Posts Tagged With: storytelling

Audiobook Week 2012 – Picky, Picky…

Welcome to Audiobook Week – Day #4 here at Going Public!


AudiobookWeek2012 pictureRecap: Monday through Friday of this week, I (Xe) will be posting new Going Public content and blog posts in conjunction with the wonderful audiobook promotional effort of Jen at Devourer of Books. Need further info on Audiobook Week? Pop over to here and check out all the wonderful content flowing in from bloggers all over the cyberverse. For earlier posts, please see below or the “Audiobook Week” posts in the side bar.

For info on the Triple-Threat Giveaway, scroll to the end of this post.

Thursday’s discussion topic: What do you look for in a narrator? 


[Disclaimer: these are my thoughts purely as a listener – NOT a narrator. Just so’s we’re clear :)]

Hello. My name is Xe, and I’m a picky listener. 

It’s true. I’m a terribly picky listener when it comes to audiobooks. I’m a bit merciless really. As a listener, I usually give an audiobook about 15 minutes to engage me. Many would say that is unfair (including me!), but I find that listening, like the way I experience any art – poetry, prose, paintings, music – is a completely intuitive process for me. Let me explain.

Regardless of the artform, when I catch my first glimpse/words/note, it needs to affect me on a visceral level. I literally need to feel it physically. If there is that connection, I’ll keep looking/reading/listening. Does this mean it’s good or bad by anyone else’s standards? No – it’s a very personal assessment on my part.

So how does this translate to a new audiobook, to what I need from the narrator? It means that in the first 30 seconds or so, I need to feel a connection with the narrator’s voice – the way they sound, the way their voice feels in my ears, whether it resonates or clings or grates. This is entirely subjective – there is nothing the narrator can do/not do that will change this impression – nor should they. I’m listening for a connection to who their voice naturally is.

Once that connection is made, I give the narrator about fifteen minutes (I mean, I don’t time it or anything) to move beyond that initial “crush” on their voice. Now we’re into delivery. I want natural. I want conversational. I do not want “staged.” What I originally said (earlier today) is that if I can hear that you’ve done stage acting in your delivery, it will annoy me. But that’s a bit too off-the-cuff and does a disservice to stage actors who transition beautifully to narration. Here’s what I was getting at: I know that narrators are hammered on enunciation and diction, but I don’t want to hear pristine words – I want to hear the story. But although it might put me in the minority – I want to hear it as close the way you normally speak as possible with the text at hand. Be my storyteller, not my actor.

OK, so the delivery is conversational, and the audiobook is still playing. Now what? Ah, now we get to dialog. Can’t tell you how many times I’m grooving on the narration until the narrator gets to the first bit of dialog and…they fall flat. They sound like they are reading it out, or trying to act it out…not LIVING it out. Man, I’m counting on you to be that voice in my head – and the voice in my head that reads books to me while I’m reading the print on the page is really authentic, so you’ve got to really step it up to compete with that print option! Feel it and let it come through so *I* feel it, so I know the characters really care and are really having that moment together.

So if a narrator is unfortunate enough to be spilling into my hyper-critical ears and they’ve made it this far, there is only one other thing I need: I need emotion.  I don’t mean melodrama (because that’s just a cheap trick, like sappy music in subpar movies that makes me cry when the movie doesn’t warrant it), but I do want the overall tone and emotion the author intends to come through in your voice.

Sigh. You see? I’m entirely too picky. But it also means that when I enjoy and audiobook I LOVE it. Not just a little, but enough to make me sit in my car and let the ice cream melt and risk the ire of my waiting family.

But, I readily acknowledge that this doesn’t always serve me. Had I followed this ridiculously picky method, I would never have enjoyed at least half the books my daughter and I listened to over the years. And I wouldnt’ have given one of my very favorites a fair chance and would have missed out on an exceptional moment spent crying on my doorstep because the narrator’s performance was so moving.

