Still decompressing from a whirlwind 4 days in NYC for APAC, the annual Audio Publisher’s Association Conference. It was a great time. Reunited with many close friends and met some new ones. Also had some great learning sessions and attended The Audies. The following is an account of my time there.
Day 1: Arrived at the Crowne Plaza on Saturday evening with my friend (and roomie for the trip) Amy Rubinate. After some drama involving our room (they had given us a room with only one bed, after we had repeatedly requested 2), we negotiated a sweet deal for a $100 discount for the night and a promise of switching rooms the next day. We promptly headed to the hotel bar, where we met our friend Gary Dikeos and later on met up with Robin Ray Eller, whom I’d be meeting for the first time after numerous email communications.
Later on my dear friend Isabel met us and we broke off from the group, heading across the street to Ruby Foo’s for a late dinner and marathon catch up session, as we hadn’t seen each other in a year. I had brought her (heavy!) Fender Strat all the way from LA, which has been sitting in it’s hard case in my hallway for the past year, since she moved back to NY. Great to check that off the list; “mission accomplished”.
Day 2: The day started great with an unexpected free workout in the hotel gym. No one had told me when I had called down to inquire that there would be a $10 fee for using the facilities, so I hadn’t brought my wallet, but the adorable 20-somethings behind the counter were on my side. After offering to “show me around”, an employee led me around the corner, looked over his shoulder sheepishly and gestured to the gym floor. “Just go ahead” he said with a shoulder shrug, and I did. Things were looking up.
Next I headed off to a semi-private workshop with Amy and Xe Sands, led by the wonderful Paul Alan Ruben. Reminding me of an endearing Woody Allen, he was charming and passionate as he coached us on his approach to audiobook narration. Different from anything any of us had learned so far, we were all intrigued as we tried to capture and employ his style of “discovery in the moment”. From what I could absorb in the fascinating 2 hour session, here’s his take: As the narrator, you never know what’s going to happen next. Everything is an “oh my god moment” where you are seeing something for the first time and intimately describing it to the listener. He is anti “reportage“, believing that simply reading or “reporting” information (such as a newscaster would do in a newscast) separates the narrator emotionally, thus preventing the listener from becoming engaged and experiencing the story on an emotional level. He believes narrators often fall into the trap of modulating their voice for effect, using their voice for expression rather than for reacting to things in the moment. He encouraged us to always narrate from the point of view of whatever you are talking about, not putting your own “spin” on it (or “commenting” on it) as a narrator, but by adapting the point of view of whatever thing or person you are talking about. For more on his technique, you can study with him in NY, or catch him soon in LA (he’ll be teaching a weekend intensive, date TBD). You can also check out his blog, which provides a wealth of information!
After the stimulating session with Paul, I skipped down the street to meet my family for “The Book of Mormon“, an incredible highlight of the trip for me. Firstly, my mother surprised me – originally she wasn’t in the plan, but she took my brother-in-law’s ticket and there she was in front of the theatre as I barreled down the street, an awesome and unexpected surprise. It was so great to share this experience with her, when I didn’t even think I’d be seeing her at all on this trip. Secondly, I can’t say enough great things about this play. It was absolutely everything I want in a show. It was laugh-out-loud funny the entire time, shockingly edgy and irreverent but loving and sweet, and the performers were top notch. The writing was parody at it’s best, funny, insightful and daring. The dancing, singing and acting were stellar. The choreography and set design was clever and entertaining, the song lyrics were hysterical and the directing didn’t miss a beat; it was incredibly well done and I’m so grateful I got to take it in. We paid $200 per ticket for the last row, and it was worth every penny.
After a great dinner with my family at Serafina, I headed over to the APA mixer at the 3 Monkeys Bar. It was way too loud for a room full of narrators, but it was nice to see some folks. It had already started thinning out when I arrived, and soon we were heading back to the hotel. As we passed the theatre where The Book of Mormon was playing, the actors were coming out of the stage door from the 8pm show. I hurried right up as Andrew Rannells (one of the leads, Elder Price) was exiting and got to tell him face to face how great I thought it was. He seemed genuinely interested and really grateful. It was unique to be able to speak directly to him this way. A small part of me glowed inside as if I relived my childhood fantasy of being him, the actor exiting through the stage door of a smash Broadway hit.
