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

We Are Water Interview on Sirius XM Radio

Last fall, I was privileged to be part of an award-winning cast of actors who narrated We Are Water by Wally Lamb, an ensemble performance that subsequently received an Earphones Award from AudioFile Magazine. To promote the book, the cast was invited to a public reading at BookCourt in Brooklyn in October, and in November, we were interviewed live by Judith Regan on her Sirius XM radio show.

This flurry of press and enthusiasm for a beautiful novel was exciting, but what meant the most to me was that Wally is a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, the school where I earned an MFA in creative non-fiction just a little over a year ago. It was an honor to get to know a fellow VCFA alum, especially one who represents the integrity, artistry, and devotion to craft as well as Wally does, and a great start to my new New York narrating and writing life.

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Sirius XM Radio interview with Judith Regan on November 16, 2013, with Richard Ferrone, Wally Lamb, Cynthia Darlow, Therese Plummer, and Tavia Gilbert.

Sirius XM Radio Interview with Judith Regan, Part 1

On-Air Readings on Sirius XM Radio

Sirius XM Radio Interview with Judith Regan, Part 2

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Public reading at Book Court in Brooklyn on October 26, 2013, with Robin Miles, George Guidall, Wally Lamb, Richard Ferrone, and Tavia Gilbert (back row), and Therese Plummer, Sandy Rustin, Maggi-Meg Reed, and Cynthia Darlow (front row).

Review of We Are Water from AudioFile Magazine

WE ARE WATER 
Wally Lamb
Read by Wally Lamb, George Guidall, Maggi-Meg Reed, Tavia Gilbert, Richard Ferrone, Edoardo Ballerini, Cynthia Darlow, Therese Plummer, Robin Miles, Sandy Rustin

In New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb’s new novel, Annie Oh falls in love with her Manhattan-based art dealer, Vivica, setting off a stick of emotional dynamite that blasts apart long-held secrets, a twenty-seven-year marriage, and her relationship with her three children. The all-star cast bringing the audiobook to life is led by the maestro George Guidall and the author. Also narrating the intricate and emotional work are Maggi-Meg Reed, Tavia Gilbert, Richard Ferrone, Edoardo Ballerini, Cynthia Darlow, Therese Plummer, Robin Miles, and Sandy Rustin. This team of actors weaves an intricate and wrenching story of a modern society in which changing mores are changing the definition of love and family. R.O. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine / SEPTEMBER 2013

  AudioFile Earphones Award Winner

Blue Plate Special Interview in Library Journal

coverMy recent conversation about the writing life with Kate Christensen, author of Blue Plate Special, was featured in Library Journal. Read about how our serendipitous meeting at a pilates class turned into a professional partnership and friendship that resulted in a beautiful recording of Kate’s food-based memoir.

Blue Plate Special Audiofile Review

BLUE PLATE SPECIAL An Autobiography of My Appetites
Kate Christensen, Read by Tavia Gilbert • Unabridged • AUGUST 2013
Random House Audio • Trade Ed.
Books on Tape • Library Ed.

Tavia Gilbert’s voice is lovely and full of sensitivity, enthusiasm, and ruefulness–the perfect choice to convey Kate Christensen’s eventful life. Christensen vividly remembers both the shock and the breakfast of soft-boiled eggs and toast that she was eating when her hippie father was beating up her mother because her mother asked for help. Food features prominently as markers in Christensen’s life. She is comforted by her mother’s blue plate specials. Sometimes she eats everything in sight (in her “husky” phases); then she eats exactly the same food for weeks on end to lose the weight. Gilbert smoothly expresses Christensen’s emotions, ranging from regret at having had an affair, despair at her Iowa Writers’ Workshop experience, joy at writing whatever she likes, and a near disconnect at childhood sexual abuse. A.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

Let Me Stand Alone

LET ME STAND ALONE The Journals of Rachel Corrie
Rachel Corrie, Read by Tavia Gilbert, Edward Asner • Unabridged • JUNE 2013
Blackstone Audiobooks • Trade Ed.
Blackstone Audiobooks • Library Ed.

