Making peace with the silent dark

Perhaps the most terrifying thing I can imagine is being alone — really, truly alone, in the dark, in silence. Despite my wish to be a different person, to be serene and calm and courageous and self-actualized, I check my email constantly —  not once every ten minutes constantly, but once every minute constantly. I often feel like a hamster on a wheel in the quality of my attention, running running running, getting nowhere fast. I yearn for meaning and purpose, and I look for these outside myself — in the emails that hit my inbox with a satisfying sound cue; in the red numbered notation at the upper right corner of Facebook that alerts me to an e-human moment I can distract myself with; in the articles reporting news or entertainment updates that consume me for three or five or twenty minutes; in the flagged iPhone Twitter app that notifies me there’s a Tweet that I can fiddle with and pass along to distract other lonely, unanchored people.

There’s a Zen proverb: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” The first time I read this I laughed a little bit, but it was with some pain. I go through long periods when I meditate regularly, and then I stop, not returning to it for months. I go through periods when I do yoga  (meditation through movement) daily, and then I get out of the habit. I journal devotedly every morning and work on my writing in the evenings, until I take on so much work that I can’t possibly make time for that spiritual practice and still meet the tight deadlines for my growing list of projects, and I don’t write a word for weeks.

Since my friend Pete first introduced me to meditation when I was about 21, I’ve read books about mindfulness, meditated with others in periodic classes and workshops, listened to guided meditations at home, alone, sitting cross-legged on a bolster, hands open on my knees, returning again and again to my breath. It’s at my lowest, most broken periods that I come back to this practice, when I feel so hopeless and helpless that I recognize no distraction can save me, that my only anchor is my own, lonely, scared, insecure, uncertain breath. It’s then that I meditate with tears streaming down my cheeks, my breath halting and catching, my posture not regally straight-backed, but my shoulders hunched around my wounded heart, crumpled wads of kleenex at my side.

But I never want to do it. I don’t want to sit with my breath, in silence, with the discipline to not allow myself to be distracted. I don’t want to feel what I feel. I don’t want to be present. I want to escape myself, my fears, my insecurities, my constant struggle with faith. I don’t want to pay attention to what arises, to honestly label those thoughts  “judgment,” “resentment,” “jealousy,” “anger.” I want to ignore them and push them away,  to distract myself by playing the surface personality role that is vastly more comfortable and prettier and nicer and more acceptable — to me and to everyone else — the Tavia that is “kind,” “intelligent,” “responsible,” not the Tavia that is worried, lonely, anxious, insecure, full of heartache, indecision, fear.

What would happen if I didn’t have a choice? What if I couldn’t distract myself with my phone, with Netflix and Hulu, with surfing the internet — looking for something, anything to ground me with the connection and intimacy I crave and feel is so often out my reach? Where would I go if I had nowhere to hide?

Rebecca Alexander has nowhere to hide. Born with Usher syndrome type III, Rebecca has been slowly losing her vision and her hearing, bit by bit, for 35 years. While I habitually resist even surface-level darkness and silence, the seemingly terrifying stillness of sitting, breathing, with my eyes closed, Rebecca lives her life with encroaching darkness and silence that she cannot escape. And she has made friends with the silence, with the dark. She’s had to — or she would live in misery. Instead of being defeated by this devastating condition, she has accepted it, and allowed herself to grow and thrive, not in spite of it, but because of it. She has surrendered to the silence and darkness and used it to make friends with herself.

Rebecca is a beautiful young woman with a great smile and a firm handshake. She moves with purpose and confidence through the world, and she lives a very full life. She’s a spinning teacher, a psychotherapist, and a writer. She lives alone and has a counseling practice in New York, and she navigates this hard-edged asphalt city independently, even with diminished vision and compromised hearing. She dates, she goes to parties, she dances, she lives.

