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“You Can’t Sling No Bull”. Teaching Writing W ith Sound Bruce Ballenger Boise State University.

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you can t sling no bull

“You Can’t Sling No Bull”

Teaching Writing With Sound

Bruce Ballenger

Boise State University


Before this class, I was a self labeled “bull-slinger.” I wrote what I was expected to write, what my professors wanted to hear, and I got good marks for it. Audio, however, is much more personal. You can tell when a person doesn’t believe what they are saying, and even more so when they do.


Write the way you talk.

It’s a didactic medium. You have to say what it means.

You’ve got ten seconds to convince me it’s not just about you.

Listeners should hear what you’re saying, not how you’re saying it.

Begin and end strongly.


Igrew up with Marlon Brando. Well, technically not the real Brando, but the idea of Brando, the mythology of Brando. I gratefully stood in the glittering trail of his celebrity, a comet that has always shown brightly over the dark nights of my childhood. And, in a way, even now. My mother grew up with Brando in Chicago, and after the war, they both left the city for New York, where they hoped to land acting careers. If you ask her, and sometimes if you don’t, my mom will show you pictures of the two of them: smirking at the camera at a table in a New York restaurant, feeding her cocker spaniel in her Brooklyn apartment, and when they were younger still, beaming at the camera together, hands full of bocce balls, standing in front of my grandparents’ country house in Wheeling, Illinois. Briefly, mom played Stella opposite Brando in “Streetcar Named Desire.” He rocketed to fame and they never spoke again. Naturally, I always enjoyed my second-hand brush with fame. It made me feel special, and in my family feeling special was a salve for feeling shame.


Major Assignments

  • Commentary
  • Narrative
  • Documentary

Conciseness and clarity

“In creating these simpler sentences that work to convey a point sooner and more clearly, I found that my writing became more pure in a sense. There was no dancing around the subject, or lengthy flowery descriptions that could trigger disinterest in a listener.”




Other Sound Projects

  • Ira Glass Style Introductions
  • Podcast
  • Audio draft
  • Veterans History Project
  • Research essay
  • This I Believe…


  • This American Life, Kitchen Sisters, This I Believe