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Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets of Radio's New Masters of Story with Ira Glass
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Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets of Radio's New Masters of Story with Ira Glass

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  905 ratings  ·  208 reviews
A graphic narrative that takes readers behind-the-scenes of five of today's most popular narrative radio shows, including This American Life and RadioLab.

Every week, millions of devoted fans download or tune in to This American Life, The Moth, Radiolab, Planet Money, Snap Judgment, and other narrative radio shows. The pieces captivating listeners are by turns funny, heartb
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 25th 2015 by Broadway Books
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4.21  · 
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 ·  905 ratings  ·  208 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Books on the Nightstand podcast
Since I didn't read Jessica Abel's previous book on radio, Radio: An Illustrated Guide, I had no idea this would be in graphic novel format. That took a while to get used to and at first I wasn't sure it needed the graphics or even worked in that format, but I quickly changed my mind. I soon realized that Jessica was identifying an element of radio storytelling and then also illustrating it in graphical form. But not like a diagram, kind of like a meta graphic, with the radio hosts she is interv ...more
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Back in 1999, cartoonist and writer Jessica Abel wrote a slim but very interesting graphic novel-like book--maybe you’d call it a nonfiction comic book--about how the radio show This American Life creates its often irresistible stories, stories that lead to “driveway moments” where you’ve arrived home but can’t get out of the car because you must hear how those stories end. I’ve treasured my copy of Radio: An Illustrated Guide for years and now Abel has written a greatly expanded update.

At 200+
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading this book felt like going to a Storytelling workshop. There is SO MUCH information packed into each panel. It's all very fascinating, but it is dense and cannot be read lightly, like many other graphic works.

Abel uses her graphic medium to detail the ins and outs of radio storytelling. The book itself uses Abel and Ira Glass as omniscient narrators of the process of creating a radio narrative/documentary, in the vein of TAL, Radiolab, The Moth, Planet Money, etc. The book is structured
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a temporary rating on this book because I could not read it in kindle format. I will try to find it on shelf at library tomorrow. I used to listen regularly to Ira Glass and his NPR podcast This American Life. That was when I spent more time in my car. Nevertheless...I am open to going back to radio listening some day.
This book looks like a great primer for podcasting.

I did try again to read it with magnifying glass after I finished my taxes and got them submitted.

March 15 Update: I was a
Peter Derk
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review is brought to you by MailChimp. No, wait, by Audible. Use offer code "DumbReviewer69" to get some kind of discount that's not really a discount, but who cares? Just click on some shit.

The book itself. Pretty good. Definitely a guide to telling stories in a very next-gen NPR way. Most of the shows profiled were NPR or NPR-adjacent (such as RadioLab), which isn't a slam, but does mean that you're getting a picture through that lens.

Lots of good advice in here for all mediums, really. E
Josephine (biblioseph)
Really insightful and informative, journalistic and narrative techniques that can be applied to many other mediums and styles. I feel like I've learned something about writing fiction and filming paranormal videos even. Highly recommend it. Note that it is a graphic novel.
Derek Royal
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book, made all the most notable for its unlikely subject matter. On the surface, a book on how they do story-based radio is a little unusual, but then again, Abel has a history translating the workings of public radio into comics form. The closest thing Out on the Wire reminds me of is Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, complete with autobiographic narrator figure who is self-aware of what she's doing as a cartoonist, and (although to a lesser degree than McCloud), playi ...more
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love that good radio can paint a picture and that good graphic novels can he you hear sounds. And I'll read anything that helps me understand creative process, especially when it comes to storytelling.
I definitely squeed - out loud - verbally - in my (not-so-quiet) library - when I saw this book was coming out.
It's right up my (elective reading) alley: A graphic novel about the storytelling methods of This American Life and other narrative nonfiction radio shows. By Jessica Abel. Who's kind of a monster in and of herself.

The book expands on a 32-page work Abel created for This American Life, entitled Radio: An Illustrated Guide. She interviews radio professionals from TAL, Snap Judgement, Pl
ARC for review.

***Note - this was presented as a excerpt of this graphic novel and since there's no real summation I'm assuming that is true. I e-mailed the publisher asking for more information (are there 10 pages missing? Or 100? My rating would likely change based on that answer.) but didn't hear back, so this is a review of the first 106 pages of this graphic novel....if asked I'm happy to remove this review until I have a chance to finish the book.


Graphic novels aren't usually my thin
Sep 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"Out on the Wire" is a graphic book that looks at how narrative nonfiction radio shows are created. The author assumed the reader has a certain familiarity with narrative nonfiction radio, and she used examples from shows that have aired. Narrative nonfiction is basically taking a series of interviews and/or narration by an individual and piecing bits together to tell a story--like how a T-shirt is made.

The author interviewed various people involved in producing the five radio shows. She drew th
GREAT comic about podcasts & storytelling. I'm kind of obsessed with it.

I think anyone who likes Austin Kleon's Show Your Work! would like this.
Aaron Burch
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is really fantastic. Gonna use it as a textbook on narrative/storytelling next semester.
Jim Kettner
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
What's great about Out on the Wire is that it is a book that keeps on giving.

While I have enjoyed most all of Abel's comics, Out on the Wire has more in common with my most well read of all her works, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, her textbook collab with her partner Matt Madden.