When I met her for lunch a few weeks ago, I was struck by how radiant Rebecca is, how self-assured and direct. Here’s a woman who lives in a state of being that I run from, and she’s at peace. She is no saccharine Pollyanna perfect angel; she’d tell you that herself. She swears a lot and she’s made decisions that have hurt the people she loves most and she’s struggled with things a lot of us have — eating disorders and deep insecurity and self-doubt and drinking too much and dating the wrong people or too many people. But what is amazing to me is how at home she is with herself.

Rebecca understands the fear and rage and sadness I think might consume me, were I in her shoes. “There have been, of course, times when I’ve been as furious and frustrated and heartbroken as you can imagine I would be,” she writes in her memoir, NOT FADE AWAY: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found. “I have been through times of profound sadness for the losses I have experienced, and for those yet to come.” She knows grief. She’s not denying that her condition is terrible and unfair. But because Rebecca is an optimist, because she is unwilling to surrender to the grief, to let it consume her and dictate her future, she has  found that there are gifts in the quiet dark.

“Silence seems to scare a lot of people: We live in a world that never seems to slow down or shut up,” she says, “with a mind-boggling amount of entertainment and information right at our fingertips, and, if you stop to notice it, we are rarely in total quiet. Many of us have devices that create sound to drown out unwanted noise — noise to block noise. Perhaps silence should scare me, but it doesn’t. Or maybe I’ve just accepted it and can truly appreciate its value….What does it mean when there is nothing to listen to, when there is nothing to distract yourself with? When there is nothing but you and silence?”

Rebecca has so embraced the unasked for and unexpected offerings of Usher syndrome type III that she says she devoutly practices a “religion of Silence.” “I am truly able to be with myself wherever I am,” she says, “and without distraction, I can…simply luxuriate in my silence.”

Being invited to narrate Rebecca’s memoir for Tantor was a gift to me. In this still-new life in New York, I continue to wrestle with all the things that have always scared me, no matter where I’ve been — Idaho; Seattle; Vermont; Portland, Maine. I carry myself with me wherever I go, and the parts of myself I want to escape are always right there, at the ready. I have wavered in and out of a meditation practice, a writing practice, a yoga practice in the 15 months I’ve been here. But on the page and in person, Rebecca invited me to consider, again, ever more deeply, what I might find if I don’t panic and run away from myself, but  sit with myself.

Tuesday night was my first rehearsal with The Choral Society, the choir in residence at Grace Church in Manhattan. After a bout of intense loneliness over the last many weeks, there I was, in a beautiful old church, singing Haydn’s Heiligmesse with 149 other voices. I could feel the vibration of all those voices in my chest and feet. It was a hot, muggy evening, so the doors to the practice room and the doors leading outside were open, and I could feel the cool breeze on my skin. Two large bouquets of flowers decorated tables in the entryway, and the sweet scent of lilies perfumed the air. I’d been struggling with sadness all day, feeling the distance from my family in the west and my beloveds in Maine, but I found during  rehearsal that if I stayed present in my body, if I allowed myself to notice and really feel the sensations, my experience changed. The sadness didn’t magically go away, but it didn’t consume me, either. Rather, it became only a part of my experience, one of a host of things that made up each moment. And I realized that if and when Rebecca loses the rest of her vision and her hearing, she could be in the profoundly silent dark, and still smell the sweet perfume, sense the cool air on her cheek, feel the vibration of all our voices.

 **********

Years ago, on my bike ride to work each day in Seattle, the final crest of the trip took me down a steep hill that would level off at each traffic light, then plunge down again toward the city. When timed right, there was no need to use my brakes, and I could speed-swish through each green light from the top of the hill all the way to the bottom. I yearned each day I made the trip to yowl the whole way down, a thrilling, full body exhalation of voiced breath that would celebrate the freedom, the strength, the aliveness I felt. And I never did. Not once did I give myself permission. It’s important for me to remember that I had that opportunity — that I could have luxuriated in that cackling thrill. Would I yell at the top of my lungs, going down that hill, today? Why would I ever think to deny myself that joy?

Sending a little love your way — new audio releases and giveaways!

