Our Fires - Episode One
The Tillamook Burn podcast just went live. I got to listen to a copy of the final version last night and I’m happy with how it turned out. It’s a great balance of history, fiction, and music (the music is soooo good). If you’re not sure what exactly I’m talking about, just give it a listen.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of showing your work (and what to write in this blog), so I figured I’d write a little about what it was like working on it.
There were two writing restrictions put on me for the podcast:
- The piece had to take piece in the world of the fire.
- The piece had to be no longer than five minutes when read aloud.
The second restriction was hard; I’m used to writing for word count or page length, not reading time. As I started brainstorming I was put in touch with Brian John Park who would be doing the backing track for my piece. I told him I was going for something somber, dealing with trauma (this was about a gigantic forest fire after all), he told me he was listening to a lot of country and blues, which I was into. I decided to write a letter from a fictional firefighter to someone back in Portland as the fire was dying down. I found a series of love letters from the 1930’s in my online research, I wanted to try to capture the cadence of how someone wrote back then, but I didn’t want to mimic it completely. My letter became a love letter as well, but a love letter to a scorned lover. I wanted the letter to be a plea for hope in the face of a world that seemed lost. This was also why I chose that the recipient was another man. I wanted to bring the audience into the pain of the character, someone shell-shocked by his personal world and the world at large.
I timed my first draft and it came out just shy of five minutes. It seemed that there wasn’t going to be any major revisions, just cutting. I sent Brian a recording of me reading it so he could see how what he was working on matched up, he sent back an audio file of my reading with his backing track. It was a sparse and moody bluesy piece. He had been listening to a version of Story Weather by Ethel Waters as inspiration, which synced nicely with my inspiration since the events of the fire hinge on an actual storm and I was also writing about heartbreak. I did a few more edits but that was pretty much it. There was only one rehearsal for the show, but everything seemed to click into place.
I miss preforming and doing the show in front of a live audience really scratched that itch. I haven’t done a reading in a long time, and this was my very first time reading fiction (which is another reason I chose to write a letter since that reads easier). So much of my time is spent writing things that I don’t know that I’ll ever get to read out loud. I still don’t like listening to myself read though.