The Author’s Voice in Workshops, Virtual Gallery Events, & Book Festivals

I’ve been honored to participate in the Vermont Arts Council’s event I AM…2021: A Virtual Exhibit which opens February 18 and continues through the end of April.

Nineteen artists will exhibit work in a new online gallery and many will be participating in webinars about the creative process. At 7 PM on February 18, you are invited to Meet the Artists online.

I decided to include a 26-minute audio of me reading from an ongoing work for my entry in the online gallery. I also needed a headshot to place among the links to each artist’s gallery page. Having never done a recording, I thought, piece of cake. I’ll just babble into Quicktime. But, there were other pressing concerns, (like Photoshopping the head shot to blur out the dog scratch on my nose) so I waited until the day of the deadline to proceed.  

The audio on QuickTime was terrible. I didn’t have a mic and my husband’s mic didn’t work on a Mac, and there was no time to order one that would work. The deadline was 5 PM, not midnight as I’d banked on.  

I sent out calls for help and – lady luck! – a friend turned me on to a free Mac based app called Voice Record Pro. Snow was blasting outside, so she couldn’t run over with her mic – we’d have to do without. And do without we did. The quality, although not perfect, was acceptable and I was able to submit my entry 2 minutes before the deadline.

Recording your own voice as you write is a fabulous tool. 

I started reading from my endless novel. Two paragraphs in, I hit ‘play’ and to my horror, realized  that the voice, which I had thought to be – finally – unique and entrancing was simply awful, just wrong. So as I read, I started to rewrite. It’s was now ten minutes to four. This was not going to work. I pulled out an old story and began again. Ahh. Now, here’s an interesting voice. A few minor edits and I finished up just on time.

In our twice monthly Monday workshop, Read Like A Writer, we analyze published short stories and apply what we learn or question to our own works in process. Reading like a writer is different from reading like a reader: writers are chefs creating feasts for readers who are looking for a great meal.

 As writer/chefs we need to hone our skills, so we pull apart, from “successful” stories, the structure as much as the content. In the workshops we question the narrative voice, character development, backstory, narrative urgency, point of view, etc., and in the end we work from prompts that we read to the group. We don’t critique. The point is to experience, as much as possible, the elements that make our master story work. And then, to hear each other’s voices.

In this challenging lockdown, there are opportunities.

Unable to go on book tours, browse shops, attend readings or panels, meet for real, platforms have sprung up for writers to share their work. Writers and commentators record audio and video, make podcasts, gather in webinars to promote themselves, to communicate with other writers, and to connect, resulting in an expanding, rather than a diminishing writers’ world.

So the advantages of recording are twofold: We speak and we listen. The sound of our own voices helps with our endless revisions AND we get to hear the voices of other writers, not only for connection and study but also for pure pleasure.

Here are links to some samples of what’s available. We’re thinking of adding a website section for resources, so please – share your own favorites in the comments.

Book festivals have gone virtual, all the festivals you would never go to anyway:

Writers reading:

Library of America video archives
Thursday readings from Writing By Writers also archived
From the Vermont Studio Center

The new Republic Salon series:

Hari Kunzru:
Yaa Gyasi:
Rumaan Alam:
Nicholson Baker:
Pankaj Mishra:

And more on YouTube, if you can stand those damn adverts.

Virtual Craft Talk with Visiting Writer Terese Mailhot
Writer to Writer: Carlos Andrés Gómez & Cynthia Dewi Oka