Out on the Wire episode guide - Jessica Abel
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Out on the Wire episode guide

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.

Go to the full show notes.

Workshop Episode 1.5

In our first workshop episode, we take a crack at some of the great ideas popping up on the Out on the Wire Working Group. Join Jessica, Ben, and Matt as we dig into how to make your story ideas stronger.

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.

Go to the full show notes.

This week to talked to: Ira Glass, Rob Rosenthal, Jessica Kittams, Julia Dewitt, David Kestenbaum, Jay Allison, Soren Wheeler, and Sean Cole.

Workshop Episode 2.5: Focus

In our second workshop episode we’re talking about some of the focus sentences and XY story formulae posted in the Out on the Wire working group. This week: stories about going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, self-help, comedy and PTSD, entrepreneurship, and a lot more.

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.

Go to the full show notes.

This week we heard from: Glynn Washington,Joe Richman,Ari Daniel Shapiro, Jad Abumrad,Jay Allison, Jenna Weiss-Berman, Ira Glass, and Daniel Alarcon

Workshop Episode 3.5: Walk in my Shoes

In our third workshop episode we critique a few of the character profiles posted in the Out on the Wire Working group. This week: stories about Lithium mixers, a future detective noir, a sci-fi allegory about identity, and the true story of a transgender woman’s journey at an Orthodox Jewish university.

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.

Go to the full show notes.

Workshop Episode 4.5: Bare Bones

In this week’s workshop, we’re critiquing work from the Episode 4: Bare Bones challenge: stories of a modern cinderella, a veteran seeking justice, and an antique dealer with attachment issues. Plus we riff on the idea of theme and how to do advocacy storytelling without preaching to the choir.

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

Workshop Episode 5.5: You’re Not Lucky, You’re Just Good

This is our 5th workshop episode, where we discuss work posted the Out on the Wire working group. This week, interviewing—we talk about space monks, schadenfreude, the value of interviewing vs. reading for research, and how to feel confident as you’re starting out doing interviews. Plus a report from group member Dean Johnson about his recent interview with a man who was begging for money at a gas station when they met.

 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

Workshop episode 6.5: Proof of Concept

This week, Matt and Ben and Jessica critiquing scenes written by members of the Out on the Wire working group. An ethnographic memoir about marrying into a new culture, a literary biography of a dancer who found success copying the competition, and in their stunning debut, the Out on the Wire Players perform a scene from a short radio play about an orange.

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, Jay Allison, Ira Glass, and more. Plus an interview with Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the graphic novel series Amulet.

We heard from:

Jad Abumrad,Ira Glass,Joe Richman,Zoe Chace,Robert Smith, Stephanie Foo, Jay Allison, and Kazu Kibuishi. 

Workshop Episode 7.5: The Dark Forest

Céline Keller is making an autobiographical audio story about how she turned her life upside-down in order to raise two wild baby boars on her father’s remote farm in Germany. It sounded good on paper, but now she’s stuck in the dark, German forest, literally!
So for our 7th workshop episode we’re actually DOING this week’s challenge with Céline, one of our Working Group participants. The challenge was to collaborate in a focus session to try to move your story forward. We workshop her story together to try and help her find her way out of the Forest by going back and re-examining what’s catching her attention, the scope of the story, and how she can reframe the story to include the best elements of what she was working on, with a new, more focused direction

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.

This week we heard from

Glynn Washington, Ira Glass,  Robert Smith, Jess Jiang, Soren Wheeler and Rob Rosenthal.

Workshop episode 8.5: Your Baby’s Ugly

Dan Waldschmidt and Matthew Williamson just produced the pilot episode of a podcast called “Ordinary Heroes,” but they know they need a new point of view on it — time for an edit! Dan and Matthew bravely volunteered to go through an edit on the air with Ben, Matt, and me. We dig into who should narrate the story and how, the role of music in the show, whether we should explicitly lay out the message of the show, and more.

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.

This week we heard from:

Jakob Lewis, Dave Kellett, and Kelly Sue DeConnick.

“Start before you’re ready. Just start. #bgsdlist”
— Kelly Sue DeConnick, 15 January 2016, Bitches Get Shit Done

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Answer these 10 quick questions
to uncover the real reasons why you’re not able
to take control of your creative work.

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