So for all that I experience my definition of excellence, I also miss a tremendous amount of it. Hopefully, you are far more forgiving. I think it will serve you far better 🙂

Now coming round to Tuesday’s topic of audiobook reviewing, which dovetails nicely with today’s topic (thank you Jen at Devourer of Books!), the piece I threw out there for practice is now complete. If you’ve listened to it, how did I do? Did you get from it whatever YOU are looking for in a narrator?

For those following along with The Yellow Wallpaper, here is the final installment, as well as the full version for those who want it all in one go.

(If you cannot see this player, please click this link to go directly to the SoundCloud page for The Yellow Wallpaper)

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Part 3 of 3

Full version: 

The Triple-threat Giveaway: 1 Audio + 1 Print Book + 1 Custom Piece

Leave a comment on any of my Audiobook Week posts before 8PM PST on Friday, 6/29, and you will be entered to win a gift package including:

  • 1 Audiobook of mine, from either Tantor (Mp3 CDs or digital download) or Iambik (download only)
  • 1 Print book of your choice from the ARCs below**
  • I’ll narrate the poem or short story of your choice (some restrictions on length/content)

…and for each post you comment on, you get your name added into the hat another time. Comment on all five posts, and you’ll have five chances to win! Regrettably, if you are outside the US, I can only offer item #3.

If you’ve got a Twitter handle, please list it in your comment so I can more easily notify you.

Winner will be announced here, and via my and Going Public’s Twitter and Facebook feeds. Winner will have until 5PM PST on Saturday, 6/30 to make their print and audiobook selections (more time can be taken for the custom recorded piece :) ) Please be sure to check one of those sources after the close of the drawing.

**print ARCs to choose from:

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Going Public JIAM Audiopalooza – June 27th!


Recap: Monday through Friday this week, I (Xe) will be posting a new Going Public piece. I’m also participating in Audiobook Week, so if you’re looking for those posts, please look for “Audiobook Week” in Recent Posts in the sidebar.

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Part 2 of 3

Read by Xe Sands

(and if you cannot see the player above, you can access it via the SoundCloud page for Part 2 of The Yellow Wallpaper). 

I think I’ve grown a bit angry.

Let me start with this – how the story is generally encapsulated:

“…a woman whose mental illness makes her a prisoner in her own home.”

“…a young wife and mother succumbing to madness “

So why is this a problem? It’s true, right? She is unbalanced. She does descend into madness. But it’s all a question of why, WHY does she “succumb” to madness?

And this is where I grow a bit angry. Most of the dismissive language used in these summaries miss the point: that this story is a treatise on the attitudes toward women’s mental health during this period (written in 1899). The narrator, who we are supposed to believe is unreliable, is actually perfectly coherent and early on in the story, likely a far better judge about what would actually help her. It is the ignorance and arrogance of her husband that is the unreliable narrator, for his filter regarding her condition and what would help it, cannot be trusted to give the reader an accurate picture of what ails his wife. I believe that it is the ignorance and arrogance of her husband that allows the spiral to happen.

Take a look at this bit from the author, “Why I Wrote the Yellow Wallpaper.” And tell me if attitudes are really all that different today? All I can say is that it is wonderful that she was able to save herself…and I think she put a hint of that in this story:

“He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me.”

Luckily for Gilman, she was able to do what her narrator could not.

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Going Public JIAM Audiopalooza – June 26th!


Recap: Monday through Friday this week, I (Xe) will be posting a new Going Public piece. I’m also participating in Audiobook Week, so if you’re looking for those posts, please look for “Audiobook Week” in Recent Posts in the sidebar.

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Part 1 of 3

Read by Xe Sands

(and if you cannot see the player above, you can access it via the SoundCloud page for The Yellow Wallpaper). 

Recap: several weeks back, I decided I wanted to offer a fresh Going Public piece every day of Audiobook Week, in celebration of JIAM. But just WHAT to offer? I mean, after doing the Lawrence poetry mashups with Robin Sachs…well, where could I possibly go from there?

