In Which an Audiobook Gets Born, Sort of

The room is about eight feet square, with baffles on the ceiling made of foam that looks like upside down egg carton innards, black acoustic panels on the walls, and grey industrial carpeting on the floor. All of this makes it look like a rec room renovation that veered way off the rails. The room is separated from a hallway by tandem doors, each about four inches thick, and from the control room by a horizontal window that spans its length. The iPad that displays the text I am about to read sits on a music stand. My perch is a stool. “Please do not wear a swishy dress,” Ashton said. “Swishy dresses and $5000 microphones do not play nicely.” Turns out, $5000 microphones do not play nicely with other things besides swishy dresses.

I’m in the studio to record the audio version of my book, Nowhere like This Place: Tales from a Nuclear Childhood. Each session is four hours long. “Not worth setting up for less that that,” said Ashton. My four hours are scheduled from 11 to 3. You will notice this swallows up the time period traditionally relegated to lunch, which means it does not leave time for me to swallow any sustenance other than the organic “Throat Coat” tea (original, with slippery elm) that Ashton plies me with to grease my pipes. The first few cups were delightful, however the charms of slippery elm were greatly diminished by the next hundred, leaving me more than ready to explore other trees. Perhaps slippery birch or slippery maple or even slippery white pine. Alas, the Traditional Medicinals ™ company clings steadfastly to elm.

The $5000 microphone sits to my right, behind a diffuser. The cord for my headphones is also on my right, poised to thwack against the mic stand with the slightest movement. “That sucker will pick up anything,” says Ashton. “Make sure you don’t fidget.” So I sit stock still, hands neatly in my lap except for when one of them is required to scroll the chapter contents up the screen so I can continue reading. For many reasons, I am not an iPad aficionado. Lack of proper keyboard, for one. General hatred for Apple’s love affair with inscrutable icons for another. And mostly, for its reliance on fingers for interface manipulation. My index-finger scrolling proficiency is rudimentary at best. Every swipe either freight-trains the pages forward in increments of ten, changes the font to Cyrillic, skews the page to the left, places an order for a large pepperoni pizza, or all of the above.

“Hold on, did you hear that?” says Ashton. “Let’s back that up. Yup. Definitely noise. I told you the mic picks up everything. Must be your stomach. Let’s take it from the previous sentence. Oops. There it goes again.” The inner life of my gut was previously not something I had paid particular attention to, as it went about its business pretty much without involving me. Or at least so I thought. Turns out a swishy dress has nothing on my digestive processes. “I have an idea,” Ashton says. “Let’s wrap you in an acoustic blanket. That should do the trick.” Thankfully, it did. Me one, bodily functions TBD. Apparently, when you talk for hours on end you swallow a lot of air. The body’s response to swallowed air is to expel it back out the way it came in, whether or not you are in the midst of a perfect rendition of a complicated sentence. Unfortunately, it was not feasible to encase my mouth in an acoustic blanket without more severely impacting my ability to complete the project.

It is important to learn something from challenging situations, so you may rest assured I did not leave my sixteen hours of narration captivity without several important life lessons. First, I learned it is much easier to write a word than to read it out loud. For example, the word molybdenum appears far too many times in my prose and what the heck was I thinking by mentioning methyl salicylate? Second, I learned that mastering the art of sitting still is as elusive to me as mastering the art of anything that involves not fidgeting. But mostly, I learned to deeply, deeply loathe my book’s very existence.

2 thoughts on “In Which an Audiobook Gets Born, Sort of”

  1. Congratulations Marilyn on your book.
    I’ve started mine dozens of times and yet to finish it.
    I will be interested to read yours.
    We really had it made!

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