Writing for Radio: What Do You Believe?

Laura BridgwaterBy Laura Bridgwater
This September, in honor of the annual rite when elementary children return to class and pen essays about what they did on their summer vacation, consider writing your own essay. But instead of describing a holiday, write about what you believe for the international radio project, This I Believe.

Ranging on themes from atheism to war, the This I Believe project gives writers the opportunity to share essays on the radio. Essays should be 500 words or less (about three minutes when aired) and reflect your daily life philosophy.

Edward R. Murrow originally broadcast these essays in the 1950s. Years later, National Public Radio (NPR) revived the project. NPR broadcast contemporary essays for four years until April 2009. From Helen Keller’s 1951 essay about her vision of faith to Penn Jillette’s contemporary contribution “There is No God,” essays show the diversity of what it means to be human.

Luckily, local public radio stations are unrolling the welcome mat for this project. Recently, some of the 900 public radio member stations launched a This I Believe initiative. Local stations want to hear what their local listeners believe.

Stations requesting This I Believe submissions include WHYY in Philadelphia, WRNI in Rhode Island, KUHF in Houston, WVXU in Cincinnati, WPSU in Pennsylvania, and the public radio station where I record commentary, KUNC in Colorado.

To find out if your local public radio member station is broadcasting these essays, tune in or check out their website for details. To find a local public radio member station near you, click on the station finder on NPR’s website.

To help you start your essay, check out these writing guidelines on the This I Believe website, where you will also find a submissions page. Additionally, you can listen to and read recently featured essays and essays from the 50s.

Two anthologies of these essays are also available at most public libraries and bookstores. Look for This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women and This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women.

Just don’t spend all of your time reading these compelling and brief pieces. Save time to write your own because these short essays are a good way to test your radio writing potential.

Laura Bridgwater is a writer, teacher, and radio commentator. To listen to or read a transcript of her commentary, visit KUNC FM 91.5. She can be reached at Laura.Bridgwater@comcast.net.

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