Originally, I wanted to record The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson. Sadly, it is not in the public domain. But then, for some reason, this wonderful, dark, gothic story of a woman’s decent into madness came to mind. Not sure whether to thrilled to have the perfect piece, or somewhat disturbed that a tale of neuroses run wild popped into my mind so easily, but I digress…

I’ve serialized this, almost like an old-time radio program. So grab your favorite beverage, get cozy in your favorite chair, slip on the headphones, and join me as we listen to our narrator tell us her tale…

“I wish I could get well faster.

But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it KNEWwhat a vicious influence it had!”

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June 8, 2012

A double-suicide and an egg hunt of a very different kind…

The Easter Egg Hunt, by Robert Jadah
Read by Diane Havens

Diane writes…

Actor Robert Jadah, of stage, film, animation and VO credits (check him out on imdb –, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating on more than one occasion, and with whom we won a VO award (VOICEY) from Voices. com in 2009 for Best Voice Team, is also an excellent writer, with a quirky Brit-wit, borderline bizarre imagination, and a vocabulary that’s quite frankly staggering. I am happy that I was able to contact him to secure his permission to post this here today. Secluded in the wilds of the Canadian suburbs, he is properly authorly eccentric. He has, however, been spotted often in studios, perhaps in disguise, throughout the greater Montreal area. At any rate, he can always be reached through his agent. Or you could just pick up the phone. He might just answer.

This short short story remains one of my favorites — The Easter Egg Hunt — no, not that kind of egg, and not that kind of hunt….

To Those Who Cut Us Down, by Emily Walker & Little Fiction
Read by Xe Sands

Xe writes…

Recorded and shared with permission from the author

There is some truly amazing work coming out via Little Fiction, and if you haven’t already started tracking their publications, you’re cheating yourself. The writing offered is raw and real, and I’m kinda crushing on some of it a little.

This is my newest crush – “To Those Who Cut Us Down,” by Emily Walker. This piece, a suicide note of sorts bracketed by a message to the first responders who would need to deal with the physical mess left behind by a public, joint suicide, is so powerful and heartfelt. It’s a raw look at addiction, both to love and substance, and the trauma that can result. After working on Saving Angelfish, I guess I have to admit to needing a fix of human tragedy, something that wrings you out because at its core, it’s not really fiction.

This piece, based on the July 1998 double suicide of Michael Douglas and Mora McGowan in Portland, Oregon, tries to answer the multi-layered question of “Why?” and the answer may not be what most wanted to hear. But it is a powerful, moving exploration of it.

A Child Alone, by Forrest Rainier
Read by Robert Jadah

Diane writes…

A poem read by the author, under his nom de plume.

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May 4, 2012

Leonard Cohen doesn’t have the market cornered on this you know…

How The Light Gets In (from Little Birds), by Sarah Flynn & Little Fiction

Read by Xe Sands

Xe writes…

I’m telling you people, Twitter is a vast landscape of discovery! This week, a random retweet in my feed led me to this intriguing collection of microfiction from Sarah Flynn – Little Birds. Comprising three stories (of which this is #2), it’s a few pages packed with some thought-provoking pieces. I haven’t entirely decided what they mean, if they mean anything in particular. I just like the way they feel when the flow over me.

So, when I mentioned that I enjoyed them and wondered “aloud” on Twitter if the author would allow me to record any of them AND she said “Go for it!” well…here we are then 🙂

And seriously folks, if you aren’t reading the stuff that authors are offering via Little Fiction and other microfiction sites, you are missing out! Look, I have pretty much no attention span left (I blame motherhood and sleep dep)…these are MADE for us mid-lifers!

Published in 2012 by Little Fiction 
Copyright 2012 by Sarah Flynn; recorded with permission
Layout and design of cover by Troy Palmer

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