Virginia Prescott

Host, Word of Mouth

Virginia Prescott invites listeners to take a break from breaking news and explore a world of under-reported stories on New Hampshire Public Radio as the host of Word of Mouth, a daily radio program and podcast. Prior to joining NHPR, she was editor, producer, and director for NPR programs On Point and Here & Now, and directed interactive media for New York Public Radio.

Throughout her radio career, Virginia has worked to build sustainable independent radio in the developing world and has trained journalists in post-conflict zones from Sierra Leone to the Balkans. She has been honored for her contributions with a Gracie award for her work on Word of Mouth, a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, and was a member of the Peabody Award-winning production team for Jazz from Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley. Virginia loves working in public radio, but regrets that so many good outfits go unnoticed.


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Photo of Nicholson Baker courtesy the Poetry Foundation

Author Nicholson Baker joins us to talk about his recurring character Paul Chowder. The procrastinating poet first tuned up in Baker's novel The Anthologist, and is now the center of his latest book, Traveling Sprinkler.

Photo courtesy Christopher Lamb

The 2014 winter Olympics begin on February seventh in Sochi, Russia. Until this week, talk about the games focused on worries that there might not be enough snow, and international criticism and threats to boycott the games because of Russia’s law banning what it called “homosexual propaganda.” On Monday, President Vladimir Putin reversed course and said that everyone will be welcome to Sochi. As to the snow, there are no certain answers.

Keith Allison via Flickr Creative Commons

Last night, those Red Sox beards came through once again, with the Sox taking a 3-2 lead over St. Louis in the World Series. There’s no telling what role the beards that first showed up during spring training have played in getting the hirsute Sox to the World Series, but Fenway park isn’t the only place where people turn to superstition to swing the odds in their favor. And as it turns out, superstition might play a role in success.

Photo by: KarinaEmm

Mike Napoli’s three-run double in the first inning of last night’s World Series opener put the Red Sox on the path for an 8 to 1 drubbing of the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park.  The cardinals committed three costly errors and lost star right fielder  Carlos Beltran who injured himself running into Fenway’s unusually low right field wall -- while making a spectacular catch, that robbed David Ortiz of a grand slam.  That is just one of the quirks of Fenway, the old-school ball park that throbbed with sox fans last night. It’s one of few remaining fields in the nation that isn’t named for a bank, or a drink. Fenway has a personality--and a history--today’s sox fans sit in the same spot where even more raucous fans sat in in 1912, when Fenway Park opened its doors.

Glenn Stout tells the story of the idiosyncratic park’s construction, christening and enduring charm in the book “Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ball Park, A Championship Season, and Fenway’s Remarkable First Year”.  We spoke to him last year when the book came out...and pulled it from the archives today…a great day to celebrate Fenway Park . / Fiell Publishing

With over twenty years of experience on the editorial side of design publishing, Charlotte and Peter Fiell are pioneers in bringing great design to the masses with big, beautiful glossy books. Their first book together, “Modern Design Classics Since 1945”, was published twenty-two years ago and introduced mid-century modern furniture to a new generation of design lovers and novices.

They are also the former editors-in-chief for the best-selling design imprint Taschen. Three years ago the design power couple established their own line of art and design books—Goodman Fiell—which publishes titles written by the couple in addition to books written by experts across a wide range of disciplines; from art and architecture to natural history and popular culture.

Ingo Lütkebohle via flickr Creative Commons

One of comedian Will Ferrell’s most memorable Saturday Night Live characters was musician Gene Frenkle, the belly shirted cowbell player from the ‘70s rock band, Blue Ӧyster Cult. His cowbell playing was intoxicating and hilarious and prompted this now quotable line: "I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell."

