“Tell Me Your Story”: SOS Radio

by Maria Theresa Maggi on August 18, 2016

Once Upon A Time

Life has been taking me back to remember my time as a young graduate student and then writing adjunct instructor in the English Department at the University of California, Irvine. During that time, the composition program was growing in leaps and bounds. When I started, it was all run by graduate students farther along into the PhD program, and within a few years the department saw fit to hire a professor with a doctorate in composition to oversee the program, along with 3 other doctorates to direct each of the lower division writing courses. I found myself landing a job as assistant to one of these directors, and so I worked closely with the new director of the entire writing program. He was a large teddy-bear shaped man, who somehow never seemed to have all of his shirt tucked in, his shoes tightly tied, or his pants at a particularly fashionable hitch. He had a way of throwing out remarks that caught people off guard. Yet if you could field the curve balls, there was a lot to learn about student centered teaching from this guy.

At that time, the University of California system was tracked to admit the top 12% of high school graduates, plus those deemed worthy of “special action”–usually students of color who needed a little extra support in writing to make the university level grade. One of my jobs under the new director, before becoming an assistant, was to develop a curriculum for a writing workshop that helped these students through their writing classes. My doing this work was one of the most rewarding experiences in my teaching career. Several  years back I was lucky enough to have a poem I wrote about that time published in a literary journal called Pilgrimage. You can read that poem in my post “In The Garden: Thinning.”

By the time I became an assistant course director, I was used to students–and the grad students who I was charged to observe during their first quarter of teaching–come to me with “stories” about why they shouldn’t have gotten a D, why they needed to add a class or drop one, or why it was absolutely imperative they get a Tuesday-Thursday teaching schedule (not knowing that everyone else in the department also wanted that so they could write over the weekend as well). It was easy to get at least inwardly exasperated with what seemed like complaints and excuses until this new writing director taught me another more interesting–and compassionate–way to approach them.

If a student came into his office needing to make an appeal of one kind or another, he would shove his large gerth back into the squeaky office chair, pushing it up against a chaotic pile of  papers and books about to fall off his desk, cross one leg so that the ankle rested on the knee of the other leg, hitch up his thick square glasses (which had inevitably slipped down to the end of his nose), and say, “Okay. Tell me your story.”

The way he saw it, every student had a story, and it was important to listen and engage in that story in order to best help them succeed. The “story” would shed light not only on the dos and don’ts of sound administration, but on what makes a student tick. The rules were there as guidelines, not rigid standards to divide and subdivide those trying to learn into quantitative bins. After he heard the tale of one or another undergrad, he might say, “Well, okay, that was a good story. We’ll see what we can do (about whatever needed to be done). Then he’d lift his large teddy bear self out of the chair, and saunter, hunched over, down the hall, pulling a cigarette from the pack in his unkept shirt pocket so he could go have a smoke outside the building.

Despite his chronic lack of finesse, this man endeared himself to me because he was especially observant about how us creative writing types actually made really good teachers, because we weren’t afraid to try something different, or step away from what wasn’t working.  We cared about our students, he said, because we knew, he said, because we also wrote.

If he had been sitting in my classroom, he would have loved how I told the students that reading and writing are a form of thinking: they are all part of the same process. Listening too. Just different notes in the same chord. He taught me how to appreciate there’s rarely a greater gift you can give someone than pulling up a chair and being truly willing to listen to what they have to say.

So it is my humble honor and pleasure to share with you that I have been asked to “tell my story” on KVMR Radio in Nevada City, California on August 24th. I’ll be on my reader Peggy Bean’s show “SOS Radio” at noonish, where we will chat about how a plant based diet has been the basis for transforming my life with MS and fibromyalgia into the slow  miracle you read about here. If you’d like to join us live, you can listen online at www.kvmr.org. The show will be archived immediately afterwards, and will be available for your listening pleasure for 6 weeks. So if you miss the actual program time, you can hear what Peggy and I chatted about.

Although she tackles serious topics, like an interview with Dr. Openlander about the impact of animal agriculture and fishing on global depletion (which you can find by scrolling down to June 22 on the KVMR archive page), Peggy’s got an awesome theme song for her show that makes me laugh with delight every time I’ve heard it. You can listen to and watch it being performed right here on her blog page, if you like to hear music to get you in a vegan mood.  I dare you not to smile while you listen.

If you’re sitting at your computer or online on your smart phone around noon on August 24, I hope you’ll join us as I tell Peggy some of my slow miracle story. It’s the first time I will talk about the things I’ve written on the blog to a public audience. I thank you all for your support of my written words, and hope you’ll listen in and cheer me on with the spoken ones!

