing is scoring for narrative pieces. I know places like NPR and the BBC don’t take music in the stories for the most part, but there are a bunch of european shows that seem to be ok with it. My problem is that I have no clue where to start – what kind of sound to use, where to start/stop the music, and what sort of copyright issues one needs to be aware of. (Does the under-10-second-no-copyright-violation rule apply?).. That sorta thing. I know you did that show abt Kohn where you spoke abt composing music for a story, but for us producers who don’t have access to that kind of setup, what would be the options.

    Thanks very much
    Best, Adi

  • Rob Rosenthal


    Glad you like the podcast. Let your friends know about it if you don’t mind.

    Great idea for an episode of HowSound. I’ll give some thought to what to feature.

    In the meantime, listen to This American Life. I know. It’s an obvious choice. But….

    Listen for when the music starts and stops. Often it’s used as a transition device to change scenes or move forward or backward in time.

    And, sometimes it’s used to underscore what’s being said. In fact, note when music is taken away. It’s removal can be an even more powerful means to underscore something.

    Lastly, note how the music sets mood and tempo. Listen, as though the music wasn’t there (hard to do) and imagine the tape alone. How is the tape different with the music?

    Hope those thoughts help for now. And, I’ll try to find a good example of scoring to dissect.


  • mark

    the free music archive (set up by the amazing wfmu) is a good place to find music under a creative commons licence

    Flora Lichtman uses it’s on Science Friday Video podcast
    I like it a lot

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