Several years ago, when I was still a newish narrator, I was offered my first paranormal title ever, an action/adventure/romance written by Jeaniene Frost. Halfway to the Grave starred Cat Crawfield, a half-vampire vampire killer, and Bones, a sassy British vampire bounty hunter. Cat was tough, snappy, and sarcastic, deadly Bones had a heart of gold and a checkered past, and the story of their relationship unfolded with plenty of mayhem, power-play, and sizzling chemistry. The book challenged me, entertained me, and helped me make my mark on the audiobook world.

Four years later, Jeaniene has become a smash-hit writer, not only penning many more volumes in the Night Huntress series, but several compelling Night Huntress World spin-offs and the wildly popular Night Prince series, featuring the beloved and feared Vlad. In fact, she’s just about to debut the first in her new NA (new adult) Broken Destiny series, starting with The Beautiful Ashes, which I’ll also be narrating.

Jeaniene and I have become pals while working together so closely over the years, and today — the publication day of three Night Huntress audiobook novellas — we want to celebrate YOU and your loyalty to her stories and our collaboration. You’ve read her books, listened to my performances, sent us fan mail, and made us feel loved every step of the way. We want to show you our gratitude for making these books such a huge success.

So here’s what we have to show our appreciation! Jeaniene and I are each giving away 10 digital download audios from the Night Huntress series — and the winner gets to choose which title!

We’re also giving away a Grand Prize to 1 winner, including digital download audios of the entire Night Huntress series, plus digital audio downloads of the newly-released Night Huntress World novellas (Reckoning, Happily Never After, and Devil To Pay.)

All winners will be chosen by Randomizer. Contest prizes are supplied by Harper Audio and Blackstone Audio (thanks, guys!), and international entries are welcome.

To enter, please follow the rules below:

1. Just comment on this blog post. 

2. Give me your name and the email address where you’d like to be contacted if you’re selected as a prize winner.

3. Due to adult content, you must be 18 years of age old or older, and/or you have the consent of your parent/guardian, so if you’re under 18, get your parent to sign off on your comment or to approve your comment with their own.

The contest starts now and ends June 30th at 11:59pm Est. Winners will be announced July 1st on Jeaniene’s and my blogs.

 BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Jeaniene and I are also going to be on Twitter for a live chat July 1st from 8pm – 9pm EST. At the end of the chat, we’ll each give away 10 more digital audio download titles from the Night Huntress series or the Night Prince series to ten new winners (and again, it’ll be the winner’s choice which title they receive). That’s a total of twenty new winners between the two of us!

To enter this giveaway, all you need to do is ask us a question during our Twitter chat with the hashtag #AudioChat. Jeaniene’s Twitter handle is @Jeaniene_Frost and mine is @Taviagilbert. Your question can be about audio books, written books, the process of writing or recording, why you should try audio books if you haven’t already, or whatever else you’d like to know. Remember, only participants in the chat will be eligible to win, so don’t be shy! At the end of the chat, the twenty winners will be randomly chosen from among those who participated.

Thanks to everyone who has been such a great supporter. We wouldn’t be here without you!

Good luck, everyone!

 

A shift in focus

I just finished narrating lovely Janice MacLeod’s memoir PARIS LETTERS for Tantor, which tells the story of Janice’s decision to save enough money to leave her job and travel for a year. Janice ended up meeting and falling in love with the lovely Christophe, and rather than tourist-ing her way through foreign lands, eventually, she put down roots, committing to Paris and to her new love, creating and embracing a new life and career.

Janice and I had a wonderful conversation this weekend by Skype. I’d contacted her to ask her how to pronounce the names of her friends and how to voice other phrases in the book that are unique to her world, but we ended up talking for an hour about writing, love, her work, my work, our future plans, and more.

Janice is preparing for another international move, this time in the company of her now-husband, Christophe. The two will leave Paris for Calgary this fall, and I’ll be checking into Janice’s blog so that I can keep up to date with her contemplations, observations, and adventures. She’ll be taking pictures and painting pictures, and as one of her newest fans, I’m eager to luxuriate in the work she creates and the window into her life she opens to others.