That line, delivered by Christopher Walken, catapulted onto t- shirts and bumper stickers, and helped put the instrument designed for agriculture into the mainstream musical spotlight. But where did cowbell come from? And how did it migrate from the farm to the recording studio? Chicago based journalist Lori Rotenberk  wrote an article for Modern Farmer called “More Cowbell: From Herdsman’s Tool to Cultural Icon.

kardboard604 via flickr Creative Commons

The data on driving is that for nearly a decade, Americans are driving less – especially younger drivers. With an added drop in vehicle sales and issued driver licenses, some researchers and reporters suggest that the US may have passed “peak car” – and that America’s infatuation with driving may have hit its zenith in the 1990s.

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he wrote about the concept of “peak car”.

Emily Badger, is a staff writer for The Atlantic Cities, she’s also covered the “peak car” phenomenon.

Logan Shannon

Sci-fi and comic book conventions are known for attracting flamboyantly costumed fans, But nobody needs an excuse to dress up for Halloween. We know how much work it takes to put a great costume together – especially if making it by hand and the best-laid plans are easily trumped by the temptation to pick up an outfit at the Halloween pop-up.

We’d like to hear about your fantasy Halloween costume: if time and money were unlimited – what would you cook up? Medusa? Hair crawling with snakes? Chewbacca, with no hair out of place? A transformer that actually transforms? Or something a little higher concept?


If the number one comedy on prime time TV is any indication –the CBS show The Big Bang Theory holds the coveted title--nerds are experiencing a kind of cultural renaissance. Despite the increased popularity of sci-fi conventions, cos-play, and board games, finding a mate who shares a love of all things nerdy can still be a challenge. Enter the cupid of nerds, Ryan Glitch, the creator and president of “Sci-Fi Speed Dating.” Glitch launched his speed dating enterprise in 2010 at a Star Wars convention and he’s been making matches at cons ever since.  IGN, a popular gaming and entertainment web site has created a web series about Ryan’s enterprise, called “Geek Love” which airs on their YouTube channel.

Logan Shannon

Each month the husband and wife duo, Robin MacArthur and Tyler Gibbons, from Marlboro, Vermont write and record a song to be released on the day of the full moon. The beautifully layered, tunes have a backwoods feel are recorded in a barn, and sent out to subscribers. It’s an intimate and unique take on the ever growing DIY music scene.  They joined us in studio back in July to talk about their album and to play live in Studio D.

marydw1 via flickr Creative Commons

It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Here at Word of Mouth we also see the value in a good breakfast but for perhaps different reasons. Just before we start an interview, we ask all of our guests to tell us their name, their title and divulge what they ate for breakfast. It’s a great way to ensure their sound levels are good, but as a special bonus, we also end up with insight into the morning routines of some very interesting people.

Viewminder via flickr Creative Commons

Education policy in the U.S. is currently laser-focused on engaging students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math—or “STEM” subjects. The goal is to prepare future generations to prosper in the new global economy. But where do the creative arts fit into this equation? How can art and music education help drive innovation? Eric Booth is a pioneer in art education, and is the author of several books, including, “The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible.” He is also an artist, an actor, and musician and is widely referred to as the father of the teaching artist profession.


Edgar Oliver has a voice you’ll never forget: part Bela Lugosi, part Count Chocula. You may have heard him tell stories of growing up in Savannah in the 1960s, with a smothering, compulsive mother who shared her paranoid, terrified state with her children, Helen and Edgar. His tales of growing up are pulled together in  “Helen and Edgar”, a kind of a spoken memoir being performed at Dartmouth’s Warner Bentley Theater at 7:00pm tonight and Wednesday.

