Skip to main content
a headshot of Kristin Leong

Kristin Leong

New Voices '21

Tell us about yourself:

Before I worked in public radio, I was a nightclub bartender, a teacher, an event curator, and a single mom.

A piece of yours or project (in any medium) that you'd like to share.

The Pickup Artists (4 min) 

Last weekend I participated in KCRW’s Radio Race for the first time! The theme was “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.  Usually, I like to sit with tape for a long time, and write and rewrite into oblivion. Because of the 24 hour format of the challenge, I didn’t have time to be a perfectionist. It was unnerving but so freeing.  

The story I landed on, “The Pickup Artists,” is about the time my 72-year-old mother-in-law and her 69-year-old sister rescued a man they found in a ditch. 

They’re both so funny, feisty, and huge-hearted. Their hilarious storytelling made the contest’s time crunch feel more manageable. Plus, my brilliant wife provided editing and snack support throughout the 24 hours. So really, it was a family project.

What draws you to storytelling?

I believe that storytelling has the power to make even the biggest misfits among us feel less alone in the world.

What excites you the most about being a New Voices Scholar?

I’m so grateful to be part of AIR’s community and to be connected to our fierce cohort of 2021 AIR New Voices scholars. I’m a big believer in the power of communities that are intentionally diverse and brought together around shared passions. I can’t wait to see what we all create together.

What’s playing on your radio/audio streaming service right now?

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Ear Hustle and 99% Invisible.

What’s the most underrated tool (technical or not) that you use in your creative process?

Actual cutting and pasting. As in, I sometimes print out my transcripts, cut them up with scissors, and move them around on the floor while I write the narration.

What is something you want to see more of in the industry?

More diversity in editors and hosts as well as producers.

Who/What are your radio/audio inspirations and why?

I continue to be inspired by Liz Mak’s “Return to Kuku Island.” It’s a piece I return to when I need a reminder of the power of audio storytelling fueled by empathy and dogged reporting. 

“Return to Kuku Island” is a gutting 52-minute audio documentary. Mak’s storytelling is heartbreaking but straightforward as she travels with survivors to the island where Vietnamese refugees were abandoned in the 1970’s without food, water, or shelter. They had been told they were being taken to a refugee camp.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I write a weekly newsletter for misfits and unlikely optimists called ROCK PAPER RADIO. In it, I share an audio feature, a written feature, and something human and surprising every Thursday. 

I’m excited to share that a ROCK PAPER RADIO podcast is currently in development! The first episode is going to drop soon. The best way to stay in the loop is to join our misfit fam by subscribing for free at