One of the things Janice said she’d miss is the beauty in Paris. Everything in Paris is made to be beautiful. Beauty is celebrated and prioritized. Her admiration of her adopted European home made me think of my dear Maine, where beauty is everywhere — on every tree-lined street, down each hill toward the park or the beach or the city square or the farmer’s market, where no matter the season, something sweet captures your eye and your heart.

I told Janice that I had been taking a lot of pictures in my New York neighborhood lately, and though the pictures were different than those I’d taken in Maine, I was finding just as much beauty around me in this urban landscape as in the more apparently bucolic setting of my previous home. Beauty still surrounds me, if only I will change my perspective. I can’t as often take a wide shot and find as much natural beauty; I must focus my gaze tighter, look for smaller details, in order to find something that soothes me. But there’s no shortage of scenery that brings me peace and well-being. It’s up to me to shift in harmony with my landscape, so that I don’t hold an old expectation in this new world.

I look forward to taking more pictures of my new setting here in New York, and I look forward to seeing the new setting of Janice’s life, too. In the meantime, here are some shots of the beauty that has blessed my days lately.

2014-04-14 10.07.39

2014-04-16 10.36.06-1

2014-04-21 10.22.31

2014-04-22 08.53.17

2014-04-22 09.03.11 2014-05-12 10.29.21

2014-05-14 14.20.04

2014-05-14 14.22.49

2014-05-14 14.23.28

2014-06-14 18.05.47

2014-06-14 18.10.12

2014-06-14 18.12.55

2014-06-14 18.35.50

2014-06-14 18.37.57

2014-06-15 12.55.12

2014-06-15 12.57.15

2014-06-15 12.59.12

2014-06-16 15.04.45

AudioFile Magazine Review of THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS

THE WIVES OF LOS ALAMOS
by TaraShea Nesbit
Read by Tavia Gilbert

Nesbit’s well-researched novel looking back to the years 1943-45 and the creation of the A-bomb is made even better by Tavia Gilbert’s energetic, upbeat narration. The author takes a risk by making her narrator a collective “we.” Having no individual character to connect to, the “we” proves distancing rather than inviting. However, thanks to Gilbert’s performance, relationships become clear. As the wives give up their lives and careers to follow their scientist husbands to the desert, Gilbert makes their sense of helplessness apparent. Moments of fun and growing camaraderie mingle with moments of snobbery, jealousy, boredom, and booze. Gilbert enlivens all the details–from the expectations for women of the era to the cataclysmic dropping of the bomb. S.J.H. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

Did you know that June is Audiobook Month!? You SHOULD know! Audiobooks are AWESOME!

I admit that I’d completely forgotten about this interview, until Recorded Books Tweeted a link to me this afternoon. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the conversation had been published on the Book Reporter blog, the last in their series of narrator talks in honor of “June is Audiobook Month,” the audiobook community’s annual push to bring to people’s attention the joy and delight of exceptional audiobooks.

Thank you, Book Reporter, for including me in such an esteemed group of narrators, including my friends Johnny Heller, Robert Fass, Simon Vance, and Katherine Kellgren, and thank you especially for featuring and celebrating the audiobook art form.

If you haven’t listened to an audiobook yet, then start by seeking out the performances of any of these wonderful voice actors. Johnny, Robert, Simon, and Katherine are the best in the business, and they will convert you to fervent audiobook fans immediately. In the comments below, I invite you to share what audiobooks, narrators, and series are your favorites.

Happy listening!

Not so bright and shiny today

Yesterday was a long and discouraging day, trying to get my studio up and running. I urgently need to get back to work — well, I urgently needed to be back at work a few days ago — but I’m not recording yet.

It’s never seamless to move a studio. Despite considering in the month before I left Maine everything that could possibly go wrong and trying to plan ahead and take preventive measures (backing everything up, deleting unnecessary files to make more hard drive space, carefully mapping every connection and setting to make the rebuilding process idiot-proof), when everything was set up and ready to go, there was an aggressive, high-pitched whine that would not go away.