Maria (moonwatcher)


Leave a Comment

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Peggy Bean August 19, 2016 at 10:07 am

What a story teller you are, Maria. So looking forward to this Wednesday. The show starts right after the BBC news – around 12:06 PDT. And, the show will be archived right away and will be available for six weeks after the air date. One could listen that same day- say in the afternoon of the 24th. I’m honored to be the first radio show to broadcast your story! love and light, P


2 Maria Theresa Maggi August 19, 2016 at 10:16 am

Thank you Peggy! I may not be as good at it in person as I am on the page, but I will give it a whirl! And thanks for the clarification on the timing of the archive. I just changed the post to reflect that information accurately. I am looking forward to this first broadcast talking about plant-based healing–love and light back to you!


3 Marge August 19, 2016 at 12:43 pm

can’t wait!


4 Maria Theresa Maggi August 19, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Thanks Marge!


5 Debra Maslov August 19, 2016 at 9:46 pm

So exciting Maria! I am looking forward to hearing your no-doubt very inspiring story as well!


6 Maria Theresa Maggi August 20, 2016 at 11:28 am

Thank you Debra! I’m a little nervous, but hopefully what I’ve written will help me through. 🙂


7 Gena August 22, 2016 at 4:20 am

I love this story, Maria. First, I love your suggestion, prompted by your director’s posture with students, that writers have unique gifts to offer when they’re put in the position of being administrators. Too often I think that creative people are forced to put aside their empathy or their capacity to do things in an unusual way for the sake of conforming to procedure. It’s a gift when writers and folks who understand storytelling are given freedom to lead in their own way, and that gift of course trickles into the hands of the people who are under their guidance.

And it’s so true that simply giving people an opportunity to tell their stories is often the deepest and most profound gift. Having spent much time in the last few years trying to advocate for myself within an academic setting, I’ve learned that I can’t always get what I want, to quote the Rolling Stones, but I can almost always accept this so long as I feel acknowledged and heard.

I’ll be shooting videos for some recipes with Food52 on Wednesday right when you’re on air, but I see Peggy’s comment, below, that the show will be archived, and I can’t wait to listen in!



8 Maria Theresa Maggi August 22, 2016 at 10:04 am

Thank you for this insightful comment, Gena. Somehow you are always able to encapsulate what I am driving at so succintly and elegantly! And I’m very glad it also spoke to you about your experience in the academic setting over the last few years. Many of my students were medical school-bound, and feeling acknowledged and heard is so important, at least somewhere, in that long haul of hope and toil. Best to you with your video shoot, and thanks for checking in on the archive when you get a chance! 🙂 xo


9 Veronica August 22, 2016 at 11:39 am

Sometimes all I wanted was a professor to just listen to my story… And the ones that did were the ones that had a much larger impact on me. It’s not often that advisors/profs/TAs/etc take that time, and it’s nice to know they exist in the various education tracks.
To echo my FB post, I’m excited to listen to the show, and wish you all the best of luck! xoxo


10 Lee August 23, 2016 at 4:34 am

Maria, first, I love love love this turn of phrase: “…reading and writing are a form of thinking: they are all part of the same process. Listening too. Just different notes in the same chord.” Poetry unto itself.

Also, I can’t wait to hear your radio interview! I won’t be able to listen live, but I will download the archived file and listen to it as I commute. Good luck, I know any interview, even a fun one, can also be a little nerve-wracking!


11 Maria Theresa Maggi August 23, 2016 at 10:43 am

Thank you, Lee, I’m glad the notion of writing, thinking, reading and listen as all part of the same spectrum of process. And thanks for your support–it IS a little nerve-wracking, but I’m very glad my readers will have almost immediate access to the archive for the next 6 weeks so you can listen at a time that works for you. So appreciate it!


12 Silvia August 29, 2016 at 8:30 am

Dear Maria, I managed to listen to nearly all of your interview despite technical difficulties. It took many trials and sadly I didn’t reach your poem.
It was wonderful to hear your voice.
And perhaps I’ll get the programm to play to the very end in yet another trial.
Greetings from Germany, Silvia


13 Maria Theresa Maggi August 29, 2016 at 10:17 am

Dear Silvia–I’ SO sorry you had a hard time being able to listen because of technical difficulties. Thank you so much for persevering! It is so kind of you to enjoy hearing my voice. I hope if you try again it’s much easier for you. All best from the west coast of America–xo


14 Nicole O'Shea September 2, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Maria! I came late to this party so a belated CONGRATULATIONS!!! I hope it went wonderfully. Say I missed it live, but I plan to listen to the archived version!

What a wonderful story in the beginning of the post about teaching and teachers and learning. Such a wonderful continuum to be a part of, from student to writer/teacher and circling back. The company of shared interests and passions is so very valuable.




15 Maria Theresa Maggi September 2, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Thanks, Nicole! I’d be delighted if you took a listen! Peggy made it a lot of fun. I’m glad I did it. And I so appreciate your comments about the frame for announcing the interview, that you enjoyed that story about my teaching time means a lot to me. xo


Previous post:

Next post: