Sarah Esocoff is a writer and a podcast producer at Sirius XM’s Spoke. She took a “Podcast Production 101” class at METRO last fall to help her make the transition from writing to making audio. She produced this short story about Collectors’ Night for the class, and when she sent it to me for a listen, I knew I wanted to include it in an episode of Library Bytegeist.
This is the first piece we’ve published from a freelancer, but it won’t be the last. If you have pitches or story ideas that you think would work for our libraries-and-archives-themed podcast, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is a short interview with Sarah about her process.
Molly Schwartz: Tell me about this audio story that you produced for Library Bytegeist. What’s it about? What inspired you to make it?
Sarah Esocoff: It’s about an event called Collectors’ Night that the City Reliquary puts on every year. Collectors from all over the state bring their collections for people to look at. They also have featured speakers and performers. I’m always keeping an eye out for what are likely to be gatherings of interesting people, and in this case, I was right! I like hearing people talk about things they’re passionate about, especially if those things are old instructional videos on how to form a telepathic connection with your cat (true). The subject was of particular interest to me because my grandmother suffers from hoarding disorder.
MS: Are you a pack rat? What’s a weird thing that you’ve saved?
SE: In general, no, but I do have a habit of picking things up off the ground and saving them — anything I find sensorially pleasing, like the tip of an wrought iron fence post or a pretty tile. I keep them on a file cabinet in my room; it looks like a very boring/lazy shrine.
MS: What’s your background? How did you first get into radio production?
SE: My current job in audio, as a producer and curator at SiriusXM’s Spoke, is also my first. But I’ve always loved radio and podcasts!
MS: One thing that impressed me about the piece was your writing. Do you have a background as a writer? Is there anything in particular that you try to do differently when you write for radio?
SE: I do! Before I got my start in audio, I was a comedy writer at Reductress and also wrote plays. I still write comedy and poetry. The best piece of audio writing advice I’ve ever received is: don’t have more than one subject and verb per sentence. Keep it to one piece of information. In my writing, I’m partial to long, bad sentences, as you can see from this…sentence.
MS: Collector’s Night sounded noisy and hectic. What was it like trying to record there?
SE: Not ideal. There was a lot going on and I only had my Zoom. But I think (hope?) that good interviews can make up for bad audio.
MS: Is there any advice you would give to people who are just starting out on an audio career? What was some of the most helpful advice you received?
SE: I feel like I’m not far enough along to be imparting advice! Maybe interview kids? People seem to like that.
MS: What’s a great podcast episode you’ve listened to recently?
SE: My friend Becca works on a fantastic podcast called Other Men Need Help. It’s about toxic masculinity and it’s equal parts insightful, moving, and funny. I can’t pick a favorite episode — they’re all great!