Aaron Joel Santos / Novus Select via

The scoville scale is used to measure how spicy as pepper or chili is. The jalapeno can have a rating as high as 8,000 units, and for many sensitive palates, that’s plenty. The world’s hottest peppers approach an incredible 1.5 million scoville units – so hot, a tribe in northeast India consumes them for sport. Best-selling science writer Mary Roach visited the Naga tribes to observe their competitive and cultural history with the scorching Naga King Chili.  Roach is author of many books – most recently is Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal… and she wrote about the Naga King Chili for Smithsonian magazine.

kiss kiss bang bang via Flickr Creative Commons

In 1994, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine confirmed what anybody who’s tried to give up coffee suspected: caffeine is chemically addictive. It’s also the world’s most popular psychoactive drug… 80% of American adults consume it in some form. Withdrawal symptoms from caffeine are so dreadful that they are cited as a mental disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Here to unpack the chemical effect that caffeine can have on the human brain is Joseph Stromberg, journalist and science writer based in Washington, D.C. His work has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine and Slate.

davidking via flickr Creative Commons

Ever feel like the only way things get done in Washington is if there's a crisis? You're not alone. Bipartisanism is driving moderates out of the Senate according to a recent editorial from the Star Tribune.  Charles Wheelan is senior lecturer at Dartmouth, and the author of several books including Naked Economics. His newest is called The Centrist Manifesto and it’s the basis for a new centrist party designed to break congressional gridlock, find consensus, and restore faith in American politics.

NASA/Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility

And now for a project that sounds more like something from a Pixar movie than the next big thing in space exploration…the High Altitude Lensing Observatory, or HALO, could be the Hubble telescope’s successor in deep space imaging – but instead of orbiting earth from space, scientists are hoping to hang this giant telescope from a great…big…balloon.

One of the scientists working on the project is Dr. Richard Massey, an astronomer at The Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Big Machine Records

Before the legislature agreed on a deal yesterday, we asked for your contribution to our Un-official Partial Shutdown Playlist – music reflecting your feelings about how our government has been functioning, or not functioning these past two weeks. A number of you contributed to the list by posting your picks on Facebook, Twitter, and by calling our listener hotline.

Many in the nation breathed a sigh of relief on the news that the standoff was over on Capitol Hill, the deal makes our collective shutdown playlist a little un-necessary, but we’re pretty happy it didn’t need such a long run.

Perhaps our collective effort had something to do with the shutdown ending...for now.


Well, the United States has survived another fiscal standoff--for now. Just a few hours before midnight, Republican Legislatures conceded and agreed on a deal to fund government operations until January 15, 2014. The deal ended 16 days of a partial federal shutdown, and today the gears of government sputtered back to life. The crisis was no laughing matter for furloughed workers and worried economists – but, provided plenty of grist for online memes and jokesters. With the fiasco behind us – for now – we’re looking at how the government showdown played out online. Brady Carlson is with us, NHPR’s host of All Things Considered and our regular web culture analyst.

ReneS via flickr Creative Commons

Step into any grocery store or café these days and you’re bound to be offered something pumpkin-y or apple-ish flavored, filled, or shaped. Add to that displays of cascading squashes, pumpkins, pears and apples, and you may notice the onset of fall food overload. Here to help us get a fresh perspective on fall’s rich bounty with tips and recipes for seasonal produce is J.M. Hirsch - food editor for the Associated Press and author of several cookbooks, most recently, “Beating the Lunchbox Blues.” J.M. will be at Gibson's Bookstore in Downtown Concord on Wednesday, October 23rd at 7:oo pm.

Forty-eight years ago writer George Plimpton infiltrated pro-football when he joined the Detroit Lions as a backup quarterback. Plimpton chronicled the experience in his 1965 book Paper Lion. Writer Stefan Fatsis followed in Plimpton’s cleated footsteps when he wrangled his way into the Denver Bronco’s training camp as place kicker in 2008. I spoke with Stefan in 2010 about his short but entertaining tenure in the NFL and his book about the experience called A Few Seconds of Panic.

Stefan Fatsis is a sports writer, a frequent contributor on NPR’s all things considered and a panelist on Slate’s sports podcast, “Hang Up and Listen.”