While not a textbook, Out on the Wire is filled with truly valuable storytelling lessons that work, both in the context of its own narrative- Abel's personal investment in and investigation of contemporary narrat
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is not just an amazing book about a certain kind of radio story. It's one of the best books about storytelling or journalism I have read. Even though I already knew lots of things in here, it put them in a new context for me. I took away not just Jessica Abels big narrative, but also lots of small tricks and ideas and even some small revelations about myself (like, what my relationship to editors is like).
Sep 26, 2018 added it
this was ok but I would've liked it more if it focused on all the hosts of the podcasts *I* listen to ; )
don't get me wrong, there's a lot of valuable information in here, but after a while there's something about reading abt being creative that starts to get tiresome for me
Oliver Devlin
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A library find that will soon be making its way home to live with me permanently.
The docu-comic-guide format is incredible, like a fly-on-the wall documentary with the depth and authority of a text book and all the joy and cinematic verve of comics.
Len O'Kelly
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent book on radio storytelling. Have been assigning it to my Advanced Radio students for two years now.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is pretty much nerd paradise for me: behind the scenes in depth conversations with the great minds behind some of my favorite podcasts + a sophisticated nonfiction exploration in graphic novel format. My listening will be forever enhanced.
Mar 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, graphic, nonfiction
Writers of fiction generally look to other writers of fiction for advice and inspiration. Memoirists to other memoirists. Poets to poets. It just makes sense, that to learn your craft better you seek someone who has mastered it.

But there are times when mastery advice transfers. When it's not so much about form as the basic ability to convey ideas and relate feelings, regardless the style or medium. On a certain level, all of it is about becoming a master storyteller.
I tell stories. That's what I
Christopher Lawson
Apr 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"You have to Develop a Thicker Skin -- You Just Have to"

OUT ON THE WIRE is one of the most creative books I have read in recent times. Plus, it's just flat-out fun to read. The author, Jessica Abel, combines her love for radio with her expertise in design of comics. The artwork and illustrations are really well done. (Of course, one would expect this from an author with it with extensive experience in in explaining how to write comics.)

One of the fun things I learned from this book was the exist
It's no secret that I am a devotee of public radio. NPR, PRI, APR, are a large part of my daily life, as are other public radio offerings in the forms of podcasts and music. (We're also big radio drama fans, old and new, but that's another story.) Book+favorite subject+creative format=Big Win for me, and thanks to Blogging for books, I was able to snag a copy of such a book, Out on a Wire, which is a graphic/comic documentary about narrative radio shows.

Being familiar with all but one of the sho
Wayne McCoy
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
'Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets of Radio's New Masters of Story with Ira Glass' by Jessica Abel is a graphic novel that ably illustrates (no pun intended) how the great radio stories I listen to are produced.

I've been a fan of "This American Life" for years. They can tell some engaging stories, and I am in awe of their ability. Along with TAL, this other NPR type story shows. Some are on air, some began life as podcasts. During the course of the book Jessica Abel acts as our guide along
Probably a great set of advice for people just starting out in radio/podcast production, but I found that a lot of the advice you would pick up along the way of actually doing radio/podcast production, actually making stories. I also found the graphic novel format distracting; I wanted to learn new things but largely didn't, and the panels were all panels of people making radio. Spoiler: that's not visually exciting, at least in this context. It was 99% panels of people sitting around in story m ...more
Zara Rahman
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this enough for those who are looking for the tips and secrets of great radio storytelling. It's incredibly full of content, and a pleasure to browse and read. It was one of those books where I wanted to write notes in the margins (but then decided not to, because the drawings in it are so beautiful!) - so I kept my notebook near by whenever I was reading, and frequently scribbled in it. It's very thorough in its overview of what makes a good story - from ideas, all the way up ...more
Stewart Tame
Oct 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I just didn't find this as interesting as I thought I would. The fault is not Jessica Abel's. She has mad cartooning skills, and made this book as interesting as it could possibly be. For some reason, I just didn't find the subject matter compelling. It may have been simple unfamiliarity. While I've heard of NPR and This American Life and Ira Glass and even the Moth, I haven't listened to any of them. When I listen to the radio, it's more to hear music than anything else. So perhaps fans of the ...more
Pushes the limits of the graphic novel format in a good way. I wouldn't have thought that talking heads would make for an entertaining read but it kept my interest for the most part (the chapter about story structure went a little long) and introduced me to Snap Judgment, another great radio show. Lots of good info in here. One of my favorite scenes is where Abel juxtaposes a story in the process of an edit with the comments various editors are making about it. Great use of the format there. Hig ...more
Kate Alleman
This is a really helpful inspirational manual for anyone into podcasting and, to a degree, storytelling in general. The graphic novel format keeps technical information engaging. I also love seeing what actual people look like when they are mentioned in non-fiction works, so that was a plus.

I've been listening to more storytelling shows (and even going to live ones when I can) and reading memoirs lately. There's just something humbling about listening to someone else's perspective and basking in
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is the perfect medium (graphic novel) for the story she was telling. I liked the illustrations and the storytelling of the storytellers' stories. If you listen to This American Life, Radiolab, The Moth, or any of the other great radioshows/podcasts, then this behind the scenes explanation of how it's done will remind you that even if it sounds natural, there is a lot of work to get to that point. This should be one of the freebies for KUER pledge week.
Ryan Mishap
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Bored...Episode 1 bored. I guess I shouldn't have looked to a comic about public radio for excitement, but I didn't expect find mediocre drawing, lack of narrative flow, and more verbiage than a Tom Tomorrow comic. If you are planning on becoming a radio person who wants to do a show like the ones highlighted here, this is essential. The rest of us should skip it and listen to the stories.
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Cartoonist and writer Jessica Abel is the author of the graphic novel La Perdida (Pantheon Books) as well as two textbooks about making comics, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics (First Second Books), written in collaboration with her husband, the cartoonist Matt Madden. She's also the co-writer of the graphic novel Life Sucks.
Previously, she published Soundtrack and Mirror