We ended this very long and spectacular day by reuniting with our friend Heather Henderson and throwing a surprise baby shower for our friend Arielle Delisle, who is expecting a baby in August. Amy and I stayed up way too long after everyone left, but we were just having too much fun.
Day 3: APAC itself! The day was jam packed with workshops and information. It started off with a bang when I was chosen to read in front of the entire room during the first session in the narrator track, a narration master class led by Robin Miles. It was wonderful to get the opportunity and I’m very grateful to Karen White for selecting me, and to my angels, who got my hand up in the air when they asked for volunteers. I received tons of great feedback and had people coming up to me all day telling me they enjoyed my read and the way I was able to take direction. It meant a lot to receive this positive support from my colleagues.
The next highlight was my highly anticipated Director Diagnostic with Grover Gardner from Blackstone Audio. As a gift for being one of the first 25 to sign up for APAC, we were paired with a director for a 10 minute private session. To get 10 minutes of one on one time with Grover was an incredible privilege. It proved to well exceed my expectations, when the 10 minutes magically transformed into an incredible private mini-workshop with Amy. What happened was, they had double-booked the rooms where the sessions were taking place. As one group was going out, Grover and I, still working, were interrupted. He suggested we find another room to continue our work and as we left the room, Amy was waiting to go in. Not wanting to take away from her time, Grover suggested we all go somewhere together. Nothing was available so we ducked into a back room, complete with glass on the floor, wires hanging down from the ceiling and large unidentifiable objects strewn about. He proceeded to work with us for 30 minutes, giving us feedback and adjustments amongst the rubble.
Grover’s generosity was remarkable and his feedback invaluable. His technique was very straightforward and to the point, and I found that my read was instantly transformed, without needing to work too hard. His main point was that a narrator needs to know where the story is going and then drive the story forward to that end. What happens at the end needs to inform your read- it all needs to be right “there” from the beginning. You are the storyteller weaving the story and you can’t wait to get to the end, therefore you never lose the listener. Seemingly opposite from what we learned from Paul, but both techniques are useful and I’m excited to experiment with both. I believe Grover’s method is an excellent jumping off point, giving me something to hold on to that is uncomplicated and fun. I will certainly be employing his suggestions, moving forward.
APAC wrapped up with a third highlight, the “Listening Lounge” session. This was a session where we got to sit back and be taken on a journey by the masters in the field, reading live. What an incredible experience to hear these giants of narrating do what they do best. Among them, Grover himself (so great to hear his style expertly put into action!), Tavia Gilbert, Simon Vance, Katy Kellgren, Johnny Heller, Barbara Rosenblat, Dion Graham and Scott Brick. I floated away on my smile, drunk with inspiration.
Day 4: My last full day started with a bang when I received a call early that morning from a 212 number. It turned out to be HGTV, who had found my voice online and wanted me to send in an audition for the voice of a new show. Since I was in town, I was able to pop in and record the audition live, a nice treat!
For lunch I met my niece in the financial district, stopping in at Trinity Church to light a candle for my grandmother, a tradition I always like to follow while traveling. I really felt like a tourist when I was down there-I lived in NYC for ten years and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to that part of town! We ate lunch on Stone Street, an adorable little cobblestone street with outdoor tables that reminded me of Europe.
Then I met my childhood friend Nina for tea at Angelica Kitchen, NYC’s premier vegan restaurant and once my second home, where I worked for four years of my life. Ironically, as we were sitting there, a woman approached our table, looked at me and said “Hi, didn’t you used to work here?” It turns out she was a regular customer from back in the day and had recognized me. A nice surprise to think that well over ten years later someone still remembered the time I put in there. It left me thinking that you never know the small contribution your presence might be making to someone else’s experience.
That night my friends and I (self-christened the “Fraley Four“, as we originally met at a weekend workshop with Pat Fraley) made a splash at the Audies, the Oscars of the Audiobook industry. It was great fun to be all decked out and to share in this exclusive experience. We were even lucky enough to be invited to the private after party at the Hudson Hotel, a wonderful treat (A shout out to Bob & Debra Deyan, two of my favorite people, for making sure we got in ok)!
All in all, it was a wonderful trip, just the right amount of time and a great balance of work and play. I’m so very glad I was able to participate.
…And now, it’s lovely to be at home, lounging on my back patio with my husband and my dog, savoring all the good times.