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June 2, 2012

Anna Quindlen on Reading her Writing

Anna Quindlen's novels include RISE AND SHINE, BLESSINGS, BLACK AND BLUE, ONE TRUE THING and OBJECT LESSONS, and her nonfiction books include A SHORT GUIDE TO A HAPPY LIFE, GOOD DOG, STAY, BEING PERFECT, LOUD & CLEAR, LIVING OUT LOUD, THINKING OUT LOUD and HOW READING CHANGED MY LIFE.  She has also written the children's books THE TREE THAT CAME TO STAY and HAPPILY EVER AFTER. She lives with her husband and children in New York City. Here, she talks about the experience of reading her own work outloud.
Here’s one of the great things about being a novelist: wonderful actresses may wind up recording your audio books.  Hope Davis did the last book, EVERY LAST ONE, and sent me the nicest email about how difficult it was to maintain her composure in parts of the story.  Music to my ears --- as Robert Frost once said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”
But if you’ve written a first-person book about your own life, as I have with LOTS OF CANDLES, PLENTY OF CAKE, there’s really only one person suitable for the audio book.  Unfortunately, it’s you.
Sitting in a little room reading your own work for hours on end is probably punishment for treason in some smallish countries, or at least it should be.  All the people involved are very nice, and they provide food and drink and encouragement from the other side of the studio glass.
But there’s this:

-it turns out that there are words you use in print that you don’t actually know how to pronounce.  Like, say, “miasma.”

-it turns out the studio mikes hear things that you don’t.  Like, say, “Anna, are you hungry?  We’re picking up stomach sounds.

-it turns out that you like your own writing better in theory than in practice.  Like, say, “I used the term ‘hooey’ twice!  Do I have time to change it before they print books?”  (Yes.  Thank God.)

Anyhow, I am done.  Two days, 12 hours, endless cups of tea with honey because I was coming off a terrible flu.  I tried to soldier on while I was sick, but my best friend said I sounded like Harvey Fierstein, so we waited until I was a little more Lauren Bacall.  One collateral benefit: there’s a dictionary the guys had on their ipads that speaks words.  So now I know how to pronounce “miasma.”