Multiple visits to Facebook to enlist the advice and counsel of my audiobook compatriots, multiple phone calls and emails throughout the afternoon with my wonderful friend Charles at CDM Studios, another phone call to local Brick Shop Audio in Brooklyn for more helpful suggestions from Chris, and a $111 visit to Guitar Center for new XLR cables and a power converter later, the hum was louder and angrier than ever. Finally, at 4:30, Charles determined that my preamp is on the fritz.

This is probably not a problem I can solve today, though I’m trying to find a solution that will let me make up for some lost time in the booth. I feel anxious and sick to my stomach. The cause of this terrible feeling is not primarily because I’m falling behind schedule when I cannot afford to, financially or with my patient publishers or within the confines of a tight schedule, but something ultimately more important. I feel great heartache and concern because the business of being in a relationship means that one’s deepest flaws are revealed through the eyes of another person, and that’s what I see in myself right now.

Despite considering all my life what I want and what I don’t want, how I want to be, and what I’ve seen that didn’t work very well, it became painfully apparent to me recently that my perspective on relationships is on the fritz, and I must work harder to recognize my flawed thinking and practice better habits. I have been blessed with unwavering, above and beyond support and encouragement and kindness and generosity, devoted and loving partnership, but still I’m stumbling around like a baby just learning to walk, and it’s painful and terrifying and maddening to see yet again that I still have so far to go to be the best person and partner I can be. I feel ashamed, regretful, angry with myself, anxious about what will happen if I can’t put myself together.

This is not a problem I can solve immediately, either, but one that needs ongoing attention and consideration. But today is a new day and a new opportunity to do better, to take responsibility for my failings and flaws and to forgive myself for them, to communicate clearly and courageously, to try again with more integrity and deeper wisdom. I just don’t want to run out of time.

Hitting the Wall

Where I am tonight:

Coming up against my limits.

There are still things left on my list of things to do.

First priority is finishing an audiobook before I leave for New York, and I realize that’s not going to happen. My voice is tired, my body is fatigued, my eyes are burning. I’m going to let my publisher down by not getting the book done when I said I would, and this is my first project for this publisher, so that’s particularly bad news.

APAC planning is nearing completion, but there are still things that need  to be finalized for the conference next Wednesday. I’ve very much enjoyed the planning process, especially working with all the wonderful people in my industry to create excellent programming for attendees. It’s going to be great, but still, I feel anxious. What if it bombs (only my part, of course)? It could be a disaster. I mean, a hundred things would have to go wrong for it to really be a disaster, but I suppose it could happen!  That would be a disaster for me personally, and I’ve been working on this since November, and intensively since February. I’m nervous.

My best friend, I’ll call her Esperanza, learned tonight that I’m gone all next week, which she didn’t realize, and the day I return, she leaves for Italy, so I won’t see her until July. This is particularly painful. I just phoned her, and spent some minutes sobbing into her ear. We’ll see each other — on Skype, on Facebook, visits every other month or so, but it’s really hard to leave someone from whom I’ve lived no more than a five minute walk for the last six years.

When I left Seattle in 2001 after seven years, I didn’t say goodbye to anyone, because  I thought I’d be returning after six months. Instead, I came to Portland and fell in love and never went back, except for short, sporadic visits. For three years, I grieved the unexpected severing of my relationship with Seattle, a place I’d been passionate about since I had first visited at 14, the city that had shaped me from the age of 17 until I was 23 years old. I didn’t want to leave Portland so abruptly. I wanted to honor the people who have been so loving and supportive and generous, the place that has offered me such a nurturing spirit. So I’ve taken my time with goodbyes and thanks and expressions of love. And yet it’s meant that I’ve fallen behind, and I’m anxious, and overwhelmed, and asking what I could have done better. There are always things we can all do better, I know, and I really have been doing my absolute best, even if I am, very clearly, very imperfect.

This move is right, and it’s all going to be okay — from my first work commute on Monday to record at Random House, to APAC, to the move on the 4th. It will all come together, and be successful. But it’s still hard. My heart is still aching.