Narrator Tavia Gilbert captures every facet of Rachel Corrie’s journey from middle school in Olympia, Washington, to her death at 23 beneath a bulldozer blade in Palestine. Rachel’s parents released this collection of their daughter’s poems and journal entries to fulfill her wish to be a published author and to let the world know her for more than her tragic death. The family’s poignant introduction is movingly presented in Edward Asner’s deep tones and measured delivery. From the adolescent’s wonder at life to the young adult’s tears of anger and frustration at the world’s injustices, Gilbert’s talented shadings of tone and intensity convey all the passion and talent of this remarkable young woman. Rachel gives us herself through her words; Tavia Gilbert gives us her voice. M.O.B. © AudioFile 2013, 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!

Orchid wisdom

One of the last gifts my husband gave me before we divorced was an orchid on Mother’s Day. We never had children together, but we played the role of surrogate parents to a few young men who were adrift in the world, without families that were shaped the way one might expect, or the way our guys deserved. My husband gave me the orchid as a thank you for embracing these rough-around-the-edges boys, and as a promise of future family.

When he presented me with the orchid, it was in full, delicate flower. I don’t recall what color the diaphanous blooms were, but the firm, plump leaves were dark green and supple. The gift was characteristic of my husband — a surprising offering of beauty.

Within a few weeks the orchid blossoms had fallen away, and within a year or two, my husband and I had fallen away from each other, too, which is the gentlest possible description of our painful dissolution.

Even though what had been a stunning showpiece had become just a squat cluster of withered leaves against a dark pot, I tended to it as best I could. I made a trip to a nursery, bought new bark and a new pot, transplanted the shallowly covered roots, and watered around the base. But as my pothos and peace lily — plants that can withstand neglect and whose leaves will regain their strong stance within minutes after being watered, even if their heads have been hung low — continued to thrive, my orchid receded into itself and continued to languish.

When I moved out of the house my husband and I had shared, the orchid found a home on the kitchen windowsill in my new apartment, where it continued to receive regular attention, or at least as much attention as I could muster, when I could lift my gaze and connect with anything outside of the hemorrhaging pain of divorce. By the time my life showed glimmers of hope, the orchid was down to three dehydrated, shrunken, thinning leaves, a stump of a pale yellow tendril of stem, and brown, desiccated roots.

With a mixture of determination and regret, I drove the orchid to the nursery one afternoon to see if they could talk me through reviving the once regal plant. A woman brusquely grabbed the pot and pulled the orchid free of the bark with no effort at all. She flopped the leaves back and forth, then scalded me with her glare.

“This is dead,” she said. “Buy a new one, because there’s nothing you can do for this one. There’s a compost pile at the end of the greenhouse. You can toss it there on your way out.”

My inability to nurture the plant, a gift from someone who had once cherished me, someone I had once cherished, made me ashamed. The thought of tossing the plant aside brought on fresh grief.

“Isn’t there anything I can do to bring it back to life?” I asked.

The woman rolled her eyes. But then, after looking at me closely, she showed the hint of a smile as she gently placed the pot and uprooted orchid back in my hands. “I suppose if you want to try replanting it, and attending to it really carefully, and giving it a little water — just an ice cube’s worth, no more — every three days, and rotating it in the sun, then you just might revive it. I doubt it, but you can try.”

Over the next few months, I did all the things she told me to, paying closer attention to the orchid. The leaves slowly started to become heartier, the tendril turned pale green and grew longer, and then one day, from the middle of the cluster of leaves, a tiny sliver of new growth appeared. Day by day the baby leaf grew larger, until there were four full leaves — not the grand leaf canopies it had shown off its first days out of the florists’ care, but undeniably alive once more.

 

*****

 

When I arrived in New York a month ago, I propped the orchid in the living room window and then got busy and distracted trying to navigate a cramped apartment, an overwhelming workload, and the challenges of uprooting a relationship in its early growth and transplanting our coupling to a difficult climate. So it was that a few weeks went by before I noticed that the oldest, scrappiest orchid leaf had become sunburned, losing its dark green and becoming a mottled brown and yellow.

The old shame of having been neglectful and inhospitable washed over me on a day when I already felt neglectful and inhospitable to the one I most wanted to nurture. I thought about pinching off the leaf, throwing it in the compost pile, giving up. It occurred to me that maybe this just isn’t meant to be. Getting something to flower isn’t yet a possibility, I thought; I’m not even able to keep things green and growing. Orchids are supposed to be dramatic, and mysterious, and beautiful. No one keeps a pot of pitiful orchid leaves around. What’s the point of that? Tomorrow, I thought, I’ll cut it off.

