Meet Anne Strainchamps...

Public radio producers often seem to have offbeat alternative careers.  You were a  chocolatier?

It was more play therapy than career, but yes, back in the late ‘80‘s I moonlighted – literally – as a chocolatier.  I used to work all day producing talk shows and editing news copy and then a girl friend and I would hand dip Belgian chocolate truffles until after midnight.  It was strictly a labor of love – we sold our chocolates at Madison’s farmer’s market and at a couple of fine restaurants – and I don’t think we ever made a profit.  But I have very fond memories of standing in a restaurant kitchen late at night, elbow-deep in warm melted chocolate, Callebaut Bittersweet perfuming the air and the Go-Go’s playing in the background.

How did you get into public radio?

In college I was an English major who loved 19th century novels and didn’t own a radio. Then I got a part-time job as a reference librarian at NPR.  It was about as entry-level as a job can get, clipping and filing newspapers – this was before the internet! --  and running errands for the reporters.  I fell in love with the place and the people, the intelligence and mission of public broadcasting, radio's capacity to convey emotion and to create intimacy.

Would you rather interview a guest who’s in the studio with you, or on the phone?

I think I do a better job when the guest is on an ISDN line piped into my headphones, instead of  sitting two feet away.  I know I enjoy it more.  That voice in the headphones is just so intimate.  For half an hour, we exist together, just the two of us, in a space so interior, it feels like a different dimension.  Freed from the distraction of physical messages -- facial expressions, body language -- I listen better.  Ironic, isn’t it, that I feel more present with a guest when I’m physically absent? 

In addition to your work on TTBOOK, you recently produced a radio essay series, Wisconsin Life.  What’s that about and how can I hear it?

Wisconsin Life is about honoring and preserving something that’s endangered in America today -- a sense of place.   The challenge of living in a world of global connections with a 24/7 news cycle and instant wireless access to virtual space is that we risk forgetting some of the poetry of daily life in a particular place.  The slow seasonal cycles, the layers of natural and human history that make the places we live unique and distinct.   Wisconsin Life is a very simple radio project: 

3-minute long audio essays, commentaries and sound portraits about daily life here where I live, in Wisconsin.  The contributors are writers, poets, dairy farmers, school teachers, geologists, etc. If you want to know more, you can visit the blog: www.wisconsinlife.org

Last question.  Do your kids listen to your radio programs?

Often enough to do a wicked impression of a pledge drive.