Out On The Wire

The show about making stories, step by step.

Join cartoonist Jessica Abel as she breaks down the principles of storytelling and puts you on the path to crafting your own story—in prose, comics, audio, video—in any narrative art form, fiction or nonfiction. Featuring radio and podcasting star producers from This American Life, Radiolab, Planet Money, Snap Judgment, and many more. Listen, learn, and collaborate with us to make something great.

Subscribe and listen on the go

Let’s make and tell stories TOGETHER.

You have a story that you want to tell, don’t you. I’ve got a crazy idea…

Out on the Wire is not like other podcasts you’ve heard. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end, just like the stories you love and want to be writing. It’s an HBO miniseries mashed up with a MOOC and a writing memoir. You can simply listen to me work through the stages of writing something, or you can create your own story right along with me.

Be inspired, and master the tools to put that inspiration to work.

Every episode of the Out on the Wire podcast is packed full of insight from the best in narrative nonfiction radio, comics, and writing, and every episode ends with a challenge that will get you developing and even completing a narrative project over the course of the podcast.

"Love it. Jessica and crew demystify the story process.
– iTunes user Benmoss

Featuring producers from
  • This American Life (Ira Glass and others)
  • Snap Judgment (Glynn Washington, Stephanie Foo, Mark Ristich, Pat Mesiti-Miller, Julia Dewitt)
  • Planet Money (Adam Davidson, Alex Blumberg, Chana Joffee Walt, David Kestenbaum, Robert Smith, Zoe Chace)
  • Radiolab (Jad Abumrad, Robert Krulwich, Sean Cole, Soren Wheeler)
  • The Moth (Catherine Burns, Jay Allison)
  • 99% Invisible (Roman Mars)
  • …and more!

Get Bonus Content & Support Out on the Wire

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Sign up to get the show notes, and story-building extras!

Get the podcast dripped to your inbox, plus TONS of great resources, workshop episodes, and a BONUS excerpt from Out on the Wire (the book), and more story tools sent straight to your email!

Send Me the Show Notes!

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Check out the Out on the Wire Bonus Pack. Featuring all of the new interviews we conducted for the show, plus our soundtrack music by Matt Madden. It’s ten bucks (or more, if you’re feeling generous.) It’s a great way to spend more time with our fabulous guests and support the show.

Includes full length interviews with:

  • Stephanie Foo (This American Life)
  • Jonathan Mitchell (The Truth podcast)
  • Larissa MacFarquahar (The New Yorker)
  • Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet)
  • Our edit with Robert Smith and Jess Jiang (Planet Money)
  • Rob Rosenthal (the Transom Workshop, How Sound)
All Podcast Episodes and Show Notes
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Episode 1: Eureka

Out on the Wire is the show about making stories, step by step. Join cartoonist Jessica Abel as she breaks down the principles of storytelling and puts you on the path to crafting your own story—in prose, comics, audio, video—in any narrative art form, fiction or nonfiction. Featuring radio and podcasting star producers from This American Life, Radiolab, Planet Money, Snap Judgment, and many more. Listen, learn, and collaborate with us at jessicaabel.com/podcast to make something great. Episode one is about ideas. We investigate how to find them and how to follow your taste with the help of Ira Glass, Alex Blumberg, Stephanie Foo, and more. (more…)
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Episode 2: Focus

How can we know if an idea is a good one? This time on Out on the Wire, we investigate how to refine story ideas using the focus sentence and the X/Y story formula. Plus, Ira Glass recounts a reporting trip gone sideways and Jay Allison's takedown of formulaic storytelling. This week to talked to: Ira Glass, Rob Rosenthal, Jessica Kittams, Julia Dewitt, David Kestenbaum, Jay Allison, Soren Wheeler, and Sean Cole. (more…)
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Episode 3: Walk In My Shoes

Today we dive deep into character, characters that let us walk in the shoes of someone else. But how can we create characters that feel genuine while also functioning to move the story? Glynn Washington, Joe Richman, Ira Glass, Jay Allison and more are here to help us figure out how to make characters that connect with an audience. This week we heard from: Glynn Washington,Joe Richman,Ari Daniel Shapiro, Jad Abumrad,Jay Allison, Jenna Weiss-Berman, Ira Glass, and Daniel Alarcon (more…)
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Episode 4: Bare Bones

