Last night, I had the distinct privelege of attending a This American Life listening party at the home of Apricot Irving (the headphoned woman at right). Irving produced a piece for this week’s Haiti-themed “Island Time” show about returning to the Haiti of her youth in late March, two months after January’s devastating earthquake brought the already impoverished country to its knees.
After we’d listened to the episode in its entirety, Irving shared with us some of the many stories contained on her 56 hours of tape collected in Haiti that didn’t make the cut. (To put it in perspective, Irving’s TAL piece clocks in at 12 minutes.) She was particularly (and understandably) attached to one segment featuring an exquisite soliloquy about love and loss by an American doctor who for decades has called Haiti home.
“I really thought this was going to be the one,” she said, adding that both she and another producer were banking on the clip making the final cut. In the end, the TAL team decided it was just a hair too sentimental, and excluded it from the broadcast version.
This resonated with me as a writer who’s had many (probably most) of her stories cut way down so as to be more coherent and manageable – and, y’know, fit on a page. While much of this word-whittling is beneficial to my work (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m a rambler), there are certain passages and paragraphs whose elimination gives me prose pangs. Continue reading