Joe Shlabotnik via flickr Creative Commons

The Red Sox squeaked by the Tigers last night in Detroit, putting them one game closer to the World Series.  Although Boston and Detroit are two of the oldest franchises in Major League Baseball, this is the first time they’ve faced each other in the playoffs.  That could be due to the post season absence of one team Sox fans – and apparently the rest of the country -- love to hate… the New York Yankees. …this is only the second season in 19 years that the Bronx Bombers failed to make the playoffs. What are baseball fans today without their favorite targets of scorn? Brian Costa can help. He’s national baseball writer for the Wall Street Journal and creator of the “Major League Baseball Hate-Ability Index” – a tool for identifying which team to root against during this year’s baseball playoffs and  the World Series


Eighteen-year-old Dawn has never met her father; raised by her mother in a rural New Hampshire town, they are barely getting by. Dawn works at a bait and tackle shop by day and turns tricks at night to fund an escape from her dead-end life.  A cascade of bad events set Dawn on the road to find the father her mother doesn’t want her to find. He’s not so keen on the idea either. Our guest, Aaron Wiederspahn wrote, directed and starred in the film, “Only Daughter.”

Photo by David J. Murray,

A conversation with author Bill Bryson about his new book, One Summer: America 1927 recorded live at The Music Hall in Portsmouth.

Writers on a New England Stage is a co-production of NHPR and The Music Hall. 

kristagonzales67 via Flickr Creative Commons

Earlier this month, the F.B.I.. shut down Silk Road, a black market website that the bureau described as “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the internet today.” Buried in the “dark web,” Silk Road allowed its users to anonymously trade virtually every drug imaginable in addition to other illegal goods and services that included counterfeit and murder. 

Though the site has been stopped in its tracks, similar online websites remain in business. has provided an open forum for black market trading for many years and is still going strong. Matt Stroud is a Verge contributing writer covering law, business and scams.

badly drawn dad via Flickr Creative Commons

One area of funding hit hard by the government shutdown is science. Since so much basic research and development is funded by the government, the partial shutdown means labs have had to close their doors, research centers are operating with skeleton crews, and many  clinical trials have ground to a halt and experiments put on ice. All these factors have some scientists complaining that their time-sensitive work is in jeopardy.

Fred Guterl is the Executive Editor of Scientific American, which is covering the shutdown’s effect on scientific research.

Five years after the 2008 Presidential election, the name Bill Ayers remains radioactive. In his new memoir, Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident, Ayers owns up to his activities as an  “unrepentant terrorist,” and writes about being the target of multi-million dollar campaign to demonize him.

alltogetherfool via flickr Creative Commons

If you don’t have the scratch to buy 10 million stamps, maybe selling seats in college courses is an easier way to make a buck … Joel Eastwood of the Toronto Star, wrote about savvy students at the University of Toronto registering for classes and then selling those spots to students who need that particular course but can’t get in through the normal registration process.

Christopher Hermelin via The Awl

When Christopher Hermelin moved to New York, he lived like countless other jobless 20-somethings: no prospects, no money, and rent due at the first of the month. But instead of kicking around in a café, he hit the streets with a ten dollar typewriter and a sign printed: “Stories while you wait. Sliding scale, donate what you can.” And…it worked! Passersby paid him to write one-of-a-kind stories on the spot. While he isn’t the only person to make a living like this, on the streets of New York, he might be the one person whose photograph showed up on the internet. We’ll let him pick up the story from there. Christopher Hermelin is “The Roving Typist.”

via sciblogs

The internet provides a forum for public conversation, debate and interaction. At times, it may seem more less public square and more like the Roman forum…where sniping, shaming and mean-spirited insults can devour conversations and proclaim judgments by like an unruly mob.

Media outlets have long-debated how best to moderate online comments, where some of the worst internet trolling takes place…last month, Popular Science shut down comments on its website, citing, in part, a study from the University of Wisconsin measuring the influence negative comments have on other readers. (We spoke with study co-author Dietram Scheufele back in March about the phenomenon he calls “the Nasty Effect.")

Jake Ward is Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science, he’s with us to talk more about the decision and response so far.