This episode is a flight check: We’re making sure the underpinnings of our stories are tight and structured by utilizing the narrative arc, chronology, and framing. You'll hear from Ira Glass, Chana Joffe-Walt, Sean Cole, and in a brand new interview, from Jonathan Mitchell of the radio-drama podcast The Truth. Jonathan explains his storytelling philosophy and breaks down the creation of one of his stories, "Naughty Or Nice." This week we heard from: Ira Glass, Chana Joffe-Walt, Soren Wheeler, MK Czerwiec and Jonathan Mitchell. (more…)
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Episode 5: You’re Not Lucky, You’re Just Good

Don’t be lucky. Be good. Manufacture your own luck with the right kind of preparation for an interview. We hear from Zoe Chace, Robert Smith, Ira Glass and Jenna Weiss-Berman on how to research, prepare, and execute an interview that will provide exactly what you need. Plus we talk to New Yorker staff writer Larissa MacFarquhar about her interviewing technique and her new book. This week we heard from: Zoe Chace, Robert Smith, Ira Glass, Jenna Weiss-Berman, and Larissa MacFarquhar (more…)
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Episode 6: Proof of Concept

It’s time to get some ink on that page. We’re in the lab, testing our story hypotheses in the crucible of the writing process. We put things in order, break them down, build them with little blocks, iterate, signpost, and answer the question, “what does Buffy feel?” With the help of Ira Glass, Joe Richman, Soren Wheeler, Glynn Washington, Sean Cole and more. This week we heard from: Ira Glass, Glynn Washington, Chana Joffe-Walt, Soren Wheeler, Sean Cole, Joe Richman, Jayson Merryfield, and Sarah Leavitt (more…)
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Episode 7: Dark Forest

The Dark Forest is where we go when we're deep in the writing process and lose our way. Overwhelming feelings of self-doubt, confusion, and inadequacy threaten to halt our stories’ progress. Sometimes, we forget why we started on the path in the first place. Luckily, many people have been here before, and they can help us find a way out. This week, we get very lost, and find our way back out again, thanks to Jad Abumrad, Ira Glass, Joe Richman, Zoe Chace, Robert Smith, Stephanie Foo, and Jay Allison. Plus an interview with Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the graphic novel series Amulet. (more…)
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Episode 8: Your Baby’s Ugly

Our stories are our babies, but not all babies are cute. This week, we figure out just how far we’ve still got to go when we take a finished draft of our own show and subject it to the cold scrutiny of an edit by Robert Smith and Jess Jiang of Planet Money. Our baby was kinda messed up, but he’s much prettier now. Also: learn what makes Ira Glass mad, find out how editing is like biofeedback, and hear how Rob Rosenthal of the Transom Story Workshop and the HowSound podcast trains the next generation of expert producers and editors. (more…)
Episode 9 Out On The Wire Make It Work

Episode 9: Make it Work

It’s one thing to finish a story, it’s another to make stories your career. In our final episode of season one of Out on the Wire we talk to three creative professionals, Jakob Lewis of the podcast Neighbors, Dave Kellett of the comics Sheldon and Drive and the documentary Stripped, and Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer of the comics Bitch Planet and Pretty Deadly, about how they create their work, put food on the table, and make a life in the constantly shifting creative landscape. Start before you’re ready. Just start. #bgsdlist — Kelly Sue DeConnick, 15 January 2016, Bitches Get Shit Done (more…)

"Whether Jessica Abel means it to be or not, but Out on the Wire is a master class in how to tell a story--something that anyone can benefit from. The thing I love most is that there's homework in this podcast and they actually review people's work on in-between episodes. The fact that this is free and not a paid workshop like everyone in the world does now is awesome. Take advantage of it!"

iTunes user Tsundae

"Out on the Wire walks you through exactly what you need to know to turn your fiction or non-fiction idea into a living, breathing story that readers or listeners can't put down. And then, author Jessica Abel and crew do themselves one better by offering a free, online workshop where you can post your homework from each episode, get feedback, and even possibly get featured on the next podcast. Can't beat that with a stick!"

iTunes user Bornfamous

"If you make stories, or want to make stories then you should listen to Jessica Abel. Why? Because she is listening to other makers, and she knows how to break it down. Also, she does not just talk to great storytellers, she turns this into a real class… You can participate and actually be a part of the podcast. Plus, it's cheaper than graduate school… So, want to make good radio? Listen to a cartoonist."

iTunes user General Xiao

Made with the support of La Maison des Auteurs, Angoulême.