Storyville began when, one day, crossing the campus at the University of New Orleans, I had to have my curiosity satisfied. Every day, driving to work as an Assistant Professor of English at UNO, I would tune in to WWNO public radio. At one point, I would inevitably hear, “Coming to you from the campus at the University of New Orleans ….”
Where on the campus? No one really knew exactly.
“In the library,” someone said.
So, I went to the university library, searched everywhere, and couldn’t find it.
“I think it’s connected to the library on the side somewhere,” someone said.
I finally found the entrance. I rode the elevator up to the fourth floor. I took an idea with me. The General Manager, Paul Maassen, was kind enough to give me five minutes.
“What’s on your mind?”
“I’d like my graduate writing students to write pieces for you and then you could broadcast them on the air.”
Now, coming from New York City as I do, I braced myself for being summarily tossed out of his office, expletive following close by.
Instead, he rubbed his chin and said, “That sounds interesting.”
“Sorry, you don’t like it. I never should have come!”
“I like it.”
“As I say, I’m very sor…. What?”
“Yes, let’s do it.”
We talked for about an hour, ironing things out about how the program would work. Then he paused and said, “Hmm. I think we’ll need $5,000 to do this.”
“Give or take.”
I didn’t have that on me. Or anywhere else. But without hesitating I said, “Sure. I’ll get you the money.”
The next day, I got hold of Daniel Morales, a graduate student in writing, who also happens to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on Kickstarter, the website that enables everyday people to attempt to raise money for their projects. Usually the amount they ask for is relatively small, although, lately, because of the site’s success, even corporations are using it.
With Daniel’s guidance, we put together a Kickstarter campaign to get the $5,000. We shot a video with students all around New Orleans and we made our pitch. Here’s the result.
We raised $4,300. And got the rest outside of Kickstarter.
This took about a month. I walked back into Paul’s office and handed him the check. I think he was surprised. But he said, “Let’s go.”
From then on it was a matter of actually constructing the program. We needed a name. Daniel suggested Storyville. Genius. The word “story” is in it. And, of course, Storyville is part of New Orleans’ history (check back next week for more on Storyville in the monthly KnowLa column from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities).
Next, developing a web page, gathering writers, writing scripts, re-writing scripts, learning about writing for radio (a panicked three-week self-education) and, finally, recording. Paul assigned us a crack producer, Laine Kaplan-Levenson (who also is managing editor of NolaVie). So, one September day, six months after that early March day when I strode boldly into Paul’s office, we were in a recording studio at WWNO recording our first Storyville piece. It was, appropriately, about Storyville.
This week we’re broadcasting our third piece, “Repaying Karmic Debt,” written and read by Jonathan Brown, a poet in the MFA program at the University of New Orleans. I hope you enjoy it. It, like all of Storyville, was conceived in love.
I hope you welcome it to the world. Storyville.
You can read the third installment of Storyville here.
Richard Goodman is Creative Director of Storyville. He’s an Assistant Professor of Creative Nonfiction Writing at the University of New Orleans. He is the author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France.