Monday, January 24, 2011

AVSM Flashback: Birke R. Duncan

 AVSM Flashback is a new and occasional feature in which I'll reconnect with the people who once appeared in the pages of my publication, a very small magazine.

During my self-appointed tenure as a small magazine publisher, I came to dread the once-a-week task of opening  the submissions that were sent me. Most were tedious, poorly written prose and poems that weren’t worth my time or even the amount of postage used to send them.

So it was with delight when I opened an envelope and found quirky gems like Birke R. Duncan’s “Passage of a Moudlyn,” a short, humorous essay in which the narrator pays tribute to his comrade and cousin, Norman Henry Moudlyn. I happily printed it in a very small magazine, issue 18, in 1992.

The last issue of the magazine was published in 1997 and I lost contact with most of my contributors over the years. Then, a year or so ago, Duncan wrote me out of the blue and asked for permission to convert the Moudlyn story into a radio play. I was charmed that he would even ask, since the magazine no longer existed. Since then, “Monty Moudlyn: Founder of the Hug Brigade” has played on select public radio stations across the country. [I am pleased that the back of its CD cover states: “Based on the stories published in A Very Small Magazine, The Ecphorizer, and”]

I asked him Duncan recently about how he found AVSM, how he supports his writing habits, and what else he has in the works.

Birke R. Duncan
Do you write for a living or do something else?
I sell suits for a living. One shop was so dysfunctional that it has formed the basis of a stage play, "Wolfsbane in Mocha," which I'll produce locally this summer. I advise all aspiring writers to get a job they hate, because all fiction arises from conflict.

How did you find AVSM?
I found AVSM in the "Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses."

What prompted you to write "Passage of a Moudlyn"?
It was in a creative writing class in the winter of 1989. The professor was a novelist named David Shields. He told us to write a funeral eulogy. At first, I started writing something serious, but then went for humor. The main character was based on an eccentric friend.

How did you go about turning it into a radio play?
At the time, I had spent several months producing the complicated thriller, "Riders of the Three-Toed Horse." It had bogged down in tedious sound effects mixing. I did "Monty Moudlyn" to give myself a break. A friend has a studio in his sound-proofed basement. We concocted most of the sound effects ourselves.

How did you distribute to radio stations (or get word out about it)?
I looked up , which has a mostly outdated list of radio troupes. I then emailed the groups, to see if they'd like to hear the CD.

How many stations have played it so far?
So far, to my knowledge, two stations have aired it: WFHB "Fire House Theater" in Bloomington, IN, and KUNM "Albuquereque Radio Theater" in New Mexico. Writer/director/host Fred Greenhalgh says he will air "Monty Moudlyn" some day on WMPG "Radio Drama Revival."

Have you made other radio plays or non-print creations?
"Monty Moudlyn" was my penultimate radio drama. The last was "Union of the Snake." A short film version of two other Monty stories goes into production in March.

1 comment:

Andrew Brinkman said...

I have known Master Birke R. Duncan to be a most creative individual since our early days together on a Norwegian Squid Trawler in the summer of 1991, or was it at the University of Oslo? I always get those memories confused. His bone-chilling (and bone-breaking) sound effects in Riders of the Three-Toed Horses casued my wife to shriek aloud. Good times. I, too, mourned the passing of Monty.