Best of Story Collider 2018

This year, The Story Collider aired more than a hundred stories on the podcast (and hosted nearly 300 in 59 shows across the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and even Germany)! As we close out 2018, we wanted to highlight some of those that have stood out and resonated deeply with our team. Each of our producer teams based in our Home Stage cities of New York, DC, Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Toronto, Vancouver, and Wellington has selected a story that appeared on the podcast this year that they feel represents the best of what their shows have to offer. In addition, our artistic director and executive director have also selected stand-out stories from our partnership shows around the world.

Best of New York: Bianca Jones Marlin

From Nov. 9 episode, “Pregnancy”

An expert in oxytocin, the hormone released during birth, Bianca Jones Marlin is determined to have a natural birth — even as the hours of labor add up…

“We love how Bianca’s story shows us the ways in which her life shaped her science, and the science she studied shaped her life. The after effect of studying something to the point of getting a PhD is so beautifully clarified through such a high stakes event. We also love the way that Bianca weaves in both emotion and humor. When she jumps into her second Uber Black - because she’s having a baby, after all - we’re there with her every step of the way.”

—Paula Croxson and Tracy Rowland Story Collider New York producers, with assistance from roving producers Nisse Greenberg and Zack Stovall


Best of DC: Jason Rodriguez

From May 4 episode, “Identity”

Mathematician and comic book writer Jason Rodriguez feels torn between separate cultural and professional identities.

“Honestly, Jason had us at ‘space cats!’ But ultimately we chose his story because he drives at something so dear to our storytelling hearts: the power of bringing our full selves to the work we do. At the core of Jason’s story lies a tension between multiple competing threads of his identity: that he’s Puerto Rican, white, a scientist, and a comic book artist. At Story Collider, we often speak of how stories can help us make sense of ourselves and Jason so perfectly captures how telling his story brought the threads of his identity together to make him whole.”

—Maryam Zaringhalam and Shane Hanlon, Story Collider DC producers, with assistance from roving producer Skylar Bayer


Best of Los Angeles: Evelyn Valdez-Ward

From Aug. 31 episode, “Trials by Fire”

When Evelyn Valdez-Ward discovers that she's undocumented, she fears her dreams of becoming a scientist are over. 

“Evelyn Valdez-Ward’s personal journey to becoming a DACA Dreamer is both heartbreaking and uplifting. The steps and exposure she and her family faced for DACA is heroic in my mind. Evelyn achieved Dreamer status and now it looks like she may save the world one day as a scientist.”

—Audrey Kearns and Joseph Scrimshaw, Story Collider LA producers


Best of Toronto: Cailin Gallinger

From Sept. 21 episode, “Science Saved My Life”

When Cailin Gallinger struggles with her gender identity in college, her volunteer position in a plant lab becomes a lifeline.

“We love this story because it is beautiful, vulnerable and shows how science can be a refuge even in the darkest of times. It was so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop when she told it on stage and the whole world stops when you listen to it on the podcast. As producers we still find ourselves thinking about Cailin’s story over and over again, which we think is true a testament to how powerful her tale is.”

—Misha Gajewski and Jesse Hildebrand, Story Collider Toronto producers


Best of Boston: Elorm Avakame

From July 13 episode, “Mortality”

As a medical student, Elorm Avakame befriends a patient who is dying from alcoholism.

“Education's a funny thing: The things that stick with us the most are usually the lessons we never expected to learn. Few stories exemplify this better than medical student Elorm Avakame's beautiful tale about his first brush with a terminally ill patient. Even though his story focuses on an experience that few of us will ever have, it touches pretty much every emotional milestone there is. His candor and his vulnerability leave you aching; his personable tone and self-deprecating humility make you laugh at exactly the right moments.”

-Katie Wu and Ari Daniel, Story Collider Boston producers, with assistance from Christine Gentry, roving producer


Best of Vancouver: Charlie Cook

From June 27 episode, “Pride”

Science educator Charlie Cook experiments with coming out to students.

