The four years I spent writing a memoir that would ultimately break a long-held silence were nothing short of transformational.
Mustering up the energy and the courage to return to a childhood trauma and turn it into something meaningful – and, I hope, artful – took everything I had. The story clung to me like a small child demanding my attention, persistent and unrelenting. So I gave myself up to it.
Writing it may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, professionally speaking. But finishing it has given me so much in return. Clarity. Peace. Connection – and I’ve been told, inspiration – to others. (Check out Gabrielle Kaplan Mayer’s review here and the Kirkus Review here.)
But I had no idea what was coming when I began to record the audiobook version.
Before I go any further, you need to know that while I have had the pleasure and privilege of telling stories on stage and recording commentaries on Chicago Public Radio, I never spent longer than 15 minutes near a microphone. In every case, someone else set up the mic and my job was to put myself in the correct position and speak into it.
But making an audiobook on your own is something else! You become a voice-over narrator and a sound engineer and it meant building a studio in my bedroom clothes closet.
Here’s what that looked like:
It’s also important that you know that there was no way I could do this by myself. I was blessed with a gifted musician and sound maven as my guide, my brother-in-law, Phil, who taught me such words as deesser, pop filter, megahertz and kilohertz.
To give you a sense of how ill prepared I was for this project, I scheduled three days in late June thinking I could knock out the recording in that timeframe.
Just setting up the studio took all day. Phil had to teach me to work the tools. On the first full recording day, there was a cable issue, multiple device failures, and the early versions were too soft and needed to be rerecorded for volume.
The second day I struggled with dry mouth. I learned that coffee with milk, green tea and ice water are not good for a speaking voice. (Later I heard that green apples are good.)
So much learning curve! New terms to absorb. Transferring GarageBand files into MP3 files and sending them via Drop Box. Learning how to boost the sound by microbeats. Managing multiple versions of files.
I lost my patience, a lot. This is how that looked:
Luckily Phil, did not. He was a rock. No, make that a mountain.
Just last week, I uploaded what I hope are the finalized files into the program and am now waiting – praying– for their approval. I’ll be sure to announce when an audiobook is ready for downloading.
But what I haven’t expressed is how it felt to read the entire book, out loud, from start to finish into a recording that will last forever. So different from a final edit or proofreading. Different from telling part of this story on stage. Because my story is about a breaking a silence, it was deeply healing to leave my story, in my own words and voice, in a form that reaches others so tangibly.
It was a hard-earned, but very joyful noise which has left me not only with incredible gratitude for my brother-in-law (whom I’ll be taking for a VERY nice dinner and gifting with an excellent bottle of Scotch) but also a wholeness I haven’t felt since before the accident that sent this story into motion.
Well worth those hours – and all those headaches – I experienced in my closet for the month of July.
But you better believe I’ll be outdoors all August.
Two New Writing Workshops for Fall!
Join me for my new eight-course smorgasbord this fall!
Two choices for days and times.
Tuesday evenings, online from 6:30 – 8:30 pm (CT)
Wednesday afternoons in my home, 2 – 4 pm
September 21 – November 10
The themes are Memory & Truth in Memoir, Writing Family, Writing Humor, Writing the Lost Loved One, Writing Trauma, Writing Wrongs, Writing for Legacy & Writing Spirit
For more info, email me at email@example.com.
Photos by Jason Rosewell, Ellen Blum Barish