Tuesday, April 26, 2011

“Shadow was not superstitious”: How I auditioned for American Gods Audiobook, back in the day

"Shadow was not superstitious." Try saying that several times in a row. It’s not an easy phrase, and it falls tonally flat easily.

It’s the opening line of the Audition Paragraph for a chance to read a part of the upcoming Audiobook for Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. And I have auditioned!

I’m late to the party, since the voting ends next Monday, 5/2, and I can’t possibly catch up. But if you’re interested you can listen to my 58-second audition on iTunes.

The Audition Backstory
I don’t know Neil Gaiman’s work, not yet. I know about the excitement in the Doctor Who community that he was writing an upcoming episode. I started following him on Twitter because his wife Amanda Palmer was touring in Australia when I was there in January and there was so much buzz about her I started following her, and then him.

Then a few weeks ago Gaiman was tweeting a good deal an old friend of his who was in a hospice in the final stages of cancer. His emotion for this friend-—whom he did not name until after she died--came across in his 140 characters, and maybe that’s why I clicked the link in one of the tweets. It went to the wiki page for the English writer Diana Wynne Jones. Her name sounded familiar. Then I realized that I studied with her sister, the literary critic Isobel Armstrong, at Southampton University, England, when I was there as a senior in college.

Wow. I have not thought about Prof. Armstrong for many years. She was flamboyant, exotic. She invited the five of us Rutgers exchange students to her office for sherry, and she floated in amidst the flourish of a pashmina. She was the embodiment of the British prof for me. She helped me with my senior thesis on Hemingway, with many protestations that she was not an American lit expert. A.S.Byatt dedicated her great novel Possession to Isobel, a fact that was very important to me at another time in my life. So I have several small emotional connections to my old English English prof.

I was touched by this unexpected memory. I was saddened to know that she had just lost her sister. And in the amazing place that is the Twitterverse, here was a stranger with whom I could share this, very specifically, not in generalities. And so I replied to Gaiman's tweet—to share my connection to Isobel and thoughts on her loss.

And he replied back, and shared some of his experience with Isobel. It was a nanomoment of sincere connection between strangers.

Back to American Gods
Then later still I saw his tweet about this audition process and decided to participate, to join this community. I’ve never recorded my voice before, I hate even setting my outgoing voicemail message. But I found this kind of recording interesting to do. So many choices of how to read the phrases! And since I’m not adept at file editing, it had to be in one take. I was happy that the passage wasn't longer. It has some tricky parts to it, a great choice as a test. Gaiman is only listening to the 20 that get the most community votes. So mine is just part of the ocean of 1,200+ participants.

Next up, reading American Gods, to see what this Shadow guy is really up to.


Tim Footman said...

Like how you drawl/draw out some of the syllables, like the beginning of "hollowness", and "guards", giving them an extra bit of luxury.

I think I used to study drama with Neil Gaiman's cousin. Maybe we are all connected to him, the Kevin Bacon of fantasy...

M.A.Peel said...

Thanks Tim. Very funny about Gaiman's nexus power.