Yesterday was a very hard day. It was oppressively hot, my work was constantly interrupted, the boxes that remain unpacked caused me deeper anxiety, frustration, embarrassment. The air was thick with misunderstanding, unmet expectations, sadness. So, in the late afternoon, on a walk, when one of my closest friends called, I burst into tears as soon as she asked, “How are you?”

For twenty-five minutes I leaned into the wrought iron fence surrounding the playground a block away from my apartment and sobbed, while parents and toddlers played on the swings and cavorted through the fountains. “What is wrong with me?” I cried. “I feel like I can’t do anything right. I feel like things are never going to be okay. I feel like I’m so damaged and so horrible and I’m trying so hard to make my life work, but I feel like I can’t keep going. I feel like I hurt everything I touch, and I let down everyone I love. I don’t have any more energy. Even if I knew how to make everything I want happen and fix everything that’s messed up, I don’t have the energy to do it.”

She listened, lovingly and patiently, as she always does, as I always do when she calls me in a similar state of tearful despair — we’ve taken turns caring for each other in this way over the past fifteen years of our friendship — and she said many comforting things. “There’s nothing wrong with you.” “You’re not damaged.” “You’re doing the best you can.” “You have to be gentle with yourself.” “Things can be difficult to reconcile.” “It’s going to be okay. I believe that no matter what, you’re going to be okay.”

And then she said, “You know, it’s all right that you don’t have any more energy. You don’t have to have energy right now. There’s not a finite amount of energy in the world or in a lifetime or in you. It doesn’t work that way. Later you’ll have more. Don’t worry.” And this was the most comforting thing to hear, because it made me remember the two years of deep, sustained, all-consuming grieving after my divorce, when I felt, too, that I had no energy and would never again have any stamina or strength, that I was a dead thing, but bit by bit, that intensity of anguish eased and I found myself again, and rebuilt my life, and no longer felt like a walking wound, but like a real person.

When I returned home, I made a salad and texted my friend that yes, I was eating something, and I drank some water and then a glass of cold rosé, and took a deep breath, when I noticed the orchid. At first I was confused, because I knew I had not pinched off that yellow leaf the night before, but it was no longer there. And then I realized that after few days out of the direct light of the sun, and with a little water, and a little relief from the elements, vibrant color had flooded through the leaf, returning it to a lush green. The leaf was scarred with a small brown gouge carved by the too-harsh sunlight in which I left it, but still, it seemed a wondrous thing, that what had been bruised and seemed beyond repair or redemption, could renew and restore itself.

This plant may never again look like an orchid “should.” It may be more reasonable to throw it away and start over, or, like some people do, rent an orchid, trading in the old for new whenever the blooms fade. I’d love for my orchid to flower and flourish and achieve a state of perfection once more, but maybe this plant is already perfect, in spite or because of all its imperfection. It has survived for years under challenging conditions, when I’ve not been at my best, when I’ve made mistakes and taken it for granted and not paid it attention and misunderstood its needs and been inattentive. It’s come to the brink of death, but still, it persists and will not be discarded. This orchid shows me that it’s enough for me to keep on doing the best I can, that it will not die because I’m not perfect, and that there is beauty and elegance in surviving and adapting and living in a way that is my own, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly the way I imagined.

Acclimating

My equilibrium has been completely thrown off.

After sleeping some nights eight, ten, even twelve hours, the feeling of being rested and refreshed eludes me.

Light filtering through the shades this morning awakened me at 5:45 a.m. My head was full of cotton and time and space were unclear. Was it Sunday? Was it Tuesday? Was this my apartment in Brooklyn? I went back to sleep.

An hour and a half later, I awaked from a dream about turtles and dogs and trying to find the space to live in peace with each species, followed by another dream, somehow relating to the first, in which I was bitterly disappointed in a platinum blond, corkscrew curl wig. Emerging from dream-sleep, the bedroom was stifling, though the windows were open and a breeze shoved the shades across the wide windowsills, then sucked them back in, shoved them out, sucked them in. I went back to sleep.

Between 8 and 8:45 a.m. I drifted in and out of consciousness, startled awake by a street sweeper, or maybe a garbage truck, or a delivery truck, or groups of children on the street a floor below, on their way to church, or school, or maybe they weren’t children at all, but groups of young people, gossiping on their phones, or maybe they weren’t young people at all, but old women, chattering on their way to work, or maybe there was no one at all. I went back to sleep, until I finally awakened and forced myself out of bed.

