Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio by Jessica Abel is an interesting resource told through Abel’s skillful use of graphic story telling. She is an author of two textbooks about making comics which I joyfully gave to my daughter because Abel is so talented and able to communicate information that makes even confusing content accessible.
This new addition to her nonfiction graphic resources is no different, giving the reader a behind’s the scene look at how radio programs are produced, carrying reader from the inception of an idea to the final airing of an episode. I had never thought much about the work that goes into some of the NPR programs with which I am so familiar. I now have a better appreciation not only for This American Life and RadioLab but I find myself listening to podcasts with more respect for the work that goes into all of them.
Early in the book, Abel shares an excerpt from a previous publication she made for This American Life called Radio: An Illustrated Guide. The most interesting part of this is not only seeing how much has changed and/or stayed the same with how the one radio program is produced but even seeing Abel’s own creative process and growth. The fact is that the rest of this book is actually stronger than the excerpt. I honestly think it would have worked best as an appendix or even bonus at the end of the main text because so much in production has changed.
Nonetheless, I found this book interesting, more so the more I read. Although there are a lot of people who come and go on the page, Abel illustrates each so the reader is not left confused and even gives them a unique voice, evidence of her skill. Even for someone without a vested interest in learning how these programs are produced will find themselves, like me, enthralled with the various processes and later, long after the book itself is closed and on a shelf, listening to programs with greater appreciation.