The Art of Not Doing Anything

Today I said goodbye to still more Portland friends. (I’ve had more coffee dates, lunch dates, and dinner dates in the last month than in the last two years, as I’ve been getting ready to leave full-tine life in Maine.) My conversations have been interesting and heart-felt, and two of the talks I had with friends were particularly resonant.

The first, over coffee at CBD, was with my friend Smyth (from whose Etsy store you should immediately buy a painting or a sketch). She’s lived in Portland a lot longer than I have, but we agree that Maine has a particular, peculiar energy. Portland is a place one either loves or hates to live. Likely everyone could agree that Maine is a lovely place to visit, but to move here permanently is to invite Maine to exert its unique forces upon you. Maine will either pull you into its embrace, imbue you with some new magic, and fling you out into the universe, where you will blossom and flourish, or it will clutch at you and drag you down and in and try as you might, you will never quite feel right here; you will be so eager — desperate, almost, to get away. I’m fortunate, so fortunate, to have flowered in this place.

The second conversation, with my friend Paul over lunch in Monument Square, was about voiceover. Paul asserted that his voice is generic, and I laughed. Paul’s voice is nothing close to generic. He has a charming, wry, witty, very particular, idiosyncratic vocal tone and delivery, which is present both in person and on the page (or screen, as it were). But he said that when he gets into the booth to record a voiceover, his voice becomes generic, and we agreed it’s because he’s stripped away his idiosyncratic self in an attempt to “do voiceover right.” In truth, the only way to do voiceover right is the only way to do anything right, which is to be completely and utterly yourself. We spend so much time trying to learn the skills of acting, when what we’re actually learning is to relax, to embody ourselves, to remove any and all the filters we create in an effort to be and do what we imagine others require of us.

In voiceover training, my teacher, Nancy Wolfson, tried so hard to get me to see that I was enough, and I didn’t really understand it completely until today, when I argued with Paul, who is talented and very capable, and told him that he was perfect just as he was. He didn’t have to TRY to do anything; in fact, he wouldn’t be as successful as he could be until he stopped trying.

This is a wonderful reminder as I move forward toward New York. I’m enough just as I am. I don’t have to try to BE anything. I AM. If I’m being myself, that’s all I need to do. That’s my job. What a weird and wonderful job it is.

Tomorrow I say a few final goodbyes, keep packing, keep recording page after page, and move closer to Sunday, when I get on the road to New York.

When Books Take an Unexpected Turn, Make Your Jaw Drop, and Teach You Some Humility

As you all know, I record book after book after book after book in my little recording studio, and I work to make  every project something that I’d want to listen to. That’s the best way I know to keep my standards and expectations of my own craft high.

But I don’t always have high expectations of the books I narrate. When I first began recording audiobooks, I assumed every manuscript that got published and made its way to my sound booth would be artful, insightful, finely-wrought. But let me tell you — that’s far from the truth. Much of what gets published, in print and in audio, is offered to audiences not because the work elevates the soul and spirit of the reader, but because it will sell. And sex sells, violence sells, stereotype sells, anything derivative sells like crazy.

I’ve been very blessed to record  magnificent works of literary art, charming series with recurring characters I adore, and fantastical, sassy, adventure stories, but, like all narrators, I spend my fair share of time recording books that I would never choose to spend time with outside of work.

So when I get a book to narrate that is something very, very special, I am delighted. But I don’t always recognize it immediately. And that was my experience with a book that has become one of my most deeply appreciated  projects to date.

When Harper Audio invited me to narrate a new novel by a sports radio commentator, I was ambivalent. I don’t care about sports at all, except for some sentimentality about the Minnesota Twins (who won the only world series I’ve ever watched, in 1987, with my papa), and a 30-second maximum attention span for YouTube videos of amazing goals by kooky soccer players. I don’t know any names in sports — players, commentators, or otherwise — so when Harper indicated that the book was by Mike Greenberg, my excitement came from finding I had just enough time free in my schedule to squeeze in the recording, not that I was going to work on a book by the man I soon learned was loved and hate-loved by tens of thousands of ESPN devotees.

