I Am Definitely a Talker
It's funny that today I have no voice, am home sick all day, but that I have learned I'm a finalist for the Society of Voice Artists awards.
SOVA chose my new book Find the Good as one of four author-read audio book nominees— with Garrison Keillor and Ron Perlman no less-- and they say it’s like the Academy Awards of vocal artists. (I thought the email announcement was a joke or an evil trick to make me click on the link and destroy my computer.) After all, we did it by the seat of our pants really-- it’s a good story:
I learned of the audio book from the Haines bookstore owner, Liz Heywood, who saw it last winter in her up-coming spring audio book catalog. She asked me who reads it? I had no idea, as my publisher (Algonquin Books) had sold the rights and I didn’t even know Find the Good would be recorded. I discovered that Highbridge Audiobooks had bought it, but they hadn’t picked a reader yet, and so I asked if I could. The woman I spoke with said I’d have to audition, and pay my own way to an LA or east coast studio (Highbridge is in Maryland, I believe--) and that since I wasn’t a vocal actor they couldn’t pay me much- if anything.
I wanted to read my own work, but I don’t like traveling and can’t imagine myself in a big recording studio. Plus, it was such a long shot. But the nice woman at Highbridge said I could email her a three minute reading from the book in a computer file. I made a date with my friend Margaret Friedenauer, the (now former) news director at KHNS, to read a chapter into her newsroom sound system. Then my mother-in-law, Grandma Joanne, suffered a heart attack (she's about to celebrate her 85th birthday so all is well) and we had to head south to Florida fast, so I ran into KHNS on my way to the ferry and recorded the chapter in one take, figuring I wouldn’t get it anyway.
When I did, they were in a time crunch and I was already committed to a community play in Haines, and then childcare for new-ish baby James in Juneau when my daughter returned to work. So I asked if I could try to record it locally. They must have thought I was crazy. It really is a miracle that this is a SOVA nominee now.
( Also, James is a year old this week. We had a lunch date in Juneau on Saturday.)
Back to my story. It turned out that while Haines wouldn’t work, we don’t have that kind of tech ability— or staff time at the radio station-- Juneau did, in a funky little place called Studio A upstairs in the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council building owned and operated by Betsy Sims (she’s a great marimba player and was at the Fair in Haines this summer with her band.) Betsy was the best, since she liked the book, which in the pre-release jitter time is HUGE. It’s so nice to read to someone who is smiling and laughing and crying— rather than rolling her eyes, scanning her phone for texts, or eating take-out Mexican food.
Betsy wouldn’t let me rush through it, either. I’d read one chapter, then take a water and stretch break, even though I didn’t want either. It took us four easy days. After the rough cut was sent to Highbridge, we went back in the studio and recorded some fixes they requested and even re-did a few chapters. But we were both pretty loose about it— not trying to be perfect. ( I had my NPR, Monitor Radio, and KHNS volunteer country show background, so I bet that helped. My dad always says that I am a good talker.)
One funny thing is that the mandatory re-dos were mostly places where I’d dropped a word or changed a sentence on purpose, since I thought it sounded better than what I had actually written, but per copyright/contract laws no text changes are allowed— even though I wrote it. There were also places where I sang the songs I write about, and that wasn’t allowed either, because music rights cost a fortune.
The SOVA awards are Nov. 15. I doubt I will get one but it's a thrill to be nominated. (Carol Lawrence, one of the elders who does exercises in the pool after my morning lap swim, told me she listened to my audio book, and said at first I sounded a little nervous, and she thought to herself, "Oh Heather, you can do better..." but luckily I improved, she said, and told me she enjoyed it very much. I still haven't listened to it. I can't. But I may go to the awards if Garrison Keillor is. You think I'd get to sit with him? How will I know?