Eric and I recently discovered a shared fascination with the slew of impossibly named NPR hosts we listen to every day: Renee Montagne, Steve Inskeep, Corey Flintoff, Korva Coleman, Kai Ryssdal, Dina Temple-Raston.
In fact, we’ve often wondered what it would be like to be one of them. A Nina Totenberg or a Renita Jablonski. A David Kestenbaum or a Lakshmi Singh. Even (on our most ambitious days) a Cherry Glaser or a Sylvia Poggioli.
So finally, after years of Fresh Air sign-off ambitions, we came up with a system for creating our own NPR Names. Here’s how it works: You take your middle initial and insert it somewhere into your first name. Then you add on the smallest foreign town you’ve ever visited.
Uh-oh. I knew there’d be a problem. “Then you add on the name of the smallest foreign town you’ve ever visited”?
I gotta learn to read these memes before I jump into them.
This might not work, because (I’m embarrassed to say, at the age of 40), that I’ve never been anywhere. I’m shamefully un-travelled. The places in the world I haven’t seen could fill an atlas.
Seriously. It’s one of the frustrations I’ve felt as a writer, at least as a writer of fiction. I don’t think it’s possible to write effectively about places I’ve never been and never seen except in magazines and on television. I suppose I could Google “Rome in August” or something like that, and try to fake it, but anyone who’d been in Rome in August, or anywhere else I haven’t been but might try to write about, would know in a minute that I’d no idea what it was really like.
That’s part of the reason I still haven’t picked up the first draft of the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. I started revising it, and outlining the changes and additions I thought it needed, and realized the action was almost all in just a few places, when — to tell the story the way I really wanted to — I’d have to write about places I’d never seen or been to, and wasn’t likely to visit anytime soon.
Somehow just writing about places I’d researched or read about didn’t seem good enough. I’d probably still get some important things wrong. And get tossed into some literary agent’s “circular file.” (Because they don’t have the time, I’m sure, to deal with people who don’t even know what they’re writing about.)
The smallest foreign town I’ve ever visited? I’ve barely been out of the country and never been off the continent. When I did, we went North. We never had even a layover in a “small foreign town.”
But, if I play along anyway — and include what’s technically the smallest foreign town I’ve visited — My NPR Name is:
Meanwhile, I’ll stick to writing about politics.