I started to read All You Could Ask For, which was a funny, well-written story about three women, Brooke, Samantha, and Katherine, who, despite living seemingly perfect lives, were facing challenges I could relate to — broken marriage, aging bodies, bad dates. The book was actually really entertaining, and it was fun and it was all good. It would be a perfectly fine book to spend a week reading and recording.

After I did a little research on Mike, and discovered that he was Greeny, co-host of an enormously popular drive-time radio talk show, I thought it was a little weird that that was the guy writing from first person point of view of three smart, independent, self-assured women, but…you know, I thought, no big deal. The book would probably continue down the path of examining the privileged lives of three affluent women, and, I imagined, they’d all end up in love and happy and a little bit wiser. There would probably be something about sports in there, too, somewhere.

Then Part I of the book came to a close, and Part II picked up, and as I read on, my jaw really did drop as the book took a shocking turn. I know that’s an overused phrase. But I actually was shocked. Not only did I not expect the circumstances of the characters to change so drastically, but I did not expect this sports dude, Mike Greenberg, to write something with so much heart and intensity of feeling. I was deeply moved by the story, by the compassion of the characters, and especially by the bravery that it must have taken for Mike to write something so far out of what I imagined to be his day-to-day life of athletics and competition and stats and scores.

I read through to the end of the book and realized how the story, and the writer, had humbled me. I realized I’d made assumptions about who Mike must be as soon as I learned he was a sports guy, never imagining that he would be as heartfelt, honest, tender, and kind as I now know him to be. My gratitude for the project grew much deeper and my connection to the work much more personal, and my appreciation and affection for Mike was firmly established once I had the pleasure of speaking with him about why the project is some of his most important work so far.

I invite you to listen to the interview, below, in which Mike reveals how the characters in All You Could Ask For were brought to life, how he overcame his doubt and insecurity about such an unlikely project, and what he hopes his novel will inspire and accomplish. It was an honor to be the voice of All You Could Ask For, to speak with Mike, who is an inspiration and a gentleman, and I hope that the novel does make a difference. Today is the publication day, and I congratulate and celebrate Mike, and hope the book finds an enormous audience that is just as grateful as I to spend time with the story, and the story behind the story.

 

APAC 2013 full schedule

Here’s a complete listing of all the narration-track sessions planned for the 2013 Audiobook Publishers Association Conference at the Javits Center in New York, May 29. Register here. It’s going to be a great year!

9—9:45:
Director Diagnostics — Are you totally new to the game and want feedback about all you’ve been practicing and preparing in order to be ready to work? Or are you a mid-career narrator who is eager to take your work to the next level? This special session is your opportunity to meet one-on-one with an expert director, casting director, producer, okr narrator to identify opportunities for growth in your narration craft. Need help with character differentiation? Want feedback about your pacing and phrasing? Looking for insight about how to bring more intimacy to your work? You’ll leave with more confidence and a better understanding of your work. (This special session has been reorganized to add additional time for feedback for each participant. Attendance will be capped and based on order of APAC registration, so register early to guarantee a diagnostic appointment.)

10—11:30:
Translating Voiceover to Audiobooks — You’ve been working as a voiceover for years, doing commercials, promos, some medical narration, eLearning. You have a home studio, you produce finished tracks for your clients and send them off all day every day. Or you’ve listened to dozens of audiobooks, and everyone has told you you have a fantastic voice, and you read voraciously. You’re ready for audiobooks, right? Well, maybe not. What are the basic audiobook acting techniques that every pro audiobook narrator employs to create an expert performance each time? What skills carry over from the world of voiceover to the world of audiobooks, and what techniques should you leave behind? This panel will get you up to speed on what the demands of the audiobook narrator really are, how this genre of voice acting is different than any other, and what you need to do to be great in an ever-saturated marketplace. Panelists include narrators Scott Brick, Simon Vance, and Hillary Huber; moderated by teacher and voice actor Pat Fraley

