Thursday, April 3, 2014


Curious how the various strands of one’s life can come together in unexpected ways.

When I was eleven years old, my mother – who worked for the British Council in Teheran – volunteered my services as a child actor for a radio play. The child had to be able to read a script and also sing, unaccompanied. This, mother said, I could do.

I was taken to the studio where all the other (volunteer) actors, including my mother, were grown-up. We stood around a single microphone with scripts in our hands and, after a quick read-through, we were live on air, broadcasting an English language drama to the no doubt bewildered Iranian audience.  I had been warned not to flutter or scrunch the script because the mike would pick up every tiny sound. Each page was to be allowed to drift quietly to the floor when done with.  Also, if I made a mistake or stumbled over my words, I was to carry on regardless. There was, you see, no recording tape in those days. It was live, with no second chances.

Jump forwards a few decades and I found myself in New Zealand with a sideline job as a commentator on radio. “Community Comment” went out every weekday morning just before (or just after?) the eight o’clock news. There was quite a stable of commentators and my turn came round every six weeks or so. Now there was recording tape, and I would go into the studio the day before with my script and record it, knowing that fluffs and stumbles could be corrected, erased, recorded over.

Another strand: after nearly four decades of reviewing books I severed the tie that bound me and looked around for other things to fill the gap. Those happened to include writing short fiction – flash fiction, or 250s (that is, stories that are 250 words or under).  Not my usual genre, which is non-fiction, but how hard could it be? I started writing 250s for fun and sent a couple off to Flash Frontier ( ).

As a direct result, I was asked to read one of the stories on radio.  On Monday I will be going into town with a script, ready to record it for PlainsFM, a local radio station that supports books and reading, writing and writers. I expect to feel very much at home.


  1. Hi Joan - are you taking a camera to PlainsFM? I do love a good radio studio photo.

    I did sound effects for a few radio dramas earlier in my career - rattling tea cups besides the actors, opening and closing doors, and so on. The worst sin was having rumbling tummy during scenes recorded just before the lunch break.

  2. I remember my mother kissing her own hand for the "romantic moment" bit but don't remember any other sound effects particularly. There must have been others - what is radio drama without the doors and teacups after all? I'll try to remember to take a camera on Monday just for you!