Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The intimacy of reading aloud

I am in the midst of the adventure of narrating my memoir for the audio book version. In two days, I have learned many things: It is extremely hard work. There's a level of physical exhaustion I would not have imagined. You sit quite still so that your distance from the microphone is always the same. You wear clothing that doesn't swish, jewelry that doesn't clink or ring. You read from a tablet (no page turning noises, please). If you swallow in the middle of a sentence, you have to do it over. And you can't run your hand along your pant leg. The microphone picks up everything.

Those of you who have read Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman know that the first half is pretty difficult. My life before sobriety was not pretty. While I was writing those parts, it was painful, but once I got things down on the page, I had some distance from it. But in order to read aloud successfully, to create a good audio book experience, you have to live it out loud so the reader can live it too. It's not reading to a group, it's telling a story to another person. Reliving that first half, which I have done the last two days, has been difficult. And at the same time, I am grateful to not be that person any more and to not live that life any more.

It is one thing to write your intimate stories for other people to read in the privacy of their own world. It's another to speak them out loud. The recording engineer, a lovely man, is my audience, and it's both odd and interesting to tell him about the depths of my drinking and my sexual history. There is an intimacy in reading aloud that I never really thought about before as a writer.

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