Marketing Successfully, and With Manners — We all know that audiobook actors don’t just craft nuanced performances behind the mic, they often also self-direct, self-engineer, even manage all the phases of post-production. But more than ever, audiobook narrators will benefit from taking their skills to the next level, by adding marketing and PR efforts — not just to promote the titles they perform, but to promote themselves as voice artists. What is successful promotion of oneself and one’s work in person and online? How can audiobook performers graciously and powerfully connect with listening fans, authors, reviewers, news media, and casting directors, in a way that will increase sales, attract audiences, engage decision makers, and help build a sustainable career? Panelists include narrator and social media leader Dave Courvoisier and social medial experts Sarah Twombley (Blue State Digital) and Meg Walker (Tandem Literary); moderated by narrator Tavia Gilbert

12:30 — 1:45:
Publishers/Pros Speed Dating — Publishers may believe they know and work with just about every experienced narrator, but they may be surprised at the number of voice actors they’ve not had a chance to hear and cast. In this session,  experienced, veteran talent only (Audie and Grammy nominees and winners of the Grammy, Audie, Odyssey, Nautilus, Scorby, Earphones, and ListenUp Awards) will have an opportunity to connect with casting directors and decision-makers, publishers and independent producers. Perhaps new and beautiful relationships will spark and flourish! (Attendance will be capped and based on order of APAC registration, so register early to guarantee a slot.)

Home Studio Work Flow — So you want to break into the Wild Wild West of audiobooks, where there’s a sudden abundance of work. Do you have the tools, skills, and equipment to do the job? Where do you start? How much equipment is enough? How much is too much? Do you record, edit, proof, correct, and master your own books? What do you outsource? How can you efficiently work in a home studio to manage a project from delivery of the script to delivery of the work? Which production model is right for you? Panelists include Bryan Barney (Blackstone), Amil Dave (Audible/ACX), and John Nesco (Tantor); moderated by Jeffrey Kafer.

2 — 3:15:
Vocal Health and Sustainability 
— If audiobook narration is a marathon, what can you do make sure that you’re taking care of your body and your voice throughout the long, demanding hours of work? What are the concerns of the actor whose work demands sustained periods of remaining seated? How can you sustain character  voices? How do you get on voice, finding a narrative voice that is intimate, authentic, and listenable, and one that is still healthy? Panelists include narrators Robin Miles, Barbara Rosenblat, and Suzanne Toren; moderated by narrator Eileen Stevens

Listening Community Reviews — With a flood of new titles hitting the market, and a tidal wave of new narrators coming into the industry, good reviews are more important than ever. What titles get reviewed? What will NOT get reviewed? What are acceptable standards of performance, and what will get slammed as bad performance? Can actors do anything to bring titles to the attention of reviewers? And what can actors do to ensure that they’re turning in the best performance possible, so that the review is as good as it can be? Panelists include Robin Whitten (AudioFile), Sue-Ellen Beauregard (Booklist), Adam Boretz (Publishers Weekly), Mary Burkey (Booklist), and Vicky Hensley (Speaking of Audiobooks); moderated by narrator Karen White

3:30 — 5:
Doing Your Homework 
— It’s now typical for the majority of audiobook narrators to work entirely on their own, with no direction, and feedback given only in the form of good — or bad — listener reviews. In fact, with rights holders emerging as self-publishers, narrators are increasingly working outside the infrastructure of a traditional audiobook publishing model. With post-production standards varying widely from publisher to publisher, and work being made available for those without a background in classical acting, how do emerging audiobook narrators set their own standard of research and preparation for their project? How do you prepare a text so that you can be confident you’re giving an excellent performance, and one that will lead to you booking your next gig? Panelists include narrator Katherine Kellgren, narrator/researcher Heather Henderson, and director David Rapkin; moderated by narrator Dion Graham

Listening Lounge — Back for another year, the popular end-of-APAC, pre-cocktail hour entertainment session! Hear selections — the humorous, the heartbreaking, the profane — brought to life by your favorite performers. MC’ed by the inestimable, unparalleled, one and only narrator/comedian/rapscallion Johnny Heller.