This is what life is like in New York, at least for right now. I’m trying to wake up, to figure things out, to place myself in time and space, to determine what is real and what is a dream, or an idea. It’s hard to know what is concrete or imaginary, what is urgent, what can be put off for another hour, day, week, year.

36 things

It’s my birthday!!

I love my birthday. Celebrating another year of life gives me the opportunity to consider all the things for which I’m deeply grateful, to mark the beginning of my New Year, and to extend wishes to the Universe to send more peace, prosperity, adventure, love, good health, and friendship my way.

Let’s celebrate together! I’ll list 36 things I’m grateful for, and I invite you to list in the comments anything that brings you joy and blessings!

In no particular order, here are 36 amazing things to be thankful for:

1—6: My family! My mother is not only my beloved mama, but one of my very best friends. My father inspires me to be my best self every day. My brother exhibits grace and resilience and makes me very, very proud. And these three silly kitties, Mirren, Houdini, and Blossom! They’re cuddly and funny and fun and demanding and exasperating and maddening and loving and hilarious.

7: Dear Dutra, who is also cuddly and funny and fun and demanding and exasperating and maddening and loving and hilarious.

8—16: My wonderful girlfriends. Leah, who advises, counsels, guides, amuses, entertains, and uplifts, and breaks my heart open. Caseylin, who is proving herself to be a warrior every day, and is going to be such a beautiful mother, inside and out. Jamalieh, who is a creative genius and who motivates me to keep practicing and focusing on what’s most important. Elena, who soothes my spirit and awes me. Melissa, who is intrepid and brave and wise and as funny as ever. Michelle, who makes me laugh and cry, often at the same time, and in whose company I am my best self. Giovanna, who is crazy brilliant and ever surprising. Maggie, who is so lovely and kind and warm and wise. Bianca, who I think is as tough and devoted a girl as I’ve ever known.

17: This lovely view out my living room window:NYC view

18: This super secret detail about the view out my living room window. Notice the children’s toys? That’s because there’s a daycare right downstairs, so all day, I get to hear children laughing and playing outside my window, which I love:

NYC view 2

19: Getting to live in New York! I LIVE in New York! I know that 8 million other people do, too, but this still feels like a miraculous circumstance!

NYC

20: Discovering Oaxaca Tacos in my first week in Brooklyn! DEEEEEElicious!

Oaxaca

21: Finding an awesome apartment in Park Slope! I love my apartment and I really really love my neighborhood, which I discover is more rad (yes, RAD!) every day. Really, I couldn’t have landed in a better place.

22—25: The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, the Brooklyn Public Library, Park Slope Food Coop, and BAM, which are all ridiculously close by.

26: The F line. My line. Takes me most everywhere I need to go, and doesn’t seem to be a grumpy line, like the G. (Sorry, G.)

F train

27a and 27b: MAINE and Renaissance Voices. As I said, this list is in no particular order, so my dear, sweet, peaceful, gentle, kind, supportive, nurturing, magical state of Maine could be first on the list. It could be the entire list. How grateful I am that Maine came into my life, along with my most adored Renaissance Voices choir, which is also dear, sweet, peaceful, gentle, kind, supportive, nurturing, and magical.

maine

28—30: Cornish College of the Arts, The Salt Institute, and Vermont College of Fine Arts — the wonderful places that have educated me and prepared me for whatever adventures and opportunities await.

31: My body. I am grateful for my imperfect, flawed, idiosyncratic feet, legs, spine, neck, and shoulders. They’ve been through a lot, but I’m walking and biking and dancing, and I AM SO GRATEFUL.

32: Kate Christensen. I’ve narrated more than 200 audiobooks, but never had I had an experience like that of narrating her Blue Plate Special. I can’t wait for her book to be released, and for readers and listeners to get to know her joyful, huge spirit.

33: My clients — all those publishers, producers, and directors who have given me so much opportunity and trust and faith and patience and support. I would not be anywhere without them.

34: Pat Fraley and Hillary Huber, who set me off on this audiobook journey, shepherding and encouraging me and helping me hone my skills. They’ve become life-long friends and without them, this path would have been far rockier, and much lonelier.

35: Stephen McLaughlin, who directed all of my first books, and has been one of the kindest, most supportive, forgiving, loving friends anyone could ever ask for.

36: Language — written, spoken, read, heard, sung — my greatest joy.

And one to grow on:

37: The ARCHERS! My favorite, favorite, favorite thing in the world.

Your turn. What are you going to celebrate today?