Writing for Radio: Listen and Learn

laura-bridgwaterBy Laura Bridgwater

My first love affair with National Public Radio (NPR) began when I started graduate school in my twenties.For that first year, I commuted an hour and a half through a national forest. During those drives down desolate Florida byways, it was just me, a few cows, maybe an alien or two, and the voices in the dark on my local public radio station. That’s when I heard Bailey White, a school teacher from Georgia who told stories about living with her quirky, elderly mother. I didn’t live with my mother, but I was a school teacher from the South, and I related to her commentaries.

After graduate school, my husband and I moved to Colorado, where I drove white-knuckled in the snow and fell in love with the voice of Baxter Black, a self-described cowboy poet and former large animal veterinarian. Even though I had no intention of ever helping a cow deliver a calf in the middle of a blizzard, I enjoyed knowing about a world that I drove past regularly.

Not all of my radio affairs happened in the car. When I left teaching to stay at home with our first daughter, I kept the radio on in the kitchen through middle-of-the-night feedings, breakfast, snack, lunch, and dinner. I listened to Marion Winik and Sandra Tsing Loh, two women who shared candidly about parenthood.

I like to think that I’ve found an NPR commentator for most stages of my life. I know these writers made me feel connected during times of isolation, whether it was a lonely drive, a new home, or becoming a parent. Fortunately, these days with Internet access, I don’t have to move across the country to listen to my favorite ones. I click on NPR on my laptop almost as often as I turn the knob in my automobile.

In my current stage, I’m a freelance writer. In 2008 I began recording commentaries for my local public radio station, KUNC. With NPR’s 22 million listeners and almost 800 affiliate public radio stations, chances are good that you, too, have a public radio station that might be interested in what you have to say. (To find your local public radio station, go to http://www.npr.org/stations/ and enter your zip code.)

Commentaries are simply essays in script form. If you want to break into public radio, start by tuning in. Listen and learn. All of the above commentators also have books of their essays available at Amazon, so with a highlighter in hand, you can study their writing. Then one day you might find yourself driving down the road to the sound of your own voice. Hopefully, it won’t be because you are talking to yourself, but because your voice is being broadcast over the airwaves.

Laura Bridgwater is an award-winning writer, teacher, and radio commentator who loves to pen funny essays, bad poetry, and grocery lists. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her husband and Tax Deduction #1 and #2. When she isn’t busy driving Mom’s Yellow Taxi Service, she freelances for newspapers, magazines, blogs, and online publications. Laura can be found as an active member of Northern Colorado Writers and commentating at KUNC. In 2008, she won first place for humorous personal essay writing from the National Federation of Press Women.

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1 Response to “Writing for Radio: Listen and Learn”


  1. 1 Sarah January 24, 2009 at 5:55 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Laura! That sounds like such awesome work, and I would love to someday try such a job!


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