Radio Days, 1985-1988
I put my paintbrushes away in 1983, when my baby was born. My Studio became the Nursery. I continued to write stories about art, typing them on my electric Hermes on the family dining table and mailing them in.
When my son was two years old, I went to a garden party and met Carol Rissman, the news director for WBUR, Boston’s local NPR station. She told me that she was looking for somebody to do “Art Spots” for the Morning Edition show, and invited me to come in to the station with a story on the big Renoir show at the Museum of Fine Arts.
I wrote my story and brought it into the station, thinking it was for Carol to read in her deep, authoritative voice, but she insisted that I read it myself. I was led into a soundproofed room with huge microphones hanging down from the ceiling, with a glass window looking out all kinds of complicated-looking equipment, and a group of tall, long-haired young men who looked like rock stars – they were the “sound guys” and were all indeed musicians by night.
Very nervously, I read my story into the microphone. They asked me to do another take, and then another. By the seventh time I had almost memorized the story and even cut it down a little so I could read it more slowly. Afterwards, Carol said, “You’re a natural!” She invited me to do an Art Spot once a week. I said “Yes!” and my Radio Days began.
I recorded about a hundred two minute “commentaries” and three-minute “two-ways” and occasional “three-ways” — interviews with artists or curators. I would record our sessions, and then hand-transcribe them and cut them down to a little three-minute play. The “sound guys” would then physically cut and paste the tape to match the text. Sometimes we would add music or sound effects. I met many fascinating artists and other art world personalities, and many of them became my friends.
Being on the radio transformed my writing – and my life. Something magical happened when the microphone was turned on; all my doubts disappeared. I developed the habit of reading everything out loud, so my writing became more natural and tuned into my voice. I learned how to listen, and to find the perfect little quotes to give the stories a more dynamic feel.
I had a huge audience. For the first time in my life, people were listening to what I had to say, and I loved it.