One of the earliest features found on the pages of The Observer was a serial called ‘The Sun Came to Millen,’ penned by Elmira’s Heather Calder. It appeared over a 40-week period following the paper’s launch in 1996.
Twenty-five years later, the vignette of small-town life has received the digital treatment, turned into a podcast by the author’s son, Parker Merlihan.
It was a fun project to help mark The Observer’s 25th anniversary this month, he said.
“It took approximately two hours per episode in total, so about 16 hours of work. It was mostly spent reading and fixing mistakes, and then creating the music and mixing in the atmospheres took the rest of the time. It got easier and easier after I found the groove of recording.”
The tale has been adapted from 40 segments into an eight-section audiobook recording. For Calder, watching her work turn into something new a quarter of a century later brought back some fond, but almost forgotten memories. She recalls that the story started with no specific destination in mind, taking on a life of its own.
“It was just an idea that we had started because it would be something kind of fun and interesting. And I can’t remember who thought of it – at the time when the paper started, everybody was open to any idea. So, yeah, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know what was going to happen at the end. I literally wrote it week by week, just kind of going wherever it took me,” she said of the feature’s origin.
The Sun Came to Millen started as a concept about a person returning to a small, conservative town after some years, setting off a series of events and changes in the community. The “sun” in the title had a dual meaning, referring in part to the proverbial prodigal son.
“The sun is like the person, the offspring, as well as like the lightness returning to the town, and the family members react to this person returning,” she explained.
In discussing the audio project, they decided a podcast would be more accessible than, say, a standard audiobook, said Merlihan.
“I really just loved going through the story that my mom wrote. It was really interesting to see how it would come together as I recorded it, and it was fun to see the choices my mom made.”
Click here to listen to the podcast. The podcast will be available on all major podcast streaming sites.