Cristina Parry has a yellow belt in karate. She’s a mother to three boys, a longtime radio producer, and the All-Time Defending Champion of KCRW’s 24-Hour Radio Race. Last year, Cristina took first place in the Radio Race with “Tic Talk,” her profile of a 9-year-old boy with Tourette Syndrome.
Registration for this year’s Radio Race has officially begun — and while we wait with baited breath for the day itself to arrive (August 2!), we asked Cristina to share some wisdom from last year’s race.
I had to think quickly, so I had to figure out what the theme meant to me. Once I decided on that, I thought about the subjects that interested me, and the contacts I had on hand that would be useful. Tourette’s in children fit the bill! I did go with something I was familiar with, particularly since it was my first time, so I wanted to feel comfortable and confident about my topic.
With only 24 hours to put everything together, some aspects of the finished piece are going to have to be imperfect. Where did you focus your energy?
I knew I had to have my idea in place, or nothing would work. Once I had that, I had to get a plan and audio in place. Once I had that, I was able to focus more on the finished outcome. I have to say, the finished product was the greatest unknown, as I wasn’t sure what audio I would get — so it wasn’t until I had finished the gathering stage that I really fine-tuned my idea.
I refused to compromise on the quality of the audio and the time I took with my interviewees. I knew I might have to cut corners on production, but for me, treating the people involved with respect and appreciation for taking part was key. That is how I got them to be so open and honest with me.
The Radio Race is open every experience level, including those who’ve never produced for radio before. What advice do you have for someone who’s excited about the Race, but has never put together a radio piece before?
I say go for it! Nothing ventured, nothing gained! If you want to take part but do not have much experience, then do some practice pieces beforehand. Make sure you are happy with the technology you will be using, or get someone aboard your production team who is a tech wiz.
Though all technical and creative work for the piece has to be done on Race Day, there’s no ban on prepping in other ways. How would you recommend getting ready for the race before beginning the piece itself?
Be rested, and start to think of people, situations, and contacts that would be good if the theme goes your way. If you have a contact book, now is the time to dust it off and have it at the ready.
Think about the time wherever you are in the world [the Radio Race starts at 10 a.m. PDT, no matter where you are!] and how that will impact what you have to achieve. I got the theme at night, so I really had all night to sleep on the question, but I also knew that I had less time to record, edit and deliver.
What was your favorite part about the Radio Race? What was the biggest challenge you faced, and how did you deal with it?
My favorite part was creating a piece of radio that I wanted to do, know that there were people all over the place doing the same thing. I know it was a competition, but I also felt a connectedness between all of us as we worked through the process. I love radio, love being creative, and the thought of all these people doing it all at the same time was amazing!
The time element was the biggest challenge because you had to do the whole creative process at speed. I took time to think, look at each step instead of the whole journey, and then just gave myself a mental shove off the edge.
Cristina will be returning to defend her title this year. But she’s a good sport — so meditate on her advice, sign up for the Race, and get ready to steal her crown.