“Charlie Cook closed the show at our official Vancouver launch in May and their story will always hold a special place in my heart. Working with Charlie has had a profound impact on my life. They shaped the way I express myself, in particular when it comes to the language I choose to use. I hope hearing Charlie’s story helps people understand how their choice of words can affect others.”

—Kayla Glynn, Story Collider Vancouver producer, with assistance from new Vancouver producer Josh Silberg


Best of St. Louis: Sarah Pearl

From Feb. 16 episode, “Black Holes”

Comedian Sarah Pearl checks into a psychiatric hospital after having suicidal thoughts.

“We both agree that Sarah Pearl's story is one of the bravest we've had in St. Louis. We recognize that it's not easy to talk openly about mental illness and suicide, but Sarah powerfully interweaves the pain of her experience with the beauty of humor and self-discovery, and she vividly illustrates how those things connected so crucially in her recovery. Towards the end of her story Sarah has a wonderful line about how she's comforted by the knowledge that there are researchers out there who study her illness -- and we're extremely grateful that those researchers made it possible for Sarah to share her story with us.”

—Eli Chen and Emma Young, Story Collider St. Louis producers


Best of Atlanta: Joe Normandin

From Jan. 12 episode, “Origin Stories”

When Joe Normandin begins to question his sexuality as a teenager, he turns to neuroscience for help.

“When we first approached Joe to tell a story, he replied that he had really wanted to say no to us because he was completely over-committed, but he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t say no. He felt like his story had to get out there so that young gay people, like the teenager he was in the story, could see that they aren’t alone in their journey coming to terms with their sexuality. We love the passion that Joe shares for how science helped him feel that there was nothing wrong with him, even though he was different.”

—Meisa Salaita, Emma Yarbrough, and Kellie Vinal, Story Collider Atlanta producers


Best of Wellington: Veronika Meduna

From Nov. 9 episode, “Pregnancy”

Science writer Veronika Meduna thought she never wanted to have children, but in her late thirties, she changes her mind.

“When something you feel is fundamental to your personality is swept out from under you, it hits the stomach hard. My tummy did that swooping, gravity-defying plunge listening to Veronika Meduna. Knowledgeable, analytical, and objective, Veronika is one of our favorite science journalists in New Zealand. But I listened to this intensely rational woman tell an emotionally charged story of deciding to become a parent, overturning all her youthful certainty that children would never be on her horizon.  Her story isn’t even slightly objective and you can feel the intensely charged emotional atmosphere by the end of it. “

—Ceridwyn Roberts and Dacia Herbulock, Story Collider New Zealand producers


From Our Partner Shows

Artistic Director’s Pick: Ethan Hollander

From Jan. 26 episode, “Good and Evil”

Political scientist Ethan Hollander interviews a Nazi war criminal as part of his research.

“I thought about this story for weeks after I heard it. Not only am I fascinated by the bizarreness of the scene Ethan paints — to conduct this interview, he, a Jewish political scientist, visits Nazi war criminal Maurice Papon at home and sits around the coffee table in his living room — I’m also captivated by the questions he faces as a result. Where do we draw the line between good and evil?”

—Erin Barker, artistic director of Story Collider


Executive Director’s Pick: Marco Quesada

From June 22 episode, “Unfamiliar Territory”

Costa Rican ecologist Marco Quesada sees a new side of his country when he travels to Chira Island for a conservation project. 

“I love stories that take me to a place I’ve never been, and Marco makes the mangroves of Costa Rica come alive in all their gorgeous, stinking, sweaty glory. It has one of my favorite lines ever, and amazingly, was the product of one of our workshops - written and performed in just two days. If you’re in the mood for a tropical story about humility, connection, and the importance of good lipstick, this one is for you. ”

—Liz Neeley, executive director of Story Collider


Find the full playlist of our Best of 2018 stories below!