Articles

My Story: Elaine Grant

As we gear up for a fall project, AIR’s spreading some audio love by raffling off prizes to the indie community. The “My Story” series brings tales from creative practices across the network and beyond. Read on for our third round winner Elaine Grant’s submission about the ups and downs of indie life.

For round four, tell us a story of collaboration for the chance to win a free year of Hindenburg Journalist Pro. How did collaborating with a colleague, interview subject, mentor make your work better? Tell us how you collaborate well by emailing your story to join@airmedia.org by midnight on Monday, October 22 with the subject “My Story.” (Bonus points if you attach a picture of yourself with your collaborator!)


By Elaine Grant

In July, I began a new gig writing and producing Business Wars Daily, a Wondery podcast. Although I had been at the helm of a daily radio show before, I’d never researched, written and produced a daily podcast. And while I was thrilled to do it, it is time consuming, as every story (about current business rivalries) is different and must be timely. It’s hard to work ahead. I batch the pitching, writing and producing Wednesday through Friday of each week. The timing is critical; my host tracks on Thursday nights and I mix on Friday mornings.

Only a few weeks after our launch, I went to Podcast Movement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then on to visit friends in central Maine. We can work from anywhere, right?

Wrong. It was hard enough producing and tracking (with my remote host, in Austin, Texas) from an Airbnb above a yoga studio in Philadelphia, post-conference. I had no idea how hard it would get in Maine.

My friend lives in the tiny town of Anson, Maine, in a beautiful house on 300 acres. It’s the perfect place for a retreat. Not so much for work. The Internet connection was slow or non-existent. I wrote whenever I could, but when it came time to produce, I struggled. A two-minute .wav file could take an hour to upload. And when there were changes, I’d have to remix and re-upload.

Somehow, finally, I finished producing a week of shows. I enjoyed the rest of my vacation and left for the airport the following Wednesday; Thursday is my writing deadline. It was a short flight to Washington, D.C. and a longer one from there to Denver, where I would buy wifi and write my stories. But as we got closer to D.C., we began circling…and circling, and circling. There were thunderstorms in Washington, and finally, running out of fuel, the pilot diverted us to Baltimore—where we sat for two hours. My plane to Denver was long gone. There was no wifi on the ground and without it, I’d been unable to write. I was alternately frantic and resigned.

Finally, we flew back to D.C., landing at 1 a.m. My plane was gone; 200 of us were stranded. There were parents looking haggard with crying toddlers. I had no choice but to stay overnight in the airport. Upset, I walked down the empty hall, searching for coffee and trying to figure out how to rescue my brand new job. It was now 2 a.m. There were a few valiant workers—including an exhausted woman at Dunkin’ Donuts—serving stray customers. Suddenly, I felt grateful. It was one night of my life, and no one would die if I missed my deadline. This woman had to work the wee hours daily. For me, it was an inconvenience.

With that changed attitude and hot coffee, I finally started writing. I wrote all night, with people curled up on the uncomfortable chairs around me.

At 4:45 a.m., gate agents showed up for the 5:20 a.m. flight out to Denver. Could I fly standby? It was full, the gate agent said—but 14 people hadn’t shown up. There was hope! It was looking good—until suddenly a family of 10 rushed in. I continued waiting, with little hope. Near me, a couple argued with a nervous gate agent for a seat change. They couldn’t fit their support animal, a 100-pound Rottweiler, in the seats they’d been given.

Finally, a surprise! I was allowed on the flight—he last person to board. You know the saying, “Don’t let the door hit you on the back on the way out”? Agents closed that door so fast it actually hit me.

I still wasn’t finished writing, and I hadn’t slept, but on this three-hour flight, maybe I could finish. Then I was shown to my seat, the middle of a bulkhead row. There in the seat next to me was the woman with…the gigantic Rottweiler. The dog couldn’t lie beneath her seat, because he was so large he’d be out in the aisle. No, he had to sit under my seat. I had no place for my things, a Rottweiler under my legs, and shows to write.

You can’t make this stuff up.

I did, in fact, finish that day.

We tracked that night.

And I swore never to fly on a Wednesday again. Or at least not on a connecting flight.

I’m grateful for good luck, a changed attitude, a gentle Rottweiler, and a community of support through AIR. The writing and producing life can be a lonely one, and we need each other for tips, learning, connections, and some good laughs.


Elaine Appleton Grant is an audio storyteller, a writer, an editor, and a passionate public speaker. A former magazine editor, she spent close to a decade as a reporter, producer and fill-in host for the public radio stations WBUR, NHPR and Colorado Public Radio. Her work has been heard on NPR and read in hundreds of publications, and she’s edited best-selling books. Today she’s a producer and script editor for Wondery and other clients, and she produces an independent podcast, One More Shot, about people who are reinventing their personal, professional, or creative lives. She provides podcast coaching and teaches storytelling and content development skills to a variety of audiences. She loves collaboration, worships deadlines, and has vowed to never again fly on deadline days.